It’s Friday and time to share stories with you!
This is one of the more serious stories I’ve written and I am SO thankful for my writer’s group because I reached a point where I had no idea what to do next. I’m not familiar with police protocol (which is probably still VERY evident), and I was able to get the basic information I needed without needing extensive GoogleFu skills.
This story wasn’t easy to write but I think these kinds of stories are never easy to tell but they are necessary. It’s possible you may need a tissue to wipe your eyes if I’ve done justice to this story.
I want to thank Greg, Samantha, James, and Tommy for their help on this story (and yes, I’ve already thanked them in my group, too), answering all my silly follow up questions and having patience with me. I appreciate their generosity with their knowledge.
Prompt: As quietly as possible, she lifted the sleeping infant from the crib and crept down the staircase.
The back door banged against the washer, signaling Owen was home, late again. Mya jumped and clenched her teeth, keeping her eyes trained on her movie. She heard him drop his coat on the floor and tracked his heavy footsteps as he made his way over to her. She could feel him staring at her. Her nerves were strung tight and she couldn’t decide whether to look at him or not.
“You ain’t gon’ say nothin’?” he slurred.
Mya flicked her eyes toward Owen. “No point.” Her heart pounded, and she turned her eyes back to the TV.
“No point, huh?” He stumbled coming around the couch. Mya wrapped her arms more tightly around herself. He half fell, half sat next to her. The cigarette and whiskey smell was overwhelming and her eyes watered just a bit.
“Ain’t ne’er stopped you ‘fore.”
“It’s fine, Owen. No problem.” She glanced over and tried to force a smile, then returned her attention to the TV.
“No probl’m? Yeah, I’m sure it ain’t.” His voice deepened, the scratchiness of it coming out as he talked more.
“You work hard, Owen. You deserve it.”
He shoved her off the couch. “The hell’s wrong with you? What you tryin’?”
Mya grunted as she hit the floor. She laid there for a moment as she tried to decide what to do. Usually she just reacted, but this time was different. Slowly she pushed herself up, re-adjusting her nursing tank under her sweatshirt.
“I’m not tryin’ nothin’,” Mya said slowly. “I mean, I s’pose I am, but I just want to try not fightin’ now that the baby’s here. I don’t mean nothin’ by it.”
“Oh, you think the fightin’ is bad for the baby?” Mockery dripped from his voice.
“Maybe not yet, but when she gets older, you know?” Mya wiped a tear from her cheek.
“Just tryin’ to practice for then.”
“Such a good mama, ain’t you?” Owen crawled off the couch and tousled Mya’s hair. She tried not to flinch. “You think I’m gonna hi’chyou?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Mya said as Owen clumsily petted her head. She swallowed hard, willing him to be in a good mood.
“Sometimes you jus’ need a good knockin’ about to get your head back on straight.” He backhanded her, pain exploding through her face and brain. His fingers threaded through her hair. She tensed as his fingers closed tighter and tighter, pulling. She resisted the urge to grab at his arm, the tears spilling out in earnest now, but she refused to yell or scream. He pulled harder and she had to grab his arm as he dragged her up the steps to their room.
He dropped her onto the bare floor. “Take off your clothes already.”
Hastily, Mya undressed and stood by the bed, fingering the delicate band on her left hand. Owen’s eyes ran up and down her body.
“You’re all fat now, y’know?” he said. Mya’s stomach wrenched and she pursed her lips together as she looked down at her body, both her breasts and stomach swollen. How long had it been since she fed the baby? Meg would need her again soon.
“I’m sorry,” Mya whispered. She cleared her throat and spoke a touch louder. “The doctor said it would take time to lose the weight. It’s only been a month. I’m tryin’.”
“Yeah, sure you are,” he said, rolling his eyes and taking off his pants then shutting off the light. “On your hands and knees. ‘Least I don’t have to look at’chyou that way then.”
Lips trembling in anticipation of the pain, Mya crawled onto the bed. It shifted as Owen climbed on behind her. Meg chirped in the other room. Owen swore and smacked her hard on her exposed bottom. Mya winced.
“Go shut her up. I can’t do this listenin’ to her and thinkin’ ‘bout you.”
Mya scrambled off the bed and, grabbing her undies with the post-pregnancy pad in them, pulled them on and went into Meg’s room, lifting the tiny infant. Mya sat on the floor and changed Meg’s diaper, then latched her to feed. Meg greedily suckled, her arm waving rigidly around until it found purchase in Mya’s hair. She stroked Meg’s head and hummed softly.
