The Other Woman

Candace Hartsuyker

He said I was the only one for him, told me weeks ago he’d divorce her, and he still hasn’t. Now I’m here. His house. I contemplate writhing naked on the floor, smearing my scent on her sheets, the bed. He’s only ever met me at hotels. Instead, I slip out of my sandals and creep across the carpet.

I think about cutting little shapes out of her underwear. Squares and stars, scissors ripping through the delicate fabric, but no, that would take too much time. And it’s childish, like something a thirteen-year-old would do, wounded that her boyfriend was hooking up with the tramp across the street.

Piles of boxes are stacked precariously on top of each other. He’d mentioned that his recently deceased mother-in-law had been a hoarder, saving everything. On the dresser is a medium sized box with a latch. I open it. And that’s when I see it: her wedding ring right next to a wire cutter and a pencil stub, an origami swan and a spool of thread. Her initials engraved in tiny script next to her husband’s.

As I slip the ring on my finger, the box shakes and something small and white tumbles out. My hands search the carpet, but I can’t see where it went. I cry out in pain. I must have stepped on it. It feels like a thorn. I hobble over to the bed, lean against it, panting, and lift my foot up. It’s a tooth, white and small.

I fling the tooth it away. It leaves a tiny bite mark—like two thumbtack pins side by side. I scramble on the floor and put the tooth back in the box.

They don’t have any children. Whose could it be? Thoughts fall into place: the mother-in-law hoarder. The wife. This tooth is hers. She knows I am here, knows I am the other woman.

My hand touches the doorknob. Then I realize I am still wearing the ring. My flesh bulges around it. It will not come off. I turn on the bathroom sink and pump the soap dispenser. Lightheaded, I curl into a ball. My heart pounds. How long have I been here?  Hours, days?

I need air, but everything is tilting sideways. In the pattern of the stucco ceiling, I think I see a face: hers. She sent the tooth, the ring. I lunge for the door, but it won’t open.

That’s when I know: his wife is not a woman made of flesh and blood. She is the house and she has trapped me. She has been watching me the whole time; she is still watching me.