A young woman deals with an emotionally abusive boyfriend and experiences a moment of clarity when watching a movie.


Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction


Kaitlyn Fraser (United States)

“Baby.” He always called me baby. “Sweet pea, love of my life.” He called after me like a dog, moments away from whistling and clapping to capture my attention. Ignoring him always caused trouble, but I wasn’t up to looking at him. The affection dropped from his voice and he grabbed my jaw between his fingers.

There was no tenderness in his touch. Calloused fingers and rough movements jostled me in my seat on the couch. The cushions gave way under us and I sank deeper. There were holes from his cigarette ashes in the fabric. Freddie wouldn’t let me buy us a new one. Too expensive, he claimed. It was complete bullshit. He spent all our cash on frivolous things and drugs. The least he could do for me was let me buy a piece of furniture that didn’t smell like it was from a dumpster.

“Don’t you fucking ignore me, Junie,” he barked. My eyes stayed locked on a particular burn to keep myself composed. Each word left another pang in my stomach. He was mad and I knew this wasn’t going to be pleasant.

“What, Freddie?” My voice sounded pathetic. His hands hurt my face and my instant reaction was to cry, but he would have picked on me the second a tear dropped. I jittered in place.There was too much caffeine in my system and not enough sustenance. I shook and he mistook it for fear.

“Stop acting so scared of me, Junebug.” He rolled his eyes like I had made some sort of lame joke. There was never any humor between us. “Makes me feel like some big bad wolf.” There was that bark of a laugh again. He was some sort of predator, eyes locked and teeth bared.

“I’m not scared. I just don’t feel good,” I protested. In an effort to save face and avoid conflict, I got up and left to go get us food from the kitchen. It had to be around dinnertime. “Do you have something in mind for supper?” Frozen food and chips took up most of the tiny kitchenette. Freddie couldn’t do shit around the house, let alone cook. I never learned how to from my mother, considering I left home at 17 to be with Freddie. Mom hated him, and I understood why pretty damn quick.

With no response other than a grunt and loud cheering noises from the TV, I went ahead and got something together. His favorite kind of instant rice, his favorite kind of microwave burrito, his beer, his chips. I made a PB&J for myself, going heavy on the peanut butter. Maybe the stickiness would help me hold it together.

I brought his meal out to the coffee table in front of him to the tune of profanities for taking so long.

“You move so fucking slow, babe.” His burrito was half gone within one bite, beans and meat falling out of his mouth and onto the carpet. Without a word, I sat down beside him and ate my own dinner. The shaking had subsided and I felt a little more at ease. He never got upset when he was eating and we let silence settle between us.

The sports game ended and turned to some soap opera style movie. The actors moved across the stage with power and I felt myself emotionally latched onto the main star. She had a softness about her face, but a purposeful touch to her movements. She held a gun in her gloved hand, such a smart move on her part. The dramatic music stopped as the gun fired, knocking her husband to the floor. His blood soaked through his shirt and dripped down onto the carpet. Though the actress stayed still and stony, I recoiled back into the couch out of disgust.. Freddie had made messes worse than that, but he was still breathing.

Her emotions shifted quickly over her face. Fear, confusion, ecstasy, relief, determination. With a classic dramatic glance back at her old flame, she slid on big sunglasses and strode into the sunset without a moment's hesitation. I compared my translucent skin to her tanned and smooth skin. Her mouth rest in a mysterious yet powerful position. My hands ghosted over my own trembling lips, thin and always in a pitiful frown. No one would ask where she had been or what she had been doing. My eyes had glazed over while I thought about that and resettled on Freddie. He was always making those accusations; why was I gone so long, who was on the phone, why was I acting like I was hiding something from him. I could only dream of having the chance to leave him like this woman.

My blood felt curdled and hot under my skin and I scratched at it. My forearms were pink and irritated but I felt a deeper hatred. Freddie kept me warm and happy back at 17. He picked me up from school and took me out to parties with his friends. I was his girl, his babe, his dollface. Whenever he used those pet names I felt a little warm spot in my stomach, but over time and through the fights it died down to a burnt piece of coal. The tiny piece of coal cracked as I looked at his cracked out face, drooling all over himself while he slept. He’d probably look like that even if he was dead. I used to check his heartbeat at night when we first moved in together, but I couldn’t care less if he croaked anymore.

I woke up on the couch the next morning to his mess, plates and bottles all over the table and beside him on the floor. They made a loud clinking noise when I stacked them together to put them in the dishwasher.

There was little to do when it was early in the morning. I typically kept quiet to avoid waking Freddie and rousing the beast. I had been trained to do the chores without a peep or a thud. The blankets were better folded, not tossed around him. Curtains prevented the sunlight from coming in and I threw them open with gusto. It was time to empty the trash bins and put them out on the curb. I tucked away laundry in their proper drawers. I cleaned up the counters and walked backed to Freddie, still out.

The drool had dried in little puddles on his shirt. The saliva created circles with translucent white edges. I stared for a second too long and automatically flinched, afraid he would wake up and roar. The sleeping beast wasn’t to be disturbed.

His snoring turned to sputtering and choking. He woke up with squinty eyes and matted hair.

“Fuck off, you woke me up you bitch!” His yells could have been heard down the street. His hands lunged at me in slow motion and I tripped over the carpet into the kitchenette. Freddie had lost balance when he came for me and tied himself in his blanket. It was a house warming gift from a neighbor but you couldn’t even see the pattern under all the stains. His sleepy clumsiness threw him off and he crashed down at me. I heard a dull thud and he lay still on the linoleum. My eyes stayed scrunched up, waiting for an impact or yelling but none came.

My foot was tickled by a warm feeling that became increasingly unpleasant. Red blood had dripped from the corner of the countertop down to Freddie and pooled around me. I shuddered and push myself away with my feet, seconds away from screaming. My fist found its way to my mouth to stifle the sound and I looked at Freddie, a deep gash across his head with too much blood coming out.

He was dead. He was surrounded in his own pool of blood. He was staining our carpet. Why didn’t I feel like that strong woman from the movie?

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