A short story written for February 2021's Quotation Inspiration contest.
"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth
or burn down your house, you can never tell."
-- Joan Crawford
He's back. I watch him walk up the path, key in hand. It won't do him any good, for after the last time that he let himself in I had the locks changed. Why can't he just accept that it is over?
Simon reaches his hand forward, confident that the door is going to open, and I can see the frown begin to etch its way across his face when the key doesn't fit. Not one to give up easily, he has another go before he pulls back his arm and thumps the door.
Even though I know he cannot see me, the force of the thump makes me flinch. I wrap my arms around myself just as tightly as I used to wrap them around him.
"Carrie!" Simon shouts, not caring who might hear. Why should he? This is no longer his home.
Did I leave a light on? I try to retrace my movements in my mind. No, I'm sure I had not got round to switching any of them on when I caught sight of his car. He'd parked a few houses back but I knew exactly where he was headed when he climbed out of the driver's seat, locked the door. Maybe he'll just give up and go.
Another thud; another shout. "Carrie! I know you're in there. Just open up and let me talk."
I'd fallen for this line the first time he came round. He'd let himself in and had caught me in the kitchen, coffee in hand and laptop open in front of me. My hand had shaken, my mug dripped coffee on the table.
"Simon. What are you doing in here?" I'd kept my voice level, at least that was how it sounded to my own ears.
"We need to talk," he'd said. "Look, it was a mistake. Don't throw what we have away for one single little incident. She meant nothing... not like you."
I clearly remembered how that last sentence had made me seethe. If that girl had been special to him I could perhaps have understood Simon's infidelity, but for it to mean nothing... "Is that supposed to make it okay?"
"Come on, Carrie. You know that it's you I love." Simon had smiled, sure that I was going to forgive him. He edged his way towards me, put his hand on my shoulder.
"Don't," I'd hissed. "Do not touch me, okay."
He'd held his hands up in mock surrender, pulled out a chair and sat down. "What can I do to make it up to you?"
Images of him and... her... in our own bed flooded through my mind. "You can't do a thing," I'd told him, trying to stay calm. "It's over. Finished. Just leave the key and get out!"
His fist had shot out, striking me in the mouth and splitting my lip. Simon had never been violent before, not to me, and I had felt tears start to from but I would be damned before I'd let him see them. I hadn't looked up when he had got to his feet, hadn't noticed that he had pocketed the key. "This is not the end, Carrie. It's not over until I say it is." And then he had walked out, pulling the door shut behind him.
I had spent a long time just sitting there studying the spatters of my own blood on the laptop screen. Eventually I had got to my feet, cleaned up the mess and examined my mouth. It had been a big split, but I could not have faced getting it looked at. I balled up cotton wool, dabbed at it until the blood slowed to no more than a trickle.
That night I had bolted the door, powered off my phone, and had watched the videos we had made together. Six months of passion like I'd never experienced before. We'd barely spent a moment apart until Simon had suddenly began to spend nights 'with the guys'. Watching back, I had looked for signs that I might have missed, something that had pointed towards the fact that I was no longer enough for him. Simon had been growing bored.
It's only two days since he hit me. My lip is still swollen up, and honestly, I'm an emotional wreck. I want to believe him, that it is me that he really loves. I want those shared moments back so badly... but I can't give in. No matter what he said, I'd never be able to trust him again. Not only that, but I'd read the studies about domestic violence. One hit, that was how it always began.
Why has he come round? I have already packed up everything that belongs to him. Not knowing what else to do with it, I had dumped it all outside his parents' house, then driven away before one of them opened the door and started asking questions that I was not ready to answer. Simon could explain it himself.
He'd followed me back from the store, later that day. Simon had kept his distance but I could feel his eyes boring into me. It had taken every bit of my self-control to stop myself from running. He had known that; intended for me to feel that way. That had been when I had decided to change the locks.
It's quiet outside now. There's no sign of Simon, but his car is still there. What is he doing?
The back door! I can feel the blood draining as I realize I opened it when I came home... Did I lock it? Think! Think! A noise from the kitchen tells me all I need to know. I tiptoe towards the front door, looking over my shoulder as I go, freezing when my hand reaches the lock and Simon steps out into the hallway.
"What are you doing?" My voice betrays me, quivering and showing how scared I am. I look from his face to the knife in his hand and back again.
"Carrie, I'm not going to hurt you. Would never hurt you deliberately..."
I stifle my desire to laugh. Why else is he holding the knife?
"You know we belong together," he continues. "I love you... can't live without you..."
Is he planning on using the knife on himself? Is that what this is about? I know Simon, and I know he would never end his own life. "Simon, just turn around and get out, okay. It's over, finished. It's time that you accept that."
It's not much of a movement but he pulls his arm back, throws the knife at me. His aim is not that good and it smacks into the wall beside me. But that is enough to get me out of my own door and running down the path towards the road.
Didn't stop. Couldn't stop. Squealing brakes... too late for me to step back and save myself. The last thing I see is Simon standing there, framed within my own doorway.