Laughter

An eerie atmosphere filled the living room.

Marie sat in her chair, holding a glass of wine, staring at the TV, but barely watched.

John was in his reading chair at the other end of the room. The book wasn’t bad but wasn’t good either.

That was true for a lot of things these days.

That’s just life, he thought, turning the page.

“How’s the book?” Marie asked, slurring the last word.

He looked up, saw her tired eyes and her rosy face. He knew it wasn’t her first glass for the night, and it wouldn’t be the last.

“Not bad,” he answered, focusing on his book again.

“Ah well,” she mumbled.

For a while, all he heard were the voices on TV.

When Marie spoke again, there was an edge to her voice, and, he noticed, a slight shaking.

“How long do you think this will continue? How long-“

“Why don’t you just watch your show and drink your wine, Marie?”

“I’m just-“

“Nothing we can do about it, can we?”

He heard her empty the glass, followed by her pushing herself to her feet. She tottered through the room on her way to the kitchen for yet another refill. When she returned, she came to a stop in front of him.

He put down the book and looked up at her. Her face was filled with anger, sadness, but most of all reproach.

“How can you just-?”

She broke up when laughter reached their ears, laughter from down the hall, from their daughter’s room.

Their eyes met. For a moment Marie didn’t move before she stumbled back to her chair as if struck. The glass of wine was shaking in her hand, sending a spray of red droplets to the carpet below. They weren’t even noticeable among the rest.

John watched as she sunk deeper and deeper into the cushion before she emptied the glass in a single, greedy gulp.

Outside, the sound of toys and play got louder. John knew them all; the bouncing of the ball, the shrill tweet of the whistle, the wooden blocks being stacked upon one another.

Marie didn’t look up, didn’t say a thing. Instead, her hand clutched onto the empty glass and John could already see it bursting.

“Marie,” he started, but she cut him off instantly. Her head jerked towards him, her eyes wide and half-crazy.

“Make her stop, John, please, make her stop!” she screamed at him before she sunk back, shivering and weeping.

The glass fell from her hand, clattered to the floor, and added yet another tiny red splotch to the mess on the carpet.

John didn’t say a word, didn’t do a thing. Instead, he turned to the next page of the book.

And as he focused on the words in front of him, he shut it all out. The sound of the TV, his wife’s pleas and cries, and the giggling from down the hall.

For their daughter had died a year ago.

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