by Rebecca Entel
Raised voices hush a room, lower eyes. But the sound of skin hitting skin. But a slap.
The sound, an air-thickening sponge, slogged from one room to the next. It stilled the action in each. Heads looked away from the TV; hands paused lining the table with silverware; mouths at the door stopped saying hello.
After a few minutes, our hostess came back downstairs. Her eyes were the slightest bit red. But she smiled.
“Time for dinner, everyone.” We followed her into the dining room.
Our host came in quietly while we were shuffling about, finding seats. He sat down at the head of the table. We avoided eye contact with both of them.
Soon dinner began and was busy. Our hostess spoke and smiled; tension drained from the room. We all eased, slumping in our chairs like unclaimed marionettes. Drinks slipped through chattering lips. We returned to smiling at our host. He conversed easily and welcomed us back in with blue eyes.
After dinner it was time to leave. We left in groups, pairs. The house was empty in minutes. Our hostess stood in the shadowed doorway, waving goodbye, watching us retreat.
We got in our cars, sat in rows of two, covered from slats of rain. And with the black onyx windows planed around us, we drove the winding roads home.
Rebecca Entel is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and University of Wisconsin – Madison. She is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Cornell College. Her stories have appeared in Madison Review, Leaf Garden,Joyland Magazine, Eunoia Review, Medulla Review, Unsaid Magazine, Connotation Press, and The Examined Life Journal. She lives in Iowa City.