The desert sky was so still as I drove as fast as the engine would carry me away from everything that I’ve ever known. I have nothing left there but broken dreams and sleepless nights of unneeded suffering. As soon as I could run, or rather, walk again, I packed everything I owned and boosted the sweetest, fastest ride I could find at a moment’s notice, and then, I flew like the devil was on my heels.
Nothing had been right for so long that I was physically ill for hours when it finally hit me. Pain, and exhaustion have taken their toll and I really just need to be somewhere else. I’ve been on the road for days, and I’ve stopped only for routine maintenance, gas and a place to splash water on my face and take a leak. Sometimes food, if there was time, but I had to stay ahead.
There’ve been too many filthy gas station bathrooms; I’ve spent far too much time in them falling to pieces as quietly as I possibly could, so as not to draw attention. It’s hard enough to do without looking in the mirror while you do it. The agony of anticipation is standing with my paper towel laden palm around a doorknob and the other on my belly, shaking like a leaf. It hurts to be afraid to open a door and worry that the one face I don’t want to see will be waiting on the other side.
That’s where I am now. I’m standing here in the South Acre Oasis Gas Stop bathroom with my body shivering and my shoulders hunched against the ache. So afraid and somehow hopeful that when I open the door, a fist will hit me hard enough to kill me this time. Hopeful that I won’t have to suffer this torture every fucking time I end up behind closed doors.
I can hear shuffling outside, and the door handle is rattling lightly against my hand. “It’s occupied! Just a moment!” and I can’t bring myself to turn the knob. The voices out there don’t seem quite right suddenly and I want it to be my imagination. It has to be, because nothing makes no sense. People are stupid but they are usually comprehendible and these words are gibberish.
It’s finally happened – I’ve cracked. I know exactly when it happened, too.
It happened when he bit me. Ben was so close; he smelled of whiskey and crazy, so much that I started to gag when he ran his hand around my waist and the other snaked under my right arm and up between my breasts. Drinking again. I knew what was coming. It always started the same way and it always ended with me bleeding on the floor.
Unconsciously, my body pulled away from the meaty heat, and Ben’s hand fever-warm was against my throat, and it tightened when I tried to twist away. “C’mon now baby, is that any way to act? Be a good girl Rina, and I’ll only hurt you a little this time,” he breathed into my ear while yanking me back, “If you don’t fight, you’ll be able to walk tomorrow.” My choices were few, two actually, not an abundance of options to be sure.
The hand on my waist started its decent and I knew that I couldn’t take it. I would lose what was left of my mind if I let him get me to the floor this time. I held tighter to the knife that I was using to chop potatoes for his dinner, hoping that he wouldn’t go further when his rough fingers grazed my inner thigh and he bit my neck with a greasy groan.
The knife was buried to the hilt in the tough meat of his forearm, and his teeth dug deeper for a second before he screamed and let me go. His favorite knife was near the sink and I grabbed it while I ran to the front door. Have to get away I kept repeating to myself and then, the unthinkable; I dropped the keys.
He dropped me and my belly hit the floor. The pressure of his large frame flat on top of mine hurt so badly that I couldn’t breathe. Ben, he wasn’t himself -growling like an animal wasn’t new but the teeth and the strength certainly was – then, I was truly afraid. I watched my hand rise and twist, the blade protruding backwards from my fist, first pointed at my own face and then behind me and when he lifted his head it was stuck in his eye.
The keys were in my hand again and he howled, actually howled – sounded so much like the coyotes that run near our home that I screamed – and pulled myself to my feet the second he fell backwards, finger clawing at the air above the haft.
Across the street was a beat up old Ford with the keys in the ignition. The pothead kid that lives there forgets them almost every damned time. It started on the first try and speed was my angel. My neck burned, burns and I don’t feel myself at all, but then I didn’t care. I had to get away.
I dumped the car at the Eagle Bar and Truck Stop out on the main highway, and left the keys in the ignition but the door locked. I have no idea what make the car I boosted is but it flies like it is made of air, and I’m sure the owner is less than pleased. I feel badly, but I needed it.
Sweet Jesus, there are fingers under the door and they are covered in blood. Blood and something else. Something less – oh my god, what the hell is going on out there? I need to get out of here but I’m so scared. My baby hasn’t moved since I left, since the fall, and now my contractions have started. I can’t run, and I don’t know where to go. I can’t have my baby alone.
More fingers. The door handle is moving in miniscule turns but the lock is a cookie and it would take nothing to break it. Trapped; – I’m trapped like a rat and jesus fuck it hurts it burns steals my breath I can’t move; Baby is coming and I am alone in a gas station bathroom. Tears fall no matter how hard I try to hold them back; crying is not acceptable, ever and certainly not now but I can’t help it.
There is gunfire outside the door and an urgent hammering. I can see the steel quivering with each blow. “Open the door!” I’m trying but another contraction has me frozen and I can only scream. It flies open, the edge catching me on the forehead when it flies open. The light is so bright and it sparkles on the edges with muzzle flashes. “Come on darlin, let’s get you outta here?” Strong arms try to pick me up and I can’t help but cringe away from the masked individual.
“I’m safer than what’s out there. Do you want to have your baby here?” a male voice that is too kind asks and I shake my head, unable to speak through the agony. Standing awkwardly, I take several steps towards the lights and the masked man with dark brown eyes before my knees give out.