She could feel the sting of the rubbing alcohol, but she had done this so many times she no longer winced. Naomi continued to dab her scalp with cotton swabs where the missing hanks of her hair exposed raw, traumatized follicles. She was usually adept at masking the effects of him scuffing her about, but this business of going for her hair was going to require some creativity on her part. She leaned over the sink and spat into the running water, the red viscosity of her spit mingling with the water, disappearing in a cartwheel down the drain. She could no longer taste the blood in her mouth, was relieved that her teeth were intact, and that the swelling in her jaw wasn’t as bad as it might have been.
She had to move quickly, as her Tuesday night bridgies would be arriving in less than thirty minutes. Good that Andrew was out playing for now. After these blow-ups, she would spring into motion managing clean-up and cover-up activities with grim efficiency. She was relieved that he would retreat to some corner afterwards, the wild, flailing thing that he had been reduced to a bewildered little boy sitting in the corner, confused and remorseful. Better that he stayed out of her way as she cleaned up not only herself, but the evidence of his tantrum trailing from one end of the house to the other.
She had come to appreciate the addition of Rupert’s styptic pencil to the arsenal of tools in her camouflage toolkit. It was ideal to stanch the bleeding of minor cuts and abrasions he always found a way of inflicting with his frantic grabbing, tearing movements. She welcomed the sting of the styptic pencil as she applied it to a scratch from his fingernail at the base of her neck, halting the trickle of blood that wouldn’t stop on its own. Her job wouldn’t be so difficult if it weren’t for the fists that tore, and the velocity of his knuckles.
It would be a long-sleeved outfit for tonight’s bridge game. Something with a snug collar like a turtleneck to cover her throat. Even with the discreetly applied Curad band-aid on her arm (Curad being less obvious than those Band-Aid brand band-aids which announced the job they were doing) she knew it would be wise not to call attention to her arms, especially with the welt developing on her right arm just below the elbow. That much would be easy to manage.
But what to do about that business of her hair. She gave it serious consideration as she applied make-up to her face, which was usually the final step in her artistry. Her ability to apply make-up to hide the nastiest of bruises was masterful. When one looked at her when she was done, one would notice onlythat the symmetry of her face was slightly off.
She hurried into the bedroom to change her clothes. Lost in himself, Rupert continued to sit in the corner with his pipe in his mouth, the color drained from his face, quietly rocking back and forth in her old green Biedermeier rocking chair, twirling the wedding ring on his finger. As the storm had passed, she knew she could ignore him without repercussion. He would not trouble her now.
From the top drawer of her dresser she pulled out a wide, acid blue headband. It would be the perfect thing to hide the angry patches of missing hair. After dressing herself in black slacks and turtleneck, she went back to the bathroom to put on the blue headband in front of the mirror. Holding the stretchy fabric wide with her hands on either side of her head, she slowly lowered it into place, her eyes watering slightly as it made contact with raw skin in the places where her hair had been so violently yanked out. After a couple of minor adjustments, the effect was perfect. She was presentable. No one would be the wiser.
With ten minutes left to spare, she had just enough time to clean up the gravy stains on the carpet and baseboard in the hallway. What a mess. Always what a mess. But she would clean it up as she always did after.
She pursed her lips in a semi-smile, and thought to herself, “I’m getting too good at this.”
Having recently retired to Missoula, Montana, Andrew splits his time between work on completing his memoir and old-world crafts projects for his new business as “Missoula’s Artisan at Large.” When not writing or re-upholstering antique furniture, Andrew can be found reading a book or just watching the Clark Fork River flow by from his living room window with one of his three cats curled up in his lap.