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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Book Store/Library (06/03/10)

TITLE: Without Consent
By Marita Thelander


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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This article has been read 823 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 06/10/10
Wow! Gripping, dramatic, compelling...! This could be a story from the front-page of a newspaper in any town. You have the perfect title (with a dual meaning)! The only time I felt safe (while reading this) was when she was in her sanctuaries. Double wow!
Laury Hubrich 06/10/10
This is a gripping account of a young woman in trouble. Sad to think that others are treated this way, more times than we know.

Well-written piece of work and is set up for a sequel, most assuredly.
Seema Bagai 06/10/10
A riveting, well-written piece. I could sense the drama and tension. Great job.
Author Unknown06/13/10
oh my heavens! certainly woke me up from my dreamy jaunts through all these bookstores & libraries.

what a great tale and a very fresh take on the topic.


the only eensy weensy reddish ink I have is that I wasn't quite sure why the spacing was set up like it was, which is really a very minor thing.

very well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/10
Gripping story. Sanctuary is exactly the right word for library here.
Maria Egilsson06/15/10

I find I'm short of breath after reading this. How awful. How vivid. I felt like I was looking over her shoulder and experiencing the ugliness.
I like "nice tidy bows" and felt awful that killing him was the only way to get free. However, it is the cold reality of so many abused women.
The power of the written word to empower, equip and to set free.
I'm going to need a bit of a break before jumping into another story.

Sarah Elisabeth 06/15/10
Marita, I love your writing. Gripping style.

That said, I wasn't comfortable with this story. Not the graphic parts, but the fact that she murdered Jack. I know many women feel that is the only way out, but it is not.

"Although entries do not need to be overtly Christian, they should still reflect a Christian viewpoint of life."
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/15/10
Wow this is so intense. I felt the tears forming almost immediately. You could really do a novel with this story line. I can even see it as a movie on Lifetime or some other network that tells the horrors that happen everyday. Excellent work, it was so vivid.
Linda Germain 06/15/10
An entire novel could be developed from this story. Excellent writing!
Kate Oliver Webb 06/15/10
I, too, was moved by this story. And while I agree totally that women should know other ways of escape besides murder, and that murder is wrong--this story was vividly REAL, and sometimes that is missing from Christian fiction. Perhaps a resolution giving understanding of the consequences of her killing her husband would be the balance. I don't know--I'm sort of torn on that issue. But the story was wonderfully written.
Yvonne Blake 06/15/10
Wow! This is very powerful! I felt myself flinching and holding my breath. So sad that this is a true story for many women.
Virgil Youngblood 06/15/10
Excellent writing. I only wish it offered hope, from a Christian perspective. And what, I wonder, will the nosy neighbor do?
Edmond Ng 06/15/10
Very well written work capturing the readers' attention to the end. This story can be a good start or a plot for the middle of a novel, which hopefully will end on a more positive note like forgiveness and repentance. I'm incline to think conscience will find its way to the MC where 'someone knows' will direct her back to the right path.
mick dawson06/15/10
This was well written. It had me riveted and wondered if this was an actual event in your life until the murder at the end. Well done.
Rachel Phelps06/16/10
Amazing. Compelling.