This o/s was written for the Fans Against Domestic Violence compilation. It's also my first ever o/s.
Thank you to J and Suzy for pre-reading. And thank you to Tkegl for helping me not to throw up at the thought of posting it and for her sweet words. *hearts*
Warning: This story is violent and may be hard to read.
She stared down at the napkin in her lap. Her body began to tremble. She knew what was coming. It always started off as something small and simple, but it ended with tears and chaos.
"Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes," he snarled. "I had to wait for dinner for fifteen minutes, and it was still burned."
She heard his chair as it fell to the floor, always from the force in which he stood up. She could hear his footsteps as they approached her, and she willed her body to stop trembling. It only egged him on.
Suddenly, she was on her back and a vicious pain shot through the left side of her face. Instinctively, she went to cover it.
"Don't. You know better," he breathed.
And she did. If she tried to ease her pain, it only made him want to make it worse. Her survival method was to simply stay still and hope he had gotten it out of his system.
Tonight, she was lucky.
"Get this place cleaned up. Now."
She watched him walk away, shaking his hand from the pain of having punched her. Instantly, her tears started to fall down her face, but she kept herself from letting out any noise. That would've only angered him even more, and he would've run back into the kitchen to give her even more reason to cry.
She slowly sat up, a little dazed, and surveyed the room. Just like many times before, the chairs were overturned and their dinner drinks were spilling onto the floor from the table. She was thankful that the kitchen floor wasn't carpeted. He hated stains. He had made sure to let her know just how much in the way of a split lip a few years ago.
Apartment 416 couldn't take it anymore. Every other day, screaming and shouting and the sounds of objects being thrown across the room would make their way through the thin walls of the building.
It always interrupted the piano lessons she was trying to give, and she had grown tired of coming up with excuses for the children who constantly asked her what all the noise was about.
She wanted to go over and ask them to stop, but she resigned herself to stay put. She had been brought up to know that what goes on within a family is that family's business and nobody else's.
She knew, however, that the fights weren't limited to yelling or damaging objects around the apartment. She had seen her with cuts on her face and bruises on her arms, the ones that she couldn't conceal with make-up. She never made eye contact with anyone as she passed by in the hallway, always watching her feet as she walked to her front door.
Even still, Apartment 416 didn't say or do anything.
It's not my place.
He was drunk again.
She only hoped that he would drink himself to sleep instead of trying to find her and take his fist to her face or his foot to her stomach. She was still trying to recoup from the week before. He had only slapped her then, but it was enough to leave a large bruise on her right cheek.
"Get me another beer!" he shouted from the living room.
She sighed quietly and quickly walked through where he was to reach the refrigerator. When she opened it, she began to panic. The beer holder was empty. She thought about offering him a glass of Scotch or even a glass of wine, but she had learned the hard way to never offer options. When he wanted a beer, he wanted a beer and nothing else.
"We're out," she whispered.
"We're out," she repeated.
"What the fuck? I told you to get more beer on your way home from work."
"I did. I brought another six pack."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did," she replied defiantly. "I can show you the receipt if you want. You drank it."
She watched him stand from the couch, his suit from work wrinkled and his tie loosely done. He stalked over to her and set his almost empty beer bottle down on the glass dinner table.
"What did you say?" he fumed.
"I said that I bought more beer and yo—"
She registered the glass shattering before she realized that she was back on the floor. She felt something dripping on her face and looked up to see it was the beer that was trickling down the wall. There was a large mark on the wall from where he had thrown the bottle at it.
Slowly, she turned her head to see if he was still in the room. He had gone back to sitting on the couch and staring at the TV, letting her know she had blacked out. As she brought herself to a sitting position, the right side of her head began to throb. She knew it was from the force of it hitting the floor when he pushed her.
She heard crunching as she moved her body and felt the nicks of the glass dig into her skin. She let out a sigh as she stood up, hoping there was ibuprofen in the bathroom's medicine cabinet for her headache, and grabbed the broom to clean the mess.
Just like she had many times before.
Apartment 314 was having an argument over the very loud argument going on above them.
"We have to say something!"
"What do you want me to do?" he asked. "It's not like I can go over there and tell them to not argue."
