A Househusband's Reality, Chapter 3
The front door slams open, and the scramble of my daughters' feet stumbling over each other and arguing to get inside fills the house. There’s some talk about getting to the kitchen first for snacks. At least I don’t have to get started on dinner, the wife’s ordering out. One of the few times she orders out is the day before the anniversary. She always makes sure to have me hang out with the guys too, some distance from the kids. It’s the only time I get a break from the cooking, the cleaning, and just a taste of something masculine. I don’t get to drink much anymore ‘for my health’ as Valerie says, and she’d be livid if she saw any tobacco in my mouth outside of this designated special day.
I hear a shatter, there goes another thing that was glass.
“Wow, good job Tammy. How many glasses is that this week?”
“I don’t know, three. You broke the vase earlier when we were wrestling.”
“Bullshit, you broke it.”
There she goes with her swearing again, no point in reprimanding her. She won’t listen.
“What did dad say about you swearing?”
“None of your business, twerp. Now move it.”
“Sarah, stop shoving me!”
“Then beat it, ya little bitch.”
My head doesn’t move as I hear Tammy rushing in the room. I don’t know why, usually I’d say something, stand in, tell one of them not to do that to the other. But now, I just don’t move. I’m not getting up from the chair, or doing anything. I’ve just got this thousand-yard stare at the blank screen of the TV.
“Dad, Sarah was shoving me and Erica again. And the whole way home, she was saying ‘You’ll never get fast enough for Jake, you twerp’ because I wanted to change the radio because she kept listening to that music that you and mom don’t like and… dad?”
The whole time, it was just words hitting my ears. I didn’t listen, didn’t acknowledge her, didn’t turn my head to look, didn’t even move. Slowly, Sarah inched closer, and she touched my arm. I turn my head, and she removes her hand seeing that look in my eyes. She looked scared, she'd seen something that only came in glimpses on the anniversary. But this is the day before, and it’s more than just a slip of my mask. It’s a full scene, something only Valerie and the people at the Institute have seen before in my eyes.
“Sarah, something’s wrong with dad.”
“Yeah, I’d be angry too if some retard kept breaking things and I had to clean up after them.”
“No, he’s not saying anything. He’s just staring at the TV, and it’s off.”
It sounds like Sarah’s sprinting in, and she starts to pull Tammy away.
“Just leave dad alone right now. You know how he gets around this time. Just take care of the glass that broke.”
“But Sarah, I don’t-”
“Tammy, just take care of it. I’ll help, okay? Leave him alone and wait for mom to come home.”
The light steps of Erica are next as Sarah tries to usher Tammy out. God, I don’t want Erica to see me like this.
“Daddy, do you wanna see what I drew at school today?”
“Show him later, we can’t talk to dad right now.”
“Is he feeling sleepy again?”
“Yes, very sleepy. So leave him alone for a while, okay?”
“Maybe I could help daddy feel better by-”
“No, leave him alone.”
It sounds like Sarah’s dragging Erica out now. I still haven’t bothered looking over at what’s going on, I still feel strangely numb. Valerie’s probably going to be home in an hour or two.
“Tammy, bring Erica upstairs. I’ll get the broom and pan to start cleaning this shit up.”
That’s nice of Sarah. If only she would do that outside of days like today, otherwise she’s rebellious. I hear two sets of feet rush up stairs, then one comes back down. There’s the light noise of sweeping, while Tammy and Sarah try to talk in hushed tones. They’re not particularly good at that, as it’s all coming through pretty clear.
“Sarah, why does dad get like this at the same time every year?”
“It’s when all the old governments surrendered. Didn’t they teach you that already in Middle School?”
“I mean, maybe, but Sex Ed’s a lot more interesting.”
“Of course it is, but you’d know what dad gets all upset about.”
“Yeah, but why? Weren’t all the old governments bad?”
“Yep, and their societies were even worse. Humans were a lot more miserable before we came along, they used to have fucked up lives in degenerate worlds. They were always miserable because they never really understood what love was.”
