Beneath his Fingernails

The soil was rough and irritating beneath his fingernails. No matter how much he tried to dig it out from under them, there was still some left there. He could no longer see it, but he could feel it, buried deep.

He slipped the pointed end of the nail file beneath his thumbnail again, and hissed though his teeth when he felt the skin rupture. The constant filing had worn his nails down, and turned the skin so raw that it had finally broken. Blood pooled down in two directions: down his thumb and across his palm, and down the metal nail file, dripping onto his jeans. He withdrew the nail file, but he could still feel the soil there beneath the nail.

Other reminders hovered over him, too. He could still see the empty stare she had worn, once a look of surprise from his sudden, violent outburst, turned blank from the death of the light in her eyes. She had been heavy as he had carried her out of the house and into the car, and as he had lifted her out of the boot and onto the ground. Heavy and cold.

He had started digging with a shovel, but at some point, his growing panic had taken over and he had sunk down onto his knees in the dirt to dig with his hands. Scoops of dirt had been thrown behind him wildly, some of it landing on his trousers and shoes, working its way beneath his clothes. At least, that was how it felt. He had showered for more than an hour, but the sensation had not gone away.

Once he had buried her and made his way back to their home – to his home, now – there had been time for him to stop and think. He had not meant to push her so hard that she fell and cracked the back of her head on the counter. It had been an accident. Not that anybody would understand that – it was not something he would have believed.

The soil and the memories would never leave him, and eventually someone would put two and two together and come up with a correct answer. But for a while, a short while, he could limit his punishment to the image of her empty eyes and the blood beneath his fingernails.

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