By Samantha Arroyo
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Just down the hall she could hear Joe opening the refrigerator door. She pulled herself from the window seat and crept down the hall like fog gently gathers over the still of a lake. She made sure to keep quiet, taking light steps over the carpeted corridor. Her worn nightgown hung loosely over her thin shoulders, her disheveled hair and sallow cheeks evidence of personal disregard.
“There’s no food in this god forsaken house.” Joe peered over the crest of the refrigerator door, the glow of the interior leaving his eyes in the shadows. He moved towards her with determined steps and a fixed stare; the heels of his wing tipped shoes echoed over the hard wood floor as he approached her with aggravation. Her heart quickened. She laid a hand over her swollen stomach aware of the barren cavity that was full just yesterday. He snatched her arm, bruising her porcelain skin with the strength of his calloused fingertips. Clenched teeth seeped words of malice over neglecting such a simple chore.
He slapped her.
He muttered an apology.
Then he left.
Her legs crumbled beneath her as she proceeded to lay cold and still on the kitchen floor, the smell of burnt coffee looming over her head mixed with the soggy dampness of the air. It was suffocating. She drew her knees to her chin and burrowed her face in her knees. She didn’t cry. She prayed. The weight of her flesh felt cumbersome and the sting of his hand against her fragile face was still warm. She stood and gathered her over-sized khaki sweater from the back of the kitchen chair and slipped her bare feet into a pair of boots. The screen door creaked as her slight chalky fingers pulled at the handle and then slapped shut behind her.
Underneath the overhang she slipped a cigarette between her chafed lips. She cupped her hand around the end and with a quivering fist dragged her thumb over the wheel of the lighter, the sparks from the flame igniting the end of the stick. She inhaled slowly, methodically. Exhaled. Then she flicked away the ashen end, watching it fall and dissolving into a cloudy pool of dismal water. The rain fell in relentless fury. She watched as the cars passed, spraying walls of dirty mist over the sidewalks, leaving a cloud of moisture in their place. He would be home around five. Unless he went to the bar. Though it would spare her a few more hours of solitude, it would come at the price of his drunken rage. His inebriated fury could never be subdued and she always became the target of his violence.
She placed a hand over her distended abdomen. He didn’t know, but he had taken life from her and with it he stole her hope. A sharp gust of wind blew through the trees and the leaves shrugged the droplets from their place. She pulled her sweater closer. Inhale. Exhale. Flick. She contemplated running away. But she knew it would never happen. Because wherever she went, she took herself. And wherever she was, he would find her.
But then again, maybe she was already gone.
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