Day 11 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Better Man by Pearl Jam
Shannon: You need to tell him you’re leaving. You can do this. You are brave. You are important. Willow repeated her pep talk for the hundredth time. He can’t change your mind again. Not this time.
She heard his car pull into the driveway from the bedroom, and immediately her throat started to burn. As he opened the front door and dropped his keys on the table, her hands started to shake. What if I’m wrong? What if my life only gets worse without him? She made an attempt to steady her hands. She took in deep breaths as she counted his footsteps on the stairs. Five more steps, she closed her eyes and in one quiet movement laid back down and covered herself with the blanket. She couldn’t do it. She was a coward who wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
She decided to sleep, too depressed to do anything else. Not long after she heard him turn away to let her rest, she was transported to a different land. Finding herself in a cabin where she was cozying up to the fireplace, memorized by the flames. A man interrupted her with a gift of hot chocolate and she offered him the spot next to her. His eyes were crystal blue, a stark contrast from her husband’s deep brown.
“You’re beautiful,” he praised her as took her first sip. She smiled behind the cup. “Where have you been hiding,” he questioned, lighting up her heart. “Run away with me,” he tempted her.
She laughed. “I don’t know you,” she shook her head.
“You will,” he put out his hand.
That was all she needed. She took his hand and they started running through the building. He lead her outside into the snow, and somehow it wasn’t cold. He picked some up and tossed it in the air above her head letting it fall around her like white glitter. He did the same above his own head and grabbed her hand tightly. They began to float, making her weightless. She felt alive and happy for the first time in a long time. “Willow, Willow,” she heard her name trying to figure out where it was coming from. As it continued she finally realized she was dreaming and had no choice but to go back to her real life.
“I’m sorry about last night. I love you,” he kissed her forehead the second she opened her eyes.
“I love you too,” she lied, wishing he hadn’t woken her up, but she couldn’t live in her dreams forever.
“Are you going to make diner,” he asked with an encouraging smile.
She wanted to cry, but just nodded, finally getting up.
Erin: “You need to leave him,” Liza took a swig of her straight black coffee.
“He said he’s never done this before,” I continued to leave my latté untouched.
“He didn’t have to do it before. He did it last night,” Liza continued to be harsh.
“He’s my fiancé,” I reminded.
“Exactly, which means yours is the only action he should be getting. End of story,” she rolled her eyes.
“Be quiet,” I looked to make sure no one else in the coffee shop was listening. “He is going to be my husband.”
“Have a little respect for yourself, you don’t need to be with a jerk like him,” she let out a grunting scream. “You deserve someone great.”
“Do I deserve kids and my beautiful wedding,” I asked suddenly having a hard time breathing.
“Yes of course, you deserve the world,” she smiled a soft smile.
“I’m 34 he’s the only one who’s going to give me that,” a few tears dropped from my eyes as the realization hit me of what I had said. This was not how my life was supposed to go.
The little smile she had faded. Liza shook her head and stood up, “find a new maid of honor.”
When in doubt a song will help you whip an idea out. Agreed?
The clock ticked slowly, counting down the seconds before he was going to burst in the front door, the rotting stench of alcohol following him in. Eerily silent, the house seemed to hold its breath; the spotless counters sparkled in the warm glow of a happy household. Along the walls were portraits of a cheerful family that used to live in this house. The frames were freshly dusted and the glass polished to a high shine.
Out of the warm summer night, outside my window, shone the blinding headlights of a car, casting horrible shadows on my walls. When they went out and the footsteps, haphazard, came towards the house. Loudly the man fumbled with the locked doorknob. Cursing like a sailor, he banged on the door with his bulky fists. There was a few moments’ pause where I thought perhaps he’d given up. The silence was deafening before the latch lifted off the back door and he stumbled into the house.
In the other bedroom down the hall, I could hear faintly the whimpering get louder as the brute careened into the kitchen. Holding my breath, because of the reek of alcohol he brought with him, I heard the fridge door open faintly. There was a terrible pause before the door slammed shut with such force it rocked the house dangerously. A wall away the pitiful moaning got a little clearer. His heavy footfalls were unsteady as he drunkenly ambled towards us.
Cowering in the corner of my bed with the blankets pulled up over my head I listened as he lumbered, growling, past my door and towards the next room. My heart pounded as the door creaked gently open and his boots stepped over the threshold. For a moment I thought maybe he’d let her lie but then he started shouting, mumbled threats.
Though the walls were thin I couldn’t make out exactly what was being said, which was likely a good thing. His shouting reverberated around the house and in my mind. When he hit her she shrieked. Quietly she sobbed near my wall and I pressed my hands against it, willing her to be strong. But after a while it was too much for me. Ripping the thin sheets from my bed I dove under the metal frame with my headphones and Walkman.
I fumbled for the right button in the darkness before a screaming guitar was all I could hear. Slowly I drifted into a fitful sleep with the horrific sounds of reality bouncing around with guitar riffs in my mind.
