For her, Time hangs in the balance.
She can’t fathom her good fortune. He’s forgotten it – the key. Enticing, suspended from its hook, beckoning, daring her.
She looks at the clock. Only ten minutes. What if he comes back – early?
What if she never gets another chance?
Her mind; working now, hadn’t earlier. Words – eerily floating in and out of her consciousness – had been disjointed, incoherent, not connecting. Something had snapped.
She can't take it anymore. She can't take him anymore.
A cough from the other room tears her from her feverish thoughts. Tiptoeing, peeking in, and at the sight, tears brim and spill over. She runs her tongue along her lips, tasting their saltiness, flicking them away, desperate to gain control. Three children – her children recovered now from strep throat – eyes glued to the television, rest, oblivious of her turmoil.
The hour and minute hand, like two soldiers standing at attention, mock her; the second hand sweeping time forward. Tick-tick. Tick-tock. Phone on the table where she’d last set it. Lists, phone numbers called in anguish – asking, begging for answers. All pointing to the same feat – “Leave,” they’d said.
She looks down, places her palm softly against her tummy – so small, so helpless, so innocent, unaware. Safe.
The key. Taunting, wooing her.
Her breath catches. Time stands still. “Run!” something inside of her screams. Reaching out, fingers closing around the cool metal surface. Grasped tightly now, its edges bite into the palm of hand. Slipped from its hook.
Door clicks behind her – key in ignition. Heart racing; the taste of bile as the engine roars to life, then backing up. Fear – more fear than she’s ever felt. Almost there – keep going – she tells herself.
“My babies!” she gasps out loud. A blanket of pain like a thick black shroud takes her breath away. When she can breathe again, she whispers, “I’ll be back – I promise – to get you!”
Right food hits the gas pedal. Tires against pavement squeal. Almost there – almost to freedom – still no sign of him. Hysteria. “Help me!” she prays. Mouth forms words, but no sound. “Help me, please!”
Out of the parking lot. Cheeks flood with warmth, lips dry. She jerks the steering to the right, and car obeys, taking her away, away from pain, away from betrayal, away with baby.
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