The Couple Who Slays Together…
David and I became warriors in the zombie plague on the first day, but don’t think that means we were front line soldiers or something. In truth we stumbled into the zombie battle because it was a means for pure, physical survival.
But I never would have guessed that unlike therapy, unlike the self-help books that littered our apartment at the time, killing zombies would save my relationship.
But let me back up. It all started on August 10, 2010. Wednesday was couples therapy day. It had been for six months, although I was beginning to think that all this talking and sharing and role playing that our therapist Dr. Kelly preached was nothing but a bunch of bullshit.
Despite her advice, despite all our visits to her office, David and I were on the brink. I had even researched divorce lawyers in our area on the internet. The thing was when I put “divorce lawyer” into the search engine on our shared computer… well, let’s just say that I didn’t have to type the whole phrase before it popped up in the system memory as something that had been searched for before.
So by the time we were driving down I-5 South into the heart of downtown Seattle toward Dr. Erica Kelly’s tidy, sterile little office, I was just going through the motions of therapy and making a mental list of all the things I didn’t like anymore about my husband.
The item I added to my list on August 10th was the CDs. You see, we share the car and the deal we’d struck was that since six CDs can fit into the changer, I could pick three and he could pick three. But as I cycled through the changer, keeping one eye on the road ahead of me, I realized that every CD was his.
Every. Fucking. CD.
That probably seems like a little thing, and in retrospect it was. But I guess that just goes to show you how far off the track we’d gotten.
I switched the stereo off with a flick of my wrist and glared at David from the corner of my eye. As usual, he was so wrapped up in one of those handheld games he loved that he didn’t even notice my annoyance. Or maybe he was so used to it, he didn’t care anymore. Either way, it sucked.
“Traffic seems pretty light,” he said without looking up.
I glided onto the off-ramp and looked around. As much as I hated to admit it at that point, he was right. We’d lived in Seattle since our marriage five years ago and traffic was one of the main things that drove me nuts about the city. At any time of day or night there seemed to be thousands of cars crowding the highways. Sometimes I wondered where the hell they all came from.
But today, at four-thirty in the afternoon, when there should have been bumper to bumper cars and trucks honking their horns and blocking the street, instead there were no more than a handful of vehicles around.
I shrugged as I stopped at the red at the bottom of the ramp and checked to my left before I started to roll out into the intersection to make a right. Just as I touched the gas, an ambulance screamed by. I slammed on the brake with a gasp and barely avoided getting t-boned, first by the veering ambulance and then by the five police cars that raced behind it.
“Shit, Sarah,” David barked, bracing himself on the dash of the car as he glared at me. His seatbelt strained against his shoulder. “Watch yourself.”
“You know, if you’re going to drive, maybe you should sit in my seat,” I snapped, though I couldn’t really blame him for being freaked out. I don’t think I’d ever come so close to having a major accident and my heart was pounding. Without saying another word, I waited for the green before I double checked for cars and made my turn.
Within a few blocks we pulled into the parking garage at the downtown office building we had been going to once a week since February. I sighed as I slid up to the guard box to check in and get our parking pass. But as I came to a stop, I realized that Mack, the usual security guy who greeted us every week, wasn’t at his station.
You may think it’s weird that I remembered his name, but I have a reason. You see, every time he checked us in, he asked who we were seeing and when we said Dr. Kelly he gave us the look. The pity look. It stands out in your mind when a perfect stranger is giving you a “your relationship is doomed, how sad” face once a week.
When there wasn’t the usual banter with the security guard, David looked up. “Not there, huh? Weird.”
I glanced at him quickly then back to the empty box. “He must be around here somewhere. His TV is on, I can see the light of it flickering below the window line.”
“Maybe he just went to take a leak or something,” David said with a shrug. “Look, let’s just park. We’ll only be here a bit over an hour. If we have a ticket on the car when we come out, we’ll go talk to him about it. He’ll remember us, I’m sure we can work it out.”
I stared again at the empty booth and gave a shiver. It just seemed so weird that after 24 visits with the same routine, today was suddenly different.
“You’re right,” I said as I put the car in gear and inched into the garage.
David let out a snort as he pocketed his game system in his hoodie and unbuckled his seatbelt. “Wow, I hardly ever hear that.”
I swung the car into a space close to the elevator bank and slammed on the brake, purposefully making David catch himself on the dash a second time.
“Nice,” he muttered with a glare in my direction as he got out.
So what I did wasn’t subtle, but I couldn’t help but smile as I followed him across the quiet parking complex to the elevator. It took a minute for the elevator to come and since we apparently had nothing to say to each other, we just stood there with the sounds of the streets outside the garage echoing around us as the only accompaniment to our dysfunction.
There were cars honking, sirens wailing, even the drone of a helicopter as it swooped in low overhead. I hardly noticed any of them. Now I kinda wish I had, though I don’t know if I ever could have put two and two together at that moment. At the moment, it was just city noise, only magnified to the nth degree.
Once the elevator finally came, we rode up in silence, not even standing close to each other until the car dinged and came to a stop at the fourteenth floor of the complex. This ritual was so commonplace to us by now that neither of us needed to even look where we were going to find Dr. Kelly’s office.
Dr. Erica Kelly, MS Psychotherapy, Marriage and Family Counseling.
