For the Love of a Child

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 knocked.
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.”

5 thoughts on “For the Love of a Child

  1. RGAustin says:

    Not hooked at all by the cliche victim wife that puts on the brave face to the world, or the deadbeat husband, or the wise, strong, understanding friend coming to the rescue. I really liked the opening lines, especially the first one which was a good hook… but, sorry, not much afterwards. She’s a victim of her man and a drunk? I can’t like her any less, unless she later kills puppies.

  2. Bjorn Schievers says:

    This flows nicely and was very easy to read. I do feel like this story could work even through I’m not hooked yet. Your title is ‘For The Love Of A Child’. Is the main character pregnant? Maybe you could hook me by doing something with that in the opening paragraphs.

    I can empathize with a woman who’s being abused, it happens all too often in reality. But as a reader it’s hard to sympathize with someone who’s an alcoholic. I suggest you show the MC attending an AA meeting in the opening scene. That makes it easier to route for her because then she’s not just some victim, she’s a recognizable person to whom bad things happened but she’s fighting for herself. In that same AA scene you can still reveal she’s being abused. Her best friend can even be there.

    I would also need a stronger hook to read this story because abuse and alcoholism is so common I sort of feel like I’ve heard it all before. I also worry I’m going to get a lecture about how hard the life of women is. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I’m saying this only in the interest of an interesting story.

    • Pete Budic says:

      So while I’m a few videos behind I’ve learned quite a bit these two weeks, and mainly that my first 1000 words is probably the weakest of what I have written so far 🙂

      Betty isn’t an alcoholic, she hardly drinks. The whiskey bottle is her husband’s favorite, which she basically took as a trophy as she walked out for the last time. She’s drunk so easily since this is not something she does. Of course, this is all explained in the next 1000 words 🙂 There is a reason she stayed so long, and it helps to explain her flaw. But in reality, the relationship with the husband is a sub-plot, although there are things like that whiskey bottle that are important to the story later.

      The title reflects more on the main plot of how after she moves, her new nurse friend convinces her that they need to swap out the newborn child of a famous actress with the one of the young unmarried couple — yeah, there’s a reason for that too 🙂 It touches a bit (maybe), on how Betty wanted a child — but definitely not the focus. More on the antagonist’s *need* for a child.

      So I think I need to figure out a better way to hook the reader in the beginning, but I don’t want too much of the “real” story to come out quickly. I’ve just been writing it sequentially, and I don’t know if starting in the middle and flashing back is the right way to go — but I think that might be where I end up. I think I’ll try to finish it (only 10k words in right now) to make sure all the threads of the plot knit up nicely, then go back and try to find the right hook.

      Thanks for your comments, and don’t worry, this is not going to be about how hard the life of a woman is (and no puppies will be killed, I swear!), but rather how she can overcome her flaw of taking care of others at the expense of herself — and the body count leans *much* higher with dead men as well 🙂

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi Pete,
    I actually liked most of your intro and I think it works fine, while needing a few tweaks. The MC didn’t come across as an alcoholic – I assumed she’d been drinking to drown her pain a bit, not that she is a habitual drinker. I liked her as a character. If found the friend a bit melodramatic though. A few points:
    You need to clarify whose door she is knocking on. This was really confusing. We think it’s the husbands door, and that he is going to attack her when he opens it. Then you say that she will be ‘free’ by which you mean dead, but again, adds to the confusion. And then it is the friend’s door – more confusion. I get that is mean to be a surprise, but it’s not working.
    Careful of ‘it’s tumblers clicking…’ it’s = it is therefore it should not have an apostrophe.

    I like the way you reveal that the MC is a nurse. Chrissy needs to be concerned, but presumably she is also used to this so her fury is perhaps over the top and you could tone it down and add in some frustration with Betty for not leaving him or seeking medical help etc.

    I think you have a good beginning with some polishing, but my overall advice would be to be understated to avoid tipping over into melodrama.

  4. stevenlempriere says:

    I was a bit confused by the alcohol thing too; the line “Usually one cancels the other out — or tries to anyway — but not this time.” Suggest to me that your main character is a habitual drinker, and I see that’s not how you want to portray her. Aart from that I found it easy to read and would definitely like to see more and how the story develops from this point.

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