“Pam!” The thud of his fist on the bathroom door makes me cringe. So many times those knuckles have met my jawline. “Unlock this door or I’ll break it down,” he shouts.
I pull the shower curtain over the tub. Hiding here won’t offer much protection, but at least it muffles his voice. The empty tub cools my feet. The linoleum offers my only refuge. I’m trapped, but maybe it will slow him down when he finally breaks in.
I spot a spider running down the curtain. It’s headed straight for me but instead of shrieking, I sit here in the cool confines of my porcelain bathtub and let it come closer without jerking away. Strange how the little things that used to scare me seem miniscule in comparison to the bruises, the jammed fingers and scratches made by a man.
Her little black body reaches my hand and I don’t flinch. Instead of grossing me out, I take comfort in the only companion I can find. So many times I’ve tried to confide in my neighbor Calise. She’s so strong I fear how weak I must be.
The spider stops atop my fingernail. No judgement. No questioning why I stayed for so long. She’s definitely not as scary as Josh.
Each thud grows louder, more forced, but I don’t care anymore. The hinges on the door squeal and he bursts in. He stomps in and throws open the curtain. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He scowls.
I hold up my hand in response.
He clutches it so hard I gasp. Without hesitation, he pinches the spider and tosses her body aside.
Tears well in my eyes. Will he disregard me like the spider once he’s broken me for good?
“She didn’t do anything to you,” I shout.
His palm jerks my head aside and I’m stunned by the sting. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he asks.
I don’t know where the words come from, but I push him back. “You.” I’ve blamed myself for too long.
My pulse is beating fast in every limb, pounding through my toes. I’m shaking, but not in fear anymore. The surge of anger flowing through me is enough to keep me going. I stand tall and hold his cold steel gaze until he averts his eyes.
He swings at me and I duck. For the first time, I don’t flinch. I don’t curl up into myself. “Is that all you’ve got?” I ask.
He stumbles back wide-eyed. I sweep past him but he grabs my arms and twists them, moving behind me. My elbows pop. The pressure grows. I fear my bones might snap it hurts so badly, but I can’t stop now. I breathe in hard and squirm under his grasp. A searing pain shoots up my arms to my neck.
There is no one here to help me. There never is. Just like the spider.
I can’t let him crush me like he crushed her. I have to do something. I hold my breath and stop fighting.
“That’s better,” he whispers in my ear. He brings my wrists together with one hand and digs his thumb against a pressure point I didn’t even know I had. Then he unzips his pants.
“No.” I kick behind me and connect with his knee. He stumbles and I run into the bedroom. I grab my cell phone off the dresser and dial 911. For the first time, I call for help.
He freezes in the doorway. “Pammy, baby, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“You never do.” The phone starts ringing and he steps aside.
I move forward. Each motion feels heavy. The lump in my throat is too hard to swallow. I scan the length of hallway. The walls seem like a gateway to another dimension.
I rush past him, through the living room. Everything seems to slow. My vision blurs. My heart is ready to explode. The front door stares back at me. Its peep hole reminds me that I can get out.
Someone’s talking on the line, but I just want to be free. Whoever answered my call won’t be here to help me before he unleashes his anger. I have to get away. I clutch my phone and hang up.
Flinging the door open, a sweeping rush of spring air soothes my face and my lungs fill easier. I jog down the walk, afraid to glance back, afraid to see what’s behind. Josh alienated me from my friends and family, but Calise is someone he could never scare off.
Quickening my pace, I dare to peek over my shoulder. There he is, muttering under his breath. Josh’s shadow lingers as if waiting to pounce. The further I get from the house, the faster I go until I’m running. I hold my breath when I reach Calise’s door and knock so fast I can’t stop.
Maybe this was a bad idea. I stare up at the indigo clouds smudging the sky. Not one star shines. I withdraw my hand and rub my arms.
Shifting my feet, I bite my lip and turn away with nowhere to go. Josh laughs and slams the door. It echoes down the street.
I jolt and spin at the creak of Calise’s door. “What are you doing out so late, Pam?” A knowing glow lights her eyes.
My mouth trembles, but nothing comes out. My throat is pinched. I look down at my bare feet and she gestures for me to come in. “You know you’re always welcome here.” She offers me a crooked smile.
“Thanks.” I push back my tears. “I’m leaving Josh.”
For the first time in months I feel like a have a voice again.
Marie McCloskey is a musician and painter, but mainly a writer who feels that the written word is the most difficult form of self-expression. Her works have been featured by: Page & Spine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Literally Stories, The Flash Fiction Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Fiction on the Web.