Beaten but NOT defeated

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Chapter 12

I woke up the next morning with mixed feelings about what I had done the night before. The memory replayed itself in my head and I wondered if I had succeeded in ridding myself of Josh. I felt a bit guilty for trying to kill him but it was no less than he tried doing to me. I tried to exact justice on a man that hates the very sight of me. Breakfast came and then time for Ann and Caleb to come visit me came. I had become so accustomed to them walking through the door together I didn’t know what I would do if they skipped a visit. But true to each visit they both came walking through the door on time like clockwork with smiles on their faces. ‘How are you doing today’? Ann asked looking very chipper. ‘I’m better now that you are here. Stop right there please, both of you’ I said and put my hand in the air in a stop motion. They stopped and looked confused for a second until they realized what I was about to do. They wanted to rush to my side to help me but I stopped them. I threw my legs over the side of the bed and stood up walking to them with only a limp. ‘How long have you been able to do that’? Ann asked excitedly. ‘I knew you were in physiotherapy but you never told us that you can walk that good already’ she said. ‘My back is broken, I’m not paralyzed. I’ve been doing this for a few days. Just wanted to surprise you’ I said laughing at the expressions on their faces. ‘That’s wonderful’! Ann said in a shrill voice, and hugged me tightly around the neck. ‘Careful you don’t break her’ Caleb said grinning at me. He wrapped his arms around me lightly and kissed me softly in the neck. I felt so lucky and so special having two people in my life that cared so much for me. I walked back to my bed but sat in a chair next to it instead as I felt more comfortable and normal than being in a hospital bed the whole day.

‘Guess what’ I said excitedly. ‘Ooh, what’? Ann asked sounding intrigued. ‘I’m getting out tomorrow morning’! I said as though I had won the lottery. ‘What? That’s amazing!’ Ann shrieked and slapped Caleb on the arm. ‘At least try and look happy’ she said to him and rolled her eyes. ‘I am ecstatic’ Caleb said with a huge smile. ‘Well you don’t look very pleased’ I said feeling as though he was hiding something from me. ‘I truly am happy’ he said. ‘Where will you be staying’? He asked me. ‘At my house’ I said as if the answer was obvious and I saw Caleb shaking his head no. ‘What’? I asked. ‘All your in-laws have taken it upon themselves to invade your home’ he said. I pulled my face at him at the thought of those low life savages in my house between all my stuff still in there. ‘Crap, so what now’? I said more to myself than to them. ‘You can stay with me’ Ann offered without hesitation and I smiled at her nodding my head yes. ‘Wow I can’t believe they just took over my house. They could have booked into a hotel’ I said feeling disgusted. ‘I wonder if they even cleaned the place up’ Ann said. ‘Like I know them they would walk through my blood and spread it through the whole house without blinking an eye’ I said.

Josh’s mother was a widower living with her boyfriend a few towns away from us. She hated everything about me and loved threatening me if she thought I mistreated her little baby boy in any way. She was an outspoken alcoholic and a chain smoker with no moral values and no self-worth. She cussed excessively and was always right and anyone who disagreed with her was a piece of trash. She made sure that Josh was always on her side against the world and especially me by acting like a helpless old victim. She was always rude to me and treated me just as badly as Josh treated me and it never seemed to bother her that she raised an uncouth, abusive child. It was as though she relished in the disgusting stuff her son did. ‘I definitely do not want to go anywhere near those gutter snipes’ I said out loud before I could think what I was saying. Ann sucked in her breath as though she wasn’t expecting me to be so honest and nasty about what I thought of my in-laws and then she burst out laughing. Caleb on the other hand looked somber and I wondered who had rained on his parade. ‘What’s wrong’? I asked Caleb but he just sat staring out in front of him. I snapped my fingers in front of his face saying ‘earth to Caleb. Hello’. Caleb snapped back to attention and looked at me like I was from another planet. ‘Where’d you go’? I asked him. ‘Huh, nowhere, I was just thinking about something’ he replied. ‘Care to share’? Ann asked and started giggling at herself. ‘You’re a poet and you don’t know it’ I said to her and we both burst out laughing while Caleb looked as though he was going to fall over his lip at any second. ‘Seriously, what’s up with you’ I asked. ‘Nothing, sorry’ he said and got up. ‘I need some air’ he said as he turned to walk out of the room. ‘What’s going on’? I asked Ann and she just shrugged her shoulders at me.