I hated how the little letters etched on her door were so even. I can’t even draw a straight line. The letters were a damned judgment.
The office was quiet as we stepped inside. Dr. Kelly had once rambled on and on about creating a calming “Zen” environment. I had only just kept myself from asking her if she wanted “Zen”, why did she pipe in musak versions of Nirvana songs that made my music-loving heart stop and my stomach turn every time? Today, though, the musak wasn’t a good band. I think it was Miley Cyrus, which was probably worse.
I turned toward the sliding glass area where Dr. Kelly’s receptionist, Candy, generally sat. But, just like in the garage, the enclosed area was empty, though her little rolling chair had a pink sweater draped across the back of it and a half drunk bottle of Diet Coke sat on the table top.
“Hey, Candy?” I called into the back office area as Dave flopped into a cushioned chair. “You here?”
There was no answer so I signed the sheet that sat on the counter. It had a smiley face in the corner and Dr. Kelly’s name and credentials in pretty lettering across the top. I wondered if they’d notice if I drew devil’s horns on smiley? If Candy did, I guessed I’d have to explain myself to Dr. Kelly. I wasn’t really in the mood to discuss which of my feelings had inspired me to be so naughty, so I fought the urge and set the pen down.
With a sigh, I took a place next to Dave. The couch was uncomfortable.
“What is up with everyone today?” I asked as I grabbed for a Cosmo Magazine with the article title “Please Your Man — In Bed and Out!” emblazoned across it. I didn’t flip to it, but went straight for the horoscopes in the back.
“Just chill, Sarah,” Dave said as he pulled his game out of his pocket. It lit up as he opened the case. “I’m sure she’ll be back in a second.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said as I looked at the empty vestibule a second time.
“So were the Wonderful Wilsons signed in?” Dave asked in a sing-song voice.
I let out an involuntary groan. The Wilsons. They were the couple who had the appointment right before ours. God knew why, seriously. They totally held hands on the way out, making little coo noises at each other. It was borderline disgusting.
Once I’d asked Dr. Kelly why the fuck they came to therapy and she had tilted her head in that “how-do-you-feel-about-it- Sarah” fashion that made her perfect blond hair swing prettily around her heart-shaped face. Her smile was so calm it kind of made me want to punch her. Hard. Twice.
Then she said, “They come here for maintenance. Don’t worry, Sarah, we’ll get you and David there.”
Maintenance. Like we were a car. Oh yeah, except that since I was spending a hundred and fifty dollars a week on a therapist, I couldn’t afford the maintenance for my car and now it made this weird clunk sound whenever I turned left.
I glared at the clock. It was almost five now and Candy still wasn’t at her desk.
“Do you think Candy Cane quit?” I asked in a hushed tone.
Dave laughed without looking up. I mean, really, who named their kid Candy and didn’t expect people to crack that joke? I think it was her whole name, too, not short for Candace or anything reasonable like that.
“Okay, it’s after five,” I said as I watched the minute hand slip past the twelve.
“One minute.” He looked up briefly. “Maybe the Wonderful Wilsons actually had a problem to discuss today. Do you really want to derail their perfect existence?”
“Their problem is that stick up their asses,” I said as I tossed the magazine aside and got to my feet. “And now it’s two minutes, Dave. Didn’t Dr. Kelly lecture us about punctuality and how it equates to respect?”
“God, you are obsessive,” he said as he snapped the game system shut and pocketed it. “Do you want to barge in there and demand two minutes worth of cash from the woman?”
I stared at him, looking up at me from his slouched position on the couch. Sometimes I caught myself and remembered why I had liked him when I met him. Even now he looked… bad. You know, in a good way. Just a little tousled, just a little imperfect. Sort of sexy.
But then he glared at me and the moment passed, so I went back to cataloguing his faults, instead. Unsupportive, I added to myself.
“Yes. I do. I’m paying for this shit-” I ignored his flinching reaction to that. “-so I want my full benefit of it,” I said as I pulled the door to the back room open and moved down the hall to the suite where we always met with Dr. Kelly. “Two minutes of money at a hundred fifty an hour can buy me-”
“A bottle of water and pretty much nothing else,” Dave snapped as he followed me. “Come on, Sarah. There’s no reason to be such a bitch.”
“I can’t believe you just called me a bitch!” I said, staring at him over my shoulder as I yanked the door open. “Dr. Kelly, do you approve of my husband calling me a-”
I turned toward the open office and stopped talking. There was our therapist of six months, wearing one of her impeccable black pant suits with the usual silk shell underneath. This one was a bright blue that matched the pretty necklace dangling around her neck. And she was with the Wonderful Wilsons, just as we had suspected.
Only instead of sitting behind her desk with her notebook, looking over the rims of glasses I was sure were fake as she counseled the couple, Dr. Kelly was kneeling on the floor, her suit covered in blood. Mrs. Wilson, I think her first name was Wendie (with an “ie”), was sprawled out beside her with her throat still leaking blood from a huge bite on her neck. Her eyes were cloudy and blank.
As for Mr. Wilson… maybe it was Mark, I couldn’t really remember… Well, Dr. Kelly was paying special attention to him. She had his limp hand in hers as she leaned over him… eating great hunks of flesh from his shoulder.