She'd been drinking. That in itself was not unusual. Since she and her husband had started having their problems, she drank more each day.
First, it was a couple of beers a night. Later it became a couple of beers and some champagne each evening to deaden that empty feeling. Now, it was a shot of bourbon and four or five beers. But still that empty feeling remained.
The marriage was empty. He had not been intimate with her in a long time. She couldn't remember the last time they had made love.
He still expressed his love for her by supporting her every wish, her dysfunctional family, and her career. He still showered gifts on her for those "special days" ... the passionless anniversary, Valentine's Day, birthday.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were filled with attending to her dysfunctional family. One brother was addicted to gambling to the place that he had borrowed money from every relative and every in-law. He'd lost his first wife over gambling and was slowly pushing his second wife down the same dead-end path.
The youngest brother had been living at home and had come down one morning to find their father sitting dead in his Easy Boy in the basement TV room. A massive coronary the EMS man had said. That brother was psychologically screwed up from knowing he had thought heard his dad call out for him sometime in the early morning hours and he had just rolled over and gone back to sleep. If he had gotten up, could he have saved his father's life? He'd never know, but it would eat at him the rest of his life.
The oldest sister was on her second husband and already cheating on him with her intended third husband. She ran about as deep as a sheet of veneer on a cheap piece of furniture. Her single minded goals in life appeared to be to keep her hair the same color as her light beige BMW, and flaunt her boob job at everyone.
The youngest sister had been married to a drug addict wife beater. He had called it quits when she had hit him in the head with a black iron skillet and he had spent a week in the hospital with serious head trauma. She had run off to the sunny shores of Florida seeking her Nirvana.
Her husband was spending the night in Baltimore because of a going away party his colleagues were throwing for him as he had recently been promoted the district office closer to home. He didn't want to drink and drive the forty-five miles back his home near Washington, DC.
Being closer to home made little difference in their relationship -- he worked longer hours at the new job.
She was a little woozy from the various alcoholic drinks she had consumed. She headed for the steps leading up to master bedroom. Walking from the large family room through the dining room to the formal staircase in the front hallway, she blurrily scanned the drapes, furniture, and paint and wall paper without actually seeing them. She did hesitate as she turned the corner leaving the dining room and saw his grandmother's small bookcase filled with his leather bound collection of what someone thought was the world's greatest books. It reminded her of the day they had carried in and placed it on that spot. They had made love right in front of it on the hard wood floor. It was the day they took possession of the house. They'd built this house together in happier days. Now, it was just a thing weighting both of them down.
She began the unsteady climb holding the handrail with her right hand and carrying her shot of bourbon with her left. She reached the eighth step when her slipper caught on the edge of the next step. She moved to catch herself and her other foot slipped back off the edge of the lower tread and she fell backward. She tried to maintain the full shot glass and grab for the railing at the same time and was successful at neither.
She fell backward. The fall seemed to last forever. The small of her back landed on the edge of one of the steps. She heard a crunching sound as her vertebrae shattered. There was a momentary crush of horrendous pain and then nothing. No feeling whatsoever.
The shot glass and its contents struck the back of the front door and shattered into a million pieces as she struck the back of her head with a loud thud on the small Persian carpet she had so lovingly picked out and placed there so long ago. The impact dazed her and she was several minutes regaining her senses.
She shook her head to clear the cobwebs and brought her hand up to her head. At least she tried to bring her hand up. She commanded her hand to her head. But her hand wouldn't move. She felt nothing below her neck. She tried the other hand with same result. She was paralyzed! Experimenting, she could still turn her head and speak, but the rest of her body was unresponsive. She had no idea how long she lay there. She must have fallen asleep or passed out. The sound of a ringing phone stirred her from her semi-unconscious state.
She opened her eyes and tied to move again. Her body failed to respond. She listened to phone ring and decided that it must be her husband calling to wish her a good night before he went with his work friends to get plastered. Maybe that trampy administration manager with the short skirts and great legs will get from him what was rightful mine tonight.
She was immediately sorry she had even thought that as the phone stopped ringing. Her husband had never given her any reason to think he was unfaithful, other than the fact he just showed no interest in her any longer. He just seemed tired of the constant drama within her family and wanted some quiet time "with no family dramatics" as he put it. And she really had not tried anything in a long time to try to fire up his libido. So she was as much to blame as he was for the lack of passion.
Would he even be concerned that I didn't answer the phone? Would he care that I might have hurt myself or finally decided to have a liaison with another man? Would he give a crap about this crap marriage? With those thoughts swirling through her mind, she fell into another slumber as her body tried to repair the trauma it had suffered.
When she woke, she saw light streaming through the living room windows. She tried to move and thought she detected a slight movement in her left arm. But she couldn't tell for sure.
The doorbell rang. She tied to yell hoping to attract attention. Her voice was hardly more than a horse whisper. She croaked a "Help me! Please help me!" But it was barely audible.
She heard a thud as a package was dropped at the door. The UPS man turned and scurried to his van and thought no more of the house with the injured woman no more than five feet from where he had rung the bell.
She lay there inert and silent for a long time. As she lay there, her mind began looking back on her life and the decisions she had made that had led to this awful moment.
Forks, she thought, my life decisions are like forks in a road. Take the wrong fork and you end up on poorly paved, dead end routes.