‘So anyway, I saw that you are limping, why is that’? Ann asked. ‘Well it hurts more on the one side when I apply pressure on my leg than on the other side. My instructor told me to try and balance my weight out more evenly otherwise I will walk like that for the rest of my life’ I replied. ‘Ouch, that sucks’ she said. I may have an idea to fix it, but you’ll have to give me an hour’. I felt a bit confused at what she meant but agreed to give her time. I was only seeing her again that night so she had more than the requested hour to do what she wanted to. ‘Walk with me’ I asked Ann and she gladly obliged. We walked down the hallway to the doors that led outside. As I passed one of the nurses I knew she smiled at me and said ‘Remember to even out your weight’. I smiled back at her and just smiled. ‘You know how many times a day I hear that’? I asked her and she burst out laughing. ‘It’s definitely time for you to go home’ she said. We walked over to a tree with chairs not far from the entrance and Ann helped me to sit down. I found it easier to move and sit than I did the past few day which meant my back was already healing as it should.

Ann and I talked about all the fun things we would do once I was home with her and I genuinely looked forward to leaving the hospital. We saw Caleb walking over to us but he might as well have gone to a funeral as he was walking hunched over and it looked like his dog just died. ‘What’s up with him today’? I asked again but still I got no answers by asking that question. When he approached Ann got up to give us some privacy and because she felt uncomfortable around Caleb’s mood. ‘No, please sit’ he said while gesturing with his hand for her to sit. I had just about enough of his mood and I spoke before I lost the courage to say what I wanted to. ‘Either you tell us what’s going on or you can go home and skip tonight’s visit’ I said. I looked straight into Caleb’s eyes and I saw something stirring in them. ‘Don’t be like that. I will tell you what’s going on but not because you just threatened me. I will tell you because you are going to find out anyway’ he said. I narrowed my eyes at him and folded my arms over my chest in an attempt to show him that I could stand my ground. ‘Josh had a stroke last night’ he said with his hand in his hair. ‘The nurse wanted to inform you immediately but I managed to sway her into leaving it up to me to tell you’. My jaw dropped and I unfolded my arms and flew up out of the chair hurting my back. ‘Last night and I only hear about it now? What kind of staff doesn’t tell someone’s wife that her husband had a stroke’! I was almost yelling at Caleb and started walking past him back into the building to go and see Josh. As I walked I started feeling uneasy as I knew that his stroke was a result of the air I injected into his drip.

By the time I made it to Josh’s room I was exhausted. I tried to walk there as fast as I could and I definitely over did it. A nurse came and stood next to me and told Ann and Caleb that they weren’t allowed in Josh’s room with me and that they had to wait in the waiting area. Ann squeezed my arm before she walked with Caleb to wait for me. ‘You can go in dear’ the nurse said and it felt like my heart was pounding through my head. I put my hand on the door handle and took a deep breath before opening the door. I straightened my back as far as I could and pushed the door open. I walked in and saw that Josh looked nothing like he did when I left his side the night before. The one side of his face sagged down more than the other indicating that his right side took most of the blow during the stroke. I walked over to him and just stared. He looked so fragile that it almost broke my heart. Guilt fell over me as the full impact of the situation hit me and I started to cry. ‘I’m so sorry’ I said through my tears as if it would make anything better. Just then the door opened behind me and my mother in law appeared in the doorway.

I felt sick to my stomach when I saw her but tried my best not to show her how I felt. I dried my tears and faced the demon head on. ‘What are you doing in here? I told the nurses that no-one is allowed in here but me’ she snapped. ‘I’m his wife, you have no right to try and keep me away from my husband’ I said in a challenging tone. I was afraid of Josh not his mother and she was sure going to be learning her lesson with me today. ‘Get away from my son’ she said and took a step toward me. ‘Or what’? I asked lifting my eyebrow at her. ‘I will remove you myself if I have to’ she said and took me by the arm. I yanked my arm out of her grip and shoved her back away from me. She was a short stocky woman and the impact of pushing her felt like it ripped my back and ribs apart. ‘Listen you old hag, I am not afraid of you and there’s nothing you can do to keep me away from my husband. The fact that you raised an abusive, selfish little man doesn’t mean that I don’t care for him’ I snapped at her. ‘So why don’t you leave before I have you removed like I did with your little boy’s whore’ I continued in a menacing tone. ‘Chloe is a beautiful girl who didn’t deserve what you did to her’ she said which earned her a frown from me. ‘What I did to her’? I asked exasperated. ‘You cost me my grandchild and you are the reason my boy is lying here’ she said trying to intimidate me. ‘Your son broke my back and screwed up my face and cracked who knows what all in my body. He cheated on me with my best friend and then he got himself shot because he tried to shoot me in the head’ I said in a loud voice. ‘You deserved every beating my son ever gave you. You should have died when you had the chance. I will see to it that you pay for what you did to him’ she recoiled. I knew standing there arguing with her was not the most fruitful course of action but it felt good getting everything I have been keeping to myself out in the open. At least now she knew I hated her just as much as she hated me. So I guess that made us even then and suddenly the guilt I felt about what I did to Josh vanished as quickly as it came.

