Some people hang paintings on their walls. Others collect useless, empty sculptures. Void of life. Void of feeling. While most millionaires decorate their investor’s portfolio with “timeless” antiques and so-called masterpieces, I fill my halls with the taxidermy trophies of my annual hunting trips. There was a time when that feeling was enough to keep me satisfied. That ultimate rush of adrenaline as soon as my finger crunches down on the trigger. It’s addicting, as if God lent his powers unto my hand-me-down rifle, passing his will down from the heavens and onto my shoulders. It used to be enough. But another craving has been blurring my senses. A craving for her.
I’ve known Scarlett since she wore her virgin red hair in braids. I remember how they used to whip in the air, grazing the on-sale muskets on the display wall behind her any time I walked through the doors of her family’s hunting supply store. We were just kids, both chained to the paths our parents planned for us. Mine being the sole heir to the Wellington estate and hunting grounds, hers being the future manager of the Mcgill’s Hunting Gear and Supply store. Our engagement was always planned. One might even say that our first date was orchestrated by her mother. But I didn’t mind. And neither did she, at least that’s what I thought.
Things have been changing recently. Like last month, when I pulled into the driveway with the infamous brown bear that had been terrorizing the local campers hog tied to the top of my charred pickup. Scarlett, my golden trophy, normally watched from the window, holding a thumbs up and applauding my newest kill. Her praise was one of my favorite things about her, so much so that my stomach growls for it. I shot bunnies, stuffed deer and replaced the eyes of Bucky brown bear with imported glass replicas just for a thumbs up and light applause. But this time, she did not. Her reactions faded, almost to the point of avoidance. She hadn’t even made the effort to meet me at the window.
I unhooked the bear from the top of my car, rolling my eyes as the blooded smeared down the windshield, and dragged him into my garage. Crunching on the pebbled driveway, I made my way over to the front door, inching myself through the floor to ceiling oak doors and up the Victorian winding stairs, using my hunter ears to detect where my fiancé was hiding.
Giggles clawed out from the gapped bottom of the bathroom door. I listened in.
“Stop it, it’s not funny. If he knocks on my door and dangles another dead bunny above my white carpet I’m going to hog tie him to the chandelier,” her whispers sharpened. “Babe, please come pick me up. Denny has the car and I don’t want to take any of his things when I leave.”
The betrayal shot from her mouth, aiming for my heart, but bludgeoned my gut instead. My Scarlett, my trophy, has betrayed me. Even with my entire collection of stuffed animals, they would have no value without my main supporter, my centerpiece.
The bathroom door swung open, banging against my boot, revealing a new Scarlett. One freshly out of the shower with artificially black hair. I hated it. It was as if she was hiding. From herself. From me.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” I spurted, my eyes burning into hers.
Her shock was obvious, her breaths panting between each word, “Tomorrow? Um, nothing I think.”
“Come hunting with me. I found a spot I think you’d like.”
Those were the last words we spoke to each other that day. As we drove in between the endless trees and up the winding mountain, I could feel her distance despite only being a few inches away. But that would change soon.
We stopped, parked and began the trek. My rifle was swung over my shoulder, swaying with each step as she walked ahead of me over to the edge of the cliff. The view stretched for miles, revealing a haze of mountains, bubbling clouds and ravines.
My trophy glistened in the sunlight, frozen amongst the rest of the beauty. She was distracted, enough for me to reach back for my rifle, aiming for her sternum.
But that was the past, a dark memory we don’t discuss anymore. Now, we enjoy our morning coffee in our rocking chairs facing the backyard. I read her a chapter of “Pride and Prejudice” every day. So when I look into her custom imported glass eyes, and rake my hand through her custom red wig, we laugh about the old days. Well, I laugh. She listens. Forever.