Subtle Reminders

📅 Published on September 6, 2020

“Subtle Reminders”

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.00/10. From 2 votes.
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“Damn, Pete!” my newest employee Marlon exclaims as he nods his head across the bar. “That woman’s eyes are all over you. It’s that time again, huh?”

I try to hide my devilish smirk as I give a nod of my own in agreement. I slide my hand down the side of my beer, using the condensation to loosen my wedding band. It pops off of my finger and into my pocket effortlessly, as it has time and time before.  My eyes take their time surveying the room before finally meeting her gaze. Jesus Christ, she’s got gorgeous eyes. I’ve always loved redheads but green eyes just take it over the fucking top.

“Oh my god…” Marlon continues. “Is that one of them Marilyn Monroe beauty marks?”  Sure enough, right next to her left eye was the tiniest of moles, a period at the end of God’s sentence. A vibrating sensation in my pocket interrupts me just as I’m about to walk over to her.

It’s Maggie…my wife.

Can u plz bring home some dinner?
Preferably something involving red meat.
I’ve got the weakness today, bad.

Fucking great. Putting all plans of an evening rendezvous aside, I texted back that it was no problem. I told her my phone was dying and that I’d be home as soon as I could. As soon as I put the phone in my pocket, our eyes met again. As if reading my mind she smiled coyly and tips her head towards the back restrooms. I don’t bother to tell Marlon where I’m going, just head on back.

By the time I reach the men’s room, I’m already fully engorged in anticipation of what’s to come. It doesn’t take a genius to see what I just did there by the way. Anyway, by the time I hear her heels click across the tile floor, I’m fully ready to go, all rationale leaving my mind as primal instinct takes over. She smiles and bites her lower lip at me.  That’s all it takes to let me know she wants the same thing.

* * * * * *

By the time I get some steak at the store and arrive home, I pray Maggie is already asleep. My only desire is to go inside, change my clothes and fall into a sleep coma. That girl was a wildcat. She actually requested that I put my wedding ring back on before I gave her the best forty minutes of bliss she’s probably had all month. These fuckin’ women these days…

To my relief, my wife’s sleeping soundly curled up in a ball on my side of the bed. She always ends up sleeping on my side of the bed, holding my pillows if she goes to bed before I do. Those nights seem more and more frequent lately, I think to myself. Guilt creeps into my mind like a toxic fog momentarily before I shove it away. Maggie scoots her ass backwards until it finds my body. As I snuggle against the back of her body, she starts grinding her hips against me, a telltale sign that she’s feeling good enough for sex. The sensation sends uncomfortable jolts through my groin, having well satiated its needs moments earlier.

“Baby, my boss was really a dick today and I got pulled over on my way home. Can I just hold you tonight? Please?” I plead softly.

“Mmm-hmm.” She murmurs, my words not fully sinking in. Her head shoots up seconds later, almost hitting my nose in the process. “What do you mean got pulled over?”

“It’s okay, honey. I was speeding a little to get home to you. He only gave me a warning.” I lie smoothly. That seems to be enough for her, because only moments later she’s snoring again.

* * * * * *

Two mornings later, I awoke to the smell of bacon and pancakes. Maggie limped into the bedroom holding the food on a tray. She picked up the remote disgustedly and turned off a breaking news report on the television set. “Nothing but murder and madness,” she muttered as she sat on the corner of my side of our bed.

She’d started having vision problems in her late teens. A few years after she married me in her mid-twenties, she’d started experiencing pins and needles in her legs and feet. One day we were walking in the supermarket and her leg just gave out, the muscle refusing to move.

We went to the doctor expecting a pinched nerve or at the very worst, neuropathy from unknown diabetes, which ran in her family. The MS diagnosis was one neither one of us saw coming, or even knew anything about. She had good days and bad days, but the doctors said the bad days would grow more frequent with age. That was ten years ago.

“Good morning, sexy,” she said. One of her sparkling eyes winked at me above a wide smile. Something was different about her, though I couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what. My wife straddled me over the bed sheet and I could feel the heat of need radiate from between her legs.

“My my, Maggie may,” I teased. “Someone’s feeling better today. Not that I’m complainin’.”