Sitting down at the kitchen table in the morning, no sign of Jesse, I laughed cheerfully as mom flipped a pancake onto the floor. There was a joy to the simple mornings with her; she wasn’t anxious when it was just the two of us. But when she bent down the pick up the flopped flapjack and she laughed her Tinkerbelle giggle I saw her face. Across the right side of her cheek and eye was an angry black mark.
Looking back to her work she attempted to hide it but it was too late. I carefully got up from my chair and gently patted her on the shoulder. When she shied from my touch I wanted to hug her tighter and never let her go. “Mom?” I asked, trying to get her to face me. “Mom, please.” Pleading, I searched her expression for anything other than guilt.
She turned, showing off the mark and another bruise covering her left arm and shoulder. Near tears she sighed, “I’m sorry Lyle. I-I just, there’s just, I don’t know wh-what I’m supposed to do-” The rest was drowned in tears. Hugging her around the middle, being careful not to hurt her, I wanted nothing but to take away her pain.
When I broke away from her, wiping water from my own cheeks, I looked her sternly in the eye, “You have to leave him. He’s an ass. You don’t deserve to be with a jerk like that.” I was being completely sincere but there was regret in her eyes. Taking a seat in a faded yellow dining chair I motioned for her to join me.
Sighing sadly she shook her head, “No, he keeps a roof over our heads, baby.” Her amber eyes were red. Sorrow was thick in her voice, “I can’t do any better than your father.” But she could do so much better. He beat her but she stayed loyal because he made her feel like she had no other choice.
I adjusted the covers of my bed, my blankets tangled around me in a lumpy cocoon. I Rolled over onto my side, the bright red numbers of three-o’clock blinked at me. I rub my sore eyes, trying to wipe away the blurriness as I looked at the clock.
Three-o’clock. Three -o’clock. Three -o’clock. It blinked with metronome rhythm. I switched on my bedside lamp as I knocked the blankets off me. I looked deeply into myself in the mirror across from my bed. By habit, I began reciting to myself that I don’t love him anymore. I don’t, I don’t love him! It’s got to stop, I don’t want to argue anymore.
Eventually I hear the rumble of his truck outside. I glance at the clock beside me; Four-o’clock. “Come on now, it’s just like saying you love him but you don’t. Come on Alice, I can tell him.” I remember giving myself this speech last night, tonight will be different. I hear the house door open.
“Alice?” I heard his voice from the main hall. I shiver. I switch the light off and wrap myself with my blankets, cocooning myself in. I roll over as he walked into the bedroom. I could hear his tired breathing as he slumped over into bed beside her, stealing the blanket as my cocoon became unwrapped. He whispered into my ear. “Hey you asleep?”
“Hmmhm.” I nervously said. The breath of his voice made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. “I love you.” I said without thought.
He laughed. “Damn right you do.” He chuckled.
I retreated into my dreams, thinking back to a school boy I had a crush on. Blue sky eyes and red hair was I all I could remember. What was his name? Didn’t matter, I’m happy here for now. Until I should wake up again.
(About to be caught up!)
Created to Write: Heather tries to focus on the teacher, but instead, she stares at the clock. The seconds tick by so slowly. The minute hand is so close to the ten, she was almost rising out of her seat. The teacher finishes up on the lecture, then the bell rings. Heather turns off her recorder, then stuffs it into her bag.
She pushes past her classmates and into the hall. She keeps her head down slightly, tracking her route with the floor tiles until she reaches her locker. She takes out the lunch her mom packed, then heads for the cafeteria.
Heather ignores the voice. The girl comes up to her, sliding her arm around Heather’s.
“You really are dumb to refuse Bryce,” the girl says, “he’s such a sweetheart! I can’t find anyone else like him.”
“Oh I know that,” Heather says, pushing away. The girl doesn’t relent.
“Seriously, he’s perfect.”
“I’m sure you could find a better man,” Heather says. She doesn’t know the girl’s name, but she knows that she’s new; they’re usually new. She finds a seat in the cafeteria. The table she picked is small, because she knows no one else is going to sit there. Bryce made sure of that.
Heather sees the same girl a few days later. Bryce is no where to be seen, and she has long sleeves on when it’s a beautiful day outside. Most of the school is in shorts and tanks.
Heather walks over, gently tapping her shoulder, “Hey.”
The girl looks at her. She forces her face into a smile, “Hi!”
“…Are you okay?” Heather asks.
“Yeah, of course. So, what did you do over the weekend?” she asks.
“Not much, you?” Heather asks. She knows the answer; it’s the same one with this situation.
“I was with Bryce. He’s so… he’s perfect,” she says. But the pause -and knowing Bryce- Heather can tell the girl is faking everything. “There’s no better man than him,” she adds, almost convincing herself. She closes her locker, then goes off to class.
Heather follows and stops her before the door. “You don’t have to listen to him,” she insists, “he doesn’t have control if you don’t let him.”
The girl looks back. She gives a small shake of the head.
“Amber~!” She flinches, then walks into the room to sit next to Bryce. Heather scoffs, then goes to her own class.