The steam filled the room bringing with it more than just a hint of lavender. The room was illuminated by five or maybe six faltering candles, gasping for air and suffering from a shortage of wax. The sound of dripping water echoed around, bouncing off all four walls. As I walked deeper into the steam I stumbled and found myself hurtling head first towards a familiar face beneath the surface of some bubbly water. I reached out, just stopping myself in-time.
The curvy body attached to that face jumped, as the face came up for air. The face and indeed the body, because they were a package really, belonged to my wife of ten years, Kali.
“Jesus Christ Tim.” she said. “Can’t a girl have a bath in peace. I thought you were out, could have given me a heart attack.”
“Sorry.” I said. “Just got back in, very cold out. Unlike here, blimey it’s like the Amazon jungle.”
As my eyes grew more accustomed to the flickering candle light I could see that Kali had put the best part of a bottle of creme bubble bath into the water, the bubbles were annoyingly placed in PG13 movie positions, so I couldn’t see any ‘good bits’. After ten years of marriage I am happily surprised that misplaced bubbles can still disappoint me.
“So then,” Kali said. “Oh great ruiner of baths. What is so important that you couldn’t wait twenty minutes to tell me.”
“Well.” I began.
“Oh wait right there mister, if you want a crap you are just gonna have to wait. Stick a cork up there or something.” Kali smiled.
“No it’s not that. Not today anyway.”
“Pleased to hear it.” she said as she sat up in the bath. Pulling her legs up and cuddling them into her chest. “Go on.”
“Well.” I began again perching on the edge of the tub. “I popped out to get the list of stuff you asked for.”
“The list on the fridge?”
“Yep and well anyway.. there were police outside the Morrisons’ house. They took Jen away.”
“Oh Well.” she shrugged. “I guess we’ll never get that baking dish back now will we.”
“Baking dish? I thought you two were mates.”
“Friends close, enemies closer. You really don’t know anything about women do you.”
She had me there. They had always mystified me, maybe thats what I loved so much.
“Hand me that towel will ya.” she continued. “The waters gone cold.”
I handed her a big fluffy towel from the rail and watched as she rose from the water and let the towel embrace her. Flicking her long red hair out from under it.
“God you are as bad as that Jason from next door.” she said, noticing me looking.
“Do you let him watch you bathe?” I smiled knowing that teenage Jason wouldn’t know where to look let alone what to do.
“Yes, there’s him, his Dad Mike, the Milkman and even Jen.” she smiled again. “Mind you if she’s going to prison now it’s showers she’ll be watching.”
I turned on the light as she blew out the candles and stepped over the edge of the bath. Beginning to rub herself dry she said. “So did you get all the things on that list?”
“Not quite.” I said, handing her another towel for her hair. “They didn’t have any of those tablets you wanted.”
The life seemed to drain from Kali’s face. I don’t know if it was the change in lighting but she seemed to age ten years in about ten seconds. She fumbled for the lid of the toilet, placed it down, sat and slumped back against the cistern.
“Whats wrong?” I asked surprised to see such a reaction, I mean the chemist was all out, I did look. Surely she must know that.
“What’s wrong?” she said solemnly. “You have known me for 13 years. In that time I have always got my own medication. I ask you to do it just once. Once in thirteen years Tim”
“It’s ok, surely. I’ll go back tomorrow and get them. It will be fine.”
“It won’t.” she had stopped drying herself and drips on her face one-by-one lost their fight with gravity falling onto the towel never to be seen again. “I took my last pill yesterday. Thats why I asked you to go for me today. If I don’t have a tablet soon, well.”
“Well what?” I asked. This was really strange now, I knew my wife took various pills and potions. I mean it’s not unusual these days. Creams for this, tablets for that, the bathroom cabinet chock full.
“Those tablets kept me under control.” she said.
“How long have you been feeling depressed?”
“Depressed?” she looked at me through quizzical green eyes.
“Thats the medication right? There’s no need to hide it, lots of people these days..”
“No.” she interrupted my babble. “I’m not depressed. In fact I wish I was, Citalopram is easier to swallow.” She smiled a half smile.
“What is it then?” I asked, my knowledge of medication all but exhausted.
“The tablets prevent me from changing.”
“Oh, early menopause?”
“For Petes sake, stop trying to be Dr House Tim. Next you’ll suggest Lupus.” She snapped.
I wouldn’t have, it was never Lupus.
“Listen to me.” She continued, now barely dripping. “It’s started already.”
She held up her hand. At first I thought it was wrinkled from being in the bath too long, but then as it moved closer I noticed it was redder than usual and what I thought were wrinkles had a scale like quality.
“Oh, so what lots of people have skin issues.” I said. Denying what my eyes had seen.
“It’s not that.” her voice deeper than usual. Face reddening by the second. “No time to explain, you must go. Go now.”
“I’m not leaving you Kali, surely I can help.”
By now my wife’s metamorphosis was well underway. Her towel had fallen away to reveal a lizard-like body complete with three toed feet with big thick red nails.
Her eyes told me to run.
My heart told me to stay.
So I did.
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