It was there. She could feel the tenderness
around her eye. She went through her morning ritual
(coffee, bathroom, shower, coffee, one egg baste
d medium white toast
with margarine), carefully avoiding mirrors. It was fine until she caught a glimpse, faded and rippling, in the greasy water of her egg pan
The mouse. It was there, bracketing her left eye in pale gray, shadings of yellow. She finished dressing, donned shades, propped a chair under the front door. In the garage, her car sat wounded, nose pointing skyward as if it had flattened its back tires in a vain effort to break the bonds of gravity.
She kept her head down on the bus, pretending to read. At the coffeemaker in the break room, no one asked her why she was wearing her sunglasses inside. She spent the day in the back offices, reading over dusty files, making notes on her pad. The dry, dead smell of the dust was comforting somehow.
When she got home, the chair had been moved. She walked through the house, shaking. His clothes were gone. So were his CDs and the money in the mason jar under the sink. Small price.
A week later, the mouse was still there, still the same shade of gray, with yellow edges. She told the doctor the truth -- they had known each other for four years, ever since she moved to the city at ocean's edge. He drew blood from the bruise and promised that it would fade.
She started watching people. There seemed to be more sunglasses, turtlenecks, longsleeved shirts. A few men rode the bus or walked the streets with bruises on their faces, undisguised. The anchors on the weekend news seemed to be wearing more makeup.
The papers remained silent.
The president appeared in a news conference, a month after the mouse. His alcoholic's nose was more prominent, more W.C. Fields, less CEO. He said nothing that everyone didn't know.
By the next year, the sunglasses were gone. Men and women wore their dark patches like honor badges. There were reports of vicious beatings. One person had died for the crime of unblemished skin.