She giggled adorably before leaning down to kiss me. When she did, I noticed something that’s never been there before. “Maggie, honey what’s that by your eye? Did you hurt yourself?”

She climbed off of me, plopped down on her side of the bed and crossed her arms over herself protective before placing a strand of hair behind a dainty ear so I could inspect it further. “What… this? I’ve always had this. I’ve never known if it’s a mole or beauty mark, but either way, I like it. We’ve talked about it before. Jesus Christ, what’s with you?”

Needless to say, the mood ended there.

A few weeks later, I drove out of state for the weekend. The company I worked for was sending me to a seminar concerning a new piece of trial technological equipment that could ‘change the way the World viewed plastic surgery’. I made up my mind that I didn’t give a shit about whatever it was they had to show me before the plane even landed. I was just grateful for the paid hotel and weekend. Maggie has become insufferably clingy in the past week or so and as hateful as it is to admit, I was glad to have the space.

“Are you sure you’ll be alright?” I asked her for the fortieth time as I backed down the driveway. She nodded and waved me off, promising to have kisses and dinner when I got home.

I gassed up the car to take to the hotel, all expenses paid by the company of course. My room was decent. The shower worked and the bedding was nice. It even had free Wi-Fi and a continental breakfast. One thing I’d learned over the years of travel was that the nicer the hotel that they put you in, the more tediously exhausting the event you were to attend would be. This was about a seven out of ten on the sleep in the rental car or being obnoxiously comfortable scale, meaning tomorrow should be bearable at best.

On the first day, they wanted us to attend a conference in the Hotel’s main meeting hall before breaking for lunch. We were to be there from 8:30 AM until noon, a grueling three and a half hours of blathering bullshit.  Once seated, it only took a few moments before I felt a pair of eyes burning into the seat of my pants. I turned around subtly to see a woman staring hungrily from behind me. It was obvious the only interest she had in the activity of the room was right below my belt buckle.

She was gorgeous. Once she stood, I was surprised to see that she was taller than me, a trait I normally stayed away from. Something about her smile though… there was the smallest gap between her front teeth that drove me crazy, a perfect imperfection that caught and kept my attention. We spent our lunch break up in my room, so wrapped up in each other physically that we were almost late for the second half. I didn’t catch her name, and she certainly didn’t care to know mine. It was perfect.

Maggie was waiting for me on the front porch as I pulled into the driveway.  The way that she looked struck confusion and fire into my heart. My wife, who not even six months ago could barely stand without assistance, now looked every bit as good as she did on the day we got married. It wasn’t until she began to walk towards me that I noticed the painful limp and weathered steps. “Hey, Pete!” she waved proudly. “I’m glad you’re home.”

Even though I’m an asshole I really do love my wife. It made me happy to see her and in a way, at my darkest moments…after the sex has faded from the air and the bed is mine alone again, I did miss her. What kind of man would I be if I didn’t?

Once again, something caught my eye that was slightly off about her appearance. My wife took me in her arms and we swayed together to a silent tune. The smell of vanilla and roasted chicken melded wonderfully in the air as we walked inside. We continued to embrace as I nuzzled my nose behind her ear and whispered words of affection and praise. My movements sent a tickle throughout her shoulders and she threw her head back in a loud laugh.

That’s when I saw it. The hidden alteration that stood out to me earlier was now out in the open and screaming in my face.

Between her ruby red lips, there were a set of shining white teeth. Two of which, the front two, had the daintiest gap between them. Now I knew that certainly wasn’t there before. I had a picture in my wallet to prove it.  “My god love, are you alright?” I asked, slightly pulling away from her arms. “Did you get hurt? It looks like you chipped a front tooth?”

Her eyes widened in nonsensical disbelief as she thought over my question. “Shut the hell up, Pete!  You know I’m sensitive about my teeth.” She stiffened in hurt and offense, disengaging from my arms completely.

I knew I shouldn’t have. After everything Maggie’s been through and all of the strange behavior lately, I knew continuing to spend time with other women was possibly the worst thing I could have done. But as you already know… that’s exactly what I did.

