Beth soaks in the tub up to her neck in hot water, her eyes exploring the new marble tiles lining the walls. Spidery, gray veins weave across them like free-flowing sketches on square sheets of paper—a touch of Picasso here, a smidgen of Chagall there. She is drawn into their organic images, searching for people and things that deserve to be found.
Three tiles jar her: the one with the lamb drinking from a teapot, the one with the woman’s sorrowful face, the one with the roaring lioness.
A chill sinks her deeper into the water.
Her gaze skitters upward and lands on the tiles bordering the ceiling. From high in the corner, a pair of stony eyes look down on her.
Beth jerks upright, sending waves of water sloshing to the floor. She grabs a towel and covers herself. She steps smartly out of the tub, her legs shaking so hard she has to hold onto the sink.
Richard will tell her this is all in her head.
Heart clamoring, she peeks back at the clownish eyes, the marble’s gray veins pumping life into them. She leans to the left, and the eyes seem to follow. She leans to the right, they blink. When she attempts a bold stare, they darken and roll.
She rushes to her bedroom closet and yanks a nightgown over her damp body. She combs her hair, pulls on a robe, and shuts down thoughts of madness.
In the kitchen, she blindly boils water and brews her late night pot of tea. Alone on the living room couch, pouring grief into her teacup, she waits.
He never answers his phone on the nights he disappears; yet Beth religiously dials his number.
“Hi! This is Richard. Please leave your name and—”
She throws down the handset.
This morning when he left the house, she caught him smirking like a villainous Jack-in-the-box set free by a lifted lid. Eventually, he will waltz back through the door, flushed and triumphant, prepared to stonewall his way through her questions. Like always.
To help calm the clatter in her brain, Beth closes her eyes and seeks out a change of subject. Two of her new bathroom tiles float into view, their gray veins outlining in wavy detail the tea-drinking lamb and the sorrowful woman.
She hears herself whisper, “What happened to the lioness?”
Her grandfather clock marks time in the hallway, its solemn tick-tocks an ominous drumbeat. Beth stands straight-backed and rigid at the kitchen sink, weighing the closeness of walls and the lowness of ceilings: the measures of her narrowed life.
With a trembling heart, she pours out her cup of tea turned cold and watches it circle the drain before disappearing altogether. Stony eyes beckon. On silent feet, she steals toward Richard’s workshop. Then, she roars into the bathroom wielding a hammer and chisel.