Fiction Short, created for & published on Our Write Side.
She wiped snot on the bottom of her torn silk tank top. Sweat dripped down her dust-caked face, creating rivers for the moisture to flow freely in the heat. She meandered along the dusty road, running through possible scenarios she would face upon returning home. She clutched the gun in her hand, the weight of it increasing with each step. There was a gas station a mile or two ahead. She tried to swallow but dust clung to her teeth like bugs to a windshield. She spat into the dirt. Several cars had slowed and kind strangers asked if she needed help. Each time, she continued to trudge forward and stare into the distance. Lost in thought, she shook her head no. Once they noticed the sun glinting off the weapon, they sped away, content to leave her to her own devices.
Punishment would be severe, as it always was when she dared defy him. Once, he kept her locked in her room for a week like a prisoner, only allowing her a liquid diet. Her sin was gaining five pounds and indulging in too much cake at a friend’s party. He’d told her she looked like a pig and wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior. During her time in solitude she figured out how to adjust the scale so it would never put her over-weight again.
She would need to hide the gun and retrieve it later. If it was still in her possession when she walked in the door, she was as good as dead. It had taken tremendous effort to obtain and she refused to leave herself defenseless, even if she couldn’t actually pull the trigger. She thought she’d had it in her to fight back, to stand up for herself, but in the end she had chickened out.
She would have to practice more, become sure of handling the thing. Next time he threatened her, she wouldn’t be bluffing.
Another car sped by, kicking up dust. It caused her to cough, her entire body convulsing. Her small frame trembled when the fit was over. She ran the back of her hand over her forehead, smearing dirt and sweat like a two-year-old. Adrenaline from the rage she felt still coursed through her body.
As she trudged on, she could hear what her best friend would say when she told her about today’s drama. “Why don’t you just leave?” she would ask.
A simple question with a complicated answer.
She couldn’t leave. There was no way she would leave her precocious five-year-old daughter with her sadistic husband. Her friend had begged her for years, even offered her home as sanctuary, however she knew she could never put her friend in that much danger.
Her feet ached from walking the road in her Gucci’s. There was a blister forming on the back of her left heel that caused her to wince in pain with each step. The shoes looked amazing, but were definitely not meant for walking on a dirt road. Ridiculous heels always reminded her of life before him.
She met her husband many years ago, long before his prestigious career. She had been prostituting herself to pay a gambling debt when he pulled her off the streets and cleaned her up. He would often remind her where she’d be without him. He was a powerful man and had essentially erased her past. He even had her name changed before they married. The girl from the streets was gone, no trace left behind, of that he had made certain. Sometimes, especially when she was drinking, her language would slip from the sophisticated vernacular she had tediously learned. That would warrant a slap in the privacy of their lush bedroom, a reminder to keep herself in check. It had been hours since her last drink. She blamed her alcoholism on him. He drove her to it, but it would be easy enough for him to find witnesses to her problem. His best manipulations consisted of blackmail.
So she stayed. She tolerated him. She decorated his arm at public functions. She was an expert at putting on a pretty face and saying all the right things to all the right people. That’s why he kept her, or so he said. She was well aware when her beauty and youth faded, she would be replaced. She figured she should enjoy her life of comfort while it lasted.
The gas station loomed ahead like a giant mirage, too good to be true. She stumbled into the parking lot and into the bathroom, which by some miracle didn’t require a key. She locked the door to the one-seater and turned on the faucet. She put her mouth under the cold water and gulped greedily. After satisfying her thirst, she doused her head, feeling the liquid gold trickle down her face and neck, then meander down her back. Blood ran down her arm and onto the floor. She located the scrape and stopped the flow with a wad of toilet paper.
The only freedom she would have for weeks would be the next few hours as she made her way home. She tried to decide if her attempt to stand up for herself was worth it. They were arguing when he slammed on the brakes and leaned across to grasp her door handle. He shoved the door open, screaming at her to get out and walk home. She used his distraction to retrieve the gun. When he leaned back, she pointed it squarely between his eyes, but her hands shook betraying her fear. The look on his face when she pulled the gun out from underneath the seat of the car was brief, but priceless. His eyes indicated the fact that he didn’t think she was capable of this level of defiance, and she watched as his initial shock gave way to quiet rage.
He laughed and shoved her out the door, “Yeah right. You don’t have the balls.”
He laughed. The jackass laughed with a gun pointed at his head. And then he drove off, leaving her bruised in the dirt.
But he was right. She didn’t have the balls. Maybe a gun wasn’t her style. She needed something more subtle if she was going to be serious. Something he would never suspect. Something she could actually get away with.
She used a paper towel to dry herself off and pulled her hair back into a ponytail, a small attempt at making herself look presentable. The phone in her pocket began to ring, startling her. She pulled it out and tried to see through the shattered screen. It must have cracked when he shoved her out of the car.
It was him.
“Hey honey! Kate wants to say hi!” His soothing, melancholy voice purred on the other end of the phone. It was one of the things she fell in love with first. Now, she loathed the sound.
A small voice on the other end said, “Hey Mom! How’s the spa?”
“The spa is wonderful! I just had a facial.” The happiness in her voice sounded genuine, a skill perfected years before.
“Oh good. I was worried you and Dad were fighting again,” Kate said in a hushed voice. She heard her husband clear his throat in the background. “Well alright! I’ll see you later, Mom! Dad
is going to take me to Emily’s birthday party, so I gotta go! Love you!”
“I love you too, baby.” Silence.
“The dinner is in three hours. I’m coming to get you after I drop off Kate.” The line went dead.
He was tracking her phone and knew exactly where to find her, which she learned accidentally a few months earlier. She would be sure to leave it somewhere safe while she hid her precious weapon, then look pleased as punch when he arrived, like nothing ever happened. She was always learning new tricks.
Someone pounded on the bathroom door.
“Hey lady! You comin’ out? My kid’s gotta pee!”
“One minute! Relax already!” Anger mixed with fear seeped through her, a common feeling.
She gazed at herself in the mirror and practiced smiling, trying to see the woman she was expected to be beneath the dirt and sweat. In three hours, she would be the gorgeous, sophisticated, engaging Mrs. Stapely.
Devoted wife of the Great Senator.