This is a short excerpt from my story Terminal Case. As this scene opens, Paige is finishing up a radiation treatment. She decides this is an opportunity to question her sister-in-law Margaret about the troubles she has seen between Margaret and her husband, Paige’s step-brother, Paul.
That afternoon when Paige stumbled out of her daily radiation treatment feeling like a reanimated corpse, the young nurse from the day before helped guide her out to the waiting room.
“The woman who isn’t your girlfriend has a surprise for you,” the nurse said with a sweet smile.
“Great,” Paige croaked. She was too exhausted to compose a witty retort. She hoped the sarcastic tone came through. In the waiting room, Margaret was proudly standing behind a chrome and black wheelchair.
“Oh, Paige you poor thing,” Margaret patted the seat. “Come along, dear, and we’ll get you home.”
“Fuck,” Paige mumbled. She fully intended to tell Margaret where to stick her wheelchair. Paige was not an invalid! She didn’t need to be wheeled around. She didn’t get a chance to say that, however, because the room seemed to be expanding and contracting like it was painted on the inside of a balloon with Paige trapped in the middle. Instead she collapsed into the waiting wheelchair and tried to tuck her pounding head under her arm. “Fuck,” she mumbled again.
Margaret wheeled Paige out of the clinic and into the street. Paige felt ridiculous being wheeled down the sidewalk, but she had to admit it was a lot easier than walking. Especially since she could close her eyes against the knives of sunlight stabbing into her aching head.
“Margaret,” Paige said reluctantly.
“Thanks for the chair.”
“Oh, you’re welcome,” Margaret cooed. She smoothed a rebellious strand of Paige’s short hair and went on pushing the wheelchair. “It’s such a long walk for you, you know.”
“Why is Paul sleeping in the guest room?” Paige blurted. “He says it’s because of snoring, but I know that’s bullshit.”
“Oh! What? Oh, well … ummm … did he say that? It’s just that … you know … ummm.”
“Shit, Margaret,” Paige insisted with an exaggerated wheeze. She wasn’t above playing the Terminal Illness Card. “You can trust me.”
“Oh, I know, I know. It’s because, well,” Margaret leaned over the back of the wheelchair to whisper in Paige’s ear, “it’s because of sex.”
“Paul is having an affair?” Paige was incredulous. She didn’t think her brother could even spell extramarital.
“Oh, no. No,” Margaret shook her head. “Paul would never do that.”
“Well, what then?” Paige insisted. Margaret was clearly uncomfortable with the subject, which made Paige all the more interested.
“Paul has these episodes, you see,” Margaret said quietly. “Like sleepwalking. Except instead of walking, he … you know … does other things.”
“Sex?” Paige asked. “He has sex in his sleep? With you?”
“Yes,” Margaret admitted with a tortured sigh.
“Well, that’s not so bad,” Paige blurted.
“No, it’s terrible! He’s not himself. He’s just brutal and aggressive. Tearing off my clothes like an animal. Forcing himself on me.”
“Oh,” Paige nodded. That didn’t sound so bad either. Paige had often enjoyed a little rough sex from time to time. She’d participated in stuff a lot kinkier too. Not that she was going to tell Margaret that. The short, chubby woman might collapse right there in the street. “Doesn’t sound like the Paul I know.”
“No, not at all,” Margaret agreed. “He says he doesn’t remember anything the next day, but … oh, I just don’t know what to believe. He’s like a man possessed.”
Paige only nodded. For most people “a man possessed” was a figure of speech. Given Margaret’s superstitions, however, that might be her literal diagnosis. She needed a marriage counselor, but was probably looking in the Yellow Pages under “exorcist.”
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