Josh groaned and opened his eyes slightly and his mother pushed me out of the way to be at his side. His eyes stared up at me looking blank for a moment until recognition flashed in them. He must have remembered what I had done to him because he picked his left hand up slightly and pointed at me while groaning. He tried to say something but the words came out in a jumble. I knew I was guilty but no-one else needed to know that. ‘Look at what you have done’ my mother in law spat at me. ‘What is it son, what did she do to you’ she asked him and at that moment his heart rate started spiking. He looked about as panicked as I was feeling with the beeping sound and my presence in the room. A nurse came busting through the door and asked us to leave immediately as she needed to tend to him. I took a step backward before turning around to leave. I saw no use in hanging around there with my mother in law as I knew we might end up killing each other in the hallway in front of Josh’s room. She came out behind me in tears and started yelling at me. She ran up behind me and shoved me to the floor. ‘It’s all your fault, you did this to him’! She yelled over me and just then two nurses came running over to us to diffuse the situation but she tried fighting them off so she could get to me. One nurse helped me up and asked me to leave before matters got worse. She had an apologetic look in her eyes but I knew that she was right and that I needed to leave. I told her that I just had a back operation a few days ago and asked her if someone was able to assist me in returning to my room. The nurse nodded and called another nurse over who helped me off of the floor and into a wheel chair. I was pushed out to the waiting area where I found Caleb and Ann waiting for me with worried expressions on their faces. Caleb was pacing the room while Ann was sit bouncing her knees. They both rushed over to me when they saw me and asked how Josh was doing. I just shook my head and asked Ann to push me back to my room.

I said nothing on the walk back to my room and the tension between me and Caleb was so thick it could be cut with a knife. As Alice pushed me past the nurse’s station I asked Ann to stop for a second and I asked one of the nurses to check my back and see if everything was still ok as I had gotten hurt. I saw the question marks on Ann and Caleb’s faces as I spoke and I knew that I was going to be under a firing squad as soon as we enter my room. The nurse asked Ann and Caleb to wait outside as she tended to me. She took off my brace and checked the wound and pressed on a few places asking me how it felt but she was happy that nothing was out of place. The nurse helped me to get comfortable on my bed and called my friends back in. ‘What happened’ Ann asked as she walked through the door and I recounted the whole story of what my mother in law did. ‘That bitch’! She said and I saw Caleb’s jaw tighten.

Although visiting hour was up the nurse allowed my friends to stay and comfort me for a while longer. ‘I’m sorry Caleb, I didn’t mean to take my anger out on you earlier’ I said. He smiled at me and said ‘no, I deserved it’. ‘How is Josh doing’? Ann asked and I shook my head. ‘It’s all my fault’ I said as I started crying. ‘What do you mean’? Ann asked as she came to sit next to me on the bed. ‘I tried to kill him last night’ I whispered through my tears. ‘You did what’? Caleb asked in a loud voice. ‘Please tell me I heard you wrong’ he said. ‘Are you crazy’? Ann asked sounding surprised. Seeing their reactions just made me feel even worse than I already felt and it did nothing for the crying either. ‘What did you do’? Caleb asked me in a soft voice. ‘I don’t know, I was thinking about everything he did to me and psyched myself out so much that I sneaked out of my room and got an empty syringe, filled it with air and injected it into his iv’ I said. It sounded horrible saying it out loud and it made me feel sick to my stomach that I had stooped so low and was able to go through with something like that. ‘I wanted to rid myself of him and all I achieved was paralyzing one half of his body’ I said more to myself than to them. Ann shifted in closer and put her head on my shoulder to comfort me. She didn’t say a word and that was all I needed at that moment. I didn’t need anyone’s judgment. ‘I would have done it for you’ Caleb said after a few minutes of not speaking. ‘What’? Ann and I said in unison. ‘I would have killed him for you so that you wouldn’t need to sit with the burden’ he said and I felt like someone slapped me in the face. ‘Why would you do that’? I asked stunned. ‘Because I love you Liz and I will burn the whole world for you if I needed to’ he said. Ann looked at me waiting for me to react but all I could do was stare at Caleb. ‘You what’? I asked as if I hadn’t heard him say the words. ‘I love you’ he said sternly. ‘Oh my’ was all I could get out and Ann started laughing in my ear. The mood seemed lighter for the moment and I loved how we could laugh at a time like that. Caleb also chuckled with us as he obviously found my reaction amusing.

