Three years ago:
FINALLY. HE WAS FINALLY asleep. I could hear his snoring from my spot on the floor near the bed, the spot reserved for when my boyfriend decided I didn't deserve to sleep on a bed. Or on the couch. Or literally anywhere less demeaning. It was okay though, I was grateful, it guaranteed me at least a few hours away from his repulsive touch but it was definitely taking a toll on my neck and back.
I was actually waiting for him to banish me to the floor again, it had been a couple of months since it last happened. I'm not even sure what I had done last time. Maybe I looked at somebody wrong, maybe I looked at him wrong. Or somebody else looked at me wrong. It could've been anything. Regardless, it was a blessing in disguise because when I slept beside him, any movement would stir him awake. There was no way I'd be able to make good on my plan if I had to share a bed with him.
This was a good thing. At least, that's what I told myself as I got up and packed my toothbrush, some toothpaste, and a few other necessities. I caught a look at myself in the mirror, the deep purple surrounding my eye caused me to let out a quiet gasp. It looked worse than last time, but no where near as bad as it had been in the past. I fumbled around the drawer for my bottle of concealer, I was going to need it.
My heart was racing as I tried to dab a little makeup over the bruise. I wonder what the poor guy from the coffee shop looked like, the guy that led me to this very moment, although it wasn't his fault. I shouldn't have offered to pay for his coffee, Jason was right. It sent the wrong impression. But his debit card wasn't working and he didn't have any cash. He looked so defeated as he turned away from the cashier, I just wanted to brighten his day. I just wanted to show him one act of kindness and put a smile on his face. But as soon as I swiped Jason's credit card for both the stranger's coffee and my own, the man was on the floor and Jason had me in a vice grip, dragging me out of the shop. I swear I could still feel his bruising grasp on my upper arm hours after.
Jason was right. Why the hell did I do that? And right in front of him? It was all my fault. I was asking for him to be angry. No. I have to stop letting him get into my head, this ends tonight. I did nothing wrong, I didn't do anything wrong. I felt like I constantly had to repeat that in my head over and over, like my own personal anthem in my brain. I covered my mouth and tried to choke back tears. I didn't have time for this, he was going to wake up if I didn't get out quickly. After tip-toeing around the apartment, gathering a few belongings, I crept out the front door...
And froze. I'm not proud that I hesitated, but this was where I always froze. Running always seemed like a good idea until I made it to this point. I had no car, I couldn't drive anywhere. I also didn't have any of my own money, how would I pay a cab to take me anywhere? Or get a bus ticket? Or buy food? Or buy anything? And my credit was shot to hell - turns out, when you're a regular at the emergency room, they actually expect you to keep up on all those medical bills. I'd never have my own car or my own apartment with a credit score below freezing. I had no one to call - no family, no friends. I was completely and utterly alone. I could feel my chest tightening at the thought. Alone. This is what I had become. An isolated shadow of a human being lurking around in the dark.
Leaning back against the front door, I ran my hand through my long, dark brown hair and closed my eyes. Breathe in, breathe out, I can do this. I wasn't going to turn back. I couldn't. He was getting more aggressive every day. The first time it happened, he swore he wouldn't do it again. He said he lost his temper, he lost his mind, just for that second. But it did happen again, I should've known it would. And things had only gotten worse since. I had to get out.
I knew of a homeless shelter nearby, one that I had spent many of my days volunteering at in the past, and decided I would get there one way or another. I would walk there if I had to. Living just outside of the city, I was a little apprehensive about walking alone at night for several miles but what other choice did I have? It wasn't a bad neighborhood, but it definitely wasn't a good one either.
I thought back to a few nights ago, Jason had just signed the closing paperwork for the house he had purchased. It was in a nicer area, a little farther from the shelter but maybe, if I stuck it out a little while longer, I could hitch-hike from there and a nice neighbor would offer to drive me to the shelter. Maybe I should just wait until we were moved in before running away. No. This has to happen now.
I walked for what felt like hours, carrying just my little drawstring bag of belongings, anxiously looking over my shoulder every couple of blocks. I didn't know who I dreaded seeing more: a stranger following me or Jason. My body was tired and sore, but I pushed myself to keep going until I finally made it to the shelter. Breathing a sigh of relief, I walked through the front doors, ready to drop right there and sleep. All I could think about was sleep. But the young woman in front of me, not much older than me, cocked her head to the side and met my gaze with a sympathetic one of her own.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, we're full for the night." No. This couldn't be happening. I finally made it. I finally escaped my personal hell. This was the farthest I had ever made it, this was my only plan.
"W-what? You're full?" I was in disbelief. Where was I supposed to go? The woman just nodded in response.
"No. No. No. Please. I have no where else to go, please..." I pleaded with her, but knew it was no use. I didn't know what it was I was hoping for, for her to clear out some space behind the counter so I could plop down at her feet? I probably wouldn't have turned it down, honestly.
"I'm really sorry..." With that, I turned around and walked out, my tired eyes full of tears. Back on the street again, I tried to come up with a new plan. I slipped into an alleyway and leaned against the rough, brick wall of the building behind me. What do I do now? What the hell do I do now?
The night air was chilly and I let out a shiver, my thin cotton jacket doing little to keep me warm. I wouldn't freeze if I had to spend the night outside, but I certainly wouldn't be comfortable. But going home was not an option at this point. While weighing out my options, a loud thud and two distinct voices broke through my concentration.
