I have been sitting on the edge of my bed, sightless eyes staring out the window. My vision clears while I watch night
falling. Clammy fingers wipe tears from red rimmed eyes smudging them on my cheeks. I can just make out the first
stars emerging for the evening.  

Twisting his engagement ring on my finger, I feel my chest fill with a heavy sigh and watch the fiery sun sink below the
horizon, carrying my spirits with it. Sobbing, I am being abandoned by the light; the Sun’s slow departure is leaving me
to a darkness that’s blacker than my soul.

An off shore summer breeze momentarily lifts and floats the curtains into the room, scattering dust motes in its wake.
Outside street lamps have been turned on and their bright halos gild the curtain’s lacy perforations. In the silence,
patterns of convoluted threads swim before me.

I am not alone in the room. He is sitting in the chair, head back and slack-jawed. Blood, draining from a wound stains his
chest. I watched his face change from anger to surprise when I shot him. Even with the gun in my hand, he didn’t think I
could actually do it. I warned him that his anger was toxic, that he was pushing me too far. He stood, angry lines
furrowing his face, fists clenched at his side throwing words at me; each bitter word building upon another, until I
couldn’t stand it any longer. That was the moment everything spiraled out of control.  

I remember he began to move towards me, his soft brown eyes wide and unconcerned; the hint of a smile playing on his
lips. Then the room exploded with the sound of a gunshot. The look in his eyes changed, they shifted away from mine
and traveled to the middle of his chest where a ruby stain was spreading on his white tee shirt. Open-mouthed in shock,
his pupils dilating, he stared at me with dumb disbelief. Then without another word he tumbled backwards into the
chair.

I have been sitting on the bed for hours, my elbows resting on my knees, hands folded in prayer. But the prayers can’t
be spoken. I have killed him. I cannot expect comfort from anyone, ever again. How did it come to this? When did it
start, we were supposed to have been made for each other. He always told me I was his soul mate.  

I smile with this gentle memory, a soft laugh dribbles from my lips, but rings hollow in the room. I am laughing because,
with one gunshot, I have killed my husband. In one frantic moment I escaped from him and freed my love’s soul
forever. Somehow this new concept, this reversal in our relationship seems quite funny. Timid me lives and my strong
spouse is dead. Funny isn’t it, he can’t hurt me, is that why I’m laughing at the irony?

The pillows on the bed, plump and soft, catch my eye. Weary, I fall on them and brush the damp hair from my forehead.
Sweat stained and exhausted; my eyes close and I disappear into a deep dreamless sleep. It seems I’ve only been asleep
for moments when I awaken with a start. I can feel the mattress sag beneath me, the bed springs squealing in protest.
Someone is sitting beside me.

In the dim light a shadowy form is outlined by the street lamps outside the window. A hand grabs me by the throat, a
strong hand. I try to scream, but there is not enough air for me to make a sound. He is squeezing the breath from me. I
am his prisoner, trapped in his grasp I grow limp. The coppery odor of blood fills the bedroom. His cold fingers feel
sticky against my flesh. I shiver in fear and then he releases me. Freed, gulping air into my starving lungs, I throw my
legs over the edge of the bed and sit up. The shadow figure is nowhere to be seen.  

Holding my bruised throat, I scan the darkened bedroom. Squinting into the corner I scream. The chair is empty, he is
gone. Trembling I stand up and run to the door, I need to be surrounded by people. He’s very much alive and I know he
wants to hurt me. Stepping into the hallway I pull the door closed behind me. Leaning against it my flesh is clammy and
my heart is beating so fast I can feel it pounding through my back and against the wooden door. The rapid thumping in
my chest isn’t delivering enough blood to my brain and the hallway swims before my eyes.

Taking in a deep breath to steady my nerves I glance to the left. The empty hallway stretches before me. The only route
of escape for this floor is the staircase, at the end of the darkened passage. Feeling along the wall, I locate the light
switch and flick the toggle up and down several times, but the hallway remains dark.

The silence is broken when I hear the sound of a door hinge squeaking some where between me and the stairwell.
Perspiration trickles down my brow, the salt reaching my eyes burns. Moisture collects in the hollow at the base of my
throat and slides down between my breasts. A strangling sound escapes from my lips as the attic door swings open, the
knob hitting the wall with enough force to shatter the plaster.