Propaganda, all of it. They teach a very revisionist history about how things went down, sat in with some old vets at the Institute because they wanted to show us the government’s new school curriculum on history. It was a horrific ordeal to sit idly by as they talked about how evil the world was, how pathetic and meek we were to our overlords, how monster girls were our saviors, all that shit. I won’t sugar coat how the old world was unicorns and rainbows, that society was perfect where we all sang Kumbaya, or that the people that ran things were heroes that sacrificed everything for us. The first years, in reality, were quite rough, and there was resistance from civilians and disgruntled military for almost five years after it went down. And to paint us out as some worthless subservient slaves who were being liberated and love this new society with no question, I wanted to crack that Hakutaku upside her freaking head until a horn broke for that bullshit dribbling out of her mouth.
“So, why isn’t dad happy then? Don’t men love this new world?”
“Most of them do. In high school, I had this Lamia teacher, Miss Ophioneus. She said there were a few men still left that were ungrateful and still tainted by the old world. Probably what’s wrong with dad, he was in the military. Who knows what they did to him in there before mom helped save him.”
That hurts so much, it digs inside of me when anyone says that. Especially the kids, and Tammy has repeated such things from school, and I know Sarah agrees with it and Valerie stood by it. I never voiced how I felt, but Sarah has no idea what I went through while Valerie would never be at liberty to talk about it. Hell, if she did, she’d defend it since she’s a high-ranking HBC cop.
“I don’t know, Sarah. That kind of doesn’t sound...”
“Sounds like what? Does it sound wrong to you?”
“Well, kind of.”
There’s a slight rustle of what sounds like glass entering a trash bag. The location of their voices shift, and I assume they’re probably heading upstairs. Finally, enough of that conversation. I can still hear it as they walk through the house.
“Tammy, that’s the way it is with dad. You remember when mom told us used to be in something called ‘The Green Berets?’ They were elite soldiers. People like dad take a long time to fix because of that...”
Their voices are outside of my vicinity, finally. As if I needed ‘fixing,’ I’ve been fixed plenty by what the fuck those damn succubi did to me and Valerie in the Institute. The ignorance that kid has, hearing that crap pisses me off. The worst part is Valerie won’t let me say anything about that, it’s illegal. It eats away at me, and each year it just gets worse. I can’t talk with anyone about it except her, and her attitude on it was that it was the best thing for me, it ‘straightened’ my life out, so I don’t bother bringing it up.
There I sit, a couple more hours until Valerie gets home. In a mental limbo, raking over my thoughts of this hatred for the life I’ve lived for almost two decades. I’m somewhat brought back into lucidity when I hear the front door slam open. She must be home.
Yeah, that’s her voice.
She plops her things down wherever, walks around a bit.
“John? Girls? Damn, is it quiet.”
The noise of what I presume is one of the girls coming downstairs comes next, sounds quite rushed.
“Mom, it’s dad. He’s acting weird again, a lot more than usual.”
That sounds like Sarah, speaking in her hushed tone.
“Ah, shit. Alright, uh, just go upstairs. Me and dad are gonna leave soon. If Tammy and Erica ask, tell them everything’s fine.”
“Doesn’t seem fine.”
“Sarah, go upstairs, I’ll take care of your dad.”
“You sure? Because it seems to me he’s getting more out of control.”
“Sarah, I know him, he’s going to be fine. We’re going out tonight, he’ll be his old self when he comes back.”
“People like him don’t have an ‘old self’ mom. He’s getting worse every year, we need to do something about-”
“Do not talk about your father that way, get the fuck upstairs now. And if you ever talk about him like that again, your phone is gone for the rest of your life. Do you understand me?”
I hear Sarah scoff, “Alright.”
“Good, now get the Hell upstairs and stay there.”
Seems like she’s giving her mom attitude. Typical teen behavior, but she knows when to back down. At least, she does with Valerie, not with me. Sarah walks back upstairs, just a slight hint of defeat in her steps. It’s strange, my own daughter seems to have these growing fears of me being some threat. Valerie rushes into the living room, and her paws wrap around me tight as she starts to kiss my lips a lot. The overabundance of affection isn’t making me feel any better.
