I reached. The knob, door knob, moved. My fingers scratched the wall, breaking already chipped, splintered nails.
My breath caught in ragged gulps. “Jimmy no. Jimmy, no …”
The knob seemed to float, drifting upward into an ever thickening pitch. It glinted, reflecting flames in the scuffed and grimy finish … like gemstones in a jewelry store choked in mud. Diamonds … like the one Jimmy promised …
Falling. My head hit the floor. I covered my face. “I ... I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.” Tears pulled at my already swollen cheek.
The dishes in the kitchen. The sink, spattered. I needed them cleaned. He hated dirty dishes. My belly clinched. If he finds them …
“Jesus loves me, this I know …” The words deep in my throat, hidden, from a childhood long stained and misused.
I twisted the knob, crawling to the hall.
My hand hit glass, shards sliced my palm as a gasp ripped through me. The broken frame, the picture, shattered on the floor beneath the scar on the wall. “No …” I hadn’t cleaned after he threw it.
The photo shook in my trembling grasp. Disneyland. Beaming by the Matterhorn. Jimmy had been so kind. Bought me a Tinkerbell necklace. “Oh, Jimmy …” I traced his form, perfect eyes, the smile that was never there anymore.
He’d thrown it, the frame, the picture, our memories … at me. I slumped against the wainscot, kissing the image of Jimmy as my shoulders curled.
I ran bloody fingers over knotted hair. He liked me pretty for him. It was my fault. I hadn’t brushed, no make-up. He was home early. I should’ve been ready in case. “Stupid girl. Stupid! Stupid!” I hit my forehead with my palm again, again, again.
“They are precious …” I bit my lip. “They are precious …” The words spit and caught. “Not true, can’t be.”
Smoke curled from the bedroom, a condemning serpent.
“I’ll try harder. Next time. My hair and the vacuuming.”
He’d hit me … as usual. His beer wasn’t cold enough. I never remembered when to put it into the fridge. But he hadn’t seen the dirty clothes, heaped by the washer.
His mother was an Army wife. Laundry every day. Folded, stacked.
I closed my eyes, pressing them against my knees, swaying, shuddering. So wrong. Images of a steeple, a white dress, a castle in the clouds flickered as if from an antique projector. Promises. Lies.
I’d tasted the whiskey on his lips, tongue. “Jimmy, no.” I’d pushed. “Jimmy, no.” He was stronger. Drunk … even drunk … especially drunk.
“Ungrateful,” his voice was a growl, dark, evil; his words a slime of malevolence. “I’ll take what’s mine anytime I feel like it.” He laughed. “Pathetic.”
I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. Not again. Snarled hair, swollen cheek, and tears burning, ever burning, tormenting. Hell inside ...
… suffocating me, ME, everyday.
He’d passed out, finished, drool slick about the harsh stubble of his chin. The whiskey spilled, pouring from the bottle, drenching him, the sheets.
My dress had been torn. I looked bad. I’d stumbled, straightening my disheveled clothing over wobbling legs. Sore, tired … isolated. I’d reached for the sewing box.
Must be pretty for him.
I lifted the plastic lid.
The stink of stale sweat and flowing alcohol had twisted with anger and fear.
Somehow I knew there was supposed to be more, yet hope had died.
On the tray, thread, needle, scissors …
Nausea crippled me. He was going to see the laundry.
I’d lit one …
… and fled.
The smoke detector screamed from the hallway ceiling above.
The picture fell from my hands, lost in the growing maelstrom of fire and ash. “Jimmy, I’m sorry …” Sirens drew near. I clawed the wall and stood. “They are precious in his sight.” I faltered in the thickening gloom. “Precious in his sight,” I coughed. Could it still be true? The door, ahead.
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