Marvil threw his pink shirt on the bed.
His wife looked up from where she was nestled under the covers, with the pillows stacked up behind her and a book titled ‘all about pickling’ in her hands.
“Okay. Fine. I give up.”
“What’s wrong?” He assumed the amusement in her tone was meant to tease him but it just caused more frustration.
“I have nothing to wear tomorrow.” He lifted up the red shirt. “This is the best shirt I’ve got, but the color …”
She reached for it and looked at it, amazed. “Why do you even have it?”
“A friend got married in vegas.”
She nodded, as if everybody had such a friend and thus a weird relic hidden somewhere in the closet.
“Wear one of your other shirts.”
“I need a white one.”
“Don’t you have one?”
“This is another one of those times I wish you did the laundry.”
She laughed but he only managed a wry smile.
“Can I borrow one of your dead – I’m sorry – your husband’s …” He blushed. “I’m your husband.”
“You’re very perceptive. I’m impressed.”
He hung his head so she couldn’t see his face. “Can I borrow one of Jeremy’s shirts?”
“And a jacket. The purple one?”
“I thought you wanted a classic black and white set?”
“The purple one will suit my skin-tone.”
“That’s funny – he always said that, too.”
“Where do you have them?”
She sighed, put a mark in her book and got out of bed and into her slippers. She reached for her cardigan and waved him along.
They walked down the hallway to the first floor and into a corner of the house that Marvil seldom came to. It was Vanessa’s office and storage.
She showed the closet with the clothing she’d felt too attached to to part with. Marvel didn’t mind. It was only natural to want to preserve some connection to her previous husband. Besides, she never nagged him about how Jeremy had made more money than him, had better manners, more important friends or any other faults in Marvil that Jeremy might have done better. For that, Marvil was grateful.
The room was too small for both of them to comfortably be there so while Marvil looked through the suits Vanessa lingered outside. He heard her yawn and decided to be quick about it and not marvel too much at the quality of Jeremy’s clothes. He wondered how much money was in the closet.
“I can’t find the purple one.”
“Maybe it’s not there.”
“That was his nicest suit.”
“It wasn’t the nicest.”
“The coolest, then.”
“You’re not supposed to look cool at the party. It’s not even really a party, it’s just a dinner.”
“With some very important people.”
“Right. So be presentable.”
“Did you sell it?”
“Marvil, I haven’t looked in that closet in eternities.” She marched into the room and pushed him aside. “Maybe I gave it away.”
“Wear this.” She took out a black jacket with matching trousers and put a white silk shirt on top. “Now we just need a tie.”
“I don’t have it.”
“Where is it?”
She glared at him.
“You have it. I can see it on your face. You look like you do when I ask if there’s more chocolate and there’s a little left and you want it for yourself so you say there’s nothing left.”
“Yeah,” he said triumphantly. “I knew about that.”
“You’re wearing this,” she snapped.
“I’m not.” He started rummaging through the suits again. “Purple jacket or no party. I don’t fit in to begin with so I might as well be outside with style.”
It wasn’t fairplay. He knew how much it meant for her that he came along, even if he wasn’t comfortable, and he’d assured her that she shouldn’t feel bad about it and that he was happy to do it for her.
He just wanted the purple jacket.
Convinced that she was hiding it somewhere in the room he started to look through the boxes.
“How about I see if I can find it tomorrow,” she offered timidly.
“More time for you to go buy a purple jacket and figure out how to convince me to wear that one.”
He didn’t hear the true plea in her voice. He thought she was just being stubborn. Besides, he’d let it go soon enough – he just wanted to tease her a bit.
When he lifted the boxes aside and saw a hatch in the floor he hesitated.
“Let me guess,” he said. “The suit is down there.”
She hid her face in her hands.
“Don’t go down there,” she said quietly. He got goose bumps.
“Yeah, honey, sorry, but I’m going down.”
He opened the hatch and descended into the darkness. It smelled like …
Like dead moths, dust and sour, old socks. He gagged.
His hand found a switch.
“Vanessa, what the fuck?” he screamed.
“Marvil.” She stood at the top of the stair and looked very sad.
In the small room, that appeared on no floor plans Marvil had ever seen, lay Jeremy.
Embalmed, disgustingly yellow and in a glass coffin.
He wore the purple suit.
Marvil struggled for words but the only thing that came to him was:
“That’s such a waste. It doesn’t even suit his skintone anymore!”
He went over to get a closer look. “You almost can’t see any traces of the accident.”
Vanessa came down to stand beside him. “I know this counts as a sort of adultery, but –“
“Please tell me you’ve not done anything … necrophilic.”
“No! Listen!” She grabbed his undershirt and pulled him close to her. “I love you.”
She said it sternly, as if that would make it truer.
“Honey.” He cleared his throat and removed her fingers. Then he ran a hand over her hair. “There’s a dead guy under our house. He needs to go.”
Dread welled up in her eyes.
“But … but.” Her hands fiddled their way into his and she tapped his fingers. “See, this is exactly why I didn’t tell you.”
“Wait, is that an accusation?”
“There’s no reason he can’t be here. He’s underground.”
“Why are we paying for a spot on the graveyard?”
“Vanessa …” He sighed. “This is sick.”
“I’m not sick!”
“I’m not saying you are.” She was. “This is a sick thing to do. Get rid of him. Get him over to his spot on the graveyard.”
Her lips quivered.
“You can’t have two husbands.”
She moved her weight from one foot to the other a few times. “You’re leaving me if I don’t.”
He thought it over. “I don’t know. I think this is the sort of thing that might build into something larger. The impact isn’t really clear yet.”
“I just didn’t want him to be all alone. We never had kids and his mother’s so far away.” She bowed her head.
“Hey, hey.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m sure there are a lot of funny dead people.”
She hit his chest. “It’s not funny. And it’s not fair. He was always out and just as we were supposed to get more time, he …”
“Look, either you’re making sure he goes or I am.”
“No, that’s following the law. I’m pretty sure this is hella illegal.”
“Let’s go look it up.”
“No.” He pulled her back into his arms. “He’s going.”
She struggled in silence and Marvil looked at Jeremy some more.
Even in death the fellow looked prestigious. Damn.
“Fine. Monday. After the party, when we’re less busy. Let’s go get the black jacket.”
“Wait. What about the purple jacket?”
“No,” she said. “I’m not letting him be buried naked.”
“He doesn’t have to!”
She looked squarely at him. “Either it’s no suit and no Jeremy or suit plus Jeremy.”
“You’re blackmailing me into keeping a dead guy in my basement.”
She wasn’t insane. She was one of the most level-headed people he knew. Before this she’d done nothing out of line unless it was to be adventurous or funny and, besides, the dead guy hadn’t bothered him when he knew of it.
Out of sight, out of mind.
They could always return the suit like a strange Cinderella concept.
Return the suit to the dead guy before midnight or else …
Or else what?
He could always persuade her to let Jeremy go later.
Marvil really wanted that suit.
This flash fiction is a part of the cocktail challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog.
It was partially inspired from ‘til death do us part‘ on thechickandthedead who runs a blog with interesting facts about death.