7/12/10 Winner of the Daily Flash Fiction Challenge.
“Hello, dear. Did you have a good shift?” she asked, hesitantly.
“What do you think? I had a perfectly great time sorting garbage at the recycle plant. What kinda time you think I had?”
He bumped her on the shoulder as he barreled past and headed toward the bedroom. “I gotta get some rest, and you better keep the noise down. I don’t wanna hear a peep outa those kids today!”
“Don’t worry. They’re playing a game outside, dear. Have a good nap.”
As the bedroom door slammed shut, Jenny sat down on an old brown chair with stuffing popping out all over. She was exhausted at tamping down her anger over his anger, at suppressing her fear of his blows. She looked around at her tiny, rundown apartment. With no room for storage, her children’s toys littered the well-scrubbed floor. She did have to give Doug credit for that. He wasn’t stingy about toys for the kids. Anything to keep them occupied.
She walked to the window and watched as her two children played in the street. That Danny could really hit a baseball. Love for them welled up inside her. She could take it, do anything for them, even die if that's what it took.
While Jenny daydreamed at the window, it happened. Glass shards spiked the air around her head as the baseball careened inside the apartment, through the clutter of bikes, helmets, and roller skates, coming to rest near a skateboard by the bedroom door.
Jenny’s hand flew to her mouth as she suppressed the tiniest of "ohs". She heard the bed springs creak and the thud of powerful footsteps on the hardwood floor. The outside brass handle fell off the bedroom door as Doug yanked it open from the inside. Two steps and he would be on her. He loomed in the doorway, the veins pulsing in his temples, his face beet red, spit flying like a spewing volcano. Cowering down on her knees, she prepared for the blow. What Jenny did not see was Doug’s foot land on the baseball which had ended its spatial trajectory from contact with the bat to the strategic spot required. Jenny looked up at the sound of the thud. Doug exhaled his final breath and the room was quiet.