This story is by Kathleen A Zoldak and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Flight to Freedom
Tick, tick, tick – the damn clock sounded like Big Ben in her ear – almost midnight and her heart was pounded with each tick.
Thank goodness the one decent thing she could count on was her husband’s habits- he’d had the same routine day in and day out for ten years. Tonight, Tuesday, was no exception – out with the “boys” and home at 11:30 pm smelling like scotch and another woman’s perfume. He’d stumbled into the bedroom, his police uniform landing wherever he threw it and flopped into bed. Susan lay as close to her side as possible trying to imitate the breath of sleep.
Ron would get up once during the night for water and aspirin and then back to sleep until morning. She lay there listening to the clock getting even louder – tick, tick, ticking away the minutes – God, please give me the strength to do this because it’s now or never. She prayed that he would follow the same pattern – if everything went as planned, tonight was the last night she would ever sleep in this bed again. She’d begun getting ready for her escape weeks ago though her heart had urged her to leave for several years.
Susan planned everything (she hoped) down to the last detail. She did not want the children to see another terrible fight; he was a bully when sober and that much worse when he’d been out with the his fellow comrades in uniform. Suitcases were packed for each of the three kids – essentials and a favorite toy only; her suitcase was already in the SUV. She’d made sure nothing seemed to be out of place any time he was home – extra school supplies had been hidden along with some new clothes for the kids. Just the essentials – a little money, a place to go where they would be safe and a warm loving family to greet them.
Their oldest, Chris, had been told; she would need his help in getting the girls out to the car, tucked in and back to sleep and to finish loading their things. While she had taken the brunt of her husband’s abuse, her son, her firstborn, suffered the rest of his father’s rage. This beautiful child had to grow up too quickly and was at once wise beyond his years and still so tenderly vulnerable. His heart hurt as much for himself as it did for his mother. She knew he was scared, more so for her if they were caught but this was their one chance and he would do what she asked.
The clock kept ticking – oh God, her head was going to explode! Two more hours and then the freedom she had dreamt of for so long.
The abuse had started early on in their relationship; after each episode he would apologize and promise never to do it again. She would believe him because she loved him so much but deep in her being she knew it would happen again. Her dad was a cop too and she’d watched her mom take the same kind of abuse for years. Susan had learned how to protect herself, though, and had earned her conceal carry permit years ago. She still practiced and carried her little .38 Special.
They married and all seemed well until their first child, Chris, came along. Now she was a full time mother and Ron was no longer the center of her universe – so it seemed to him. Susan tried to draw her husband into the role of proud papa but he shied away from the baby. He had as little to do with Chris as possible but certainly enjoyed the attention from the other mothers in the neighborhood. Nothing like a big burly cop rocking his infant son to have the ladies cooing all over him – and he ate it up.
The surface of their marriage seemed pleasant enough – and it was for awhile. Baby number two made a surprise appearance and Susan felt their foundation begin to crack. Harsh words and criticisms appeared more frequently in his language toward her. A fist too close to her face, a lunge to scare her, another “playful” smack and then bruises where no one else could see them. The abuse came more frequently and more violently and he knew just how far he could go.
Susan told her mother a little of what was happening. “Just try not to rock the boat, try to be a little sexier, keep the house clean and make sure dinner is ready when he gets home” were her mother’s words to her. Susan tried these things, a new nightie, more attention to Ron and life seemed to calm for awhile. Baby number three came along and now she had one in kindergarten and two in diapers – what should have been a joyous time became a nightmare. Ron grew more violent; the harder she tried, the worse he got. She wanted a divorce and he threatened to kill her if she tried to leave him.
Ron stirred and then stumbled to the bathroom, right on schedule. Her heart was pounding and she just knew he could hear it; she tried to breathe slowly and quietly, laying on her side away from him. Tears ran silently down her face – both from fear and the terrible sadness of breaking up her family. He came back to bed mumbling something and went right back to sleep.
Another 30 minutes of listening to the clock tick tick ticking away and then sliding silently out of bed, she grabbed her clothes and headed to the hall bath to change. Rousing Chris they moved the suitcases down to the car, grabbing food she’d already bagged up. With everything packed the hard part was getting the girls safely out of the house without waking them. The baby was a light sleeper so Susan took her, bundling her in her comfiest blanket. Lauren, the two year old, could sleep through anything; Chris had a hard time getting her up and down the stairs – he was too young and she too heavy to carry. They slipped once on the stairs and Lauren let out a cry.
“Oh God”, Susan’s heart was going to blow up right in her chest – she stopped dead still and listened – did Ron hear Lauren’s cry? Would he get up to that sound? Waiting several minutes, there was no response so she finished helping Chris and Lauren to the car.
With all three kids tucked into their seats, she went back into the house for one last look – memories flooded back to her – their first date, the first time they made love – the first “I love you”. The bad memories came back as well, the beatings, the forced sex, the humiliation in front of their friends and family and she knew she had one last thing to do.
Back up the stairs one last time – she wasn’t a cop’s kid for nothing and knew Ron would not rest until he found her – letting your wife and family leave you was as big a blow to a cop’s ego as there ever was. She could not rest until there was no threat left.
She knew he would be waiting for her and he did not disappoint her. She’d moved the bedroom mirror earlier in the day and could see his reflection – she knew right where he was and saw his pistol in his hand, waiting for her. Susan’s breath automatically calmed – she’d practiced this for months; turning the corner into their bedroom, she aimed and fired.
“911 – what’s your emergency?”