The nurse came in and told my friends that it was time to leave. They said their goodbyes and left. I didn’t want them to leave me as I knew that once I was alone I would start thinking and brooding and I didn’t like thinking about what I had done to Josh or vice versa. The nurse came back in after they had left and sat next to me on the bed. ‘I brought you a fare well present’ she said. ‘Aw that’s so sweet of you, thank you’ I said and smiled at her. She handed me box that was wrapped in pink paper with a gold bow on it. I tore open the paper to find a diary with a pen inside. ‘I want you to document your journey from here on out’ she said smiling at me. ‘Wow, thank you, I promise that I will’ I said and gave her a hug. ‘I’m going to miss you around here so you’d better pop in to say hello now and then’ she said. I agreed to do that and she got up and left my room. I took the diary out of the box and had a decent look at it. It was covered in purple glitter on both sides of the cover and the paper inside was lavender purple. The pen matched the book and was also filled with glitter. I found it ironic as purple was my favorite color and writing was something I loved doing so I decided to document my last day in hospital right there.

Today is my last day in hospital before I get to home to my two best friends. I am going to be staying with Ann for a while until I can get back on my feet. (in more ways than one). My back is still hurting but I am sure that with time I will heal completely and I will be able to walk normally again. Caleb told me that he loves me and I am unsure of what to do with that as I am still married to Josh. I am definitely going to start divorce proceedings as soon as I am free and then I can see where my life takes me. I am not willing to just jump into my next relationship as I am afraid of getting hurt again. I think it is best to keep my heart to myself for now and take it as slow as possible with Caleb when I am around him and I’m sure that with time things will work themselves out. I do have feelings for him but for now he is better off now knowing’

I closed the book just in time for my lunch to arrive. The tray came in and was set down on the table the same as every day. I leaned forward and opened my food and saw a note sticking out from under the plate. I opened it and it read: ‘I know what you did. I’m coming for you’! I threw the note down and headed for the door. I found the lunch lady and asked her who gave her the note to put under my plate and she said no-one gave her anything and that she was unaware that there was anything there. I thanked her and walked back to my room. I closed the door completely and had another look at the note. The hand writing looked almost the same as Josh’s and I knew instantly that the note was from my mother in law. It made it easier for me knowing who to look out for when all the lights went out. Guilt rose up in me and then panic took hold. If she knew what I had done then Josh must have told her which means that his speech had improved from when I saw him a few hours ago but it was impossible! He was in such bad shape there was no way he could be talking! But none the less I had trouble coming and I knew that I had brought it upon myself.

Later that day Ann and Caleb came back for their last hospital visit before I was to be released. Caleb brought me a rose and Ann brought me a chocolate of which she ate half. I showed Caleb the note and it looked like he was about to explode. ‘I’ll keep you safe, I promise’ he said. ‘How are you going to keep me safe if you are not allowed to be here after the hour is up’? I asked and expected him to know the answer. He gave me a sly grin and excused himself walking out of the room. Ann voiced her concern on the matter and I told her that I would be just fine on my own for the night. Ann and I were laughing about the chocolate that she ate on my behalf when Caleb walked through the door with a huge smile on his face. ‘I’m babysitting you tonight’ he said feeling proud of his achievement. ‘Really now? And how did you manage that’? I asked. ‘The nurses like me’ he said and pulled up his chair to sit closer to me. He took my hand in his and said ‘I will always be there for you Liz. I will always keep you safe no matter what happens’. He kissed my hand and looked at me with love in his eyes. It was not a look I was accustomed to as Josh only showed me how much he hated me. Ann cleared her throat and said ‘I have your room all ready for you and Caleb even collected all your belongings from your house’! Now she looked and sounded proud and I wished that I was able to do something good too so I could also be proud of myself. ‘What? How did you manage that’? I asked Caleb feeling unsure if I wanted to hear his answer. ‘Easy. I waited for your dragon of a mother in law to leave the house and then Steve and I went over there. There was a man at home but Steve easily managed to peak his interests elsewhere. I went in and collected all your belongings before any of them were able to return home. I’m the stealth itself’ he boasted and I shook my head while laughing. ‘Thank you’ I said with a smile. ‘You are most welcome’ he replied. After chatting for a while the nurse came in and told Ann it was time to go. Ann greeted me with a hug and headed out the door. I asked Caleb to walk with Ann as I didn’t like her going out alone in the dark. He obliged and promised to be back in just a few minutes.

