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The Lovliest Scars

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It had turned into a kind of game without Margaret realizing it.

George would tell her about his work, and she would feign disinterested interest. She only won by not reacting to anything he said, but that in turn only made him try harder. It was a sick and twisted game, spiraled out of control, that she had no one to blame for but herself.

"Pulled a job off today," George began with his usual drawl and charming smile as he breathed in the steam from his cup of coffee.

"Oh?" Margaret schooled her face into an impassive mask as she paid more attention to her plate than was necessary. "How did it go, darling?"

"Perfectly!" George's teeth were very white when he grinned like that. It never failed to make her heart ache when she saw it. Wide and open just like when she'd first fallen in love with him, but the years since then had given her a different perspective on those grins. She could now see the carefully hidden cruelty behind it as he continued. "Johnny got hurt though. You remember Johnny, right? Young kid, you met him last week and he couldn't look at you without turning into a tomato."

"Oh, yes, I do remember him," young was an understatement. The boy couldn't have been any older than fifteen. Not that it mattered, any age was too young to be caught up in George's business.

Johnny had blushed when meeting her, and even stuttered when she'd tried to talk to him. His blue eyes had darted around the room not really daring to look at her for too long before she took pity on the boy and left him alone. George had found the whole thing highly amusing at the time. "How is he doing? I do hope it was nothing bad."

"Nah. It was just carelessness. Kid got his hand smashed in the car door on the way out," George reached across the table to steal the bread off of her plate. His crooked fingers snagging the jam on the way back.

"Not serious then," Margaret felt a tightness in her chest ease before she was aware she had been anticipating the worst. She silently scolded herself for it. For relaxing before the conversation was over. The news George shared with her these days was rarely that good or benign. "Everything else went well then?"

"Hm," George hummed agreeably. His eyes still twinkling in amusement that was rapidly killing her appetite for breakfast. "Nothing else went wrong."

"Well then, that is good," she forced herself to keep eating as a silence dropped between them dragging out for several long minutes as George slathered jam onto his bread. Grin not slipping a bit, but getting wider as the tension in her grew.

"Going to have to do something about it though," George finally remarked. Casually offhanded in a way that hasn't fooled her since their marriage night.

"About what, dear?" Margaret dutifully supplied the lines to draw the game out further. Her stomach clenched as a cold feeling ran through her. Suspicion of where the conversation was going crept slowly through her mind.

"Johnny," he bit into the bread and hummed in contentment. Sharp eyes watching her carefully over the table. Looking for any reaction, waiting for her response. Knowing that she would guess what he meant by that one word, what he meant to do.

And she did. Lord, she knew what George was going to do to that poor boy.

She hated him in that moment. The sudden rush of the feeling bitter and harsh. Swallowing became hard, and breathing wasn't much easier. Hatred and loathing of what George did --to her, to others-- filled her up leaving no room for anything else. Her hand curled around the small knife beside her plate as the image of taking it up and stabbing his eyes out flashed through her mind. The urge so strong she could taste it.

In that moment she wanted to kill him.

George smiled then. His cold grin slipping and turning into something genuine as he reached across the table to place his hand over hers gently caressing the fingers gripping the knife in a trembling, white-knuckled grip. His voice was soft and affectionate as he said, "I love you, Margaret."

A sharp laugh exploded from her lips. The truth was every bit as bitter and harsh as she said, "I love you too."

She did not let go of the knife.