“Date night tonight, Johnny!”
I nod in response, still in my gaze.
“Well, c’mon, don’t just sit there. We gotta get dressed before we go over Curt and Helga’s place.”
Seeing I’m in my usual thousand-yard stare state, she simply pulls me up and takes me in her arms bridal-style which she loves to do. The whole time, she’s being extra cheery and talking to me like we’re newlyweds. It’s that fake kind of cheery, the one where someone thinks ‘If you pretend you're happy, the crazy guy might go along with it.’
Through the upper hall we go, still in her arms. As we pass our kids' bedrooms, I can see them all poking their heads out to look. Valerie just ignores them, doesn’t acknowledge them for my sake. The kids know something is up. They’ve known every year something is up, but this year… it feels different for me. Valerie has overdone the affection in the past, but this is above and beyond. It’s like she’s trying desperately to keep me and herself cheery. The kids are noticing it, they aren’t idiots, they see the writing on the wall.
Now in the bedroom, Valerie plops me down on the bed. I sit upright, still dazed. Her uniform comes off, there’s that scar again. If I only knew how useless that knife would be against someone as strong as her. She gets dressed in this outfit she likes. Something that’s a bit, well, bold I guess is the way to put it. Most monster girls dress bold, so dressing bold lost its meaning. She puts on some jean shorts and a button up. Plain summer wear, but doesn’t hide much.
Valerie looks over at me, I see her beaming “Jeez, do I have to swing by the Bureau to get some coke in you? Lighten up Johnny, we’re gonna have fun! We haven’t seen them all in months.”
I’m still just looking at nothing in particular. She takes off the T-Shirt I’ve had since… what, did I re-wear it from yesterday? Then off comes my sweatpants. Now I’m in my underwear. She’s gathering some clothes for me to wear. Simple stuff too to match, khakis and a basic t-shirt that doesn’t look like shit. She throws on the pants, moving my limp legs to get them on. Valerie’s gotten better at it throughout the years, being able to dress me in seconds when I get to this state.
Next comes the shirt, she puts it on pretty easily too, pulling my arms through the sleeves. And then, there Valerie is, crouching before me. The fake smile is gone, now it’s the genuine one. Just for a second, I catch glimpses of it.
“Don’t be a stick in the mud. I know it’s that time, but I’ll always be here for you.”
Valerie goes in for the hug, and finally, I react. My arms move to hug her back, but with some hesitation. Just this little bit of love from her, sometimes that gets me through all this for a few seconds. Her hands move around my body, and slowly, the hug is ruined. I feel her claws gently drag across my back side. Not enough to damage the shirt, but just so she and I can be reminded that it's there. Her breath starts to get ragged, so impressed with her work that it turns her on almost every time she does this. I’m not in the mood for aggressive sex. I never am anymore, I just live with it. But now, I’m not going to tolerate it. I start to squirm, and Valerie gets the message. Thank God we have to leave soon, or she’d ignore the protests. Hell, it’d probably excite her more.
We say our goodbyes to the kids, giving them hugs and some money for pizza later. Erica’s hug, it was lingering once more.
It was really quiet, but I could just make out her saying “Everything’s gonna be okay, daddy.”
Valerie’s quick to pry her off, “Don’t worry, sweetie! Daddy’s just fine.”
We head out the front door, straight to Valerie's cruiser. We have a few cars like the sedan or the regular SUV that Sarah and I drive, but Valerie always prefers her cruiser whether she’s on or off-duty. Says the souped-up engine runs better and you never know when the paladins will act out so gotta drive around with all these guns. It’s basically a standard SUV, just a different paint job with black and white and the HBC’s police division logo. Look’s sort of like a dragon’s claw, never sure what they were going for with that. In we go, engine starts, and we’re off. I don’t ever want to say anything to her about this, but Valerie’s sort of a shit driver. Not in the stereotypical ‘women are bad drivers’ way, she’s aggressive. She has this mindset that with this car, her badge, her guns, she has the authority to do what she wants on the road.
