Little shards of glass embedded themselves in the bare soles of her feet and bit at her nerves. Each step she took pushed the tiny pieces further into her body and forced the pain to blossom into a field instead of a single stem. But that was the least of her concern. She would walk across a bed of white hot coals in order to fulfill the dark and burning desire that seared through her veins. The steak knife clutched in her white-knuckled grasp absorbed the heat and all but emitted an accelerated heartbeat to match her own.
She wasn’t sure which emotion had won out – her fear or her anxiety. And at this point she didn’t quite care. Either emotion just had to drag her the rest of the way across the bedroom and guide her shaking hands. Then she would be free.
She had loved him once, but that felt like it was a whole other life. She had been young and stupid and blinded by the fact that someone desired by practically everyone in the female population had wanted her and only her. She had through his possessiveness had been cute, something she had seen ample amount of in movies growing up. Her friends had quickly squashed any doubt that it was a bad thing. Instead, they encouraged it in a similar manner as a boy picking on you in young grades means that they like you. She had believed them because love is blind and the blind cannot see things plainly spelled out in front of them.
The first time he’d hit her, he’d been quick to apologize and the sincerity was clearly spread out across his face. That night, he had held her close and murmured sweet words in her ear, promising that he would never lay a hand on her that way again. It had been four months before he’d smacked her for a rude comment, so hard that she’d been knocked back a step or two. He had blamed his actions on the alcohol he’d consumed, but he didn’t really apologize until the next morning. By that time, the sincerity had disappeared from his eyes. Her friends had said that it had been the alcohol, and that his actions while under the influence weren’t indicative of the true feelings that he felt for her.
Seven months into the relationship he’d caught her talking to a male friend she hadn’t seen in years. He’d played nice while they were in public, but the minute they’d gotten back to her apartment he’d grabbed a fist full of hair and tugged her back into him. She’d fallen into his legs and banged her head off his knee. In the midst of stars that swam in her vision, she saw smoke billow from his nostrils. He growled at her that she was never, ever to speak to another male again, and if he caught her flirting like that then he would kill them and make her watch. Her scalp was on fire and oh-so tender the next morning and he acted as if it had been a normal reaction. Her girlfriends barely batted an eye when she forced herself to tell them. ‘He’s just protective’, they had said. But being protective instilled a fear in her that actually had her thinking twice before interacting with anyone outside her gender.
When their relationship had reached the nine-month mark, she’d come home from a long day at work to find him standing in the doorway of her apartment amidst a ton of boxes. He’d told her that she was going to live with him, that he’d packed up all of her belongings, and gotten rid of everything he didn’t approve of. Anything that he felt could have been associated with or to another male had no place in her life. Even things that had come from her dad and grandfather, both of whom had passed away, were tossed away mindlessly. She had tried to argue and say that he had not right to make decisions for her but the dark look that crossed his face and the way his grip crushed her bicep had her biting her own tongue. Her friends had nothing to say regarding this brash and demanding behavior because she couldn’t bring herself to speak about it. He already suspected her of cheating on him with every male she encountered, she didn’t want to entice him into another fight by contacting or seeing friends.
She had quit her job, changed her hair, modified her wardrobe, and cut her friend list to nil all because of him and the love he had claimed to have for her. Though, by that point, she wasn’t sure if she loved him anymore.
Tyrus had been her whole life for five years now. And she was done being his punching bag and emotional dart board.
She felt like she’d been preparing her whole life for this moment, when, in reality, it had taken two months to work up the courage. Even still, she had snuck into his liquor cabinet after dinner and added alcohol to her glass of iced tea. Being three sheets to the wind himself he hardly noticed the alcohol on her breath when he forced his lips over hers.
And now here she was, walking over pieces of his shattered whiskey glass that he had thrown at her head mere hours prior. She had said something he hadn’t liked, though she couldn’t remember for the life of her what it had been, and he had been too drunk to get up and actually hit her.
His chest rose and fell rhythmically, almost in perfect time with her foot falls as she crept forward. She hadn’t planned out what she was going to do. She was hoping that the rage she’d bottled up deep, deep down over the years would take over and she would black out and wouldn’t know what had happened when she came to. But with the way her heart beat frantically within her ribs, like a caged bird demanding to be set free, she highly doubted she’d black out for any reason other than fear. She could even hear his mocking voice in her head, telling her that she was absolutely worthless and that she would never amount to anything.
