Heart Eaters – Part Four – Benedict


 

“You’re so sweet to worry for me.” Ruby May said to Benedict with a smile. “I feel well in body, but I must admit I am troubled.”

“What troubles you?” Benedict asked wanting to reach out and take her in his arms.

“There was a robbery in town last Sunday.”

“Yes, I read about it in the paper. The O’Neil’s place wasn’t it?” He answered.

“Yes, anyway it’s silly, I’m being silly, but I’m quite frightened to walk home alone.” She said looking down at the floor then back into his eyes. Her gaze cut at his soul.

“No, you’re not silly at all. A lovely lady should be cautious. If you would like,” he stopped, stumbled, “um, if it would make you feel safer, I could escort you home.”

“Oh, would you? That would be so lovely. I mean, I hate to inconvenience you. Your house is in the other direction.”

His heart did somersaults inside his chest. “It would be my pleasure.” He struggled to make the words come out at a normal speed.

He tried to keep from staring at her as they walked out of the bank and on to the side-walk. The light scent of roses and vanilla wafted off of her and soaked his head. The color of her light green dress shamed the bright green colors of spring, and the curve of her lips seemed to kiss the twilight breeze.

“So how was Yale?”

“Hm, what?” He said jerking from his thoughts.

“Yale? Did you like it? Was it exciting?”

“Oh, Yale, it was fine.”

“Only fine?” she asked turning toward him as they walked. “I would have loved to go to such a prestigious school. Sure would have beat Fort Scott Community college.”

“You did very well for yourself Ruby May,” he countered her disparaging tone. “You could be married to the bag boy at the grocery store.”

She looked at him for a second though narrow eyes, making him want to take back his snide comment, but then she smiled. “Your right,” she said with a little laugh. “How could I do all I want to do on a bag boys salary?”

Relief almost audibly spilled from his chest. “And what is it my dear that you want to do?”

“See the world,” she said lifting her face to the sky.

Smiling at the pleasure in her voice, he asked. “The Pyramids, The Great Wall of China, Europe, The Great Barrier Reef; which part?”

“All of it.”  She said as they approached her front door.

“Well perhaps I can help you fulfill your dreams one day?” He said worrying it as too much.

She studied him for a moment then stood on her tip toes and softly kissed his cheek.  “I think I would like that. Good night Mr. Galloway.”

“Benedict, call me Benedict.” He said as she walked into her house.

It became a habit; Him walking her home. It took him nearly a month to gather the courage to ask her to dinner, but one early summer evening when there walk was almost over he did.

“Ruby May?”

“Yes?”

“I know I’m not the best looking man at the bank, or even in town, but I wonder if you would humor me by letting me take you out?” He stared at the ground, and when he heard no response he feared the worst. Without a word, Ruby May put both her hands on his face, lifted it and laid her lips on his. It seemed like a blessed eternity of heaven to him. When she finally released his eyes submerged in hers, a pleasant kind of drowning. “Is that a yes?”

*****

Benedict’s silence brought Lucy back to the present. The room was spotless. As she carried her supplies out of the room her heart ached for the pain of the man in the chair. He loved her so deeply .Lucy thought with a painful understanding of the way love can eat your heart.

“It was too fast, too easy. I see that now.” Benedict said.

His voice was so calm, so normal. Lucy thought he almost sounded sane as she began to remove his clothes to bathe him. Lucy said nothing and he continued.

“We got married three months later. I thought she loved me.” His voice cracked. “I thought she loved me.” He repeated as the tears came. “I thought she loved me!”

Lucy patted his shoulder as he blubbered. Comfort, how could she comfort when she had nothing; no compassion, only bitterness, no hope, only fear.

“I saw it coming, but I ignored it. I thought if I pretended it wasn’t happening it would go away!” He nearly spit the words, his tears stopping abruptly. “The smell of foreign cologne hung in the house at night, it made my nose and throat burn, and it seared my thoughts; thoughts of knowing I wasn’t enough, she was too good for me, someone else was making her cry out in pleasure. Happiness, that’s all I wanted for my Ruby so I let it go.” He rocked, hands wrapped tightly around his knees. “It got worse, harder to ignore. A pack of cigarettes under the edge of the bed, new lingerie in her dresser, hurried, hushed voices when I stepped through the front door followed by the click of a window, but still I feigned ignorance. I think Ruby May suspected I knew, and she tried to bring it up one evening at dinner.”

*****

“Benny,” Ruby May said as she speared a piece of steamed and buttered asparagus. “There is something I think we should discuss.”

“And what would that be?” Benedict asked trying not to let his voice convey the anger and fear he felt.

“Well,” she began, swallowing hard. “I know you heard the window today. You arrived home early from the bank, and I can’t see how you don’t know.” Ruby May’s face stayed glued to her barely touched food.

“I don’t know what you mean?” Benedict answered as he brutally cut at the steak on Ruby’s white and blue china.

“Benedict,” Ruby May whispered as her eyes glistened.  “I know you know! You must. It’s wrong of me. I am horrible.” She cried bursting into tears. “I do not deserve your kindness. I should go. I can leave tomorrow.”

“What!” He said firmly, looking up from his mutilated steak. “Go! Your leaving me!”

“You deserve a good wife,” Ruby cried looking into his eyes.

