If I knock on this door I honestly believe that he’s going to kill me. Not figuratively. Not the cute “he’s going to kill me” I hear other women use when they go shopping. He’s literally going to end my life.
I don’t really remember the walk from the bus stop. I’m really not sure if that was due to the alcohol or the fear. Usually one cancels the other out — or tries to anyway — but not this time. I could feel them both coursing through my body and my head. Especially my head. I just stood there for a bit, staring at the door. Even in my current state I knew what I wanted to do, or thought I did anyway. I just needed to raise my hand up and knock, then there’s no going back. I’d be free.
I closed my eyes and felt that goofy grin get a little bigger. I kept them closed for a bit and breathed in deep, taking in the Georgia air. I’d miss that smell.
The door started making noises. It’s tumblers clicking and clacking as it unlocked. Last chance, the little voice whispered in the back of my head. You can still run. Running always works.
“No it doesn’t. I’m done running,” I told it.
“That’s great honey,” came an amused voice from the doorway. “Because you’re gonna have a hard time running, passed out on my doorstep like that.”
I forced my eyes back open and found myself looking up into the very pretty, and currently bemused, face of my best friend. The expression on her face made me laugh, which only made my head spin a little faster. I took a few deep breaths to get things to hold a bit more still, and tried to push my unruly hair out of my face.
“Hey, Chrissie,” I said with a bit of a laugh, and reached my hands up towards her.
Christine took them and with some effort pulled me up to my feet. My momentum pulled us right into an embrace, and I gave her a ferocious hug.
“Oh honey, what did he do this time?” Christine put her arms around me and hugged back. I winced in pain and had to pull away. Her face instantly changed from worry to anger. Grabbing me by the wrist she pulled me inside and closed the door behind us. “Come on, let me see. How bad is it?”
I pushed her hands away halfheartedly. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop her at this point, and this time I really didn’t want to. Leaning back against the door I raised my arms over my head and let Christine pull up my scrubs. I heard her suck the air in between her teeth when she saw the purple and black bruise blossoming on my left side. By the time I had pulled my top over my head, her face had taken on that clinical calm we both had learned on the job.
“How bad does it hurt? Does it hurt when you breathe? When did this happen?”
I might have laughed then, if it wouldn’t have hurt so much. Watching Christine change from a worried friend to a professional nurse in the blink of an eye made me wonder if I ever looked half as competent in front of my own patients. I smiled down at her as she looked me over. It was nice to have someone that actually worried about me. My smile disappeared quickly, however, as Chrissie started to prod my ribs.
“Ow! Enough!” I declared as I pushed her hands away and stumbled through the living room to the nearest couch. I plopped down into the welcoming cushions, finally resting my aching feet. “It hurts, but it’s just bruised, not broken. It was yesterday morning, and I made it through my shift, ok?”
Now angry, she stood over me by the couch. “You went to work like that? You should have admitted yourself to a bed, not worked a full shift! God, why didn’t you show that to one of the docs?” Her eyes started to water as she continued, “Why don’t they ever notice? Why don’t they help you?”
I took Christine’s hands and pulled her down to sit beside me. “Because he never leaves a mark where anyone can see, you know that.” I smiled and tried a little laugh to reassure her, but I think it came out a little more hysterical than I meant it to. “So thoughtful, my husband.”
She tore her hands away. “Husband? He doesn’t deserve to call himself that!” She balled her hands into fists, and I could see them shaking. “You work your ass off at the hospital! He just sits on his and gets high with his loser friends!”
“Amen, preacher lady,” I said as I pulled a half empty bottle out of my purse. “And not a bad idea right now. Come get drunk with your loser friend.”
“Shut up! You are not a loser!”
The bottle stopped before it could reach my lips. She had screamed that at me. I hadn’t expected that reaction. I tried another laugh. “Easy, Chrissie…”
“No! No easy this time! I can’t watch this anymore, Betty!” She stood over me now, hands on her hips. She was still angry, but I could see tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes. “You are my best friend in the entire world, but I can’t sit around and watch you go through this. It’s time for you to wake up and get your head out of your ass.”