Weak springs creaked as she sunk heavily into the cushions, letting her things scatter across the remaining length of the couch. For a moment, she thought that nothing had ever given her so much relief as her head rolling back against the arm rest. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Nothing impelled her to move, not even the din of objects, specifically the contents of her purse, crashing against the wood floor.
It took a few minutes to adjust to the quiet peace in the room. While nothing was going to force her to move, she remembered the bottle of wine she’d purchased for this very day. The creaking returned as she sat up and looked over her knees at the keys, lip glosses and change that had scattered and bounced feet away from where they’d landed.
To hell with it, accepting the conditions on the floor, walking away toward the kitchen without thinking about it again. The bottle stood on the counter exactly where she’d placed it the previous night. She wrapped her left hand around it, only momentarily thinking about the sound of her ring hitting the glass. Flatware clanged together as she coaxed the drawer open against its stubborn wooden tracks. While the apartment had ancient charms, its sticky drawers weren’t among them. The clanging grew louder and more urgent as she searched for the corkscrew that she’d purchased when she’d moved, but heretofore, had never used. Silly, she thought, there have been many occasions that warranted its use.
Not in the drawer? Well where the hell else might it be? She stared at the bottle, waiting for it to answer the question. You’re not even drunk yet, and you’re conversing with wine bottles.
Still holding the bottle, she looked around the small, galley kitchen. There, clinging to the exposed side of the refrigerator, the blood red beads of a handmade corkscrew she’d bought at an art show just a few days after she’d found the apartment. It was ridiculously expensive for a corkscrew, but then she remembered that she finally had the freedom to make that decision for herself.
She retrieved one of the many plastic tumblers in the otherwise barren cabinet, the consequences of an ascetic, solitary lifestyle. Escaping required speed and thrift. She’d mastered it and in the process, become a gypsy out of necessity.
But today, the scene had changed. She smiled as she turned the screw, listening for the telltale squeak of the cork working past the glass, silently laughing at the grimace she imagined was contorting her face. Pop! The Prosecco effervesced as she filled the tumbler, a quiet fanfare to mark an end, and a beginning. She savored and delighted in the bubbles as they hit her tongue, closing her eyes again. Freedom tasted good.
She returned to the couch, bottle in one hand, tumbler in the other. What to do, she thought, what to do? Nothing. She found that doing nothing was the thing she wanted to do most. Sitting a bit more gingerly this time, worried that even her conservative weight would stress the old, rusting springs, she settled once more into the couch. Bliss, she thought. The newly registered divorce decree sat on the table in front of her, the many pages piled neatly. She took off the platinum band and set it on top of the stack. She sighed deeply as she realized that it was finally over. He could never hurt her again. The judge had said so. She took another generous swallow of the wine, letting the bubbles tickle her nose as they popped, followed by another great, cleansing sigh.
She couldn’t really determine the source direction for the high-pitched whistling that suddenly broke the air. She only knew that it sounded out of place and it was followed by the sound of glass shattering. The pain lasted only an instant, and then for a moment, everything went black. She wondered if she’d hit her head and tried to reach up to feel it. Nothing. No hands. A nauseating disorientation invaded her consciousness, and even as she tried to close her eyes, she felt no response to the command. Odd, she thought.
Slowly, sickeningly, she felt herself rising, floating and then like pin holes in a shroud, light began to return to her eyes. She thought she blinked. Large oddly shaped splotches of color filled her vision. An enormous, red blob formed first, then a brown rectangle, and then another. Then, in the middle of the room, in the middle of the red blob, she began to make out her own head, hair matted against it, wet and reflecting the lamplight. The door was opening and panic began rising in her chest as she realized that he stood there, holding a gun, his hands shaking. All he could do was yell at her, “I told you not to leave me. I told you something bad would happen.” He stood sobbing in the doorway and then another shot split the air as the heavy pistol hit the floor.
Confusion began to dissolve into understanding as she realized she was watching the scene from that state between awakening and losing consciousness. A disembodied force was gripping her heart and pulling her away and while everything in the scene faded, the colors, the sobbing, the sirens, a peace came to her like nothing she’d every known.
He’ll never hurt me, again, she thought, for the very last time.