Caleb was hardly down the hall when a strange man walked into my room. At first I figured that he had the wrong room but it quickly got apparent that he was definitely there to intimidate me. His whole stance gave him away and I decided to get up out of my bed. ‘Can I help you’ I asked him and he flashed me a menacing grin. ‘Not unless you are willing to die of natural causes’ he said in a voice not much better than his grin. ‘Did my mother in law send you’? I asked. ‘Doesn’t make any difference coz you are about to die’ he said and leapt toward me. I tried side stepping him but my reactions were too slow and my back hurt too much. His body crashed into mine sending me flying backwards into the wall. He slammed my head back and wrapped his hand around my throat and squeezed. I tried un-wrapping his hand but he was too strong. I saw black spots in front of my eyes and it felt like they were about to pop out when he suddenly just let me go. His eyes were wide as he stared at me in surprise. I did not understand what was happening until he fell to the ground. Caleb was standing behind him with a hunter’s knife in his hand which he used to stab the huge hulk of a man that was trying to kill me. I gasped for air and started coughing. Suddenly the room filled up with people and I felt confused as to where they all came from. A nurse rushed to my side to make sure I was ok and another attended to the guy on the floor who luckily for Caleb was still breathing. The nurse that gave me the diary tended to Caleb and removed the knife from his hand. Security rushed in moments later to diffuse the situation and Caleb turned on them going off about how incompetent they were when it came to protecting their patients. With many apologies later he let them off the hook and told them to go and actually do their jobs. The guy who had attacked me was removed and his blood was cleaned up off of the floor. It felt like everything had happened so slowly when in fact it was all over in just a few minutes. Everything went down in about half an hour from the start of the attack to the guy being removed from my room. I was given something for the shock and Caleb tucked me into bed. The medication made me feel tired and I drifted off to a dreamless sleep in no time.

I woke up the next morning feeling tired and my throat hurt from being strangled so violently. My back and ribs also felt the strain from trying to fight back. It seemed as though the world was out to get me and had no mercy even when I was broken. I remembered the attack and frantically started looking around the room. Caleb was sleeping in his chair against the bedroom door and I felt sorry for his neck for when he woke up. I lay back knowing I was safe as long as Caleb was with me. I was staring at him, taking in how handsome he was and I thought how lucky I was for winning his affections. If it wasn’t for him being there again, I most certainly would have died. He was always there when I needed him just like he said he would be and for the first time ever it felt like I was able to fully trust a man with my heart again but I was not about to let him in on my secret just yet.

Just then Caleb opened his eyes and looked over to me immediately. I waved at him with a smile on my face and I could tell that he had hurt his neck in the way he was lay sleeping. ‘Are you ok’? I asked him. He popped his neck into place and smiled at me. ‘Just perfect thanks. Sleep well’? He asked.’ Yes thank you, the medication the nurse gave me knocked me out’ I said. The bedroom door opened and Caleb took a defensive stance next to my bed. The breakfast lady almost threw him with my food when she saw him as he gave her a fright. I burst out laughing as both he and she amused me with their reactions. Caleb went over to her and apologized profusely for scaring her and asked her if he may help himself to some coffee. Just then I heard Ann’s loud voice in the hallway almost shouting for the breakfast lady to wait as she also needed some coffee. The poor lady must have thought my friends were crazy by the way they were acting. With coffee in hand Ann and Caleb came into my room and found their seats. Ann had a long wrapped present in her hand which she held out to me with a smile. ‘I said I have a solution to your limping problem’ she said. ‘Sorry it took me so long, I had a tough time finding the perfect one’ she continued. By the way she wrapped it I could see what it was before I even opened it. I burst out laughing and un-wrapped my cane. ‘Aw you shouldn’t have’ I said jokingly. She smiled and said that it would correct my posture in no time. I was free to go as soon as I had some breakfast and the thought of that made me feel so excited. I spared a thought for Josh and vowed to come and see him every day until he was better even if only to make sure that he didn’t rat me out.

