General Fiction posted March 23, 2018

This work has reached the exceptional level
Fight or flight are her only choices.

Who is it?

by Beck Fenton

There was a knock on the door. Mary stopped brushing the flies away from her daughter's half-eaten apple and stared as if to see through the wall. The doorbell was broken and the door had been nailed shut to prevent it from being swung open by a gusty wind. This abandoned trailer was her last refuge from discovery by her husband. If he found them he would certainly kill her and maybe little Joanie, too.

Mary looked at Joanie and gave the hush sign. Joanie's eyes opened widely and she rapidly stiffened with a slightly noisy intake of breath. Joanie already knew the reasons for the hush sign and what happened when she cried or screamed. Three years of watching her father assault her mother had taught her how to be still and think of something else. She laid herself down on the dirty floor and closed her eyes, hugging herself with skinny bruised arms.

Another knock, this one louder and stronger than the first. Mary sat frozen and tried to will it not to be Joe. She closed her eyes, too.

"Joe's driving down to my mama's," she thought. "He's looking for me in the other direction. He doesn't know where we are because I don't know where we are. We are safe from him. I made us safe this time. I can't let him find us."

She gasped and her eyes opened quickly and shut again. Nothing negative could hitch onto her positive thoughts or everything would be ruined.

"I mean, I won't let him find us. We are invisible. Please make us invisible."

Banging on the door replaced the knocking and Mary couldn't focus on her thoughts anymore. Her heart was racing as she realized she would have to fight this time. There was no place to flee if he had traced them here already. She stood and silently walked over to the tiny kitchen window to try to catch a glimpse outside. The window was cracked and greyed with dirt and fly specks. She could see a form of someone, but couldn't tell if it was Joe. Whoever it was turned and stepped off of the tiny porch.

The place had probably been abandoned years ago. Mary had used her shoelace to tie the back door shut after pulling brush as close as possible to enhance the feeling of long neglect and emptiness. Glancing at Joanie, she made her way down the hall to stand in front of the only entrance. She saw the door move slightly as if someone was trying to open it.

She had brought just a dirty steak knife to protect the two of them, but hopefully, Joe wouldn't be expecting her to fight. She had given up fighting back years ago when she became pregnant. She had to protect Joanie first and herself second. When Joe had grabbed Joanie by her arm and thrown her out of the way yesterday, Mary realized it was only a matter of time before he would start beating them both. She'd picked up Joanie while Joe had gone into the bathroom, snatching the steak knife from his dinner plate and the keys to her beat-up Chevy and ran out to the driveway.

She had told Joanie to lay on the floor of the car as she backed into the street and left her home as fast as possible, not daring to take time to get Joanie buckled into her safety seat. She kept praying Joe wouldn't feel like chasing her tonight. He was already pretty drunk and maybe he wouldn't even notice she'd left. She'd headed out of town driving like a maniac until she was almost out of gas. It was a miracle she'd noticed this old place sitting back a distance from the highway.

The door flew open and Mary screamed in spite of herself, forgetting she had a knife. She covered her face and whimpered, "No, Joe, no. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I'm sorry, please. Don't hurt me, Joe."

Silence met her pleas. Mary glanced up and saw a young policeman looking down at her.

"Ma'am," he said quietly. "Can I help you? I found your car down by the turn-off and tracked you here. It's on my land."

Mary couldn't answer right away. Unsure of his intentions she kept the knife pointed in his direction. He tilted his head and gave her a hint of a smile.

"If you put down that knife I'll bet we could have a pretty good conversation, starting with why you're here in my old home."

"I didn't mean any harm. We'll go right away. I'm sorry."

"Slow down, Ma'am." He stepped into the trailer and saw Joanie still curled up on the floor. "Let's just get acquainted. I'm Officer Doug Whittier."

Mary watched him with a mixture of relief that it wasn't Joe and worry that he might want to arrest her for trespassing and take Joanie away from her. She could not, would not let that happen.

Slowly they began to talk: Mary answering Doug's questions while holding her daughter in her lap. She shared a little of why she had run away, and as Doug listened silently he learned what they had done to stay alive. He'd handled more than one case of spousal abuse. It was the reason why he'd become a policeman in the first place. His mother hadn't survived her abuse, but he vowed to Mary that he would make sure they did. After much coaxing, they all got into Doug's police car and he escorted them into the shelter for abused women and children.

One week later Doug came to tell Mary that Joe had been killed in a drunk driving accident, surprisingly he wasn't the one that had been drinking. The insurance paid her a nice settlement, and Mary and Joanie were finally free of the fear that he could ever hurt them again. She soon rented a small apartment, feeling at peace for the first time since she was sixteen. Within a year Doug made another vow to Mary. This time to love, honor, and cherish her and her daughter for all time.

Sentence writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story that starts with this sentence: There was a knock on the door.

Sadly, many women and children lose this battle every day. Three women and 5 children die daily from abuse in the United States.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by seshadri_sreenivasan at

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