Fiction: Honeymoon Period
by John Moralee
When Birgitte saw the beautiful hotel, surrounded by a deep forest, she kissed me and grinned. “It’s just how I remembered! Our honeymoon will be amazing, Markus.”
I hoped so. I parked and unloaded our luggage, carrying it into the reception where we were greeted by a helpful staff member and the elderly manager. A porter appeared and took our bags up to the honeymoon suite. I didn’t have any cash on me, so Birgitte gave the man a generous tip, thanking him before he left us alone. Then she practically danced across the room to check out the view. Golden sunlight streamed in through the windows.
“The pool looks lovely,” she said. “Tomorrow I’ll take a dip before breakfast. I’ve brought a very small bikini that I know you’ll like.”
“It probably won’t fit me,” I said. “But I’ll give it a try.”
“Ha! I’ve also packed some new lingerie just for tonight. Want to see me wearing it?”
I nodded eagerly. “I’ll order champagne.”
“This is going to be perfect,” Birgitte said.
The next morning, I woke from a blissful sleep as Birgitte was opening the curtains. It looked dark and grey outside.
“The pool’s full of leaves,” Birgitte said. “You’d think the hotel staff would rake it.”
“It sounds windy,” I said from the bed. “They probably don’t think it’s worth doing. No guests are swimming. It’s too cold.”
“That’s not the point,” my new wife said. “I expected our honeymoon to be perfect, Markus. This hotel advertised a pool on the website. I don’t want to swim, but I want it to look nice in the photos. My parents spent a lot of money on the wedding. They want good pictures.”
“Nothing we can do about it,” I said. “Come back to bed. You look so beautiful.”
Birgitte walked towards the bed. I thought she intended to join me for some fun, but she picked up the bedside phone. “I’m calling the front desk.”
“What?” I felt the spike of a headache. “You’re not serious?”
“I am. Deadly serious. I want those leaves gone.”
“They’ll think you’re insane.”
“I don’t care,” Birgitte said. “This is my honeymoon. I’m not letting anything ruin it.”
She jabbed in the number for reception. My stomach tightened. Reticence was in my blood, but Birgitte was the opposite. She liked complaining, telling people exactly what she thought. I admired her for complaining in restaurants when the food was undercooked, but I didn’t see any reason to complain about something so unimportant.
“Hello,” she said to someone. “I’d like to talk to the manager. Yes, it’s important.”
Important? I imagined what the staff would think of us after Birgitte told them off.
“Please hang up,” I said.
“It’s my honeymoon,” she snapped.
I rolled my eyes. Was this how our marriage was going to be? I leaned over the mini-bar and opened the door, lifting out a tiny bottle of chilled vodka. Since Birgitte’s wealthy parents were paying for everything, I didn’t worry about the price. By then, Birgitte was speaking to the manager in an angry tone. I felt sorry for him. He’d seemed like a nice old man when I met him yesterday.
“The pool is absolutely filthy with dirty leaves. Please rake it immediately or I’ll never come here again!” When she slammed down the phone, my wife looked satisfied. “He’s going to do it himself, straight away. See what you achieve when you assert yourself?”
“I hope he doesn’t spit in our breakfast.”
She glared. “You’re drinking already? Now I’ll have to drive. Get dressed.”
“Don’t boss me about,” I said. “I’m not a slave. I’m your husband.”
Birgitte sighed. “I’m sorry. I just want everything to be like we planned. You know I love you. Please get dressed.”
That morning we planned to take a romantic trip up the coast. We intended to hunt for antique furniture to fill our new home in Oslo. But it was dark and cloudy when we went down for breakfast. It started raining heavily, pounding and rattling the windows, when the waiter brought our coffees. The manager was outside, bravely scooping leaves. He was wearing a yellow raincoat with a hood that kept blowing off his head. Wet leaves glued to his cheeks like red and yellow patches on a quilt.
“Wow,” I said. “The manager’s outside in this crazy weather.”