I finished breakfast and signed my release forms and I was ready to head home when I saw Chloe stomping toward me down the hall. She walked directly toward me and it didn’t look like she was planning on stopping. She was about two feet away from me when she started yelling and pointing at me. ‘It’s all your fault, you did this to him. I hate you’! She yelled. Uncertain of what I had done to her this time I tried talking to her but she slapped me through the face. Caleb stepped in between us and pushed her away from me. ‘You killed him’! She yelled as she dropped to her knees sobbing uncontrollably. ’Wait, what? ‘I killed who’? I asked her and she flew up. ‘You killed Josh! I know it was you. I am going to make you pay’! She yelled before turning on her heel and running back in the direction from which she came. I exchanged looks with Ann and Caleb and we all started walking to the men’s ward as fast as my legs and my walking stick would take me. Once there I saw my evil mother in law crying in someone’s arms and I knew that my worst fear has come true. I went to find the doctor and asked him what had happened to my husband. ‘He had a heart attack during the night as a result of the stroke. His heart was not strong enough to handle all the stress and he was dead before we had the chance to resuscitate him. We really tried our best but he just wouldn’t come back to us. I’m so sorry for your loss’ he said. ‘Why was I not informed of this when it happened’? I demanded to know. ‘I am his wife and am his emergency contact’! I said loudly. The doctor looked apologetic as he said that my mother in law took it upon herself to inform me of his death. I felt so angry that I walked over to her and went off at her about not informing me of my husband’s death.

Chloe interceded between us and started yelling at me again. Then Caleb took me by the shoulders and removed me from them and said that the doctor needed to speak to me in private. I followed the doctor to his office where I sat down and waited for him to speak. He started off by apologizing profusely for not letting me know about my husband’s death and offered his condolences. Then he asked me what I would like to do with the body. Was I going to bury him or cremate him but I felt unsure and asked if I could get back to him within a day. Josh was already on his way to the morgue for an autopsy and I asked the doctor if I would be able to see him one last time to say goodbye. My wish was granted and the doctor said that he would let me know when I was able to see him. I left the doctor’s office in a somber mood fighting not to cry in front of my in-laws.

Caleb and Ann were waiting for me as I exited the office and they both threw their arms around me hugging me tightly. ‘I feel so guilty’ I said into their shoulders. ‘I wish I could spare you the guilt’ Caleb said in a soft voice and hugged me even tighter. ‘Can we leave or do you have to wait for something’? Ann asked. ‘No we can leave. The doctor will call me when I can see Josh to say goodbye’ I said. We left the same way we came in and I had to walk past my in-laws on the way out. They ridiculed me and cussed at me like I was the biggest piece of trash on earth but Caleb and Ann’s arms were around me creating a protective barrier as we walked past them. They knew what I had done to Josh and it was a guilt that I had to live with for the rest of my life.

The next day my phone rang and it was the doctor I spoke to about seeing Josh’s body. He gave me a time which I could see him and I agreed and made arrangements with Ann to drive me there. I felt nervous having to see the man that I murdered and I almost didn’t go if it wasn’t for Ann’s encouragement. ‘It’s the only way you will get closure. By saying goodbye to a man that hated you and treated you no better than a piece of trash is the only way you will be able to move on’ she said. ‘But I killed him Ann, how am I supposed to deal with that’? I asked her. ‘It wasn’t your fault Liz, he baited you, and even in his hospital bed he told you that he would kill you. You reacted in the most natural way any woman that has had such a hard time would. Sure not all women will kill their husband’s but no one blames you for what you did and no one needs to know either. You’re secret is safe with me, I promise’ she said and squeezed my hand. ‘But they did an autopsy which will surely reveal that there was foul play’ I said and she just gave me a small smile as we stopped in front of the hospital. I had my cane with me and started walking towards the door with her.

