The Headache

Carla had another of her migraines. The pain had started that morning as she’d blended Les’ protein shake. The predictive aura tingled across her face, making her nearly forget an ingredient. Les tended to get nasty when his morning routine wasn’t exactly the way he liked it, and she didn’t feel she could cope with his temper today.

When did her charming, handsome, perfect husband turn into the cold, demanding man who barely noticed her?

Her hands fumbled as she filled the bottle, dreading the pain to come. He didn’t like conversation in the morning and he got angry when she tried to explain that she could feel another crippling headache starting.

She’d suffered from occasional migraines for years, but lately the headaches had rolled through her life almost daily. The doctor had said it could be her age, or stress, or some kind of allergy…or something else altogether. He offered nothing really but sympathy and drugs for the pain. So day after day she sat in agony, alone in her million-dollar home.

As it always had over the past couple of years, the headache began where her neck joined her right shoulder – a tightening, a pulling of a muscle into a spasm that corded up her neck and across her skull. The tightening became pain that clawed like a fanged reptile biting into her head, its venom leaking into her system until she felt dizzy and sick.

Today, she’d managed to get through the short list of tasks – buy groceries, pick up her dress and Les’ suit from the cleaners, arrange for the landscapers to mow and mulch, call the carpeting people again to fix the loose edge on the stairs, run to the pharmacy for more pain meds…. All the dreary details that half-filled her days. She tried not to think what her life could have been like before she had given up her career to marry Les, and the migraines had become so much worse.
By the time he came home, she was in white agony, every sound pounding on her face and rolling through her system. She had put on the embarrassingly low-cut dress, but now she was lying on the bed trying to find a position that didn’t hurt.

“Not again.” Les surveyed her coldly – he’d long since used up all his sympathy. “Stupid me, I was counting on you to flirt a little with the old man. He’s a certified skin hound.”

Les’ words rasped against the throbbing nerves in Carla’s head. She pressed a hand to her face and blinked hard, trying to clear the lights flashing in her eyes.

“I’m your wife,” she protested, anger momentarily blocking the worst of the pain. “How do you think I feel when you dangle me like a high-class whore for your clients?”

“A wife is supposed to support her husband, remember?” Les snapped. “You have to be good for something.”

He surveyed his wife resentfully. He’d thought he’d scored the gold medal when Carla agreed to marry him – long honey-colored hair, a figure like a locker-room fantasy, and a laugh that was rich and throaty. Possessing a woman like her was the proof his clients needed that he was a winner. That they should invest their fortunes with him.

“I thought my law degree would be an advantage to you,” Carla protested. “That we were going to be partners in every way.” She gave a sad, shaky laugh. “But these headaches are killing me.”

“I know babe,” Les tried to modulate his voice, but he could see that her cheeks were sallow and her eyes bleary. Not sexy. “I support you in luxury,” he coaxed. “You don’t have to do anything except look gorgeous and coo a little over my clients. It’s not like I expect you to sleep with them.”

“You didn’t mind last week when Sean Sark groped me in front of you.”

Les shrugged. “Business requires sacrifice.”

“My sacrifice, it seems.” Shakily, Carla got to her feet. “I need some water.” She lurched toward the bathroom, clumsily opening the prescription bottle that promised some relief. Les followed her, menacing now, like an angry bodyguard.

“I’m warning you,” he said, voice no longer calm. “This is an important deal and you’d better pull yourself together.”

“Or what?” Carla challenged.

“Or I’ll get a wife that does me some good.” He began to stalk away, face livid. He only needed a good-looking woman – not a wife who thought that she or her brains mattered. “Don’t forget that prenup, sweetheart. You’ll get nothing and good riddance to you!”

She began to call to him.

“Unless you are ready to do everything I tell you,” he snarled, “Don’t talk to me.”

So she didn’t. She leaned against the doorjamb, pain making her thoughts disconnected, sharp and splintered. In silence she watched his foot catch on the loose rug. Without a sound she watched him twist and fall. Without a single anxious word, she walked down the stairs and checked for a pulse.

Vaguely, as she dialed 911, she was aware the biting pain in her neck was subsiding.

Then she sat in an armchair, waiting for her head to finally clear.