“Hurr’yup!” Owen bellowed from their room. Mya jumped and Meg squealed.
“Shh-shhh,” Mya said as she relatched Meg. “Soon, baby girl, soon.”
When Meg finally had her fill and was nearly asleep, Mya lowered her into the crib again. She stopped in the bathroom to wipe the dribbled milk off her body and change her own pad. The doctor had said no sex for six weeks. Owen waited six days before he demanded it and beat her when she refused and then did it anyway. The pain had taken Mya’s breath away and she was surprised she didn’t pass out from it, though she wished she had. She glanced her reflection in the cracked mirror and smiled. Her body had grown and was now feeding this tiny baby. No matter what Owen said, Mya would always have that. Her eyes traced her body from her knees, over her still-swollen abdomen and milk-filled breasts, up to her face, which had swelled and turned purple. She didn’t stay to examine that and made her way back to the room, bracing herself for another painful and far-too-early round of satisfying Owen.
After he finished, Owen fell heavily onto the bed and was asleep almost immediately. Mya fought back tears from the pain as she crept down the hall into the bathroom again and wiped off her body before dressing the clothes she’d stashed in the tiny linen cupboard earlier that day.
Going into Meg’s room, Mya slowly pulled the cloth bag out from under the crib, stuffed with baby clothes, diapers, pads for herself, and $200 she’d managed to hide away since the birth. She slowly lifted the sleeping infant from the crib, wrapping her in a blanket, and after listening for Owen’s drunken snores, she crept down the stairs. She set Meg into the carseat and tiptoed toward the back door.
She walked through the kitchen, the counters full of dirty dishes. She stopped when she saw a rag sitting on their electric stove. The thought of turning the stove on fluttered through her mind, and she entertained it for a moment. She shook her head, not wanting to be responsible for a murder, even of Owen, who she’d come to hate in the last month.
Setting down Meg and grabbing Owen’s coat, Mya rummaged for the keys and stifled a gasp as she found another $200 in his coat. She stuffed it into the bag, looking up at the stairs, waiting for Owen to come down any second. Meg squeaked and Mya clamped her hand over the infant’s tiny mouth.
“Not right now, sweetie,” she whispered. Mya found the keys and kicked the coat over by the washer so the door wouldn’t hit it and she snuck out of the house. She locked the door behind her and breathed in the cold winter air. She locked Meg’s car seat into the base in the backseat of their car and now took the time to buckle her before covering her back up with the heavy blanket. Mya climbed in the front seat and looked around. She hadn’t driven for nearly a year, since they found out she was pregnant. Owen had gotten much more possessive and gone a little crazy since then. Mya fired up the car and shifted into drive, thankful now that Owen always insisted on backing into their small driveway. She took one final glance at their house and pulled out, shivering.
As Mya drove, she realized she didn’t have a plan beyond getting out of their house. Anxiety crept into her as she drove aimlessly, weaving down the road, trying to read signs and figure out where she was. The roads were mostly deserted and brightened as she got closer to one of the main roads in town. She turned onto it and changed lanes, then deciding against it, changed back into her original lane. She tried to remember where things were in town, but she didn’t know. One side of the road was residential, the far side had some businesses. She leaned toward the steering wheel, trying to see building names and veered. She jerked the car back into her own lane and sat straight, breathing hard. Out of the corner of her eye, saw flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
Mya pulled over, never more grateful, yet still anxious, to see a police officer.
“Help is here, Meg,” Mya said, trying to convince herself, and rolled down her window.
A woman officer approached the car, flashlight held up. “Where are you headed tonight?”
“I don’t know,” Mya admitted. “I took my baby and left my husband. I don’t know where to go.”
The officer lifted one brow, then leaned closer. “Turn your head.”
“That happen tonight?”
Mya nodded, her eyes filling with tears.
“Have you been drinking?”
“No, officer,” Mya said. She blinked and a few tears dripped down her cheek.
“Baby’s in the back?”
Mya nodded again.
Mya climbed out of the car and pulled the blanket down from over Meg, who had managed to stick her fist in her mouth and was sucking on it, her blue eyes large.
“Alright, ma’am. I’d like you to follow me, please. I’ll take you to a shelter.”
“Um, officer?” Mya asked timidly.
The officer looked at her.
“Can we ride with you? I haven’t driven in almost a year.”
