A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – February 2020
A short story by Lynn Miclea
Trigger Warning: Spousal Abuse
Andrea trembled with fear. She knew John would be angry again. Lately he seemed to always be angry. Things needed to be perfect for him to be happy, and this was an imperfect world. And people weren’t perfect either. But he somehow couldn’t understand that.
And now dinner was going to be late, and the potatoes would not be ready at the same time as the chicken. She knew he would scream and yell at her, and she was so tired of his anger.
Here it comes, she thought as he entered the kitchen.
John glared at her, his face red and contorted with rage. “You bitch!” he bellowed, his eyes cutting into her. “You know I want dinner on time!”
Andrea simply watched him, saying nothing. Let him yell, and it will be over soon, she thought.
He took a menacing step toward her, his eyes fuming. Her skin prickled as she took in the fury radiating from the man in front of her. In a quick motion, his hand drew back and then came forward, slapping her across the face so hard her head snapped back. Then he punched her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. In shock, unable to breathe, with pain radiating throughout her body, she collapsed to the floor. Struggling to breathe and make sense out of what just happened, she barely heard his furious rant as he continued to yell at her. She clutched her belly and took small breaths as tears stung her eyes. Another jolt of intense pain hit her as his hard shoe rammed into her side. Shock and pain overwhelmed her. She stayed crumpled in a tight ball, waiting for another impact. But instead of another blow, his angry voice assaulted her. “When I come back, dinner better be on the table!” He stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
She remained in a fetal position for a long time. When she could finally breathe normally again, sobs took over. What happened? He had never hit her before.
And he never would again. This was it. She was through.
She stood up, one hand on her aching belly, and scribbled a quick note asking him to leave and be gone by morning. Then she grabbed a few belongings and went out to her car. As she reached it, John walked over to her and glared at her.
“Where are you going?” he demanded, venom in his voice. “I want dinner.”
“I’m going out. And I’m through with you. I want you gone before morning. I never want to see you again.” Her voice shook, but she meant every word.
“What?” he bellowed. “You deserved it. It was all your fault. You—”
“No.” Her voice was stronger now. “I’m done. I want you gone.” She got in her car, pulled out, and drove off, not even glancing back.
Pulling in at a nearby motel, she checked in, went to her assigned room, and collapsed on the bed. What happened? What had gotten into him? When had things changed? She could not understand any of it. Numb at first, she finally broke down and sobbed for hours.
The tears slowly subsided, and Andrea let out a long sigh. Maybe this was a good thing. It finally propelled her to leave him. She should have left him long ago. She was sick of his constant criticism and complaints. Nothing she did was ever good enough. And after hearing his put-downs day after day, she had started believing his words. She felt unimportant and worthless. This was not the life she wanted.
Did other couples fight and yell all the time? Did they cry every day too? Was this what life was like for all couples? Was romantic love and real happiness just in the movies? She wasn’t sure. She just knew she couldn’t live like that anymore. She couldn’t even remember the last time she really felt happy. Or laughed.
There was a time she liked who she was. She needed to get that back. He had destroyed her self-esteem and her happiness. There was never any peace anymore. She never wanted to see him again. She hoped he would be gone when she returned home the next day.
After a night of not sleeping, she rubbed her swollen and burning eyes. Looking in the mirror, she saw her red, puffy eyes and the bruises on her face and her side. If he wasn’t gone, she would go straight to the police and file charges.
Shaking, she drove home slowly, not knowing what to expect. Would he be gone? Or would he be even angrier? Would he try to kill her? As she pulled into the parking garage, she noticed his car was gone. Did he leave for a while to get something? Or was he gone for good?
She slowly went up to their apartment. Her hand shook as she put the key in the lock and opened the door. Silence greeted her.
A note was left on the counter, and she picked it up with trembling fingers. Tears filled her eyes as she read it.
I’m leaving you. But not because you asked me to. I’m leaving because I deserve someone much better than you. You are worthless, and you don’t deserve someone as good as me. I should never have wasted my time with you. I’m taking the first flight out and I never want to see you again. John
Her eyes burned with tears, and she swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. He always had to have the last dig. But she didn’t care. She just wanted him gone.
Had he really left? She quickly ran into their bedroom. His clothes were gone. His dresser drawers were empty. She bit her lower lip as a small smile started forming and tears trailed down her cheeks.
The apartment was quiet. It felt strange. No yelling, no criticism, no complaints. She ran downstairs and went outside in flip-flops and no one yelled at her for that.
She looked up at the clear blue sky and saw a plane pass overhead. Was he on that flight? It didn’t matter. As long as he was gone.
She went back in and looked around the apartment. Her dirty coffee mug sat on the counter and no one screamed at her about it. A rush of fear ran through her, but then she decided to leave it there for another hour, and a strangled giggle came out.
Quickly glancing around to make sure no one was there to yell at her, she let out a long breath. Her body began to relax in the empty silence. She felt warmth settle around her. Was this what peace was like?
She felt good that she had taken the first step toward a better life, and she was determined to learn to love herself again. And maybe one day someone else would love her too, exactly as she was.
But for now, she was finally at peace. She felt her lips curl up in a small, shaky, timid smile, and it began settling in that life was becoming good again. She washed her coffee mug and defiantly placed it crooked on the drying tray, smiling wider, as a deep sense of peace permeated the room.
Then she settled in on the recliner and started humming, something she had not done in years, and she knew she would be okay.
Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
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Please see more incredible stories related to this image here from other very talented writers at the Writers Unite! blog.