An old friend named Carla from college had come to the next town over for the weekend and asked me to meet and catch up. She’d just found out her husband was cheating on her, the irony of that wasn’t lost on me I assure you, and wanted to come back to her hometown to clear her head and get some space.

I got a room a few miles away from where she was staying. We met up for breakfast and had coffee at a place I’d heard great things about but had never been to. She told me all about her marriage, the separation and how she found out about the affair.  In return, I told her about Maggie and how she got sick; along with the strange events that have been happening lately. I didn’t delve too much into it, but I admitted things were off at home.

I’m not sure if it was the connection from our childhoods, back when things were uncomplicated and our hearts were light, or the unburdening conversation that led to more than coffee. We didn’t have sex; in some ways, it was worse than that. I followed her back to her motel room; we smoked a joint, held each other and cried. The red in our eyes was replaced with the color of tears as we talked about what could have been, divulging secrets too evil for our significant others.

Carla winced as I grabbed her hand and I noticed a long, smooth scar across the top of her right hand. She explained she’d gotten it in a car accident, and the pain from the surgery flared up when the weather was just right. Our eyes met and lingered, bringing our faces dangerously close together. Our lips touched for the briefest of moments when all at once, a myriad of flashes played out like the screen of a television set. I yanked away from her, as if she was acid on my skin. Only it wasn’t Carla. It was my wife’s rotted, worm-eaten face.

Maggie lay pale in a hospital bed, a machine emitting whooshes and clicks as it did the job her lungs were no longer strong enough to do. I saw my tired form sit beside her in an old metal chair, the failing fluorescent lights flickering irritatingly against the yellow wallpaper. A doctor came into the room and said something to me that made me break into sobs. A piercing alarm rang throughout my ears as the machines declared her dead.

I stood at her funeral, silent and solemn as those around me recounted memories of good times together. Everyone commented on what a good wife she was, and how she loved her husband with all that she had. Each word of consolation turned rotten, and the betrayal of my own actions stabbed through my back like a broadsword.

Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw her eyes pop open accusingly as they lowered her into the ground. My wife was terrified of fire and always made me promise not to have her cremated.

“I’m sorry.” she started. “I guess I just wanted to hurt my husband like he hurt me.”

“I should go home. It was real nice catching up with you. And if you don’t mind me saying so, hopefully now you can see how sometimes, good people get caught in bad situations. Stay in town, clear your head… alone,” I emphasized. “Then, just when he can’t stand it anymore, go home.”

Maggie’s cell phone rang unanswered as I drove the two hours it’d take to get home. I’d told her I’d be away for the weekend and after all the shit I’ve done to her, I was excited to surprise her by coming home early. If we could start over maybe I could fix the fickleness of my soul. I always felt the need for more, never taking the time to stop and think to appreciate what I already had. Relief flooded me as I saw her car parked in its usual spot in our driveway. I wanted to see her, hold her, rediscover all the things I’d fallen in love with, before it was too late. She’d been feeling better lately, but who knew how long that would last. Even at the most promising signs at the doctor’s visits they still advised me to remain skeptical.

A putrid stench emanated from inside, assaulting my senses the moment Maggie opened our front door. “Welcome home, honey!” she exclaimed through a radiant smile. “I’ve been looking forward to you coming home.” Her eyebrows arched as a look of lust overtook her eyes. She grabbed me by the waistband as she pulled me towards our bedroom. All signs of difficulty were absent from her steps. Hell at the moment she was having an easier time walking than I was.

The smell intensified the further that we traveled into the house. Halfway to our room, I had to stop and cover my airways. “What the hell is that?” I gagged through muffled lips.

“The smell? I think a possum crawled up under the house and died. I haven’t seen the trash bins knocked around in almost a week now.” She remarked dismissively as she fought with the belt of my pants. “Maggie, stop!” I shouted. She broke away from me like a wounded animal. Her bedroom eyes instantly replaced with ones of hurt and betrayal.

An unsettling silence settled over us as I took stock of the state of our home. Nothing looked moved around or emptied. The kitchen was clean and the trash had been taken out. There wasn’t so much as a dirty dish in the sink. So why did it smell like a landfill in here?

