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Chapter 15 - He's Back

“Hi, Sweet Pea!” Chuck called as he approached the Mazda 626.

I climbed out of the car and met Chuck at the curb. He bent to kiss me.

“Whew, baby. Did you forget to brush?”

“I’m sorry. I really just woke up.”

“I’m just jokin’. How’s the jelly bean?” Chuck asked while looking down at my stomach.

“Good. It’s good to have you home.” I smiled up at him. Chuck picked up his duffel and walked to the car as I stared at his back. Move your feet. A few seconds later, I felt my right foot pick up and take a step. Chuck loaded his duffel, adjusted and climbed into the driver’s seat, and started the car before I ever made it to my door.

“Come on, slow poke,” Chuck called from inside the car as I approached the passenger side.

I smiled and opened the door. My body was an obedient child. I didn’t know why I did the things I did, only that someone or something was telling me I must do them, or else. As a child, I knew “or else” was daddy’s belt or mama’s hand. I didn’t know what the “or else” was now. Maybe it was my husband walking out or Sarge hurting me again. Maybe the “or else” was something even worse than what I know now. I just know I didn’t want to find out.

We drove back to the apartment in near silence. Chuck was tired. I was tired. My life was back like the chime of a grandfather clock. I knew it was coming every hour on the hour, and the sound was lovely and instantaneous. But then it was gone again for another hour. I stopped for this instant to listen to the music, but I knew it would be over as suddenly as it began.

We arrived at our apartment. Chuck unloaded his things, and he collapsed into his easy chair as soon as we got inside.

“Can you bring me a drink, hun?” Chuck asked.

I stared at the back of his head from the dining room and had a sudden urge to go to the kitchen, find the rolling pin that I have never used since receiving it as a wedding gift, and whack him until his brains spill out onto his favorite chair. Rage. Why did he leave me here by myself? Why did he tell Richard to take care of me? Controlling the urge, I went to the kitchen and retrieved a can of Dr. Pepper from the refrigerator.

“Thanks, hun,” Chuck said as I handed him the can and sat across from him on the couch. “Can you hand me the remote?”

I reached for the remote and tossed it to him. The remote landed squarely in his lap.

“Ouch. Hey, take it easy.”

“Sorry,” I said with enthusiasm to cover my intentional aim.

We watched ESPN. We watched ESPN all day. At ten o’clock, I took a shower and got ready for bed while Chuck watched ESPN some more.

“I’m going to bed,” I said as I toweled my hair dry.

Without looking at me, Chuck said, “Cool, I’m gonna play some SEGA and then I’ll be there.”

I turned around and eased toward the bedroom that I hadn’t used in two months. As I lay my head on the pillow that I hadn’t used, I realized that I didn’t want to sleep in here. I cleaned the mattress and turned it over, but I still smelled blood and vomit. I still heard Sarge whispering in my ear. “I didn’t see you at the movies tonight.” I got up and went to the living room.

“I thought you were going to bed?”

“I changed my mind. I’d rather hang out with you,” I explained away my fear.

“Cool. Do you wanna play?” Chuck asked handing me the second controller.

“No, you know I suck at video games. I’ll just watch.” I lay down on the couch and waited for Chuck to start playing. He picked out a shoot ’em up game, and I half-watched and half-wished I could have a gun to blow some men’s brains out. I fell asleep to screams and blood spatters, and I dreamt of teeth.

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