People are creatures of habit, a trait Cheryl counted on. For years she numbly allowed Jack to take his anger out on her, but recently she began to notice certain habits she could use to her advantage…
The muggy air stifled Cheryl’s ability to breathe deep; that and the fact that Jack’s latest punching bag routine likely broke a couple ribs. His chainsaw snores were the all-clear to slip out of bed and tend to her wounds.
Smoke drifted from the growing amber ash at the end of Jack’s parked cigarette. Cheryl gently snuffed it out, rummaged under the newspaper near the ash tray, and grabbed his lighter. In the bathroom she leaned close to the mirror and flicked the bic, the only light she dared use. Her fingers gently tended to the sticky blood drying in her matted hair. Quietly, she bound her ribs with an ace bandage she’d shoplifted from Goodwill.
Tomorrow is Friday. She slipped back into bed, but she wouldn’t sleep.
Jack inhaled his greasy breakfast. Cheryl could feel his lusty eyes probe her. She eyed the clock. Jack stood with his plate in hand, chomped on the remaining bite, and dropped the dishes in the sink, all in one abrupt move.
Cheryl jumped when Jack grabbed her arm and began to drag her towards the bedroom. “I got five minutes.” The only explanation he thought she needed.
“My ribs hurt,” Cheryl dared to give an excuse. “I…I think… I…broke one.” Or two or three.
“Shut up. I don’t want your ribs. What I want ain’t broken,” he sneered like that was supposed to warm her up.
Finally alone, Cheryl stood under the scalding hot shower in her attempt to wash Jack down the drain. Today is Friday….Library day.
Cheryl wore a ball cap low over her eyes; her jacket zipped to the chin. The moment she slipped into the public library her heart cried out: Sanctuary…sanctuary. She thrived on the quiet safety. She hungered to learn and truly believed with knowledge came power. Each library day liberated her bit-by-bit. She read a quote once that became key to unlocking her bondage: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.
No need to rush. Today is Friday. Payday. She wouldn’t see Jack until the bars closed and that’s only if someone brought him home. He’s a creature of habit, this she’d learned over the years she endured him.
Her arms piled with books, the pain in her ribs intensified until she could maneuver to her secluded spot. She, too, had become a creature of habit. Her stack of books usually included a variety of topics: first aide, self defense, travel, unsolved mysteries.
On the way home, Cheryl slipped into another sanctuary, St. Mary’s, to light a candle and confess, because tomorrow is Saturday.
After dusk, Cheryl crept around to the back of the shabby singlewide in an equally trashy trailer park. Carefully she lifted the skirting and pulled out a backpack; another five-fingered Goodwill bargain. She unloaded the day’s ‘purchases’ into the half-full pack: more vacuum-sealed tuna, a pull-tab can of peaches, peanuts, and granola bars.
What’s this? Cheryl felt a bulge in the front pocket. Her heart raced when she unzipped it and discovered a thick wad of small bills. Someone knows. Cheryl glanced over her shoulder. She swore the neighbor’s curtain moved ever so slightly.
Cheryl flinched when Jack stumbled through the front door. Three-thirty. Today is Saturday.
“Where are you?” Jack slurred. He pounced on the bed and groped in the dark. He jerked the blankets off and tore at her nightgown. He straddled and pinned her legs to the bed. She didn’t resist, but he slapped her anyway.
He lit a cigarette, blew the smoke in her face, took another drag, and set it in the ash tray to finish when he was done. Another habit. He rolled off of her to work at his belt.
Now! Cheryl’s mind screamed. With studied practiced moves, she slipped her hand under her pillow, grabbed a rubber mallet, and smashed him in the chest. She jabbed her thumb into his windpipe, pinned his arm with her knee, and held a pillow over his face until he quit writhing.
Cheryl frantically dressed and glanced at the newspaper next to the ashtray. She nudged it closer to the glowing tip and left. Outside, she grabbed her pack and never looked back.
Sanctuary…a two day walk away. I hear the Abbey has a good library. Sanctuary.
Author’s note: The line in bold is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt.
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