She bristled at the thought and quickened her step, running her teeth over her bottom lip more and more as she pushed even more glass into the sensitive skin on the bottoms of her feet. She was close – if she reached her arms out fully she could just reach him, but not where she wanted. A laceration to his arm wouldn’t kill him, it would just slow down his rage enough to maybe give her time to escape. And that was only if she bolted the moment the steel touched his arm. She knew she had to put it all on the line for this to work. She would have to be standing directly over him and would have to put her body weight into the downward blow, like driving a steak into the ground.
More and more heartbeats separated her steps until she dared not move an inch. The last thing she wanted to do was accidently brush him and rouse him from his drunken stupor. Tonight would be the night where he would wake from the simplest movement.
She let out a, hopefully silent, breath as she passed the knife from her right hand to her left in order to wipe the sweat onto her pant leg. The hard plastic all but molded itself into her palm as she returned it to her right hand, and curled her left around it. It felt right.
It seemed like her arms were lifting on their own accord as they raised higher and higher, and before she knew it, they were straight above her head. It felt like an absolute roller coaster ride – the ride to the top was slow and jittery, and the ride down was fast and smooth. There was even an accompanying scream, though, at first, she wasn’t sure if it was coming from her or him...
She hadn’t realized she’d closed her eyes until she felt a much larger hand close around both of hers. She’d missed her mark. Not by much, but just enough that he was able to pull the knife out of his chest and push himself into an upright position. By that time, her blood had run so cold she froze in place.
His fingers crushed hers, forcing the knife to clatter to the ground and bounce at her feet. The small, quarter-sized slit in his shirt began to darken and spread as blood began to seep from the wound. But none of it seemed to faze him. His free hand clasped down on her shoulder and squeezed until she was positive he was going to break the joint. The hand over hers pressed the tips of her fingernails into the fleshy part of her hand and drew blood – she could feel the stickiness spread and drip down her wrists. Even still, she couldn’t pull her gaze away from the growing stain on his shirt.
His hand came down hard against the side of her head then sent her for a spin. Her ears rang so loud she was surprised she could hear him, granted it wasn’t anything above a murmur and she couldn’t make out a single word. Though, she didn’t want to make out any of it. Her body already vibrated in fear of what he was going to do.
Some part, deep, deep down, wished he would just end it all and kill her so she wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. A much more rational side of her just wanted his grip to loosen the slightest bit so she could at least attempt an escape. But all of her agreed on one thing – that he would succumb to his wound and kneel over in pain. However much she wished it thought, it didn’t appear as if it would come true any time soon.
The dark spot on his shirt had grown in size, she’d realized, and had spread to about as large as his hand. Her rattled mind started to whirl and mull over thoughts that hadn’t occurred to her previously. HIs grip left her arms free to move as they pleased, within reason. She would be able to bend her arms past a forty-five degree angle and get her hands up just far enough to reach it. The only time she had ever seen this done was in movies and on TV, and it seemed to be effective. So, she pressed her pointer and middle fingers into the wound.
He howled so loud she stumbled back a couple steps when his grip on her faltered. Just as quickly as she’d fumbled back, however, she reared forward and put more force into the jab. The dark spot on his chest grew rapidly as expletives tumbled from his lips freely. He frantically tried to grab onto her hand, her wrist, her arm – something! But the pressure she inflicted on his chest was apparently enough to throw him off.
Pride welled inside her and then mixed with her desire for revenge. And then her nerves kicked in, telling her that she wouldn’t be able to get away, that he would never let her get away. Even if she managed to kill him, he would find a way to take her down with him. And that thought derailed the train she was currently on. She hadn’t even considered that. But now that she had, she knew the truth in the statement. He always found a way to drag her down with him and keep her close to his side.
She internally cursed and scrambled to grasp one of the many thoughts flittering through her mind; however, those proved to be about as slippery as an eel, and, try as she might, she couldn’t grasp hold of one for long. So she did what she thought was the next best thing: she put her body weight behind her hands and shoved, making sure she inserted a finger into the wound. And then she ran.
Her feet couldn’t keep up with her at first, and she found herself scrambling over furniture that she otherwise should have been able to navigate around with ease. She ended up tumbling down the stairs, slamming her shoulder into the wall, and lying on the ground in a heap of limbs, mere crawling distance from the front door. But her body would not cooperate with her mind. Not even when she heard his thunderous roar from the bedroom, or his booming steps quickening up above. Even though her adrenaline was blocking the pain, she knew she was badly injured, and how wouldn’t she be. She’d pushed herself well beyond what her body was capable of and still expected it to comply effortlessly. It was bound to have shut down at some point, but she’d hoped that it wouldn’t have happened until she was far, far away from him.
