The Broken Road

A heavy hand smashed into Elizabeth Kessler's face. She stumbled back and crumpled against the wall. Her ears rang and her face felt as though a piece of hot metal had been pressed against it.

Her vision blurred for a moment. Not from the pain of the hit, but from the pain in her heart. He wasn't supposed to do this ever again. There'd been the one time when he'd been drunk and she'd shoved him away, but, she'd started that one. She'd done nothing this time.

She could see the dark counter she'd been standing at when he'd come into the room. Chicken on the counter, that had been what she'd thought he'd wanted. She was proud of herself, it was a new recipe and it had smelled great.

Her breath caught in her throat as she tried to stop the tears. He was still close. Lizzie, as she was better known, dropped her eyes to the ground and saw the chicken she'd been so proud of laying inches from her hand, dirty and ruined.

"Get up," her husband's gruff voice demanded.

Lizzie slid her hand along the wall and attempted to follow the command. Her legs had other intentions. Her knees buckled and threatened to collapse as she applied weight.

Danny's finger's locked around her hair and he and he yanked her to her feet.

The tears came. Great torrents of tears she couldn't stop. Her breath became ragged.

"Are you crying? Crying again? That's all you ever do, you just cry, and cry…" he voice trailed off.

Lizzie hardly dared to look up. Her brain was commanding her to move, for her body to flee. Her body had other intentions, it was paralyzed in fear. She saw him pick up the knife. Her body realized it had to move, but the realization came too late…

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Lizzie's eyes were closed, a faint plink, plink, plink had roused her from her sleep. She didn't dare open her eyes, she already knew where she was. Her nose had become familiar with this place. The strong cleaning agents, sterile hospital smell.

It hurt to breath, it hurt to move. Her shoulder was where the pain was focused. A sharp pain. But there was another pain, the pain of her heart. It felt empty. Empty with the realization that everything she'd thought she had had been a lie.

This wasn't her first visit to the hospital. There'd been the night he was drunk, then the argument she'd started at the top of the stairs…

"Husband said he found her like that," a soft voice explained outside the door.

Lizzie resisted the urge to open her eyes. Found her like this? That was a new one. Usually, she was just accident prone.

"Damage to the lung. We'll have to watch her."

Damage to her lung? Her lungs? Lizzie felt that familiar feeling of tears washing up on her. He'd damaged her lungs. He could have killed her.

A voice in her head, that soundly oddly like Danny's talked to her. "If he'd wanted to kill you, he would have."

Lizzie shook her head. He hadn't wanted to kill her, that would have been too difficult to hide. Hurt her is what he'd wanted to do. His intention had been to show her where she belonged. That she couldn't make even the simplest decisions, like what to make for dinner without him.

Cold, gentle fingers touched her arms. Lizzie heard the familiar rip of Velcro. Someone was taking her blood pressure. She allowed her eyes to open just a little, and she saw a familiar face. She didn't remember this nurse's name, but she knew she liked her. Soft spoken and kind, she never asked the wrong kind of questions. Just made sure she was comfortable.

Lizzie opened her hazel eyes fully and looked up at the nurse.

"Well, hello," she stated, her voice low. "How ya feeling?"

Lizzie didn't answer, she knew the nurse didn't expect one.

"It was too close this time, Elizabeth," the nurse stated softly.

Lizzie's eye, which had drifted towards the window, snapped back to the nurse, who nodded her head solemnly. "I've known since your first time here."

Lizzie didn't answer. She'd know it herself too, but she hadn't wanted to admit it. She didn't want to be one of those women, caught in that circle of violence. But she was. Something she'd vowed she'd never be, she'd almost become a causality of.

"There's help," the nurse went on, her blue eyes darted towards the door. "I can get you information."

Lizzie's mind went to her safe place, the only safe place she'd ever had. And in that moment, she knew she was going back.

"I'm going to be all right," she stated softly. And for the first time in three years, she believed it.