"You know he does more than that," she said, lowering her voice. "He beats the shit out of her. How can we not do something?"
"Because that's their business. We don't get involved in theirs just like we wouldn't want someone to get involved in ours."
"Can you at least go up there and just tell them to keep it down?"
Before he could answer, they both heard a loud crash followed by a thump on their ceiling.
"That's it. I'm going up there. I can't take knowing what he's doing to her."
She stalked to the door and barely had her hand on the knob before he pulled her back into his chest.
He knew that someone should intervene, but he didn't want it to be his wife. He didn't know if the asshole upstairs kept his anger solely focused on his own wife or if he would take it out on someone else's. He would've gone up there himself, but he worried that threats would ensue, and he couldn't be with his own wife at all times to ensure that the asshole didn't touch her while he was out.
"We have to do something," she said.
He held his wife closer to him and placed a kiss on her cheek.
"Someone'll say something. I'm sure of it."
It's not our place.
His arm was around her waist tightly. He hadn't let her move so much as an inch away from him all night as he showed her off to his colleagues. She smiled and played the part she knew was expected of her. When someone made a joke, she laughed. When someone told a story, she listened intently.
In reality, she had retreated into her mind. She had a degree just like the people around her. She was intelligent. She could've been just as successful as anyone else in the room. But then she met him.
Her senior year of college, she was working hard on her thesis when she literally ran into him in the library. She had taken him out for coffee to apologize. Two years later, they were married. She was happy.
But then he convinced her that he made more than enough money for her to stay home. He said that he didn't want his wife to have to lift a finger if she didn't have to. He also added that their future children should have a full-time mother.
Two months into the marriage, he had slapped her for the first time.
Four years later, she stood with his hand around her waist, pretending to enjoy her time with a part-time job at a clothing store and no children.
She was relieved at the last part.
"I need another water. Do you want anything?" she asked, looking up to him.
"No, thank you."
He kissed her temple before he let her go, always the gentleman when they were on display.
She walked over to the table and asked for a glass of ice water. The bartender joked about her being the first to ask for something other than alcohol, and she laughed. They made more small talk as he filled her glass, and she thanked him before walking back to her husband who was laughing and carrying on his conversation.
When she reached him, his arm went back to her waist and gripped her even tighter than before.
"Did you have a good time?" he asked as he removed his shoes and socks, letting them fall next to the hamper in their bedroom.
"You seemed to," he stated. "Especially with the bartender."
She placed her earrings in her jewelry box and looked at him through the reflection in the mirror. He removed his tie and threw it on the floor.
"You were very chatty with him. But how can I blame you, right? He's young and very good-looking."
"I honestly don't know what you're talking about."
She continued to get out of her expensive dress and then slipped out of her heels.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about!" he yelled. "Did you have fun flirting with another man while I was only a few feet away? Did it make you feel like a woman? Does it make you happy to piss me the fuck off?"
She turned her body so she could face him and watched as his face grew red, and he waved his arms around.
I shouldn't have talked to him. I should've just gotten my drink and left the table.
"I'm sorry," she said, trying to keep herself from crying.
"You're fucking right you're sorry. Did you think he would want you? You're nothing! You're just an ungrateful bitch," he spat.
She didn't know what to say, but, then again, she never did when he spoke to her that way. She would always simply stay where she was and let him say what he needed to. She leaned against the dresser and listened to him go on and on about how she was worthless, and he was doing her a favor by staying with her. He went on and on about how she had a beautiful place to live and the most expensive clothes and jewelry any woman could want, that she never went without anything she needed.
"You're mine. Do you get that? You may be worth shit, but you're mine. Don't ever forget that."
And she knew he was right. No matter how badly she wanted to get away from him, she had nowhere to go and nobody who would believe her if she told them the truth. Instead, she slipped into her nightgown and climbed under the covers, thankful that today, at least, didn't end with her cleaning any new wounds.
Apartment 101 was not happy.
"I'll see what I can do."
He hung up the phone and sighed, rubbing his face out of frustration. He was tired of having his tenants call him about the noise coming from the fourth floor. He was tired of hearing about how they were keeping people up at night with the yelling or the noise of items being thrown around.
What did they expect him to do exactly?
