I swallowed the key to the door of your bedroom. It was the one you had given me years ago, slender and toothy and that rattled in the creaking brass lock whenever I slipped it in. When I looked in your eyes I no longer saw my face written there, your profile painted orange by the lick of candlelight dying quietly on the corner table. It was then that I knew your heart now belonged to another.
Your mouth no longer fell open in wine-red whispers when I curled my fingers around your throat and kissed your brow.
Your breath had already been stolen as I peeked through the keyhole to your bedroom, to see you sleeping and found you awake instead. You were sitting at your vanity, humming another nightingale’s song as you brushed your hair by the light of your bedside lamp, readying for bed in silk stockings. So I took your key and hid it; first in my pocket, then the drawer of my bedside table where you could give it away to no other man.
Soon I could hear them at night as I slept. The memories of kisses stolen from your accepting breast and the coy play of lashes like weeping willow branches or Siamese twins. They are the whispers of your deceit, like the seeds your bitter fruit settling in the ridges of my anxious brain, in roots and gnarled knots. They are the confessions of your infidelities spreading broad boughs above my bed as I dreamt of burning houses and your white silk stockings. They fan out in fingers limp with ripe foliage as though at summer’s height, to poison my mind as I slept.
You say nothing of it, in this old creaking house of keyholes and corridors. You dance with well manicured fingers and your pristine white party dress, skirt spinning, rising and falling above your stockings in quiet promise. But I know this promise is empty as your eyes of your love for me.
Your hair is like smoke, tumbling in ringlets like endlessly spiraling staircases. They are the coiled black pathways that I climb to touch the crown upon your head and kiss your brow before you sleep. As have the other suitors whenever they call for your embrace outside your bedroom door, of which I am now certain. You do not speak of it now and if you did I would not hear, save these poison whispers. I swallow your key and its seed with it.
I will have my revenge. I will wait for you to cry, black mascara running down your face in trails like ink, leaving only my love letters behind on the apples of your cheeks. Instead the key takes seed within my belly. It sprouts twisted limbs that grow amid my bones, my sinew, ligaments and joints. They jut in the spaces between my ribs and spine and creeping upwards inside my throat. The branches thicken and age with every breath of my lungs now punctured by burrowing roots. I do not scream.
I wait for you to speak or to shout, but you say nothing. Your tree is poison. It bursts from my mouth, peeling my flesh apart with its broad trunk and outstretched arms. There is nothing left of me now but the tree and the silence of the empty house.
Only then do you smile.
Magen Toole is an art student, writer and odd-jobber from Fort Worth, Texas.