This story is by Jodi Elderton and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Her eyelids fluttered open and the bright glare of the light made her head throb even more. The blurry vision cleared as she focused on the face in front of her.
“Kelli, do you know where you’re at?” Ms. James voice sounded soothing.
She touched the swathe of bandages around her head. “Hospital?”
“Do you remember what happened?”
“I hurt myself?” She attempted a weak smile, but it was too was painful. She knew the drill; the Inquisition was about to begin. She didn’t remember exactly what happened. She knew she had to get it right. Good enough to buy herself some time to feel a little better, but not good enough to get him arrested. She had her own plans for Sam.
The physician came in the room. “Kelli, I have good news. Your CT is negative and… “
“I get to go home, “Kelli interrupted. If she was gone too long there would be hell to pay.
“I’d like to keep you overnight for observation. Not only did you pass out but, that’s quite a hematoma you have. You’ve been here for stitches 3 times in the last four months. I was hoping you’d take a moment to talk to Ms. James, the caseworker about it.”
Ms. James perched on the end of her chair, nodded in agreement.
“I leave you to it then. Hope everything works out,” as he left the room.
“Kelli,” Ms. James took a deep breath. “We’ve had this conversation before.”
“What conversation?” Of course, she remembered but she could use the head injury to her advantage.
“You need to leave him or you’re going to die. Last time, he killed your dogs. This time, a lamp to the head. Next time, it’s going to be you. She lingered on the last word for effect. And, may I be frank?”
Who says that anymore? It was feeling like a scene from a Lifetime movie. Kelli liked to call it the “Victim Channel.”I’ve never thought of myself as a victim, more as a battle-scarred survivor. She became aware of the awkward silence during her inner musings and snapped out of it. “Well, that’s never stopped you before.”
“I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already.”
“Well, I know he won’t kill me.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“That’s a no-brainer. He said I’m not worth the effort to kill.” This was true, but she didn’t believe it anymore. Each outburst of his was worse than the last. She wanted to run and never look back, but there was Mia, her fourteen-year-old sister. Mia kept her playing the role of the dutiful, beaten up wife. She wanted to keep her safe. For the first time, in a long time, Kelli had a reason to live.
“That’s it. That’s the best you’ve got?”
“Gonna have to do. I’ve got to go.”
“The doc says he’s going to admit you.”
“Nope. Not gonna happen.” Kelli flung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up quickly.
Her knees buckled and she caught herself by grabbing the bed rail.
Ms. James gave her the, “I told you so,” expression and pushed the call button.
“May I help you?”
“Would you please send the nurse in to talk some sense into this patient? She almost passed out.”
“We’ll send someone in, “replied the crisp voice.
Moments later her nurse came in the room. “Kelli, how are you feeling?”
“I won’t lie. Not so great. I stood up too fast.” Well, I would lie but got to mix in some truth to be believable. I feel like utter shit and I want out of here. I’ll get an even worse beating if I don’t go home soon. He’s waiting in the parking lot for me. He knows better than to go inside. If I stay too long, he’ll think I’ve been talking and get all pissy.
“Kelli?” The nurse gently touched her shoulder.
“Oh, I’m good enough to go home. I just need rest.”
“Don’t you want to press charges?” Ms. James interjected.
“No. No, I don’t. It’s my right to refuse and you can tell that to the cop in the hallway. Don’t mean to be rude, but I need to go now. Bring on the forms. I’ll sign them.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” said the nurse. She didn’t recognize the woman but it appeared Kelli’s reputation proceeded her. She held the clipboard out to Kelli who lost no time signing the paper. She hesitated before climbing into the wheelchair offered to her. He would probably give her crap about that, too.
Sam was all smiles as he pulled up to the curb. His dark brown eyes sparkled, and for a moment he looked like the man she adored before he went to war. His striking appearance turned heads. “Hey, baby. Let’s go home. Thank you, nurse, for taking such good care of my girl. She means the world to me. She’s a keeper.”
Even the nurse who had been scowling at him succumbed to his charms and smiled reflexively. “You’re welcome.”
His smile vanished as soon as the car door closed and the nurse turned her back. “So, what the hell? You were in there 30 minutes longer than usual. Am I going to get a visit from the cops? Remember our deal. You behave and nothing unfortunate happens to your little sister.” He punched the accelerator to emphasize his point, sending the cherry red Corvette racing out of the parking lot.
Her head pounded and her stomach protested by ejecting its contents all over the passenger’s side.
“Holy shit Kelli, now you really owe me. I just had this baby detailed.”
“My apologies,” she said trying to sound sincere. Inwardly, she raged. The fuse to her rebellion was lit several months ago when she saw his lingering gaze on Mia as she modeled her new pair of shorts for them. Last month, he found their plane tickets, tore them up, and threatened to, “end Mia,” if they ever tried to leave again. His final point was a jab to Kelli’s jaw. After that, he learned to take off his ring, so it wouldn’t cut her.
He reached over and grabbed the scarf from around her neck. “Ouch, Sam. Watch it!” Her neck felt like it was on fire.
“Or what? Clean that shit up!” He tossed her scarf on to the floorboard of the car and started off on a tirade about how much it was going to cost to get the car detailed again. He roared, “Hey, are you listening to me?”
I can’t remember that I ever loved him. I must have.The fury was hot and hasty, as it bubbled up and spilled down her cheeks. She used to just take it until Mia moved in after their grandmother died. “Yah, sorry.”
“You don’t sound sorry.”
“I am, really.” I want to make you sorry. Make you suffer like we have. But I have to be sure. I don’t know if I can pull this off by myself, but there’s no one else.
“So, bitch, clean it up!” He gave her shoulder a shove with his free hand. As he did, the car swerved onto the side of the road and back onto the highway within seconds.
Holding her head, she leaned forward and began to mop the mess up, trying to stifle the bile rising in her throat. Sensing the motion of the car, she felt a glimmer of hope. She looked out the window. They were nearing the bridge, as the moon illuminated the surrounding lake. Maybe…
Sam now had both hands on the wheel. It was going to be more difficult. Kelli wished he would stop talking. His voice grated on her last nerve. “I told Mia to have something ready for dinner. Guess you won’t be eating much, huh? He laughed. “Mia sure is a looker. She reminds me of you when we first met. Hot. I think she’s a keeper.”
His last words sent a jolt through her. How do I keep Mia safe? If I stay he may kill me so he can have her. If we try to leave, he’ll kill her. I don’t know if I can take him out myself. Where’s the win here?
Without a word, Kelli unfastened her seat belt, leaned over close to Sam and whispered something in his ear. He leered at her, as he slid his hand up her skirt. By the time he realized what was happening, it was already too late. Both of her hands were on the wheel. She jerked it violently with all her strength. As the car hurtled into the frigid waters, Kelli’s heart was crushed by the impact and the thought Mia would be alone again. Her only consolations were Sam’s frantic screams in between obscenities and the knowledge Mia was free. He couldn’t keep her.