The couple paid their rent on time. They never asked him to make any repairs or fix the plumbing.
What they did in their apartment was their business. As long as he had rent in his hand by the first of every month, he had no right to tell them how to live their lives.
Besides, if what the tenants said was true about him hitting her, she would've left him already. No woman willingly stays in a relationship like that.
And with that, he grabbed his toolbox and left his office, making his way to the second floor to fix the lighting in 208's bathroom. He left all thoughts about the chaos on the fourth floor behind as he walked up the stairs.
It's not my place.
"I don't want her here."
"She's my mother. Please. I haven't seen her in months!"
"I already told you. I don't want her here!" he yelled.
"Then can I go visit her? Can I do that?"
"Why do you need to go? Is she dying? Did she hurt herself?"
"She's my mother! Do I need any other reason than that to want to see her?"
"You're not leaving this fucking apartment. Do you hear me? You take one step out the front door…" he trailed off, his chest heaving.
He stomped out of the bedroom, leaving her crying on the bed.
When they had first been married, she saw her parents all the time. As the time went on, though, she saw them less and less. Her older brothers had been hassling her to visit her nephews and nieces, a total of five now. She even missed her younger sister giving birth to her first child, because he wouldn't let her go.
The more she thought about it, the more her tears gave way to her anger. Her leg began to bounce, and she finally stood up from the bed and walked into the kitchen to find him muttering something about there not being any leftovers to eat.
"I'm going," she boldly stated.
"I'm going. I haven't seen my mother in months, I have a niece I've never met, and I miss my brothers and sister."
She scrunched up her sleeves to her elbows, wincing a little as the finger-shaped bruises still stung a bit. She held her ground, though, and stood there, looking him in the eye with all the courage she had.
He slowly closed the refrigerator door and walked over to her. And it was then she noticed the look in his eyes. She had seen it twice before, and it had landed her in the hospital with broken ribs and a broken nose each time.
I pushed him too far. I should've stayed quiet.
She began to walk backwards, worried that he'd do enough damage to send her to the hospital again, and started to cry when she felt the wall at her back.
She was trapped.
When he finally reached her, he stayed put, staring at her. He never said a word. He never moved a muscle, and, after a couple of minutes, she thought he had actually cooled down and was going to leave her alone.
Just then, his hand shot up, grabbing her around her neck and cutting off her ability to breathe. She tried grabbing at his hand, hoping to pull it away enough so she could at least inhale. The more she struggled, though, the tighter his grip got.
"Please," she wheezed.
She was starting to feel light-headed and knew she would be blacking out soon if he didn't let her go.
She started to kick and prayed that she'd make contact with some part of his body. Then, he flexed his fingers, loosening his grip a bit and allowing her to catch her breath.
As she started to cough, she felt his fingers flex again when the pain in the back of her head almost made her fall over.
"You're not going anywhere!" he yelled as he slammed her head into the wall again.
Just when she thought she couldn't take the pain anymore, he finally let her go. She slumped to the floor, holding her neck and coughing, the tears falling automatically.
He bent his legs so he hovered over her, leaning his head down so his mouth was close to her ear.
"You leave, and I'll kill you," he whispered.
As she heard him grab his keys and his jacket and walk out of the apartment, she knew he would make good on his threat if she ever tried.
Apartment 415 was trying to enjoy the game on the new flatscreen. The frat boys kept turning up the volume in order to drown out the noise from across the hall. Without having to say anything, they each knew what was going on over there.
"What time's the pizza getting here?"
"Another ten minutes or so."
They were trying to do anything but guess exactly what would make the thumping noises from that apartment.
At first, they had joked that the couple across the way was just having rough sex. But, one day, they noticed her coming home in an arm sling and a bruised cheek. It didn't take much to put one and one together to realize what the real scenario was.
They each had wanted to say something to the other, wondering how long a situation like that could go on for. After six months of living there, they realized that it could and probably would go on forever. Or until someone stepped in.
They questioned why the cops had never been called. Or why the landlord never did anything. Or how the other neighbors kept quiet. Nobody ever approached the couple. She never looked anybody in the eye when she was downstairs getting the mail. He always had his head held high and puffed out his chest when walking by others in the hallway.