Terrified, I know, I cannot remain here. Removing my heels and carrying them in my hand, I cautiously place one foot
in front of the other and move towards the staircase. Reaching the open attic door I pause for a moment before
crossing. I see the shape of the steps ascending towards the attic. Taking in a deep breath, I step across the opening.
Startled by a groaning floorboard at the top of the attic steps I look up. He’s standing on the landing, his figure
silhouetted against the attic windows. His arms are extended towards me, his fingers groping the empty air as if to
ensnare me. My screams echo along the hall, but I can’t muffle them.  

Racing down the carpet, I reach the top of the staircase. Holding onto the banister I take the steps two at a time.
Halfway down I pause, gasping for air, my breathing coming ragged and shallow. Suddenly I feel icy cold fingers touch
my back and push me. Thrown off balance I tumble down and onto the landing. Scrambling to my feet I see him
standing on the staircase, his mouth open in a silent, mirthless laugh, his wicked eyes fixed on me.

My knees are bruised and bleeding from the fall. My wrist throbs and my ankle is beginning to swell and it hurts to stand
on it. I feel a knot on my forehead, but my injuries can’t be allowed to stop me. Limping across the foyer towards the
front door, I look back at the stairs. He is gone. Opening the door I step out and cross the porch, the pain is crippling,
each step is agony. Holding my injured wrist against my chest I make my way across the lawn and enter the garage. The
car keys are back in the house, but we keep an extra key in a little magnetic box under the car’s front fender. The garage
is dark. The only light comes from a bank of windows in the garage door.

The car—a Buick—gleams in the dim light. I was always jealous of the car. It was his baby, his pride and joy, a thing he
thought more of than me. Reaching under the fender I locate the case, remove the keys and unlock the driver’s side
door and sit inside with a groan. My body aches and my head is throbbing in pain. I insert the key and twist it, the engine
leaps into life. Holding the steering wheel, my foot pressing on the gas pedal, blue smoke begins to fill the garage.
Removing my foot I pull out the dashboard’s knob, turning on the headlights.  

He is standing by the car’s front bumper, the brightness exploding over his bloody tee shirt. Pressing his knuckles
against the hood he leans towards me. His eyes are rolled back into his head, exposing the whites. His slack jaw hangs
open.

Screaming I panic and press the garage door button, but the door won’t open; it isn’t responding to the controller.
Looking through the sun roof, I see the garage door’s plug hanging from the ceiling. He has disabled the motor, I am
trapped.  

My thoughts return to our life together. All those years of abuse, the beatings, the humiliation I’ve had to endure.
Trapped in a loveless marriage I suffered until I snapped and shot him and now even in death, he won’t let me go.

His head wobbling on his neck, his knuckles tracking across the car body, he moves down the driver’s side. His terrible,
sightless, dead, white eyes are focused on mine. Reaching my door he squats and peers through the window at me; tears
of frustration burn my eyes. Terrified my breath comes in rapid bursts. Exhausted and hurting, I surrender, close my
eyes and lean back in the car seat. The motor is running and the trapped exhaust is backing up into the car.

Coughing I turn my head towards him, “Damn you, damn your soul to Hell, Carl!”  

I chuckle thinking, if there could be any winner in this tragedy, it would be me. The abuse is over I have escaped; he will
no longer be able to hurt me again. I am at peace until—as if in a dream—I hear my daughter’s voice!

Her words, at first, are soft and then become more insistent, “Mom, Mom wake up, please wake up!”

My eyes open, I am on a stretcher, a mask covers my lower face and droplets of moisture coat the inside. I am not alone.

Carl’s body lies covered within a zippered bag next to me, my daughter’s tear-stained face hovers over mine.

“Daddy’s gone Mom. They said it was his heart. They say it just gave out.”

Her breath catches and she continues, “He must have been in another of his rages. But Mom, why would you try to kill
yourself too?”

I smile up at her through my own blinding tears, I did not kill him! He killed himself, God forgive him his sins, but at last
I am free of him.  

Above in the musty attic, Carl stands in front of the window, his arms crossed, looking down, watching…waiting.