Chloe wants out
|Kasmir-scented candles filled our bedroom, mine and Jessie's, with a soft golden light. I inhaled the heady scent, letting it fill my lungs and calm my nerves. My legs curled beneath me as I sat on the little beige Ottoman next to our bed. Everything around me seemed charged with a spark. Even my hair crackled as I pulled a brush through my thick brown locks, and smoothed away the static. I counted each stroke. "Fifty-seven. Fifty-eight." Mama said it was important to get to one hundred. "Fifty-nine." I always counted out loud. Somehow that kept me focused.
My mind was on Jessie and the night ahead. Cocktails with a few friends. Well, my friends, actually. Jessie never warmed up to them and certainly didn’t consider them friends. Said he didn't fit in; they weren't his kind of people; said they were boring. But Jessie was wrong. They welcomed him, and treated him fine. I stroked another lock. "Sixty-three."
I sighed. Jessie was right. He never fit in. Never even tried. Instead he'd let Jim Beam do all his talking. Insulting mostly. Pretty soon the invitations to parties were only a few, and when we did receive one I found myself making excuses. Too busy. Not feeling well. Prior plans. They all said they understood. But I think they knew my secret. They accepted my lies. Before long even I accepted my lies. "Seventy."
But I offered no excuses for tonight. I needed laughter and friendship, a kind face and a smile. I wanted only to be rid of the dark energy that had settled in my soul. But there was a price to pay. I wasn’t going alone. Jessie was coming too. “Sure, I’ll take you to your little party,” he’d sneered. “Looking forward to it.” That alone soured my belly, and sent acid up my throat. Because I knew he wasn’t looking forward to anything except the open bar.
The clock on the night-stand told me Jessie would be home soon. I still had a little time to myself. "Please, God", I prayed, "Don't let him be drunk."
I counted one hundred and laid the brush on our bed. I let my hair cascade around my face. It framed the smoky eyes I’d created with long heavy strokes of purple and gray shadow. And just a touch of pink gloss kissed my full lips. It was a look I’d worn before. It was one Jessie liked. Sexy. Evocative. Sadly I didn’t feel either. Instead, I felt cheap.
I picked a silky black dress from a hanger. Sleeveless, backless, and short. Barely enough fabric to cover me on a chilly April evening. But Jessie liked it. I slipped the dress over my head and just as the smooth silk settled on my shoulders an arm came from behind and laid across my chest, snug up against my neck. It was Jessie. Just being playful. But my stomach clenched all the same.
"Hello, Beautiful," he whispered. He placed a soft kiss behind my ear.
"Hey, there," I whispered back.
"Brought you something." His tone was teasing, but not light. It was almost a taunt. Caution sparked in my brain.
He turned me toward him but still held me close. I smiled and met his gaze. His eyes were dull. I knew right away he'd spent his afternoon with a bottle of Jim Beam. I begged God to get me through this night.
From behind his back he brought a single rose and presented it to me with a flourish. Its scent was exotic. It's stem long and slender. Each of its petals was perfect, and they arranged themselves comfortably on top of each other in one full bloom. Ordinarily a flower like that would bring a wide smile to my face. But not this one. No, it wasn’t a luscious red or sunny yellow. Instead, it was black. Strange, even for Jessie. "For my Midnight Beauty," he said as the air crackled around us.
I brought the flower to my nose and inhaled its heady perfume. My eyes fixed on the lush petals. Each one shimmered with an icy-blue sparkle. I found myself transfixed by its mysterious beauty. It seemed to draw me in, deeper and ever closer to its center, until finally I was caught in its magic. Only the rose existed for me in those moments. All around I was aware of an icy-blue shimmer that twisted and popped and sparked against a midnight background. Deeper still I went, hypnotized by the mysterious scent that filled my nostrils, my head, my whole body. Even my breath came in strange bursts of blue. Somewhere in my mind I saw my fingers reaching to touch and catch the sparkly mist that swirled around me and through me. It was completely captivating, and I was fixed in its power. I was caught in its spell. A very dark spell. I realized that I feared this rose. That it would somehow be my undoing.
Jessie startled me back to reality with a slap to the back of my head. It was quick and fierce and I reeled from the blow as my flower tumbled to the floor. Some of its petals scattered across our rug. I could only stare as I tried to catch my breath. Fear caught in my belly, and because my voice wouldn’t come I said nothing at all. I steeled myself then because I knew what was next.
Please, God, don't let this happen, I kept repeating in my head.
"You deaf?" Jessie snarled through his teeth. “I said you deaf?” He shouted as he leaned close to me. “Chloe!” Spittle hit my cheek.
I found my voice. "I didn’t hear you.” The words were emotionless and flat. Almost dead. I’d been through this before, so I squared my stance, ready to fight. My fists clenched at my sides. I prayed I would survive.
"Then open your ears and listen to me!" he screeched. His face came close to mine. His eyes were dark, intense with rage. His breath was hot and seared my cheek.
I didn’t speak. I only stared, struggling to hold my ground.
Again his hot breath assaulted my cheek. "Or were you just ignoring me, huh, Baby Doll? Huh? 'Cause you know I hate to be ignored. Were you ignoring me, Baby Doll?”
Baby Doll. That was the giveaway. He called me that when he was looking for a fight. Right then I knew there would be no cocktails, no laughter and no friends. It would only be the two of us. Me against him, and he had a friend named Jim Beam at his side. I braced myself for the hell that was ahead.
The first blow came from his left and landed square on my jaw. Pain crashed through my head and a deafening ring assaulted my ears. I tried not to faint, but the blow spun my head and I toppled to the floor. “Jessie!” I screamed as I crumpled. “No!” I didn’t have time to cover my head.
The second blow connected with my cheekbone and when I heard the sickening crunch I was positive it shattered my face. Blood gushed from the split and ran in a hot sticky river down my neck. Pain exploded through my whole body and for several horrible moments I wasn’t sure I would live.
I'm not sure how long I layed there in a heap with Jessie standing over me like a hulk. But finally I caught my breath, and with that came a new rage. I was done my husband and the monster he’d become. I couldn't look at him. I couldn’t fight back. I was too broken just then. So I kept still, my eyes shut, hoping he'd leave. Hoping he wouldn't finish the job.
I heard him spit, and I nearly gagged when it fell on my head. I heard him grunt and stomp from our room. I was surprised he had nothing more to say. I heard the front door slam and it was then I opened my eyes. I managed to sit up and as I did my hand brushed a petal of that mysterious rose. I brought it close to my swollen face. The shimmers were no longer icy-blue; instead they were blood red. The color of my rage.
I wanted out. I wanted revenge. I started to plan.