Taking a sip of coffee, she sank into the frigid acidity of bitter misery.


Acrimony is a word that sounds as bitter as it means. Maybe it’s the “cr-” sound that reminds me of words like cruel, crumple, cranky, etc. It’s a word I don’t like to use very often due to its negativity, but it remains a potent choice that can convey powerful images if used right. In this piece, I was really looking to build atmosphere off the meaning of this word. I hope you enjoy. Now, on to Carmine Stains on Coffee Cups.


Carmine Stains on Coffee Cups

Acrimony (n): Bitterness or ill feeling.

She applied the crimson lipstick with shaking hands, smacking her lips together a few times so the color would spread evenly.

The carmine hue outlined an almost perpetual frown.

Walking to the kitchen, she filled herself a mug of cold, leftover coffee and took a half-hearted bite out of a stale piece of toast.

The creak of the stairs overturned a wave of simmering fury, but it quickly receded in the face of pure exhaustion.

Yesterday, she was angry.

Today, she was done.

Done with him.

Done with everything.

Taking a sip of coffee, she sank into the frigid acidity of bitter misery.

The crimson stain on the coffee cup edge reminded her of…

His face poked out from the edge of the doorway. Judging from the vermilion and saffron splatters on his cheek, he had been painting. Noticing her sitting at the table, cradling her coffee mug, he grimaced. He lingered in the space between the kitchen and hallway trying to decide where to go.

“You can come in,” she scoffed, taking another sip of liquid darkness.

Sighing, he gingerly stepped into the kitchen and dumped out the old pitcher of coffee. He looked at her every so often as he started brewing the new pot, his eyes brimming with unspoken words. The dark bags under his eyes nearly garnered him some shred of sympathy.

She guessed he hadn’t been sleeping either.

They sat in silence.

He balanced a cigar in his hand with a mug of coffee, the tip dragging along the air, leaving behind a contrail of sooty vapors.

He had started smoking again. Other than that and the sporadic bouts of insomnia they shared, there had been no difference in his behavior.

He had remained absent as always, hiding away in that sad excuse for a studio.

And if she wasn’t careful, she was going to start yelling again.

She sighed.

He had offered her a fresh conciliatory cup, but she hadn’t accepted it.

Maybe she should have.

She looked up at him noting the tired, weary lines etched onto his face and the silver hairs that had sprouted over the course of these last few months.

Her husband blew at the puffs of steam rising from his mug. “You know…” he commented, his voice turning soft, like it always did when he mentioned her. “She never did like coffee.”

His eyes were drifting again. Dreamer’s eyes, she had called them when she was young and stupid.

“Stop,” she whispered squeezing her mug.

“She always said that it was way too bitter for her, and she preferred hot chocolate…”

“I said stop,” she insisted, her voice shaking.

“The only time she could drink it was when she wanted to show off how grown-up she was. She had to have it with 6 spoonfuls of sugar and a half glassful of milk, and then—”

“Goddammit, Jin! I said stop!” Tori screamed, her face crumpling as she swallowed down an ugly, shuddering sob.

The sound of his voice immediately cut off, though his lips floundered a bit longer, unsure of what words to say next.

She stood up.

“I have to go to work,” she whispered, setting the chipped coffee mug into the sink and perfunctorily filling it up with water. “Don’t wait up for me.”

She stepped towards the door, picking up her sleek black briefcase.

“Wait, Tori.”

She stopped moving though she did not turn towards him.

“Tori, I’m sorry.” His voice broke off and he had to start again. “I’m… sorry. I know… I know it was my fault… and it… it kills me everyday… but please… I… I need you right now. We can’t get through this alone…” His voice was wrought with emotion. “Will… you ever be able to… ever forgive me… for what happened?”

Tori couldn’t bear the thought of turning towards him and revealing her dripping face. She couldn’t bear the thought of telling him that she needed him too.

She wished that she could wake up one day and realize it was just a nightmare. She wished it wouldn’t hurt so much— so that it wouldn’t feel as though she was being stabbed over and over again— so that it wouldn’t feel as though her heart had fragmented into millions of tiny shards that were impaling her lungs— so she wasn’t drowning in her own tears every moment of every day.

There was a horrible aching on the inside. Like she had lost a piece of herself.

In a way, she had.

So she couldn’t bear the thought of forgiving him.

Because forgiving him meant moving on, and she wasn’t ready for that.

She would never be ready for that.

So she didn’t turn around. She kept walking.


The crimson stain of her lipstick reminded her of blood.

Madder red flowers bloomed at the edges of her vision, until she was swallowed up by pure, all-consuming rage.

It was easier to blame him. To ignore the urge to cry with him and mourn together and then get on with things like it had never happened. She hated him. So much that it hurt. (Or was that just her bleeding, breaking heart?)

She laughed, a sound as bitter as the coffee she had unwillingly swallowed earlier.

“If sorry was good enough, there wouldn’t be a need for Hell.”

One thought on “Acrimony

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