The drive is going to be a long one, Curt and Helga are far out of the city-suburbs we live in. They’re more of the countryside. Country life, seems a lot simpler. Better in some ways, but that could just be the grass always being greener on the other side. I don’t know why, but when I was little, I always thought about owning a farm. Being a farmer, growing my own things, taking care of my own animals, being my own man. Still had it lingering in the back of my head when I first went into service. After the special forces, how could uncle Sam not help me get a big chunk of land? But it’s a different world now. There are still male farmers, but they’re married to Holstaurs, Minotaurs, Amazons, Dragons, or basically any monster girl who’s got some strength behind her. And by default, who do you think the government considers the head of the house and the land owners?
The drive is blanketed with silence for quite a while, I’d say about thirty minutes in now. Valerie’s got on her death metal, not super loud. It seems like she’s been wanting to talk for a while, but I can tell she’s having a hard time getting the right footing in. Not like her to be like that, usually she’s bold about it. Am I really acting that off? Maybe she’s struggling to find a way to deal with me.
Finally, she breaks the ice, “Sarah was telling me she wants to bring her boyfriend over.”
“Was he the quiet kid she was with when we were visiting the high school a few months ago?”
“Yeah, that’s the one, Trever. Seems like a perfect match.”
“I don’t know, the kid seems a little too quiet. Kinda like...”
“Like what, John?”
“Well, I don’t know, like he’s scared of her.”
Valerie chuckles, “Yeah, that’s what makes it fun.”
“It’s not like he can say no.”
“Damn right, that’s the law. What makes the world go round, young love.”
Yeah, forcing men into relationships? Guess that’s love now.
“So yeah, Sarah was thinking next weekend to bring him to the house.”
“Think you could whip up something nice?”
“Don’t I always?”
“Absolutely you do, Johnny boy.”
Then there’s a bit more silence. We’re getting closer, ten minutes away now, thank God.
“Oh, almost forgot to mention, huge breakthrough at the Bureau today.”
“Yep, those paladins we took down lead the other divisions out for a ton of cracking down on different cells. Tons of ‘em, gone, poof. Feels good taking those fuckers down.”
Boy, she loves talking about her job.
“The chief’s definitely eyeing me up for a promotion, since I lead the raid. Think, more pay, more time off, quality time together.”
“Great? That’s it? You don’t sound excited.”
Valerie starts to rub my back a bit, “How about this? When I get that promotion, we spend some time in that little village in Austria your family came from like you talked about when you were younger. Just me and you, drinking all day, banging all night-”
“There isn’t an Austria anymore.”
“We-Well, uh, what used to be Austria. The village is still there.”
“Yeah, Central Europe region, Salzburg district. Real romantic. It’ll be like here, the succubi made everywhere the same. There’s no countries anymore, it’s all a one-world order.”
“Well yeah, it’s for the better.”
“Says who? You and every other monster girl?”
Valerie makes a nervous chuckle, “Don’t mean to be a liberal, but watch the term, It’s ‘Mamono.’ Don’t want people hearing you say ‘monster girl’ in public, right?”
I continue, “And every veteran’s depicted as some worthless sack of shit, pathetic losers.”
“My own daughters are looking at me funny.”
“And my wife works in the Gestapo to take out dissidents.”
“Damn it, that’s enough.”
I look away from her, staring outside the car. On a billboard, I see a lamia with a man, and a small lamia infant in their arms. ‘It’s never too early to build your future, it’s the law.’ Went to South America with Valerie once. Same shit, different language. It’s everywhere.
“Watch your fucking mouth already, You can’t talk like that.”
“God forbid I express my opinion.”
“And watch that ‘God’ talk. I’ve been hearing it rub off on the kids. You know most Paladins are Christians.”
“Oh, I gotta police how I think?”
“You do. Especially around others. It’s not just you it affects. It’s me and our children too.”
“What does that mean, Val?”
“Plenty of times my boss has been asking about you, and you know the Institute’s people work with us. I always assure them it’s fine. But now, you’re acting out a bit more. Your behavior’s gotta change.”
“Don’t fucking threaten me.”