Maggie was still silent, but hadn’t given up on her attempt to usher me into the bedroom. She began to pull and paw at me relentlessly, like a feral cat trying desperately to avoid a bath. Now, if this were an earlier time in my life, I would have welcomed such behavior, encouraged it, even. It’d always bothered me how meek and mild my wife was when it came to intimacy and sex. But now, between the look in her eyes, the feeling in my gut, and the smell in our house, it just wasn’t happening.  “Christ, baby girl, what is with you? I just got home and want to relax for a bit. At least let me kick my shoes off. And for fuck’s sake, honey, I’m not gonna be able to keep in the mood with that smell. Like, how can you stand it? I feel a migraine coming on and I haven’t even been home for fifteen minutes!”

My breath hitched in my throat as my eyes landed on something…not quite right. Just past my wife, two doors past our bedroom door, was our storage closet. I’d noticed that there was a foul colored liquid seeping out from underneath the doorway, pooling onto the tiles of our hallway floor. The middle of the door buckled and bowed against the weight of an unknown object. And I didn’t need my gut to tell me it was something bad. I lowered my gaze to my wife’s face, recognizing a look of terrified recognition as she looked behind her to the closet door. “Peter, no-” she started to yell, but I gently moved past her.  “Please, don’t…” she pleaded from behind me through panicked sobs.

The door flew open the second I relieved the resistance from the doorknob. A stained suitcase falls flat at my feet, the smell multiplying tenfold and flying into my airways. I doubled over in terror and disgust and my mouth filled with spit. Bile crawled up my throat voraciously as more of the fetid liquid sloshed out upon impact with the floor, splattering on my shoes and the hem of my khakis. “What the fuck Maggie?” I asked breathlessly.

Only a number of things could have been held in that case, but I didn’t have to guess. Some of the fluid had seeped through the fabric and the zipper track as well. The metal teeth of the zipper were stiff and marred with goo. A small section of teeth remained silver and untarnished, and between those teeth, was a strand of long, red hair. Not just one or two strands, an entire tendril’s worth. “Wh-who?” I stammered. Maggie cut me off before hysteria had a true chance to set in.

“Who is she? Are you asking me who she is, Peter?!” I nodded my head numbly in response. “Well…” she chuckled maliciously. “You would know better than I would, wouldn’t you, dear?”

Shock robbed the breath from my lungs as I fully absorbed what she was saying. My mind instantly flashed to that night with Marlon at the bar. Self-preservation overrode all worry about finding a body in my back closet. I held my hands up in defense. “Now, honey… I dunno what you’ve heard, but I’ve always been a good man to you. You know you’re the only honeypot I wanna visit.”

She raised her hand slowly before landing a slap across my face. “Stop it, Pete,” her angry voice growled through gritted teeth and tears of hate. “Just stop…” she continued, the torrent of rage having subsided a bit, giving her a chance to catch her breath and regroup a bit.

“Jesus Christ, Margaret!” I snapped. “You hunted some poor girl down in a fit of jealousy and killed her? How did you even have the time or strength to? I haven’t said anything because I love you so much but if you can commit murder I think the time for mincing words has passed. You’ve basically been in death’s waiting room for the past year. Now your health has returned to complete normalcy and you’re killing people to boot. What the fuck is this? Give me one reason why I shouldn’t call the police right now, you-”

“Love,” she said meekly. “The reason is love.” she took me by the hand, gently this time, and led me to the living room sofa. It was almost impossible to refrain from cringing at the feel on her touch. The same hands that ended someone’s life were now trying to use me as a source of comfort. I had a really hard time coming to terms with that. How was I supposed to look at this woman the same way ever again after what she’s done?

We sat down on opposite sides of the furniture as she began to speak. Her hands were shaking, so she clasped them together in her lap to keep composure. “First off let me say that I know about the women. I don’t suspect, I don’t assume, and I’m not going off of the word of someone else… I KNOW. So let’s cut that charade right now shall we?” She stated matter-of-factly, her voice forceful but otherwise void of emotion.

