This War of Mine

"Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind."

John F. Kennedy

2:52 a.m. Saturday, March 15, 1986

Amanda hadn't even realized she was heading toward his apartment until she had pulled along side the building and parked. Once she had been cleared by the Agency doctor on-call, she had left on autopilot. The idea of where she would go had not even been a thought; she'd just gotten into her car and driven into the dark, still night.

She pulled the ice pack from her cheek, tossed it on the seat next to her and stared at herself in the rearview mirror in disbelief. The doctor had said the swelling would continue and the ice would help, but her face was practically numb it was so cold. If the ice was helping, she didn't see how. Her face was puffy and about seven shades of ugly. How had she let this happen? She was supposed to be a professional, well at least a 'professional in training'. Now here she sat, at nearly three o'clock in the morning, outside her partner's apartment, battered and bruised.

Her stomach began twisting and she gripped the wheel tightly. Why had she come here? Her family was out of town. The house was empty; there would have been no questions to answer. Before she could contemplate her decision any further, she jumped at the loud crash and subsequent argument a small group of young men were having across the street. Her mind immediately flashed back to earlier in the evening. Her thoughts were on another fight, one she had experienced first hand.

The thickly accented, booming voice in her head now drowned out the boys' harmless squabble. His taunting, his slaps, they were all she could hear now. Her trembling hands, still clutching the wheel, were scratched and bruised, results of her fighting to stay alive. Her eyes started to blur from the tears now filling them. Taking in a shaky breath, careful of her bruised ribs, Amanda unfastened her seatbelt and then gingerly stepped out of the vehicle. She needed the safe haven that only one man could bring.

On wobbly legs, she opened the door to the entrance and pulled her jacket tightly around her. She didn't see the taxi driver coming out of the building until he had slammed into her, nearly knocking her down. She was certain her shoulder had been knocked clear off until the pounding proved otherwise. He grumbled an apology and tugged his fare's luggage to the curb. Amanda waited for the traveler to exit after his driver, careful to avoid eye contact. She cast her eyes to the ground hoping to avoid any more encounters and entered the building.

"Good morning, ma'am." The man barely lifted his head from behind his desk.

Amanda picked up her pace, not wanting to stop and have her occasional chat with the building's night watchman.

"Oh, Mrs. King? Is that you? You're up and about early this morning, why it's not even light out," the overly cheerful voice came.

Certain that he'd see her marred face she kept her eyes focused on the elevator, now only a few yards away. Giving him a non-committal wave, she rushed past his perch behind the small desk inside the entryway. Once in the small confines of the elevator, she let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding and pressed the button for his floor. She slumped to the back wall and slid to the floor, hoping no one would join her on the short trip up.