“That’s good,” Birgitte said, without looking up from her laptop, which she was using to research the boutiques in the town. “At least he’s doing his job properly.”
“Properly? He’s getting soaked.”
Birgitte shrugged. “They have an amazing selection of chairs in this store.”
The manager was struggling to stay on his feet on the slippery tiles by the edge of the pool, leaning forward with a fishing net on a pole. A sudden gust made him lose his balance. He fell forwards, arms flailing, landing in the water with a splash. He completely vanished. I looked around the restaurant, but nobody else had seen it happen. I thought the manager would appear any second, but he didn’t.
“Good grief! He fell in. I think he’s drowning.”
“What?” Birgitte said, finally turning to look through the window. “I don’t see him.”
“That’s because he’s in the pool.”
“Oh,” she said. “Someone should help him. Waiter!”
The waiter was busy at the far end of the room. I didn’t think he wanted to come over to our table, because my wife had already criticised him for forgetting part of her order. I stood. “I’m going to help him.”
I rushed outside into the rain, hoping to see that the manager had climbed from the pool. There was no sign of him. No—that wasn’t true. His yellow raincoat was visible under the water. He was face-down in the pool, too far away for me to reach. Swearing, I jumped into the freezing water and pulled him to the side. Some hotel staff and a few guests helped me lift him out.
“Is he dead?” someone said.
“He’s not breathing.”
“What do we do?”
I pulled myself out of the water while people tried to save the manager’s life. I saw my wife watching through the windows, her face stricken in fear. A group had formed around the manager. A maid was sobbing. One guest was desperately breathing into the manager’s mouth. Another was screaming, “Come on! Come on!”
The manager wasn’t responding.
An old man shouted. “An ambulance is coming!”
I stared at the manager’s pale face. His dark eyes were open, but they were seeing nothing.
The ambulance arrived too late.
Two hours later, I was back in our suite, emptying vodka into a tall glass. “Well, that was awful. I’ve never been questioned by the cops before.”
My wife was at the window, looking down at the pool. “Did they ask if you knew why he was cleaning the pool?”
“No,” I said. “I didn’t tell them.”
“Good,” Birgitte said. “That wasn’t my fault.”
“Not technically,” I mumbled.
I didn’t think she’d hear, but she spun around, scowling. “What does that mean?”
“Well, if you hadn’t bullied him…”
“He would be alive.”
“You blame me?”
“Liar!” My wife’s face turned red with rage. “You are a weak, pathetic coward, too scared to complain about anything.
I sipped my drink. “I’m glad this happened today. I’ve realised something. I don’t want to be married to you.”
I knew I’d said too much the instant the words came out, because my wife launched herself at me. She was upon me in a heartbeat, her sharp fingernails drawing blood. The look in her eyes was insane. It took all of my strength to push her off. She fell backwards off the bed, making a strange gurgling sound when she hit the floor. Silence followed.
She didn’t answer.
It was then I noticed the glass in my hand. It was broken, and blood dripped from the jagged edge.
I peered over the bed, seeing Birgitte on the floor, her holding her throat. A glass shard jutted from it.
“Hold on,” I said. I ran into the bathroom, grabbing a towel. I raced back to my wife. In the few seconds I’d been gone, she had turned pale. Her fingers loosened and hot blood drenched my face, blinding me.
I had to use the towel to wipe my eyes.
Then I tried to stop the blood. I really did.
Unfortunately, the wound was too deep. It wouldn’t stop bleeding, no matter how hard I tried. Birgitte went into shock and died.
Afterwards, I put her down on the bed. Feeling dead inside, I reached for the phone and called the front desk. Nobody answered. I guessed they were too busy looking for a new manager.
I left the room seeking assistance.
The first person I encountered was a maid. I opened my mouth to say something, to explain why I was covered in blood, but she reacted too fast. She screamed.
“This isn’t my blood,” I said, hoping to calm her. “It’s my wife’s.”
She screamed louder. “Murderer! ”
I knew then the honeymoon period was definitely over.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 7, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.