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Guilt and Goldfish
Emma had dreams, big dreams. All
her life, she only wanted to be a
politician’s wife, to bask in the
glamour of a successful, public life
that she didn’t have to work for. She
got what she wanted; she thought that
everything was perfect. But it wasn’t. Somehow, this life seemed empty, shallow, nothing like
what her dreams used to promise. This worried her, but only slightly. This was the life she had always wanted, so it must be her fault that something was lacking.
Suddenly the speeches, the publicity, and the treachery weren’t enough. Chanel wasn’t enough.
“I’m sick of this, Ethan!” she screamed. “I feel empty.”
“That’s just because I haven’t won yet, dear,” he soothed, not thinking of her.
He was reading the paper, sitting on the couch in the living room, the showroom, the Museum of Perfect History. No one ever sat there unless it was in the midst of a party. They hadn’t had a party in weeks.
“Ethan, you’re not listening to me.”
“I am, dear. You’re lonely is all,” he told her, flipping a page absently. “Tomorrow I’ll get you a pet.”
After work the next day, Ethan came home with a present for his wife: a goldfish in a bag, the kind that’s always sold at fairs and carnivals. He lugged in the fancy, expensive tank and decor, deposited it where he thought it should go, and left it there for Emma to find, preoccupied with a dirty deal that was sure to make him mayor of Chicago.
Emma came into the room from where she was preparing dinner in the kitchen, and instantly spotted the addition to the room. She went to thank Ethan, but he brushed her away. Back in front of the fish tank, all she could do was stare. It swam around in futility, from one end of the tank to the other in a panic, looking for an exit.
“There must be more than this,” Emma whispered to the goldfish.
In an instant, she made a decision. She took the innocent, frantic little fish, and flushed him down the toilet unceremoniously, hoping that it took him to a better place than the one she was trapped in herself.
She made another decision then, to find somewhere she could be free, someone she could be free with.
“Ethan, I’m going out,” she said, putting on her calf-length ivory coat with gold buttons. “Dinner’s in the oven.”
He grunted in response, and she left the apartment with its beige walls and polished furniture, taking one last look at the wedding photo on the mantle. With every step away, every step forward, she grew more confident, knowing that she had made the right choice: not to feel guilty anymore.