This story is by Doug Smith and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A Necessary Surrender
Lexi Cavendish was panicking as she guided her big ‘74 Cadillac along an open stretch of the Trans Canada highway, her petite figure lost in the vast real estate of the old car’s interior. Hot air through the open window blasted her face and messed her short auburn hair, dried tears and streaks of mascara from her large brown eyes baked onto her cheeks. It was early afternoon, midsummer and the prairie sky was cloudless. The sun beat down on the flat, treeless landscape, the temperature soaring into the high thirties celsius. She was headed west from Regina, Saskatchewan with no final destination and no sense of hope. She was in trouble and it wasn’t the first time.
The day had started like too many others Lexi had endured. Shaun, her boyfriend, woke in a bad mood. He stormed into the kitchen where Lexi was making coffee.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he screamed. Lexi jumped and spun around.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“My shirt and pants are still not ironed. I told you last night I have an interview this morning and I needed clean clothes. Jesus Christ.” He slammed a cupboard door. It took very little to set him off since he returned from Iraq.
“Alright. I’ll do it right now. Calm down,” Lexi said as she tried to squeeze by him.
“It should have been done already,” he shouted as he body-checked her against the refrigerator. He grabbed her face, squeezing her jaw tightly in his right hand then, clutching her by the shoulders, pushed her across the room. She crashed into the bifold doors of the pantry cracking the thin wooden slats.
“Shaun stop it. You’re scaring me,” she pleaded.
“I don’t give a shit if I’m scaring you, you stupid bitch. I asked you to do one thing and you fucked it up.” He pushed her backwards, the edge of the counter crashing into the small of her back. He pushed harder until she was bent so far back her feet left the floor. He struck her across the face with his open palm then raised his arm a second time closing his fist before bringing it down on her chin.
As her head swung sideways from the blow she saw a steak knife on the counter by the sink. Any reasoning or judgement she had was now lost to fear, reflex action taking over. She stretched her arm as far as she was able to reach under his tight grip and grasped the knife. In a fit of panic she plunged the long chrome blade deep into his abdomen until only the plastic handle protruded. Three times the knife found its target and each time Lexi screamed in terror, “Stop it, stop it, stop it.”
The room went eerily quiet with even the white noise of the outside traffic absent. Shaun staggered on rubber legs as he clutched his stomach, staring at his hands bloody and shaking. He glared at Lexi as she backed away, his eyes wide and pleading.
“What the fuck, Lex” he stammered as his legs gave way and, as if in slow motion, he passed out and fell to the floor. Lexi collapsed against the refrigerator, petrified. What have I done? She sat staring blankly across the room before crawling on all fours to Shaun’s limp body, lifeless in an ever-widening pool of blood. She stroked his forehead. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
“You used to be so sweet and kind, Shauny. What did they do to you?” she sobbed.
The kilometers sped by for half an hour until Lexi reached the small town of Belle Plaine. She had to get off the main road and find a secluded spot. She drove just past the town limits and headed north on a range road away from the heavy traffic of the busy highway. A few minutes later she turned right again heading east on an even more remote stretch of farmland.
She pulled the big car to the side of the road as far to the right as she could and shut off the purring motor. She sat motionless in the brutal afternoon heat trying to make sense of her racing thoughts. I could say it was self defense. He attacked me like he did so many times. He could have killed me this morning. I snapped. She reached into a canvas shopping bag resting on the bench seat beside her and fished out a partial bottle of vodka. She unscrewed the cap and took a long pull, the alcohol searing her dry throat. No, they never believe the woman in these cases. I’ll spend the next twenty years rotting in jail. I’ve had it. I can’t go back to jail.
Her time spent at the Edmonton Institution for Women years earlier still gripped her with terror. She was haunted by images of women, much harder and meaner than she was, their eyes always fearful, their actions unpredictable and violent, their expressions empty of hope. I cannot go back there. I can’t. I’m done.
After months of physical and emotional abuse from Shaun and after years of the black dog of depression gnawing on her soul she knew in her heart that her next decision was an easy way, perhaps the only way to fix this bad situation. She was exhausted. The fight was gone, her spirit broken, floating away on the hot prairie breeze. She was resigned to what she convinced herself had to be done. She closed her eyes and wept until a strange peace overcame her.
She surveyed the scenery outside to make sure she was alone. She exited the car, opened the trunk and retrieved a long length of three inch wide hose, a hose-clamp and a roll of duct tape she had purchased earlier. Looking around again she knelt on the road, the coarse gravel biting into the skin on her knees and pushed one end of the hose securely over the tailpipe. She fastened it snuggly then guided the remaining length of hose under the car and up to the passenger side window. She was careful to make it as inconspicuous as possible in case someone drove by. She rolled down the window and fed the hose into the car sealing the open window gap with layers of duct tape. She sat behind the steering wheel and sighed deeply.
In the distance a pickup truck approached her parked vehicle from the east, a plume of light dust following like a ghost. Shit! Where the hell did he come from? The driver, a young man in his twenties, most likely a local farmhand, slowed the truck beside her car and rolled down the window.
“You okay, missy?” he asked, leaning out of the window. “I have a CB radio if you’re in trouble. There’s no cell reception out here.” He pointed to the cloudless sky.
“I’m fine,” Lexi replied, shifting her body to block the hose in the passenger side window. “Just taking a break from driving.”
“You’re sure out in the middle of nowhere. Where you headed?”
“Um…I’m going to get back on the Trans Canada and head to Moose Jaw. Just needed to get off the highway for a while,” she lied.
“Well you sure got off the highway alright way the hell out here,” the young man said. “I’ll leave you to it, then. Take care of yourself.”
“Thanks for stopping. I appreciate it,” Lexi said. The young man rolled up his window but hesitated, examining the car from one end to the other before finally continuing on his way.
Lexi rifled through the canvas bag and retrieved two bright orange pill bottles; one containing Temazepam, the sleeping pills Doctor Morrison had prescribed for her and the other Xanax for her anxiety. She shook a small handful of each into her palm like Tic Tacs and washed them down with several generous gulps of Vodka. She gasped then gagged but managed to keep the toxic mixture down.
She turned the key in the ignition and the powerful engine roared to life. Pale white smoke wafted into the car’s interior. She was taking no chances as the combination of poisons would surely do the job of ending her pain, quietly, peacefully, painlessly. She settled into her seat and pulled the lever to recline it.
It didn’t take long for the world to soften at the edges and within minutes she became lightheaded, disoriented and nauseous. Minutes clicked by and her eyelids, heavy as lead, began to close. Her head lobbed sideways touching the car’s door frame. She glanced at the side mirror where she saw in the far off distance, the spastic flashing of red and blue lights. She could hear the faint whine of sirens. Were the approaching police officers her saviours or were they her captors? Her eyes closed gently. Her breathing, shallow as a springtime puddle, stopped. She would never know.