I was expecting to see Josh’s family gathered outside the morgue to stone me to death but luckily there was no one waiting for me and I was in the clear. Ann walked with me supporting me emotionally all the way. The doctor waited for me outside the morgue and asked me to walk in with him. I hesitated for a moment and Ann told me that it was ok, that I needed to do it for my own peace of mind. I agreed with her by nodding my head and walked in after the doctor. Josh’s body was laid out on a table waiting for me to look upon his face. I froze about a foot away from him feeling unsure of what to expect as I have never seen a dead body before. ‘Take all the time you need’ the doctor said. I nodded and took the final steps until I was standing next to Josh. His lips were blue and his skin looked tight. He looked nothing like the man I used to love once upon a time. Guilt overwhelmed me and I broke down in tears. ‘I am so sorry’ I said while sobbing over him. I knew then that I had to live with the guilt of killing my husband for the rest of my life. I looked into his face and realized that I was finally free of him. The rest of my life was finally within reach and I was free. I didn’t need to divorce him and I didn’t need to hide from him anymore. No more looking over my shoulder and no more walking on egg shells to avoid a beating. I was now free to be me, free to be the woman I deserved to be. I stroked his face one last time and kissed him on the forehead. His skin was cold and he looked so fragile. His face hung more on the one side than the other from the stroke that he had and I actually felt sorry for him. ‘Goodbye Josh’ I said and I turned to Ann to walk away.

She walked with me to the doctor’s office where I would be filling in paper work on what to do with the body. I thought about it the whole night and wanted to release the body to his mother but then I thought about how much she hated me and how they all wished me dead. I was between a rock and a hard place with my decision and the doctor said he has to press me for an answer as there was a time stamp on how long the body could lie in the freezer. There was also the matter of the autopsy at hand which had to be dealt with before I was allowed to do anything. ‘Your husband’s autopsy results are conclusive. He died as a result of the stroke. His heart was not strong enough to handle all the stress his body went through and it just gave in’ he said. ‘What about the stroke? He looked well when I went to see him given the circumstances’ I said to the doctor. ‘His body went through immense stress and trauma and having a stroke was inevitable for him in his situation unfortunately. We were hopeful that he would recover fully but one can never tell how a person’s body would react in such times’ he said. ‘So there was nothing else that could have caused it’? I asked. ‘No it was all due to his wound’ he said and then asked me if I had reached a decision on what to do with his body. ‘I would like him to be cremated’ I said as I finally made my decision. I filled in the necessary paper work and headed out with Ann. It felt unreal to know that I was not directly responsible for Josh’s death as I had initially thought. He died due to his body not being strong enough to fight after he was shot. How ironic that such a strong and abusive man wasn’t strong enough to fight when he needed to.

On our way home Ann took a detour and stopped at a cocktail bar. ‘We are going to celebrate your release from hospital and the fact that you are not dead and also the fact that you did not kill your husband’ she said with a smile. ‘But I can’t drink, I’m still on medication’ I protested and she started laughing. ‘Virgin cocktails here we come’ she said as she exited the car and I just shook my head as I followed her in. She ordered our drinks at the bar and walked over to where she wanted us to sit. She looked overly excited given the fact that we just came from a morgue where I said goodbye to my husband. ‘You’re awfully chipper given the circumstances’ I said to Ann. ‘Well I feel so relieved that you don’t have to carry the guilt around for what happened to Josh. So I’m terribly sorry for not being too sad’ she said. I realized then that I was not the only one that went through all the stress and trauma and that Ann stood by me every step of the way. She had a huge share in everything I was going through and she also worried that I was going to die at one point. I had been so selfish the last while that I completely forgot to look at what she and Caleb had done for me. I softened the expression on my face and held up my drink that had just arrived toward her. ‘Cheers my friend and thank you for being there for me when the world turned its back on me’ I said and she tapped her glass against mine. I had to admit that sitting there with Ann with no one to rush home to because he was in a bad mood felt pretty good.

