Bottled Up

A Short Fiction

Photo by Terrye Turpin

I would tell you how I came to be here, if I knew the answer myself. It began with a purple glass bottle, wide at the base and tapering to a narrow neck, the sort of decorative container that would be used to hold liquor or bath oils. I found it perched on the bookshelf in our vacation cottage, and I couldn’t recall placing it there.

“Did you put this here?” I asked Tony, my husband. He sighed and made a show of putting down the magazine he was reading, rattling the pages and tossing it onto a pile on the coffee table. I imagined we were going to continue the argument we started on the drive down here.

“Is it my job now to decorate our home?” He frowned at me over the top of his glasses. Tony looks much the same as he did when we met, fifteen years ago. His dark brown hair is graying a bit at the temples and the reading glasses are a recent concession to aging, but unlike me, he can still fit into the same jeans he wore in his thirties.

“Oh never mind,” I said. I lifted the bottle to my nose. It smelled of spice and smoke, like a combination of incense and Indian curry with a hint of patchouli. Definitely not something Tony would buy.

“What are we having for dinner?” Tony asked.

“Why don’t we go out? I haven’t checked the pantry and it’s too late to defrost anything.”

“I don’t feel like going out,” he replied.

“We could order take out from that seafood restaurant you like,” I suggested.

“That food is always so rich. It gives me indigestion. Did you bring my heartburn medicine?”

It was my turn to sigh as I left the room. In the bedroom I rummaged through the pack that held the toiletries for our long weekends. Empty handed, I went back to the living room.

“No pills. We’ll have to pick some up in town.”

“Why are you so set on going somewhere? I wish we could just relax!” He huffed and sat up to slip on his sandals. “I’m going for a walk. You can come get me when dinner’s ready.” He shoved open the sliding glass door and stepped out onto the wooden deck. I walked over to close the gap left between the door and frame and watched as he wandered over to the shoreline.

“Fine,” I muttered and latched the door with a satisfying click.

I pulled from the pantry the bag holding our recycling, figuring if I had to make a trip to pick up groceries I would drop it off on my way. The glass wine bottles from our last visit made a pleasant tinkle when I picked up the bag, reminding me I needed to restock the alcohol.

“Oh god,” I said, “Please let there be one more bottle!”

As I pushed aside a near empty cereal box to grasp the familiar red and white can of chicken soup that I hoped Tony would accept as dinner, I spotted the glint of green glass at the back of the pantry.

“Yes!” I twisted the cap and poured out a plastic cup of the sweet, cheap stuff.

I carried the wine, bottle and all, out to the deck to wait for Tony. He strolled up the beach, kicking little puffs of sand with each step. How childish he looked with his hands stuffed into his pockets and his hair falling over his forehead.

“Drinking already?” Tony asked as he met me on the deck. The wind picked up, blowing cool and salty air that ruffled the loose t-shirt I wore. Grey clouds floated over the surf that rolled and crashed against the shoreline. I lifted the plastic cup in a toast to my husband.

“Yes, if it gets me through this weekend with you,” I said.

He stopped with his hand clutching the railing behind him and glared at me. I had half hoped he would take my comment as a joke. I realized I didn’t regret saying it either way.

“Sometimes I wish we’d never met,” he said as he pushed past me into the house.

The last thing I remember is staring at Tony’s back as he stomped into the cottage. He should have kicked off his sand crusted shoes before walking into the living room. “That sand will be the devil to get out of the rug,” I thought.

Now I’m lying here on a pile of satin covered pillows staring up at what I’ve come to realize is the narrow chimney neck of the purple glass bottle. Everything, from the stack of cushions that surrounds me, to the flowing silk top and pantaloons that cover me, is shaded with an amethyst hue. The bottle rocks slightly. I believe Tony has corked it and flung it out into the sea. He spent the last two wishes today but I can’t help but think — what was his first choice?

I wonder where I’ll wash up and whether the next one who opens the bottle will be any different.

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