"I can pay you back! I can have it to you by the end of the week, Mr. Costello. I- I swear!" I heard a disembodied voice plead. My eyes still adjusting to the darkness, I glanced down the alley but still didn't see anything. Not even a shadow or a silhouette.
"This isn't repayment for a fucking loan. You stole it. You fucking stole... from me." Another voice roared back. It was deep and intimidating, I flinched at the sound. This wasn't good, I knew that much, but I still couldn't help my curiosity as I slinked down the alley, looking for the mysterious voices. I knew it wasn't smart, I should've just left it alone, but the man sounded like he was in trouble. What if he needed my help? I could hear a trunk slam in the distance and the quick patter of someone running, before hearing an engine turn over. Was that them? Did they leave?
Passing a back door to a bar, I noticed it was slightly cracked open and peered inside. I saw a terrified man holding both of his hands up in the air, his cheeks red and wet with tears. His gaze firmly frozen on the handgun in front of him. I could see the gun, and the large hand that tightly gripped it, but I couldn't see who the hand belonged to.
As I slowly backed away from the door, a shot rang out and I shrieked. Damnit! I saw the man slump to the ground, but before I could even react to what I just witnessed, I was already running. I could just barely hear the deep voice bellowing behind me, but I never turned back. I just ran aimlessly as fast as my legs could take me. Whoever that man was, he heard me. He definitely heard me. He knew someone was there now, he had to have known that someone saw what he just did. I witnessed a murder.
I finally made it to a small park where I dropped my bag of belongings near a bench, and sat down to catch my breath. I was tired, scared, beat-up, and now a witness. Fantastic. I held my face in my hands and sobbed. The night couldn't get any worse, it just couldn't. I thought it would be the day everything turned around for me. I thought this night would be my salvation. And just when I thought nothing else could possibly happen, I noticed that the jingling from my wrist had stopped. I couldn't remember the last time I heard it. Looking down, I saw that my bracelet was gone.
With tears streaming down my face, I finally broke down completely. The little white gold charm bracelet was the one thing I held most dear to my heart. It was the last gift I had received from my brother before he died, and it held only one charm on it - a small white gold heart with the letter 'S' engraved into it. He got it for me to stand for my name, but ever since his death, I liked to think it stood for him - Sebastian. But now the last piece of him was gone. My stomach twisted into knots as I laid down on the bench and huddled up to keep warm.
In that moment, I hoped angels couldn't see down from heaven. Most people wished for the opposite, but I prayed my brother couldn't see how fucked up my life had become since he died one year ago. I couldn't bear the thought of him - or my parents for that matter - looking down at me and seeing how hurt, how broken I was. I would never want them to see the empty shell of a person I had become after moving in with Jason.
My thoughts were interrupted as a figure stood over me, the moon casting his shadow over my small body. My eyes widened as I attempted to make out his features, tears welled up in my eyes as I silently prayed it wasn't the man from the bar. Or Jason. Or some stranger with bad intentions. Hell, were there no good possibilities for who it could be? Please, I silently begged God... or whoever might be listening up there, this was supposed to be my new beginning. I noticed the glimmer of his badge reflecting the street lamps from the park. A police officer. Great.
"Ma'am, you can't sleep here, this is trespassing." The stern voice said, monotonously.
"Look... I have... no where else to go." Trying to choke back the tears, I attempted to explain but wouldn't dare mention what I just witnessed for the same reason I wouldn't tell him about what Jason had done to me just hours beforehand - I was scared of the retaliation I would face.
The officer gently grabbed my arm and led me to his patrol car, before driving to the station. He placed me in a holding cell with a blanket, allowing me to nap. The small bench I laid on was cold beneath me, and the blanket was scratchy but I made do. It was better than nothing. I heard him read off of my license to another officer sitting behind a computer, but I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep.
"Saige Davenport. Nineteen. I think this address is in the Oakshire Apartment complex."
"She's got nothin'" I cracked open my eyes just to peak at the two speaking to one another, the officer behind the computer glanced over at me with pity in his eyes and then at the other cop. "Maybe just let her rest for awhile and then take her home."
A FEW HOURS LATER, as the sun began to rise, the cell was opened and startled me awake. I felt groggy, I yawned and tried blinking the sleep from my eyes. The same officer latched on to my arm and led me out of the station and into his patrol car. Before long, I found myself sitting outside of my apartment building.
"You still live here, right?" My teary eyes met his gaze in the rear view mirror. After all of that, I was right back where I started. I had finally worked up the courage to leave, I actually made it out of the apartment complex without him catching me or my fear paralyzing me, and now the police were hand-delivering me to him.
I thought about lying. I could say I moved, but then I didn't know what to tell him if he asked where I moved to. Dumb idea. I could say I was kicked out and never was able to find somewhere to live, but then what would they do with me? I definitely didn't want to be hauled back to the station, not after what I witnessed the night before. Witnessing a murder and then hanging out at the police station afterwards probably wouldn't look too good if the person behind that gun ever found out. So I took a deep breath, held back the tears threatening to make their appearance, and nodded.
The officer stayed parked in front of my building, watching me walk to my door to make sure I got in safe. It was a nice gesture, but he didn't understand that the biggest threat to my life wasn't outside of my door, it was beyond it.