"Hey, Jake." I said softly. "Clare? Hey, how's it going?" I pursed my lips and pressed the phone closer to my ear, "It's...It's been better."

"How are things with Eli?" I could only imagine Jake cringing. His voice was timid, probably knowing it was a sensitive topic.

"I need to tell you something."

"Go ahead." I took a small breath, "This...This stays between us?" I added. "Yeah, Clare, of course."

"So, umm, a few weeks, Eli, um, he-he shot me." I pulled a pillow against my chest. As of the moment, I was under the covers of Eli and I's bed, whispering so the kids wouldn't hear me.

"He what?! Before I completely freak out, explain to me exactly what you mean by 'he shot me'." Jake's voice was strained, for obvious reasons.

"He had this gun—I don't know where he got it or why he has it—but he shot me. He actually shot me. My own husband, my soulmate shot me."

"He's not your soulmate, Clare! Soulmates love each other and people who love each other don't hurt each other!"

I felt myself almost begin to cry, "I didn't call to be yelled at. If you're just gonna yell-"

"I'm sorry. I can't believe you're still with Eli. He hurts you, Clare." I chewed on my lip, "It's not like he'd ever let me leave. Besides, I love him." I couldn't think of any other reason to give Jake.

"You can't love a man who hurts you, who hurts your children." I sighed, "Jake, you wouldn't understand."

I knew he disagreed with me, but he was just trying to make me feel better, "Okay, you're right. I've never experienced that type of abuse," I flinched at that word, :so you're probably right. I don't know. But, Clare," His voice was cracking now, "my house is always open. For you or the kids."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course. Clare, I will always be by your side. We're family." I smiled, suddenly wishing I was at Jake's house with a cup of cocoa, sitting in front of the fireplace with the kids.

"Ahem."

I turned around to see Eli standing in the doorway. "I-I have to go." I said into the phone and pressed the end tab.

"Who was that?" The stench of liquor was strong even across the room. He must've been at some bar. It made me wonder, and worry, if he'd driven home.

"It-It was Jake. Are you drunk?" I asked. I knew Eli: he got violent when he was drunk.

He stepped closer, "I don't like you talking to Jake. You're not allowed to talk to Jake." He spat Jake's name like he was disgusted by it. And he should be; I'd be disgusted too, if my significant other had an affair with someone else. Somehow, I don't regret that.

"I'm the only man you're ever allowed to talk to."

"You've been drinking, Eli. Why don't we talk about this in the morning when you're sober?" He snapped, "No! You know you're not supposed to talk to him! I'm the only man in your life!"

I swallowed, nervously, "I know that. Just calm down. We can talk about this. I was only saying 'hi' to Jake. That's it." I lied.

"Bullshit. I fucking hear you. You told him I shot you. He gonna call the fucking cops, Clare, and they'll arrest me and take me away for attempted murder, abuse, child abuse—fuck! How could you be so stupid?!"

He suddenly took a big step and slapped me harder than ever before. I flew to the ground, "E-Eli-" I sobbed, "If Jake calls the police, which he won't, you're only giving them evidence." I tried to reason.

Instead of listening to me, he yanked me up by my arms and slapped me again, holding me up so he could deliver another blow, "I'll be gone by the time any cops show up." Eli hissed.

"What-What do you mean?" He slapped me and threw me into the wall.

Pinning me to the ground, Eli punched me in the jaw several time and, for a moment, I was afraid it would break, "You've messed up so bad, Clare." I barely heard him through my sobs. "By the time I'm done with you and gone, no man will ever want you again. Not Jake, not anyone." I tried to block him, but he hit me too hard for my weak attempts to matter.

"Oh, what the fuck?!" Eli snapped. We could hear someone—Elliott—sobbing and whispering. Anna, too, was crying. "The kids are home?!" He demanded. "I-I picked them up e-earlier." I stammered, but it was hardly understandable.

"Oh my God!" Eli stormed out and it was quiet for a moment. Then I heard a loud slap, followed by my son screaming. I tried to yell or stop Eli, but I could hardly move a few inches.

After several slaps, each followed by a cry of pain, Eli returned to our room and began shoving things into a duffle bag. "Pl-Please don't take the kids." I begged.

"I'm not taking anyone with me. Fuck all of you." He muttered, still obviously drunk. "Where are you gonna go?"

"I'm not fucking telling so you can tell the cops and get me in jail!" After a few minutes, he'd gathered everything that he deemed important and left. He slammed the front door, started the car and left.

"Mommy!" Elliot screamed. He stumbled into my bedroom, bearing a severely busted lip, swollen cheek and 2 black eyes.

"Come here, baby." I moaned, motioning to my side. He walked over, uneasily, stumbling over his own feet. I could see a contusion forming on the side of his head, explaining why he was so dizzy.

He finally sat down and sobbed into my chest, "He hit me!" He wailed for the longest time about how bad everything hurt.

"I have to check on Anna." I told him. After making sure she was okay, I help Elliott onto the bed, where we slept for hours, only waking up later that night to my phone ringing underneath me.

The number was one that I did not recognize and I could only assume it was Eli calling to make some drunk, half-ass apology from a payphone 50 miles away.

"H-hello?" I stammered, holding Elliot close to me.

"Hello, this is officer Jose Mongols with the TPS. Is this Clare Goldsworthy?" I suddenly had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, "Yes, it is..."

I shouldn't have let Eli go. I shouldn't have let him go out, not as drunk as he was.

"We've identified your husband, Elijah Goldsworthy, as the victim of a car accident. He's being held at the Toronto medical center, but he's in critical condition. We'll need you to come down as soon as possible."

"Now?"

"It's most urgent, yes."


How'd y'all like the new ending?