We were about half way through our drinks when Ann looked up and it looked like she was ready to run. ‘What’s wrong’? I asked and she took a hold of my hand. ‘Don’t turn around’ she said while squeezing my hand. ‘Your ex in laws just walked in’ she said. I felt my body go cold as I was afraid of the scene they would make if they saw me sitting there. My thought was hardly cold when I heard them walking up behind me. My body went stiff and I tried to sit still like a statue as I thought that somehow it would help so they would not see me. Unfortunately it didn’t help me anything as I heard ‘Well look what the cat dragged in’ from behind me. ‘If it ain’t the husband murdering piece of trash ex daughter in law of mine’ my ex mother in law spat. ‘Celebrating my son’s death are you’? She asked and it felt like I could sink away into the ground and hide. I decided it best not to engage her as I wasn’t about to sink down to her level so she could beat me with experience. ‘Just so you know I have opened a murder investigation against you at the police station so you will be behind bars pretty soon’ she hissed in my ear. I lost my cool just then and stood up out of my seat to face her. I wanted her to see that she could not intimidate me. ‘Go right ahead why don’t you. You have just hit your name with a plank in doing so. The police already investigated the shooting and it was ruled as self-defense and the autopsy revealed that Josh died as a result of his wounds. Maybe if you raised your son better he wouldn’t have gotten himself shot in the first place’ I spat at her. She slapped me through the face and stuck her finger between my eyes and said ‘You drove my son to become the way he was. It’s your fault he’s dead and I will never give up until you pay for what you have done’. ‘Good luck with that, he is being cremated and I am getting his ashes to do with as I please’! I said and I saw the surprise in her eyes. ‘You can’t do that, he is my son’! She yelled at me and just there I knew that I had the upper hand. ‘He was your son. He’s nothing but a pile of ashes now’ I said and motioned for Ann who sat frozen in place to come as we were leaving. Walking away from my ex mother in law with the final say felt exhilarating even though the circumstances were bleak. I had never been able to stand up for myself the way I just did and it felt good. I decided that I was not going to allow myself to feel guilty for the decisions I made or for what I said to her. She was out to hurt me and I was simply defending myself against her.

Two days later I received a call from the hospital saying that I could collect Josh’s ashes. I informed Caleb that we were getting the ashes and Ann and I got dressed in formal attire. Ann drove me to the hospital as she felt over protective of me and was basically stuck to my hip since I got home. My mood was getting lighter each passing day as I realized that I was free from the oppression and domination of my husband but it still felt like I had a massive road block in front of me as I still needed to complete one task before I could finally be free. I needed to spread Josh’s ashes after I picked it up from the hospital, a task that felt like a mountain in front of me. Ann and I arrived at the hospital and received the ashes wrapped in a see through plastic bag that was placed inside a small wooden box. ‘You sure this is all of him’? I asked the guy at the crematorium and he nodded his head in confirmation assuring me that was Josh’s ashes. ‘But he was such a big guy, these ashes look so little’ I said in disbelief. Ann took me by the arm and led me out, back to the car. I was moaning all the way out that the ashes looked too little to be Josh’s and I could see her shaking her head next to me. I realized how bad I must have sounded and decided to keep quiet on the subject. We drove to a nearby forest retreat where we met up with Caleb. He was dressed in a black tux with a purple tie. Ann was wearing a short black cocktail dress with a red belt in her waist and I was wearing a long black cocktail dress with silver embellishment in the middle. The attire was meant to symbolize a funeral that we were holding for Josh, an informal goodbye ceremony for me to get my final closure and move on from him.

We stood at the top of a cliff in the retreat between the trees looking down into the valley below which was a breathtaking sight. Caleb and Ann stood on either side of me in silence. I held my head high and held the box out in front of me saying ‘Here lies Josh Evans, died age twenty five from a bullet wound to the chest. His injuries were as a result from his own malicious actions that finally cost him his life’. I looked down at the box and said ‘Josh, I wish I could thank you for all that you have done and I wish that I could say that you were a good husband and that you will be missed but in all honesty I can’t. You were a sadistic bastard that took pleasure in humiliating and hurting me as much as you possibly could. I feel like a mountain has been lifted off of my shoulders knowing that you will never be able to hurt me ever again. I harbor no more hate or anger toward you and I forgive you. You taught me not to trust anyone and what signs to look out for in an abusive man. I will never be able to forget what you did to me but from this point forward I can start working on healing from the damages you caused me. You are no longer a threat to me and I am finally free’. I took a deep breath and opened the box. I took a handful of Josh’s ashes and threw it over the edge where we were standing. With every handful I threw it felt like I was throwing away all my pain, anger and hatred that I felt toward Josh. Knowing that I could finally close that chapter in my life was the most exhilarating feeling in the world. As I threw the last handful of his ashes the wind blew it back into our faces and Ann, Caleb and me started waving our arms in front of our faces and spitting as his ashes blew into our mouths. ‘Even in death he finds a way to irritate us’ I heard Caleb say beside me. We all burst out laughing and I threw the box I still had in my hand over the edge too. ‘The final resting place of Josh the abusive husband’ Ann added next to me. ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish’ I said and Ann and Caleb formed a circle around me with their arms and they hugged me tightly. ‘Welcome to the rest of your life’ Caleb said as he pulled me closer into him and kissed me deeply.

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