A whimper escaped her lips when she tried to pushed herself up on all fours and she fell flat on her chest. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him lumber closer and closer to the stairs until his foot met the first step and the resounding creak echoed throughout the house. She decided in that moment that she wouldn’t cry. She would not give him that power over her in the last moments of her life.
Each step moaned and creaked louder than the one before it, almost as if the house was trying to will her to her feet so she could escape the cruelty. In her weakened feeble state, she began to count out the remaining steps he had. And he was down to five when she realized that there was more and more time between footfalls. The seconds seemed to stretch into hours and, before she knew what was happening, the ground shook beneath her and the pictures rattled in their frames against the walls. She lifted her eyes from where she’d dropped them when he began his treacherous descent only to see him staring blankly back at her.
Her breath caught in her throat behind the brick that had lodged itself there when she’d grasped the knife. He was playing with her, taunting her like a cat taunts a mouse, she was sure of it. The second she let her guard down he would pounce.
So she waited as still as she physically could.
His unblinking eyes bore into hers relentlessly and kept her gaze pinned to his. The floor pressed into her ribs and chest uncomfortably, to the point where each breath was a struggle. Her ragged breathing sounded like a chainsaw in her own ears and drowned out every other sound around her. Still, he remained unblinking and unannoyed by her – something she hadn’t thought he was capable of.
The adrenaline seeped from her veins all at once like someone had blown out the retaining wall. Then all the pain she knew her body had endured, all the pain she should have felt throughout the night, hit her like a tidal wave. It took everything in her not to scream out in pain; she’d pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth and pulled her bottom lip between her teeth. The coppery-metallic taste of blood filled her mouth almost immediately and overpowered her senses. Panic settled in and began to corrupt her thoughts. She was going to die here, and the last thing she was going to see was him. He had found a way to take her down with him after all.
If she had the energy, she would have laughed. Instead she was focused on keeping her vision straight as everything began to swim around her. Regardless how hard she tried to keep her head, she was being pulled under and she definitely didn’t have the strength to fight the inevitable. With her last bit of strength she forced her body to the side and hoped that gravity would take over to do the rest. At least that way she’d be able to see the ceiling last instead of his face. The fall onto her back rocked her chest and spilled the breath she’d managed to suck in all over the floor. It felt like her whole body was decompressing, becoming part of the floor, as her eyes slid closed.
He wouldn’t be able to hurt her anymore...
When she woke, lights blinded her and her instant thought was that she’d made it to heaven. Then, when the initial overwhelming burst faded slightly, she realized that she was almost in the exact same position, on her back, staring up at the ceiling. Only this one looked different. This one looked cleaner. And then the smell hit her, burning her lungs. A mixture of rubbing alcohol, cleaning products, and death; a mixture uniquely belonging to a hospital.
Machines beeped and hummed rhythmically beside her head, fueling the headache that was rapidly blossoming across the front of her skull and behind her eyes. She tried to raise hand to cover her eyes only to find that she couldn’t. Large leather straps bound her wrists to the sides of the uncomfortable hospital bed, and the clasps banged against the metal, sending her headache spiraling over the edge. A strangled moan found its way past her lips and called a passing nurse into her room. The nurse took one look at her, realized she was awake, and left as quickly as she’d appeared.
A doctor appeared in her room faster than she could blink, flanked by a team of nurses. He walked with purpose toward her bed until he saw her flinch. Then a look of concern passed before his eyes. “I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said in a soft voice. “I can only imagine what you’ve been through... But I can assure you, no further harm will come to you; you’re safe now.”
She couldn’t find her voice. Though, had she been able to find it, she didn’t know what to say. Questions zoomed through her mind faster than a speeding plane. Then the questions began to get beat out by thoughts that seemed to never end and just ride the coat tails of the former thought. It all pushed her headache to over drive, and led to a vein pulsing just below her left eyebrow.
The doctor immediately took notice. “We’re just going to give you a light sedative Miss Matthews. You need to rest in order to get better.”
She wanted to shout then, to insist that resting wasn’t going to make things better so long as he was still out there. Resting would just make her an easy target. But she could feel the worry and stress melting away with the walls once the doctor inserted a needle into her IV drip.
An unfamiliar face passed before her eyes seconds before she was swallowed by the darkness and sent spiraling into the void.