“No,” he answered shaking his head. “I want you. Please, don’t go Ruby. I don’t care about the men, keep them. I don’t want to know, but I don’t care. I’d do anything to keep you.”

“You would? You don’t care?” Ruby said amazed. Could I have it all? She wondered.

“No I don’t. I just don’t wish to discuss it further.”

Ruby May stared as Benedict stood, gathered his dishes and after walking to the sink to dispose of them plopped onto the couch and opened his paper.

Ruby May endeavored to be discrete the first few months that followed, but as time passed and Benedict remained quiet she became carless. The brown leather belt on Ruby’s bed side stand pierced him like a thousand needles, the unmade bed at six in the evening hammered images of Ruby May naked under some unknown face and hard body into his brain like nails, the purple marks on her neck bruised his soul. They were like a chisel, chipping away at his insides.

He tried to find things to keep him late at the bank and drove home slowly, hating every inch of the road that carried him there. It wasn’t difficult to find the anger to slam the car doors good and loud as a warning; get out of my house you bastard, he would think. And as every other day Benedict assumed it would work. Dragging his feet he walked to his door, opened it and slammed it hard. He was surprised when he didn’t hear the window open and close. It was the Friday before Labor Day and the Bank had close early. Surely she knows it’s a holiday weekend, he thought. Should I go upstairs? She may not be here. At the foot of the maple wood staircase he stood, undecided.

Water falling against tile rang in his ears as he topped the steps. Then he heard her, heard him. Breathless high-pitched female sounds chased by masculine grunts and rumblings. Bleeding inside, he listened. He had known for some time that she was finding pleasure with others, but knowing was not feeling and now he felt. He burned. Pain, and betrayal swung around in his mind like a battle-ax, severing. Turn away, he thought. Walk away, don’t drive her away. Meet her needs where you can.

“Oh, oh David! I love you!” Ruby May cried as Benedict turned.

“David!” Benedict breathed. “The god damn grocery boy!”

Benedict ran for the stairs bounding, two, three at a time to the bottom. Away, he had to get away. He only got as far as the living room and halted. “All this time it was that prick!” He cursed, picking up the iron poker from beside the fire and tossing it into the flames. “He beat me.” He said as he paced. “The bastard beat me! Everything I have and he got what I really wanted! No!” He determined and stopped. “No!”

He turned to the fire, his eyes reflecting the flames, inside and out. His skin singed and burned as he wrapped it around the hilt of the iron poker. One word rang in his mind as he marched from the living room and up the stairs; NO! As he wrapped his hand around the door knob, he heard the water stop and Ruby Mays light laughter.

“Benedict!” She cried as the door stopped swinging. Looking from his crazed eyes to the red-hot poker in his eyes she asked, “Benny, baby, what are you doing? Just calm down.” She said as she backed into a very shocked David Sallis, and he stepped in front of her.

“Benedict, I know you don’t want to hurt her.” The sound of David’s smooth voice and the sight of his muscled naked body severed the last connection Benedict Galloway had to sanity.

Blood dripping from his burnt hand, Benedict lifted the red-hot, pointed iron bar and swung down with every ounce of strength he possessed. With a crack and a sick singeing sound Benedict buried the metal in David’s forehead, his body gave one violent jerk before it fell, spurting blood, to the floor. Without thought or hesitation, Benedict lifted his weapon again and dug it deeply into Ruby Mays blond crown. Her screams stopped abruptly, but he did not. Again and again he swung down in blind rage until nothing remained of her face.

*****

Lucy knelt in front of Benedict frozen in horror. As his mouth closed and he finished his story, a story Lucy had never fully heard, disgust and anger bloomed inside her. Benedict had always evoked pity and compassion in her, but as Lucy removed his ankle cuffs she doubted if she would ever feel that again. Greed and desire for love had eaten his heart and made him a mindless monster. Carelessly distracted, Lucy dropped his ankle cuffs outside the door and was about  to ask him to stand so she could close the door when he spoke again.

“Ruby May,” Benedict said blankly looking a Lucy. The name hit Lucy like a thousand frozen shards. “I loved you!” He screamed as he thrust toward her wrapping his cuffed hands around her neck.

“H-e-l-p,” Lucy tried to choke out, but it was a hushed smothered sound. She struggled, but something in her mind whispered; why not let it happen?

Doug threw himself against Benedict and they fell to the floor. Doug hit Benedict in the face a few times before he realized he wasn’t fighting back, he had become a mindless, moaning heap of man. Lucy, coughed and sputtered as she crawled into the hall, and watched as Doug slammed the door shut with Benedict still chained to it.

Still breathing heavily and fear for her paining his face, Doug knelt down and took Lucy in his arms. Too shocked to resist, she allowed herself to be gathered up. The tumult in her mind made it difficult to not think of his purely masculine smell and the firmness of the arms that held her.

He pulled her back, looking to assure himself she was well, and aside from the bruising already flowering under the sensitive skin of her neck he was satisfied. “Lucy what the hell happened? He damn near killed you!”

“Did you know? Did you know the whole of what he did?”

“Well, I think so. I read the police reports, but they were incomplete. He killed his wife… right?”

“The word “killed” does not do his crime justice,” she breathed as he helped her to her feet. “I will forever bear the cross of what I have learned.”

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