The officer took a deep breath and blew it out. “Well, at least drive over into one of those parking lots so we’re off the street, alright?” The officer pointed to the strip mall on the other side of the road.
“I can do that.” Mya smiled at the officer and she returned a smile. Mya cautiously drove across both lanes and turned into the lot, devoid of all cars except hers and the officer’s.
The officer approached Mya’s car again and motioned for her to step out.
“I’ve radioed in to dispatch. They will send a paramedic to our location and transport you and your baby to the hospital. You said you haven’t been drinking, but I need to run a sobriety check, anyway.”
“If that’s what you need to do, of course,” Mya said, shivering.
The officer walked her through the sobriety tests.
“All right. That checks out. I need your license and registration as well.”
Mya climbed back into the car and pulled her wallet out from the bottom of the cloth bag. Digging out her ID, she handed it to the officer. Mya hesitated for a moment and then spoke up.
“I’m sorry, but what’s registration? Where do I find that?”
The officer looked surprised for a moment, but cleared her expression. “Usually people have it in the glove box or the center console or on their visor.”
Mya pulled down the visor, but nothing was there. They center console was stuffed full of trash, so she closed that and opened the glove box. There were a bunch of papers in there. Mya pulled them out and stared, shuffling through them, but not knowing what she was looking for.
“Is this them?” Mya asked, offering the stack to the officer. She took the papers and shuffled through them.
“Looks like your registration is out of date. I’ll be back in a few minutes. Warm up in your car, okay?” The officer smiled and walked back to her car. Mya climbed back in and cranked the heat just as Meg started crying in the backseat. She climbed back out and went around the back and sat by Meg to nurse her.
Mya hummed as Meg suckled, leaning back and closing her eyes. A knock at the window made her jump. The police officer was there, holding up the registration. Mya opened the door.
“Mya, there are some problems here with the vehicle and the registration. It’s going to have to be impounded and both you and your husband will be summoned to deal with the legal side.”
Mya’s stomach dropped. The officer’s face turned to concern and she knelt down.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay. You won’t be required to go back to him and you may not even need to see him, but this legal stuff is serious.” The officer put her hand on Mya’s leg. “We will do everything in our power to keep you and your baby safe, okay?” The officer smiled.
“Okay,” Mya whispered.
“The paramedic is here, so we can transfer the car seat for you while you finish up here.
Is that all right?”
The officer stood and waved over the paramedic.
“Hey, uh, officer?” Mya asked, her voice trembling.
“Why are you bein’ so nice to me? I mean, ain’t you guys the enemy or somethin’?”
The officer sighed and Mya could see tears form in her eyes. She slowly knelt down and rested her hand on Mya’s leg. The paramedic opened the other door and worked the carseat out of the car. Finally the officer looked up into Mya’s face.
“Mya, I am not your enemy. I have a daughter myself and every day, I see the most horrible side of humanity and every day, I ask myself what kind of world I want her to live in.”
Mya’s eyes filled with tears.
“I see you and your baby and I ask how would I want Amelia treated if she was in the same situation.” Tears spilled out of the officer’s eyes, and then Mya’s. She took a moment to compose herself before speaking again. “How would I want someone to treat me? I know there are bad officers out there. I work with them. But I am not your enemy and I will do what I can to keep you away from the person who did that.” Her eyes flicked just slightly and Mya was reminded of the bruise on her face.
“Ma’am?” A growly voice interrupted them. Mya looked over the the paramedic, an older man with a neatly groomed white beard. “Ready when you are to take you to the hospital.” He smiled and Mya burst into tears, nodding, wiping her eyes and nose with her free hand.
“We’re here to help you, Mya,” the officer said.
Meg unlatched, asleep, contentment on her face. Mya resituated her clothes and climbed out just as the tow truck arrived. The officer went around the vehicle and pulled out the keys. Mya crawled out of the back seat and followed the paramedic to his vehicle and strapped Meg in. She walked around to the other side and opened the door. She was halfway in when she stopped to survey the scene. The tow truck driver was hitching up Owen’s car and the officer was talking to him.
Even though Mya had no idea what was next, she was surprised that she didn’t really care as long as Owen wasn’t involved in it. She climbed all the way in and closed the door, buckling herself in. She watched as the lights faded behind them and reached in to hold Meg’s hand. The tiny fingers curled around hers and Meg sighed, a tiny coo escaping. Mya knew she was making the right choice for them both.
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