There was a hole the size of a baseball in my bathrobe, but thankfully nothing important was sticking out. The neighbors couldn’t see my private bits or the bruises.
The kids rushed out to the school bus. They’d had nothing but dry cereal all weekend, and knew they’d be getting lunch at school. I stumbled back to the kitchen for another cup of coffee. Why the food bank gave out so much coffee and so little peanut butter and bread was a mystery to me.
“I’m goin’ fishing.”
Michael was out the screen door with his ratty duffle bag before I could even look up. We both knew that was a lie. What he didn’t realize was that I knew the bag was filled with his Klan hood and a gun and not fishing gear. I reached for the phone. We still had a landline that Michael could unplug and hide when he was pissed.
“Morning, Mom. Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Listen…I need you to watch the kids after school.”
I poured some more coffee into the sludge in my cup.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I just got some stuff to do later…yeah Michael’s out fishing all day.”
After a shower, I looked a bit less like I’d slept in a dumpster. I checked my go-bag for the millionth time. Cheap cell and charger, some changes of underwear, all the official papers I could find in the back of the closet, and seventy-eight dollars I’d saved in an old sock—it was the same each time. I taped a letter to Mom on the inside of the washing machine lid. The piles of dirty laundry and Michael’s inborn laziness insured she’d be the only one to find it, probably before dinner time.
There was a knock at the door.
“Time to cross the River Jordan. Let’s go!”
I spent the whole drive to the bus station in the next county staring goggle-eyed. Was I doubting my decision? Hell no. Was I worried the pro-bono lawyer might not be able to win me custody, or that my new job would be terrifying? Sorta.
When I stepped onto the bus, I was still gap-mouthed, but waving happily. My rescue driver was the pastor’s uptight, submissive wife.
Karen Southall Watts teaches college Humanities in the Pacific Northwest. She’s been writing fiction under a super-secret pen name for years, in between work as an academic and business speaker, writer, and coach.
Karen Southall Watts
Author of The Solo Workday: Manage your time and gain new clients while working alone
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson