The Anniversary Dinner


Ellen sat across from her husband and tried to soak in as much of the scene around her as possible. The crisp white table cloth. The elegant dishes. Her ears were filled with the sound of a violin playing somewhere in the ferns behind her. This was their fifteenth wedding anniversary and John had out done himself. Everything was perfect, except for the pain in her right wrist. It was sharp and burned deep into the bone.

“Can you believe it’s been fifteen years?” John said reaching out to take her hand. “It feels like we just met.”

She laughed and slapped his hand playfully. “I don’t think anyone’s going to confuse us for college students.” She thought back to when they met, how he had smiled at her from the back row of Dr. Ruckley’s comparative religion class. They had gone out for coffee and just never found a reason to be apart again.

The pain in Ellen’s wrist pulled her out of her thoughts. It had become almost unbearable. John didn’t seem to notice her wince, he just kept smiling and sipping his wine. Ellen pulled her hand out of his and noticed a bright dot of blood on the starched white cloth. It stood out in sharp contrast, spreading like a red Peony blossom.

Ellen pulled up the sleeve of her jacket and watched as a bloody ring formed around her thin, pale wrist. The pain, hot and throbbing, shot up her arm and pooled under her shoulder-blade. She grabbed the neatly folded napkin from beside her plate and discreetly wrapped it around her wrist under the table. She smiled at John, not wanting to ruin the moment, and listened as he talked about their plans, and how they were finally going to try and have children, how this was their year to reach all their goals. She noticed the faraway look in his eyes as he spoke, and then she heard the other voice.

“Ellen? Come on Ellen, stay with me. I didn’t go through all this trouble just to have you check out on me at the moment of truth.”

Ellen opened her eyes and raw terror washed over her again. She was still in the dank little bathroom, her right wrist handcuffed to the old chipped radiator. Blood ran down her elbow and dripped large red dots on the grimy tile floor. The man who had grabbed her in the parking lot as she was leaving work stood over her grinning. He was holding her driver’s license in one hand and a long thin filet knife in the other.

“Ellen, that’s a nice name. It sounds so sophisticated. Now Ellen, I need you to pay close attention. The fun is just getting started and I need you to focus for me. I can’t do my work if you’re off somewhere in that pretty little head.”

Ellen felt fresh tears stream down her face. Today was her wedding anniversary, and John would be waiting for her at their favorite restaurant. She was supposed to meet him there right after work.


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