Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)
- TITLE: Free at Last
By Dianna Schnabel
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“Wow!” I thought to myself. The speech my daughter Adele had just given her younger sisters was far more mature than her eight years merited. “Adele, that’s enough,” I said. “Your sisters are tired and they are too young to understand what you’re talking about.” It was unfortunate that she had picked up on my anxiety, but sweet that she was trying to defend me to her sisters.
The four of us were driving home over slush-covered country roads and we were exhausted from an all-day shopping excursion. The sky was already an inky black, which meant that my husband Jason would be home from his twelve-hour shift at the hospital. I sent up a heartfelt prayer that he would pass out from his after-work drinking binge before we arrived home. I hoped to postpone the fight that would surely ensue when he blamed me for spending all of his hard-earned money. My entire body was vibrating with nerves as I reviewed the events of the last few hours.
Earlier that afternoon my three girls had been bouncing with excitement at the prospect of choosing their new Christmas outfits. “Mommy, don’t forget that I want a dress with a big red bow like Carly’s,” four-year-old Amanda had chirped.
It had been when I got to the checkout counter that I first realized I was in trouble. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but your debit card has been declined.” This from a pimply-faced teenager, who at least had the grace to blush in embarrassed sympathy for my predicament. After the sales clerk’s declaration I had looked down at my girls with thinly veiled fear in my eyes. Jason’s easy smile and athletic physique may have fooled his patients, but I was well aware of the violence that simmered beneath the surface.
The smart thing to do would have been to forget about the new outfits, but my resolve softened when I saw how happy the girls were with the red and black plaid dresses they had chosen. I had known that Jason would punish me when he discovered that our bank account was empty, but depriving the girls of their new dresses wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. So it had been with a mixture of trepidation and defiance that I reached into the side pocket of my wallet and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill to pay for the girls’ clothes.
My mother had given me the bill a few months ago. “Now remember honey,” she had whispered as she tucked the bill into my hand, “if things get too bad with Jason, you and the girls can always take a bus to your Aunt’s in Indianapolis.”
I had appreciated my mom’s support, but she didn’t understand that with a man like Jason it would take more than a hundred dollars for us to escape his tight grasp. I hated the controlling and abusive way he treated me, but I also knew that he would never let me leave him. My only consolation was that he had never laid a hand on our girls.
As I pulled up to the stop sign that marked the last road before our driveway, I caught sight of several winking red lights in the distance. Adele noticed the lights too and she straightened up in her seat. I had to slow down to a crawl as we came upon the scene of a car accident.
I was thankful that the two little girls had finally fallen asleep in the backseat so they wouldn’t whine about the delay. After a few minutes the road was clear enough for us to pass through. At the police officer’s direction I drove past the accident slowly, hoping that Adele wouldn’t get too much of an eyeful.
The peaceful silence of my car was shattered by an unearthly cry. I looked over at Adele and saw that her face had turned completely white, making her look like a porcelain statue. Over her shoulder I caught a glimpse of Jason’s red sports coupe, wrapped around a snowy tree like a blood-soaked bandage.
At first I was shocked, but the implications slowly weaved themselves together into a thought that made complete sense. I was free! My girls would have to grieve their fathers’ death, but they would never have to learn first-hand what a monster he was.
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