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It's The Way He Says He Loves Her That You Know It's True

On the first Daze of Christmas,

Ryan Sayles gives to us. . .

It's The Way He Says He Loves Her That You Know It's True by Ryan Sayles

Macy looks up from the little gift box. She is speechless.

I smile. “I’m so glad you like it.”

She hasn’t moved. The lights from the Christmas tree reflect in her glasses. We’re sitting on the carpet as the scent of the Evergreen I cut down fills the room. Logs burn in the fireplace. The whole nine yards.
When I scoot near, she backs away. “No, baby, stay close,” I say, taking hold of her arm. “Listen, I know we’ve had a rocky year. Been on a break and. . .that was all my fault. I wasn’t treating you the way you deserve. I did some wrong things. Bad things.”
“Deborah…” Macy says.

Yes, Deborah. I cheated on Macy with Deborah for a while. “Deborah was a mistake. A bad, bad mistake. I’ve said I’m sorry.” I may have built the fire too hot. It’s getting uncomfortable.
“But this ring…” Macy says, letting the words fall off the way she does.

Her father does the same thing. He leaves all these openings in sentences to be filled by a guy like me who hates silence.
I nod. I have to be honest. “Yes. Yes, it was Deborah’s, originally. Well. . . well, I should say I bought it for her. But as you can see, it’s yours. I want you to be my wife.”
I get on a knee and take the ring out of the gift box.

Macy gasps, falling back. I see tears run down her cheeks. She’s quaking.

“When I got it back from Deborah, I couldn’t get it off her finger.” I say, trying to slide it off now.

Deborah had big hands. Man hands, like they used to say on Seinfeld. I struggled to slide it in when I proposed to her last week. Really had to shove. Wouldn’t you know it? When I took it back, I couldn’t get it off.

“Hang on, baby,” I say. I pull and pull, and pull. I wink playfully when Macy meets my eye. “I’m trying to be gentle.”

It’s awkward. Deborah’s severed finger in one hand while my other tugs at the ring. Deborah’s long fingernail keeps stabbing my palm.

“Oh my God, get the fu—” Macy scrambles backwards. “What did you do to her? What did you do to her? What did you do to her?”

When she screams, I tackle her and slap a hand over her mouth. I’m filled with so much love, Macy’s got to feel it radiating off me. Her muscles clamp against me and I get near her neck. “It’s like when we make love,” I say and kiss her.

We lay there for a moment and I just want her reaction to pass. The carpet is soft. I tune the radio to a twenty-four seven Christmas music station. Silent Night plays in the background as we ease down. I can’t blame her. Proposals are intimate, emotional things.

“I’m not trying to hurt you,” I say softly. The way I used to tell her how grateful I was she was in my life. Macy used to melt at that. “I want you to know how sorry I am for Deborah.”

“What did you did to her?” Macy whispers. Her voice murmurs like a quivering heart that lays dying, gasping for little pulses to make it strong again.

“I left her for you,” I say proudly. “I love you. I did all this to show you how much—”

“Get offa me,” she says through clenched teeth.

I let her go as a sign of goodwill, yanking at the ring with my teeth until it comes free. I spit the ring into my palm and slide it on to Macy’s trembling hand. 

She violently pulls away, but I grab her by the back of the head, jerking her face in the direction of the Christmas tree. “You have so many presents to open,” I say.

One more surprise. I arranged all the presents around Deborah’s corpse. They look so pretty, in repose, under the tree.

Ryan Sayles is the Derringer-nominated author of Goldfinches and the Richard Dean Buckner hardboiled PI series, Subtle Art of Brutality, Warpath, and the forthcoming Albatross. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of venues in both print and digital media. Those stories and more are collected in his works That Escalated Quickly!, I’m Not Happy ‘til You’re Not Happy and Let Me Put My Stories In You. He has been in numerous anthologies including the Anthony Award-nominated Trouble in the Heartland: crime fiction inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen. He is a founding member of Zelmer Pulp, a writer’s group publishing a wide array of genre fiction. He is Midwestern and formerly military and police.