Suddenly, a cell phone went off.
"The girls are here. Lemme buzz em in."
"No. Let's, uh, go downstairs and walk them up," he said.
Without having to say anything out loud, they both knew that they didn't want either of their girlfriends to possibly run into him on the off chance that he was in a bad mood and might do something.
As they opened the door, the noises from across the hall grew louder, and neither knew what to do.
"Is your girl putting out yet?"
And they playfully shoved each other down the hall, laughing loudly to drown out the noise behind them.
It's not our place.
Her face felt hot. She knew there was blood trickling from her lip, but she stayed where she was so that she wouldn't cause him to focus on her again.
"I'm going out. Have this place cleaned up when I get back."
And with that, he left the apartment, slamming the door behind him.
She looked around the living room, taking in the broken television set, the turned over coffee table, and the pieces of the now broken lamp in the corner.
All because she wasn't in the mood for sex.
She walked into the bathroom and surveyed the damage to her face. As she suspected, her lip was busted, but she also had blood oozing from her nose. There was a small cut above her eyebrow.
But she was thankful it was this and not him forcing himself on her like he had times before.
She cried a little as she cleaned her face, hissing at the sting of the medicine against her cuts. She wondered if she had enough make-up left to cover up the bruises she knew would be there in the morning. There really wasn't anything she could do for the cuts. She had learned that a long time ago.
She pulled her hair into a low ponytail and walked back into the living room. She sighed as she thought about having to replace the TV and the other furniture that had been damaged. Her eyes strayed to the clock on the wall next to the front door.
She stared at the clock for a bit and wondered where he had gone at that hour.
And then she snapped.
It didn't matter where he had gone. The point was that he was gone.
She ran into the bedroom and grabbed a suitcase from the top of the closet, a duffel bag falling onto her at the same time. She ran into the bathroom and grabbed whatever she could get her hands on, not really paying attention to whether she needed it or if it was even hers to begin with. She zipped the half empty duffel and moved to the dresser drawers. In swoops, she threw it all into the suitcase.
Underwear. Jeans. Shirts. Socks.
As she ran back and forth, she mentally went over the secret bank account she had opened and prayed that there was enough in it to get her somewhere far from him.
It didn't matter where she went, though she knew she couldn't go to family, that being the first place he would think to look, but she didn't have any friends and couldn't think of where else to go.
She briefly thought of going to the police. Surely the fresh cuts and bruises would be evidence enough. Surely the neighbors could all attest to the noises and the fighting and her previous injuries. But she would still have no place to go. And there was always the chance that he wouldn't be taken into custody or would be freed on bail. He would have the opportunity to find her.
She was so lost in her thoughts, she hadn't heard the apartment door open.
Or his footsteps as he walked into the bedroom.
Or his growl when he realized what she was doing.
She did, however, feel the sting of her hair being ripped from her scalp as he pulled harshly on her ponytail, her hands knocking over the almost full suitcase.
The crowd was gathered behind the crime scene tape. They all murmured and talked amongst themselves about the body in the street. The police officers were so busy trying to push the crowd back, nobody had covered it yet.
And it lay there, broken and bleeding.
I knew this was going to happen.
We should've done something sooner.
How did it get this far?
The thoughts of the residents of the apartment complex went from horror to guilt to rage. Something like this just didn't happen in their neighborhood, in the place they lived. Something like this happened to other people, to those on the news.
They all stared at the body, covered in glass from the broken window on the fourth floor, and secretly wondered if anybody had heard the scream, if anybody had seen it happen.
Just as someone had finally covered the body, their attention was drawn to the front entrance of the building where she was being led out in handcuffs by two police officers.
She didn't look apologetic or horrified or traumatized. She didn't look like anything. The color had been drained from her face, and, were it not for the blood, it would've been a shade close to snow white.
As they watched the officers place her in the back seat of the patrol car, they looked over to his now-covered, lifeless body on the street.
This could've been prevented. This could've been stopped a long time ago. But each was waiting for another to take the lead. Each was certain that it wasn't their business. Each didn't want to get involved in such a messy situation.
And it was their hesitation that caused a beautiful, educated woman to end up in the back seat of a police car.
It was our place. And we failed.