Francine Witte: This is a Secret, So Shhhhh

Bennett doesn’t know that I’m leaving.

Bennett is a hill all swaddled in Grandma Holler’s quilt. Patches of gingham and dots. Wedding present she made with her twisty fingers and tiny sight. Family treasure until Bennett drunk-ruined it one too many times. Now, it’s his all alone.

I ease our honeymoon suitcase from the closet. Hawaii stickers, hula girl waving hello. It opens like a chattery mouth. Like next door Ruth who will surely swoop in on Bennett, like I know she has before.

Like the times I came home early and found wiped-off lipstick on a wine glass, Grandma Holler’s quilt in a forgotten, nauseous heap.

Bennett goes from gurgle to snore to gurgle. I throw one blouse into the suitcase. I’m going to need lots of room. I flip the floorboard where I’ve hidden the money. The 40K Grandma Holler had wrapped in the quilt. That I hid so good that Bennett has torn up the apartment a time or two and still never found it.

The night we opened the quilt and the money fell out and we covered it, joked it was my lover and I was still stupid and in love. I have to keep my lover hid, I told him with a wink.

The money goes quiet into the suitcase. Bennett will look for it way before he looks for me. I look at Bennett under the quilt. Pile of bad money, Grandma Holler would say.

I close up the suitcase’s open blabbery mouth. Without another sound, we slip secret out the door and into the world.

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