Well, now she’s pulling over. Shit. Her paw grips my face real tight, and brings it close to hers.
“It’s not a threat, dumb ass. I don’t want to see you get put away. But I can only do so much to keep the brass calm. Believe me, you check a lot of boxes for people they want to keep an eye on and commit.”
“No shit, they put us together in that shit they subjected me to in the Institute when they found out I was a Green Beret. Bet you help keep tabs on me.”
Her grip tightens, her teeth grit. Her eyes, those black and red eyes. Haven’t seen that anger in a while. She’s strong, the grip is hurting my face.
She speaks in a low tone, “How dare you, you ungrateful asshole. Do you know how much I do for you? I’ve clothed you, fed you, raised a family with you, gave you my money, and all I ask is you act normal, stay home to take care of our children and keep the house neat out of the hours of time you have to yourself. All I get is a psycho breaking down before me.”
My eyes are starting to feel warm.
“You’ve been sitting around moping for the past fucking week, and you choose to be that way.”
I can feel the welling begin now.
“I’ve fucking tried. I’ve told you to get some hobbies, go out, exercise, do something. Even give you my affection when time allows it. And what do you do? Sit around for hours and feel sorry for yourself.”
Then it starts, I feel a tear drip.
“You know why they teach our future generations that vets are losers? Because I see one right before me. You’re a loser, you choose to be a fucking loser! Why don’t you do something about it already?”
I can’t hold it in anymore, I start to cry. It was a quick transition from a few tears to me sobbing. Just broke down right then and there. Yeah, I was feeling sorry for myself a lot, but it seems that it put some stress on her too and she snapped. Her paw releases from my face. I try to get the car door open, and it’s locked. I try to fiddle with it, yank at the door handle, pound on it, nothing worked. She locked the doors, and quickly sprung into action. A hug. A tight one. It was a bit awkward since there was the center console between us, but Valerie can be quick to react. First around my body, and I wasn’t having it. I started to flail my arms a bit, so she quickly griped around those as I struggled and screamed in anger and sadness.
“You god damn bitch,” I yelled, “Let the fuck go of me now!”
She continued to grip, and pull me closer to her.
“I said let me the fuck go! Let me out of this fucking car now!”
“Stop treating me like a baby, and let me go.”
I’m getting tired now, the struggling is wearing me out.
“It’s okay, it’s okay.”
“Valerie, let me go. I’m going home.”
It’s no use, I start to give up struggling. My breathing is still a bit labored from all the thrashing, but it’s getting back to normal. I’m still crying.
“I’m sorry, Johnny. I should’ve never said that to you.”
I give more, can’t resist it at this point. I have to play along.
“Work’s been a stressor, and I took it out on you while you’re going through your tough time.”
Gotta cook up something now, “I’m sorry too. I should be taking your advice more.”
“Alright, then try to do that for me.”
“Hey, I love you.”
Fuck me. I just don’t want to say it. It’s just like that one night all over again. She pulls out, looks at me, and waits for me to say it back. Her smile falters a lot looking at me. The wait for me to respond is sticking around, much longer than it ever has in our relationship.
“John, I said ‘I love you.’
“I… love you too.”
She smiles again, but I can see I hurt her in those eyes of hers. “Good.”
We both sit back, and her paw’s holding my hands. If only I could take a break from the damn touching. We wait a few minutes, maybe about ten more. Probably just to not look like we fought and so my eyes aren’t red anymore.
“So, you okay right now?”
“Yeah. I’m good, Val.”
“Well, the night ain’t getting younger.”
She starts driving, absolute silence. No music, no talking, just the noise of the car. Snaking down the narrow back roads, there it is. Quite a homestead. Property’s just giant since it’s a farm. Not a huge house for such a big family. Curt and Helga had nine kids. Even though a Houlstaurus has a gentle disposition, nine of them running around sounds like a nightmare to me. Still, they’re happy. Probably just projecting what nine Hellhound daughters would be like. Seeing the different cars in the driveway, everyone must already be here.
“Sure you’re okay, John?”
“Alright, let’s party then.”