This story is by Janie Miller and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Tildie handed her daisy bouquet to Page, her best friend, keeper-of-secrets, and maid-of-honor, then looked back into Jack’s deep brown eyes. “I do,” she said.
Her 5’6” body was so full of love for him. And his kiss. Tildie could stand on the courthouse lawn and kiss Jack all day. If only she’d known her future.
Two months later, they’d already had a handful of fights over, what Tildie considered, stupid things. One particular evening, Jack came home from work late. And problem #1? Dinner had 20 minutes left to cook.
“What do you mean dinner’s not ready? I’m even late coming home! What’ve you been doing?” Jack’s accusatory tone sounded particularly nasty. Whenever he came home tired, he got like this.
“I worked late too, then had to stop at the store. Come sit down, I’ll rub your shoulders, maybe relieve some of that stress.”
“You don’t get it,” Jack’s voice got louder. “My stress started when I got home. No dinner. Where’s my beer? And you’re looking like….,” he paused.
Tildie retrieved Jack’s first nightly beer. “Be careful which word you choose next Jack. I’m looking like what exactly?”
Jack nonchalantly walked past her then shoulder bumped her into the wall. “Hey, what was that?” Tildie yelled. She went about finishing their meal. He proceeded to spew his wickedness throughout dinner.
She wanted to leave the room but feared his anger. He was good at making her feel less than, yet she said, “Listen, Jack, I’m doing the best I can here.” Tildie yearned for his understanding, “I work full-time too and I’m not always going to get out on time.” Her tears had been pooling up, and finally overflowed.
“And I’m appalled you treat me like this. I don’t care how crappy your day was. You have no right.” She used her napkin to wipe eyeliner and mascara beneath her eyes. For Tildie, the evening got worse.
The mornings after always felt surreal. Jack slept cuddled next to her as if nothing happened. And Tildie, her whole body hurting, prayed to forget. She’d never told anyone but this time was different. Somewhere around 3 am, Tildie decided she’d tell Page.
She moved her body as far away from Jack on the bed as she could and prayed for his alarm to sound. When it came, Jack pulled her body into him, hugged her tightly then kissed her cheek before he rose to shower. If she could only wash her body clean of all he’d done.
Tildie took her phone off the nightstand to text Page, “We need to talk. Very important. Waiting for Jack to leave.”
Within seconds she got a response. “I’ll be waiting.”
Jack left the house and Tildie hit Page’s speed dial. There was hardly a ring when the call connected, “I’m almost there, I’m just passing CJ’s,” a local bar they occasionally enjoyed.
Tildie got her first look at herself in the vanity mirror and gasped. “You’re that close?” she said. Page had never seen her like this. Make-up had always covered up her black eyes and bruises. Her hand touched the darkened areas, which had formed on her face.
“Yes, closer now.”
Before Tildie could speak, she heard Page’s car in the drive, the kitchen side door opened with a bang, within seconds the bedroom door burst open. Tildie knew Page was about to discover her secret.
Page kneeled beside her best friend’s vanity seat and hugged her tightly. Tildie tried not to cringe at the bruise Page’s fingers found with her hug. The pain continued, yet Tildie pressed on, doing her best to hug Page back.
Tildie’s body flinched with pain. Until then, she’d been doing well keeping her beaten face hidden from Page. When Page saw her face, she gently cupped her friend’s bruised cheek in the palm of her hand. “I didn’t want you to know,” Tildie cried.
Turning Tildie’s face toward hers, Page looked into her teary eyes and whispered, “I’ve had a pretty good idea for a while but didn’t know how bad. That make-up can’t fool me.”
“How could I let this happen? How can I still feel love for him? It’s most confusing. What’s the matter with me?”
“Matilda Jane, there will be none of that! People like him know exactly how to manipulate situations so you think it’s your fault. I want you to repeat after me, ‘It’s not my fault.’”
“It’s not my fault,” said Tildie’s meek voice.
“We’ll practice that,” said Page. She walked around Tildie assessing her wounds. “You must be hurting all over.”
A chirp came from Tildie’s phone. It’s Jack. “I’m on my way home to tell you how sorry I am Baby,” she read aloud.
“Page, he always says that. I don’t want to see him.” Page hustled around the bedroom and tossed Tildie jeans and a top.
“Go put cool water on your face,” Page instructed. She put Tildie’s make-up bag into a go-bag, then grabbed extra clothes. They met each other in the hallway.
The side door slammed behind them. By the time Page reached her car, Tildie was already buckled in. Wasting no time backing out of the driveway, Page headed in the opposite direction than Jack would be coming home from work. But three blocks away, they saw Jack’s big black turbo pick-up.
“Where’s he coming from?” Tildie said. He passed Page’s car, then slammed on the brakes, making a turn around in someone’s driveway.
“Oh no!” Tildie screamed. “He saw us. He knows you know.” Her text alert chirped. “Page better stop that @#&$* car. I’ll run her off the road and beat both your asses! You should’ve kept your mouth shut Tildie,” she read the text. “Please Page, don’t stop.”
“No worries there, Honey.” Hoping Jack had yet to get turned around, Page had turned onto two different streets and was coming up to the third. This was a dirt road headed toward the country and she was wanting much more giddy-up in the horse-power than her car was giving her.
Page thought she’d lost him, but the massive cloud of dust in the rearview coming fast, said otherwise. Jack closed the gap between them in short order.
It was scary to look into the rearview and see nothing but a massive chrome grille flanked by two headlights. Both flashing like crazy. His horn blared continuously but was little competition for Jack’s souped-up thundering loud engine and mufflers.
Within seconds, Page’s car lunged forward. Jack hit them square-on from behind, but Page maintained control. The loud bump echoed throughout Page’s vehicle. She glanced toward the passenger seat to check on her friend. “You’ll get through this. You’re a rockstar.”
Tildie, with a wad of tissue in her hand, alternated wiping her runny nose, then her eyes. She gave a weak chuckle, “I feel more like a rock than a star.” The car lunged forward again.
Page held Tildie’s hand. With her attention on the rearview and the surroundings as she drove, she asked, “You trust my driving, right?”
“Of course, you’ve beat every man at every driving competition at the speedway for three years. Why what’s up?”
“Grab your go-bag from the back. When I say so, put it in front of your face. Just hold tight. Okay?”
Page put her unique driving skills to work. She swerved into the left lane hoping Jack would follow. He did. There’d been no oncoming traffic since they’d turned on to this country road. She stepped on the gas, as did he. Page steered her vehicle back into the right lane, making several swerves, he followed each. She was playing cat and mouse with Jack until she found this perfect spot, where the ditches on both sides were eight to ten feet deep. “Ok Tildie, get ready, hold on.”
Page steered her car back to the right side of the road, driving as fast as she safely could to make the sharp turns she was about to. She veered toward the middle and stayed there until the time was right. When the ditches were deepest, she quickly turned the steering wheel toward the left lane. Jack was still close to her tail and mimicked her movements. At the very last second, Page made a hard right. She took advantage of the entire width of the road and just barely made the full turnaround with her car.
As she hoped, Jack’s truck was too wide to make the turn. His truck plowed nose-first into the ditch on the right. All Page could see in her mirrors was his tail end sticking up, almost perpendicular.
Page slowed down. “Page, he’s in the ditch, we should stop. What if he’s hurt?” Tildie said, worrying while she peered out the back window.
“We’re heading to the police station now. If you’d like we can call 9-1-1 for him.”
Tildie thought about her last two months with Jack. She didn’t call.