The mourning doves arrive in March.
Three perch on the rim of the pool and drink from the murky, winter thaw. Fresh droppings from shiny, black grackles in nearby trees decorate the plastic cover. In shallow water is a fragile chick, plucked from its nest, of no use to the flock.
The doves preen, side-by-side, heads bent, up and over, twisted, reaching. Black beaks nip into gray-brown feather down stripping parasites from within. Wild eyes like round Onyx pearls dart right and left, blinking, blinking.
Three mourning doves coo ooh coo, shuffle side to side then flutter up and onto the splintered deck rail near the window.
Beyond the reflection of the rain-gray sky, a woman lies fetal-like on the carpet. Wrecked. Her body, under her sweater, twitches.
She asks, Who are you?
A man leaves, triumphant. Heavy shoes with rubber soles make no sound across the shiny, lacquered parquet floor.
No need to shut the door after one has opened the floodgates to words like useless, failure, disgust.
She should have remembered the dry cleaning.
They are at the door, the woman, the man, and the child. The man adjusts his golden cufflinks and checks his watch. The girl, thirteen and thin and breasts budding, is dancing in the foyer, anxious to go to dinner.
Take off that lipstick, the father says to her. You look like a whore.
The mother gasps, but hands her beautiful daughter a tissue.
Now we can go, he says, and holds open the door like a proper gentleman.
The daughter hears the word whore each time she licks her chapped lips.
The mourning doves arrive in March. Again. Again.
They perch on the rim of the pool. Ice crystals cover the surface, sparkle like diamonds in the early morning sun.
The birds preen, side-by-side, heads bent, up and over, twisted, reaching. Black beaks smooth gray-brown feather down. Startled, they flutter in place then spread wings wide to climb the tailwind of a passing breeze.
Beyond the reflection of the clear blue sky, lies the woman breath-less on the floor. No longer. The man crumpled, on the floor. No longer.
The echoes of words, thrown like shields of butterfly wings, dissipate into the air. No longer.
The mourning doves coo-ooh-coo from the roof but the daughter only hears whore, whore as she glides red paint over her lips. She backs the car out and down the concrete driveway, shifts into gear and pulls away.
Author’s Note: “The Mourning Doves” was inspired by how, most often, domestic violence happens behind closed doors with few witnesses but with ramifications for everyone involved.