“Pete, when you asked me to marry you, I always knew there’d be a chance that your willpower would let us down. You love me the best that you can and with all that you’re capable of… but you’re weak. You crave attention like your lungs crave air. When I got sick, I wasn’t able to give you that attention anymore.” Her eyes filled with tears. I took my chance to speak as she paused to brush them away.

“Mags, you know I’ve never blamed you for getting sick. Please tell me you know that. I haven’t been perfect, but I come home to you. I married you! But, fuck, we have a rotting body lying in a –”

She held up her hand to silence me, and to be honest at that very moment, I was grateful for it. I didn’t have to look hard to see the scar across her knuckles. My heart wrenched at Carla, the poor lost soul who would never go home to her husband.

Maggie interrupted my thoughts. “We’ll get to that in a minute. It’s not like she’s going anywhere. Now back when I first got sick, didn’t you say you’d give anything for a cure? For a way to have your wife back? Well, I caught you with your proverbial pants down.  I’m not leaving you because of it, and what’s more, I’m healthy, Peter.”

“Yeah, but how? How am I supposed to sleep at night knowing I’m cuddling up to a murderer? How do I know you won’t try to kill me if I piss you off one day?”

“The same way I’m supposed to go on sleeping with your arms around me knowing that they’ve been around someone else! The man I married, the man who VOWED to be beside me in sickness and in health, died the day you stuck it in someone else. If anything, you started the killing first!” Her voice came out in booms, and the infliction in her words made it difficult to argue. She had me there. “We all are capable of doing things that we never think we would. The human body and mind is the ultimate mystery.”

Maggie stood up and walked over to our rolltop desk before opening the top-hand drawer. She turned around with a letter pressed firmly to the skin of her forearm, wincing once she pressed hard enough to draw blood. “Oh my god, Maggie!” I shouted as I ran over to her. I understand that adultery is painful but for her to kill herself over it was uncalled for. I won’t lie and say avoiding the possibility of having to call the police to report two dead bodies didn’t cross my mind either. I knocked the letter opener out of her right hand, ripping my shirt off in order to staunch to bleeding.

To my disbelief, there was none. The cut in her arm sealed closed, without so much as a scratch left behind. It looked like she’d gotten a dab of red watercolors on her pale skin. It wiped away like it was nothing, leaving flawless flesh lying underneath. “They give me life.”

“Life?! Who? What the hell is going on here?” I demanded, my mind not able to absorb the events around me.

“The women that you put your love into. I find them, and I take it back. Their last breaths contain all of the energy that I need to heal. Little by little, I’ve been getting my life back. I was able to get the other women alone, using your phone to lure them to isolated locations. Don’t bother to check your phone,” she remarked snidely. “You won’t find any of them. So I guess if you wanna call the police, go ahead, but it’s not gonna look too good for you, buddy.” A triumphant smirk settled on her shiny red lips.

“Then, why is that one here?”

She walked past me to the hallway before giving the suitcase a kick with the side of her foot. “This one,” she grimaced, kicking the suitcase again, much harder this time. “This one… came here looking for you. You don’t shit where you eat, Peter. And if I’m going to sit home and play the fool the least you could have done is be discreet about your address. Boy was she surprised when I answered the door. By the time she saw our wedding photos and bolted for the door, I already had the knife.”

My mind reeled at so much information at once. None of it made any sense, the feelings and emotions were all so multifaceted. What was I supposed to do? Call the police to turn in the woman I love for a crime I’d ultimately be accused of in the long run? But how could I live with her after this? Adultery and murder are two different things.

“Maggie,” I said softly. “Baby I am so sorry. None of this is okay. We’ve got to get this out of the house. It’s not safe or healthy.” The irony of being worried about the rotting life my wife stole away affecting her air quality seemed so selfish and wrong. “Please. I’m so sorry that I hurt you. I’m not dead sweetheart, I’m right here! And I’ll never disrespect you or be unfaithful again.” I grabbed her in my arms and clutched the top of her head to my chest. She shoved me away violently, as if revolted by the sensation of my touch.

“Oh, but you will, Peter. You will be unfaithful again, and you will do it soon. My transformation is not yet complete.”

Rating: 9.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: N.M. Brown

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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