The smell of ash and winter clung to her stockings like the babies her husband prayed for. Itchy and tight, she couldn’t resist a scratch. Scrtttch. One chipped talon gave birth to a new run.
“Ripped another pair?” Molly, her bus buddy, eyed the dark stocking. Molly never ripped her stockings; her legs were always deliciously bare. Jane shrugged.
At home, Jane hung up her coat, put away her shoes, and placed her keys in the old ashtray-turned-holder of knickknacks. Walking into the living room, she saw John wasn’t home yet. No coat flung over back of sofa or shoes to trip over down the hallway.
She turned the oven on to preheat, and flipped on the radio on her way to the bathroom. Stripping herself bare, she looked into the mirror. The harsh light gave her déjà vu and brought the lines left behind by her stockings into sharp relief. They seemed almost garish, purpling into prophecy along her waist. Jane turned away and twisted the faucet, eager to wash away a day’s worth of work.
The radio switched to music and John shouted out hello. Jane didn’t answer, lost in steam and shampoo. Cold air rushed in as the glass door slid open, and John jumped in behind Jane. His hands encircled her waist and he dropped a kiss on her shoulder.
“It’s the still the seventeenth.” His hands wandered and Jane kept her eyes closed. The water seemed hotter, air harder to breathe. Steam turned from soothing to suffocating, and Jane thought about how she was going to drown by air in a shower. At least she wasn’t alone, she thought, as John started coughing against the back of her neck.
“Turn down the heat.” Jane went to twist the faucet again just as the world started screaming. “Fuck, what is that?”
John ran out of the shower, skidding on the checkered tile. Jane turned the shower off completely and followed, dripping her way to the kitchen where the wailing was at its highest. John was frantically waving a dish towel under the smoke alarm, and Jane remembered the time she watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel with her mother about rain dances in aboriginal communities.
“What’s in the oven, Jane?” Jane can barely hear John over the ear-splitting whine of the alarm. The oven must have been dirty, maybe it was the tuna casserole from yesterday. Jane walked over to the oven and deliberately shut it off.