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The Bargain






The Bargain

 


God knew she loved him.

“I never would have done it if I’d known,” she told him now—although it was far too late

for any apologies. When Diana and Frank first met, she had overpowered him; she always was

aggressive, part of her nature, she would sometimes say, something to do with her namesake.

She looked at him with gentleness now, twirling his hair in her fingers as she lay in the bed with

him. She tried to blink her eyes dry and recalled the beginning, those first days and weeks when

they had been so happy in each other’s company.

“Happier than hell,” she thought. She laughed. Now it seemed a disgusting phrase.

Like most newfound loves, they both thought this one would never end. Because she

never grew out of that optimism, she had ruined them both. She stared into his face and told him,

“You shouldn’t have been so damned beautiful.”

He wasn’t listening. He never listened these days. In fact, he had stopped listening to her

and anyone else some time ago.

After about three months of being together, Diana noticed how the intensity of the

relationship cooled considerably, at least from his end. She compensated this thaw on Frank’s

part by becoming more desperately passionate—trying new means of seduction at night, clinging

tighter to his body in the morning. This bothered her; she was normally rational, so much in tune.

She never could figure whether it was her or the relationship Frank first began losing interest in,

but it happened, and it was more than she wished to tolerate. That’s when she made the bargain.

Bargain? She choked on the word. It was no bargain; it was a deal. One didn’t make

“bargains” with the devil; one made deals. And there was only one party that would come out

ahead in the transaction.

“This,” she whispered in Frank’s ear, trying to sound reassuring, “was not what I had in

mind.”

She no longer could remember when she first called upon the Devil. Perhaps she hadn’t;

perhaps he had called on her. All she knew then was that Frank seemed to be slipping away from

her, and suddenly someone offered to help her, to keep them together, “for the rest of their lives.

“He’ll never leave you,” she was told. “At least not for long.”

That was how it been put to her as she sealed the contract, not with blood but with a

word, and a feeling. And it was true.

In fact, it was amazing how simple it seemed once the arrangements had been made.

Little things kept happening, minor accidents that would detain him long enough for her to

change his mind. Every time he tried to walk out on her, she would get some opportunity to keep

him there. Then, slowly, the occurrences took churlish twists. The things that happened to Frank

became malicious and hard to witness, and she tried to let him know that he couldn’t leave her;

he no longer had a choice; neither of them did. It came to a head when Frank crept out of the

house while Diana slept.

He just packed a bag and left. Driving up the onramp to the expressway, his car suddenly

skidded out of control and smashed into a cement embankment. He lost both legs, just above the

knees. After being released from the hospital, he was back with Diana.

It was then that she dared to question the validity of the deal to her merchant. She was

reminded, in no uncertain terms, that her request had been entirely fulfilled. She had no reason to

complain. After several bitter and sad months, Diana decided she had to tell Frank what actually

had happened, that she had actually been the cause of his accident and that, in fact, it had not

been an accident at all.

He, of course, never believed a word of it. He insisted that she had lost her mind and

swore that, even in his state, she could never make him stay with her. He didn’t feel he was

dependent upon her for his life at all. He had had enough of her gibberish, which had obviously

turned into hysteria. The outrage that then erupted from Frank was unexpected even though it

shouldn’t have been. After a tirade of almost 20 minutes, he wrestled himself out of her grasp,

situated himself in his wheelchair, and told her he was leaving—this time for good.

“And even the Devil can’t help you this time!”

He wheeled out of the apartment into the corridor. She stood in the doorway pleading

with him, but Frank entered the elevator. On the way down, the cable supporting the car

snapped, sending it crashing at the foundation of the building. Frank never knew that he made it

out. He was now in a coma, permanently. She knew that. This was how her life would be from

now on. He would never leave her again. They were together for the rest of their lives.

Just as she had wanted.

 
Bill Cushing


Bill (William) Cushing grew up in New York City but has lived in various states as well as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before moving to California. As an undergrad, he was called the “blue collar” writer because of his years working as an electrician on oil tankers, naval vessels, and fishing boats.

He earned an MFA in writing from Goddard College in Vermont and teaches at East Los Angeles and Mt. San Antonio colleges. His short stories have appeared in Borfski Press, Newtown Literary Journal and Sediment.

He has published creative non-fiction, poetry, reviews, essays, and articles in various print and internet publications. He was also named as one of the Top Ten L. A. Poets of 2017; when not teaching or writing, Bill collaborates with a musician in a project called “Notes and Letters.” He invites anyone interested to visit and “like” their Facebook page.

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