Animal Instincts – No. 251

The paper-wrapped handles dug into Brigit’s palms.  She shifted the two department store bags from her left hand to her right, joining the already dangling trio, and swung around her purse.  Fishing out her keys, she unlocked the door.  She winced as she entered, and shushed the rustling bags.

“Honey,” said Carl, “is that you?”

“Um, yeah,” said Brigit, flicking her gaze around the front hall.  She darted to the closet, flung open the door, and shoved the quintet of purchases inside.  One toppled, and a shoe box tumbled, splitting open and revealing the gleam on a pair of faux snake skin boots.  Giving them a swift nudge with her foot, Brigit forced the door closed by the time Carl rounded the corner from the living room.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” said Brigit, feigning a struggle with her purse’s straps and leopard print coat.  “What are you doing home?”

“The game ended an hour ago.”

“Oh,” said Brigit.  She made a move for the closet, cringed, and then draped her coat over her arm.

“Here.”  Carl set one hand on her coat, the other on the closet’s knob.

“It’s okay,” said Brigit.  “I…ah….” 

She fumbled for an excuse in the face of Carl’s frown.  The door opened with his undeterred motion.  Boots and bags slid out like an accessorized avalanche.  She stared at the assortment even as Carl froze.

“Brig.”

“I know, I know,” whispered Brigit.

“You said you were going to stop.”

She bowed her head and shut her eyes tight as if the pressure might make the scene before her vanish. 

“I just went to the mall to pick up those sun glasses, but they needed a half hour to finish.  I started walking around, killing time, and the next thing I knew I had my hands full.”

“These didn’t leap off the shelf, Brig.”

“No.  But I ran into Amanda, and you should have seen what she was wearing.  Talk about fashionable.  I might as well have been wearing cardboard.”  She looked up at Carl who seemed unimpressed.

Sighing, she pivoted and leaned against the wall, her gaze drifting down to the shopping bag clutter.  “I just needed to keep up.”

“What you’re upping is your credit card debt.”

She glared at him.  “Well, they are mine.”

Carl didn’t wilt.  “It’s our credit score.”

Brigit rolled her eyes and settled back on the tiger striped blouse slinking out of a collapsing bag.  “We can pay it off.”

“But do you really want to be spending like this?  How many things do you need that look like animals? Your closet’s a zoo.”

“It’s fashionable.”

“It’s a fad.  In six months it’s going to be all about wearing red or sweatpants or something.”  He swept a hand at the bags.  “What are you going to do then?”

“Buy more.”

“Brigit.”

“I know I know,” said Brigit, hunching her shoulders beneath his scolding tone.

She heaved off the wall, and shambled down the hall, leaving the clothing littering her wake. Plopping down into the living room’s paisley armchair, she let her coat and purse fall to the spongy carpet.  Carl followed, and perched on the coffee table facing her.  He leaned his elbows on his knees and interlaced his fingers.  Silence stretched between them, and Brigit stared through her zebra inspired skirt.

Carl exhaled, his breath weighty with frustration, but he kept his voice even.  “What are we going to do about this?”

She shrugged one shoulder and kept her gaze diverted from the concerned she knew would be lingering in Carl’s eyes. 

He stood, and walked into the kitchen.  The junk drawer rattled when he opened it, sifted through the contents, and then slid the drawer shut.  Plucking up her purse, he reclaimed his seat.

Brigit locked onto the ruby red handles of the pair of scissors he set beside him while working her wallet free. Her heart began thumping like prey in a predator’s sights.  Unclasping the fastener, Carl splayed open the array of plastic cards tucked neatly into the leather’s slots.  He collected the scissors and offered them, handle first.

“You promised me last time.”

Brigit’s eyes grew wide and she met Carl’s expectant expression.  A nervous chuckle rippled off her lips.  “It was a joke.”

“You promised.”

“Carl, you can’t be serious.”

He cleared his throat with a cough, his voice emerging in a mimicking octave.  “I, Brigit Johnson, swear to shred my credit cards the next time I shop just to shop, rather than shopping for what I need.”  Carl cocked an eyebrow.  “I still have the signed agreement.”

“You didn’t.”

“It’s in my closet.”

“At least I use mine for what it’s supposed to be used for, rather than blackmailing my spouse.”

“His and her’s, hon.”

She glared but again, Carl never flinched. Quelling her rising nerves, Brigit worked her lips in a dimpled grin, the one that usually diverted Carl’s thoughts from anything resembling responsibility. 

“You’re not going to just cut them up.”

He shifted on the table, but then waggled the wallet and scissors, regaining his concentration with what would usually have been an admirable sense of determination. 

“I’m not, Brig.  You are.”

“You can’t make me.”

“No,” he said, “I can’t.” He set the scissors onto the table and stood.   Pocketing his hands, he shrugged.  “You wanted my help.  That’s what I think you need to do.  Either that or this is just going to keep spiraling.”

“But Amanda—”

“I don’t care about Amanda,” he said, his voice finally snapping.  “I care about you.”

Brigit looked away, but like magnets, the scissor’s gleaming blades drew her gaze. 

Tipping forward, Carl placed a kiss on her cheek before striding from the living room.  The door to the den opened and closed, his descending tread on the stairs quieting once he reached the bottom. 

Brigit bit her lip and shifted her gaze to the waiting credit cards.  Worn edges and faded front faces stared back, each looking fatigued from their efforts.  Their weariness leapt across the intervening space and settled in her bones.  Heaviness draped her, as if she wore a coat of lead.

The thought made her chuckle.  “I’d probably buy that too.”

Shaking her head, she sat forward and seized the scissors.  She plucked the top card from its slot and scissored the blades.  Staring at the sharp edges, she wondered if cutting granted the same satisfaction as swiping plastic through the card reader.

“I guess there’s only one way to find out.”

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