He was so angry when I left him. I’d never done it before. People sometimes have an off and on again thing in relationships like this. Or so I’ve heard. But I’d left this relationship months ago, even if it was only in my mind. I was afraid of the physical thing. Because then he’d have to know about it.
I had help. I moved everything out while he was at work. I had been preparing, so it was done in a matter of hours. A few more and I was settled in with Melissa. Then she left for work, and I was alone.
Months of preparing and hiding and fearing. Just a matter of hours. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t feel real.
I should have just blocked him immediately, but I didn’t.
Where are you? Babe?
Where is all of your stuff?
What is this? Come back right now.
I had a small speech ready for this. I texted it to him. That’s when the threats began.
You don’t really believe you can just leave me? You selfish…
I will get you back.
I know. You’ll be begging me to take you back within a week.
You’re insane if you think I’ll let you leave me. I’ll be waiting for when you’re ready to come back.
If there is anyone else, you’ll regret it.
Melissa happened to see those last few messages and took my phone and blocked him herself. She blocked his number and blocked him on all my social media accounts. She said it was the best way.
A clean break.
And so, the first week was almost… nice. For a while I believed he would just let me go.
On Thursday, one full week later, my boss called me into her office. She’d had to deal with some recent complaints against me, she said. It’s not like you, I’ll let it slide this once, make sure to do better. I didn’t recall anything happening that sounded like what the person had described in the complaint. But I didn’t deny it. I probably had just forgotten. I wasn’t really all there the past few weeks. It was just another weight to pile atop the rest.
When I went out to my car in the evening, there was a large scrape along the left side. It looked as though I had driven along and scoured the side against concrete bollards. As I approached closer, I saw a white, folded piece of paper tucked under the windscreen wipers. Sorry. It read with a phone number scrawled beneath it. I got back to Mel’s and tried the number, but it didn’t work, it was a digit too long. One less rang a fourteen-year-old girl three hours south of here. I couldn’t just keep calling different variations, so I waited until Mel got home to discuss it with her.
“Rotten scumbag, probably just wanted to look like they were doing the right thing for any witnesses.” Mel spat chucking her key onto the bench with too much force.
“Oh, yeah. I suppose you’re right.” For some reason I felt more disappointed than angry. Maybe apathy was a side effect of a bad break up. Mel’s grey cat, Simon, rubbed its head against my leg, I scratched him behind the ears absently as she continued.
“I hope you can still make an insurance claim for it, I’ve never done it for something like that, maybe I’ll ask around before you contact them…” Mel went on, but I simply began preparing myself for yet another weight.
“I hope this is the last one, that’s three … bad things happen in threes, right?”
What? Oh yes, break up, threats, and now this. Don’t worry, once you’re back up on your feet, things will start to work out.” I didn’t correct her that my number two was the complaint at work. That would have made it four things. I’ll just lump the threats in as part of the breakup. Then it’s still three.
Three and done.
But the next morning was cold and I knew there would be something else. I could feel it in the air - like it was an instinctual warning. My legs were stiff and numb under the comforter. My head was foggy and heavy. I looked around the room considering calling in sick. Perhaps that would make this feeling go away. If I didn’t leave my bed, then nothing at all could possibly happen.
I focused on my door, wondering why it was ajar. Mel was kind in her own way, but I didn’t think her likely to check on me in the night. I mustn’t have managed to close it properly last night. I really needed to keep my head on straight - or Mel might find my phone in the freezer or maybe the milk in the pantry. I hummed a brief laugh at those thoughts and then rolled over to grab my phone. I called work and told them I couldn’t come in today, I blamed the car and decided to go over my insurance information.
But I couldn’t find my laptop. I glanced around the room. It felt wrong. My handbag was knocked over and some of the contents were spilled out over the floor, across the room from where I had dropped it last night when I came in. I looked around more closely. One of my vanity’s draws wasn’t fully closed and as I walked over to it, I stared at a large handprint that had been pressed onto the mirror with growing dread.
I could have explained everything else away. My mind wasn’t focused. I had just knocked over my bag and forgotten. The draw was just too full to shut properly.
But this hand was too big. It couldn’t be mine and it couldn’t be Mel’s.
Unless I was just imagining it. Stress and anxiety making me paranoid. How could there be a handprint on my mirror? In my bedroom? As I continued to stare at it, it seemed to distort. It looked less like a hand and more like a strange smudge. I’d only just moved it in here. It’s probably just from the recent handling. I’ll make sure to clean it later.
I walked into the bathroom. I hoped that a shower might wash away some of the murky disquiet from my mind. But when I stripped off and looked down, a cold, sharp feeling bloomed in my chest. There were bruises on my thighs. Hand-shaped bruises. How could this have happened? How could I not have woken? I dressed quickly without showering and moved out into the house.
“Mel?” I called. The house was quiet. Nothing looked different. But at my voice there was soft, gasping, mewling sound coming from the kitchen. Behind the counter of the kitchen lying on his bed was Simon. His head was at an odd angle. He rolled his eyes to look at me. His breathing more of a pathetic huffing now, and his neck, as I leaned closer, I saw that his collar had been pulled tight. Chocking back a horrified sob, I tried to lift him towards me. He made a terrible sound. He didn’t take another breath.
I stumbled back, blinded by hot tears, and made for Mel’s door.
I opened the door and I saw her. Sound asleep in her bed, with the sheets tangled around her legs and one arm thrown carelessly over the side. I continued to stare at her waiting to see her chest rise.
Praying to see her chest rise.
“I wanted you to help me do it.”
It was his voice. He was sitting in the corner. His eyes were on Mel, but his head was turned towards me. I tried to scream. I couldn’t. No sound made it past my heart, which was lodged there in my throat.
“Here.” I saw the glint of a knife as he turned it over in his hands.
“No!” It was barely a strangled whisper. He finally turned to look at me.
He stood slowly up. I was quivering by the time he was standing in front of me. If he didn’t touch me, I might still be able to scream.
I didn’t have to. Mel had woken up. She screamed loud enough for both of us. Yet, she seemed to have no fear. Like a hellcat, she was suddenly on his back and sinking her teeth into the soft flesh of his neck. He reared back brandishing the knife. But he could not find an angle that would make contact. They collapsed into the wall. The knife went skittering across the floor. It tinged against a large decorative vase by the doorway. It was empty and I could lift it easily even with my numb, shaking arms.
I should have taken more care to aim, to be sure not to hit Mel.
But it didn’t matter.
It shattered over his head.
He stared at me for half a moment before crumpling under Mel. She stood up slowly, several cuts from the broken shards glistening on her skin. We stared at each other. Breathing hard.
Beneath us, he made a choking, gasping sound. We both looked down. It had sounded like Simon.
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