TITLE: Nowhere to Go But Up - Chapter 1
By Ennis Smith
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The bedside digital clock read 4:16 AM, when Dawn felt a shift in the bed. She feigned sleep, taking labored deep breathes, her back turned against her husband. Dawn could feel him staring through the darkness. His accusing eyes were glowering at her. She knew he had spent the entire night lying awake.
Another shift in the bed, and Chas was now crossing the room to his dresser. She heard the customary progression of open and shut drawers usually signifying her husband dressing for another day’s work. Another glance at the clock assured her that he was at least two hours too early for that. She started to question his intensions, but decided on keeping quiet.
For every argument they shared over the past few years, Chas had never looked at her the way he did yesterday. It was as if she had looked into her husband’s eyes and saw hatred personified, staring at her. Yes, it might be best to remain quiet for now.
Dawn forced herself to mimic heavy, steady breaths as if enveloped in deep sleep. She listened for any signs that her husband might attack her, just in case she would have to defend herself. In all the years they had been together, Chas never once laid an angry hand on her. But one could never be too sure when the first time might come. After all, she’d seen her mother beaten by men, as a child. In general, men couldn’t be completely trusted. Why should her husband be any different? He was a man, after all.
Dawn waited until she heard Chas tread down the hallway steps before sitting up, propping her back against the headboard. Staring across the pitch black room, she replayed the events of the early evening in her mind. How Chas had screamed, in front of the children. How she had slandered him as if they were the only two people in the room. Who gave him the right to question her whereabouts? He had no right to demand any explanation as to who she had spent the evening with. She told herself these things, but deep down, her soul ached.
Dawn reached for her cell phone charging next to the clock. A few quick taps along the screen brought up the name she searched for. Fingers furiously tapping away, she typed out a message.
‘I can’t see you again. It’s over. Please don’t call me anymore. Have to do what’s right for my kids.’
“Yeah,” she whispered as she punched the SEND button. “They need me more than anyone else. What are you doing, girl?”
Dawn placed the phone back onto the table. Drawing her knees up to her chin, she began to butt the heels of both hands against her forehead.
“Why do you keep doing this? You have to stop, before it’s too late.” Dawn whispered through tears.
She lay down snuggling Chas’s pillow under her nose, taking in the scent of her husband’s aftershave and hair lotion. It suddenly struck her funny, how much she hated the scent of Old Spice, but at the moment, it smelled like home and security. It smelled like Chas, who just so happened to be downstairs doing only God knew what.
She slowly breathed in the pillow and remembered the first kiss they had shared. Chas had worn enough Old Spice to make her eyes water, but she had endured the overbearing aftershave to share that special moment. She had adored him for such a long time, and then…something happened. What had happened? She didn’t know. Her mind sifted through miscellaneous memories of times shared, both good and bad. Yet, there was no one clear turning point buried in the recesses of her mind.
“What happened?” Dawn whispered. “God, I used to be so crazy in love with this man.”
As tears began to soak the pillow case, Dawn’s memory shifted to a time before the children; before the marriage. She remembered Chas away at college. She recalled the surprise visit; recalled driving two and a half hours in the dead of Michigan winter, to see him. She recalled the look of total astonishment on the face of Chas’s roommate, as she strolled through the front door of the apartment. Dawn remembered the blissful feeling of comfort walking down the short hallway toward Chas’s room. Her plan had been to simply undress, and spend a romantic evening with her love. She remembered turning the door knob, smiling giddy, only to find him cuddling with another woman under his bed sheets.
And then…suddenly…there it was. The image forever burned into her psyche like a black and white photograph. Dawn opened her bleary eyes as her breath caught in her throat. Through the darkness of the bedroom, she could still see the look on Chas’s face, the night she had caught him with another woman. It was as clear as if the whole event happened yesterday.
“I never forgave him for that,” she whispered. “…and that was it. That’s when it turned. Charles Smith turned out to be just another lying man, and I never forgave him for it. Lord help me, I still don’t. I don’t know how.”
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