At my Launch Party for ECHO I mentioned a short story that I wrote while at FSU. One of my peers told me it was unrealistic, and I was sort of turned off to writing because of that criticism. I knew that I had kept the story all these years because I was proud of the ‘A’ I earned from my professor, so I dug it out of storage to share with y’all here. I retyped it, and as I did so, I realized how much I’ve grown as a writer over the last two decades (yep, my FSU days were that long ago!). I cringe now at the number of adverbs I used, the repetition of the same words throughout the three-page story, and my lack of re-searchable knowledge about domestic violence. The premise, however, was one I wanted to explore–regaining control of
on’es one’s life. So, here it is. Let me know what you think.
Jamie Turner reached up and gingerly touched her bruised, swollen eye. Every breath she took made her battered chest ache more and reminded her of the brutality of the night before. She squinted up at the sun just now rising above the top of the woodsy brush and peeking through the many pine trees. She sat on the chilled October ground in the middle of the wood behind the home she shared with her husband Damon. Palmettos camouflaged her but did little to keep Jamie from feeling a brisk autumn wind that easily penetrated her thin, sleeveless cotton nightgown. In her flight from her house, she didn’t think to change into something warmer because Jamie’s only plan was to find a peaceful place a short distance away to end this miserable excuse of a life.
The four-ten shotgun she had grabbed on the way out now laid beside her on the ground. Damon was in the shower when she left. It was the only way she made it out of the door with the gun. Now she sat there in the woods, barefoot and cold, trying to remember any good times in her six year marriage. There were a few, like birthdays and anniversaries, but the many times Damon had beat the hell out of her for one stupid reason or another by far overshadowed any remembrances of happier days.
Last night was no exception. Damon came home drunk, as usual, and stumbled into the bedroom. Jamie pretended to be asleep, but the fear that had hold of her made her whole body shake.
“Why in the hell didn’t you leave the outside light on for me, huh?” he yelled, pulling the covers off Jamie to make sure he had her attention. She sat up and scooted to the headboard, tucking her [feet] under her to become as small and as close to invisible as possible. Jamie wrapped her arms around a pillow and kept her eyes diverted so as not to look directly at Damon and intimidate him even more.
“I couldn’t find the keyhole, Jamie,” he said, snatching the pillow away from her. Her legs quickly untucked, and her knees flew to underneath her chin as if to from a blockade in front of her chest. “You were hoping I couldn’t get in, weren’t you?” he asked.
“N-no, Damon,” she stammered, “I just forgot.” Wrong answer, she knew. He reached out and grabbed a handful of her long, blond hair and yanked her off of the bed. Jamie reached for her head to tr to lessen the pressure of her pulling hair as she screamed out in pain.
“That’s no reason!” he yelled, letting her hair go so she dropped to the floor. “I told you to pay more attention, didn’t I?” Now free of his hold, Jamie crawled to the corner to huddle and pray, though God had never answered her prayers before. She knew what was coming and turned her face to the wall.
“Don’t turn away from me when I’m talking to you,” Damon said. He grabbed her hair again to pull her to her feet. He threw her against the wall, facing him. He saw the tears streaming down her face and knew she was scared, and he smiled. Damon swung his closed fist and caught Jamie’s left eye. The power of the hit threw her back into the corner where she slumped to the floor.
“Damon, don’t,” she weakly cried, knowing he’d have his way anyhow. He pleas, she’d realized long ago, not only fell on deaf ears but actually drove him to beat her harder and longer. She no longer begged or tried to reason with him. A booted foot landed in her left side, making her scream once again and continuing her prayer to God that this time he beat her to death so she wouldn’t have to endure anymore. For a few seconds all was calm, causing Jamie to wonder what he was doing. She lifted her head to see where Damon was, only to receive another punch to her left eye, causing her to black out.
Another cool October wind blew, reminding her of the reality of the woods around her and the reason she came out there in the first place.
She sat there with the shot gun next to her, convinced that dying would be so much better than the shell of an existence she had now. No more beatings, no more rapes, no more mental anguish. Finally, she would regain control of her life and Damon could never hurt her again. Jamie carefully picked up the four-ten and studied it. She remembered the many times Damon had showed her how it was loaded and when the safety was on, only to cruelly aim it at her head and tell her that if she were ever to touch his guns he would kill her.
Jamie knew it was loaded, because Damon always kept his guns loaded in case he ever needed one quickly. She checked the safety button and that the gun wasn’t locked. Jamie carefully slid the butt of the gun down between her knees to her feet. She inched her toe up next to the trigger and gently placed the tip of the barrel between her breasts. Jamie closed her eyes and prepared to squeeze the trigger with her big toe.
“Jamie, baby, please don’t.” It was Damon on his knees only twelve feet away from her peeking through the palmetto brush. His hair was still wet from the shower he had been taking when Jamie left. “Darlin’, I’m so sorry. Please don’t do it, Jamie,” he pleaded.
“God, why not Damon?” Jamie asked. She was sort of relieved that he had come to stop her because twenty-six seemed life a young age to die.
“Because I love you baby,” he crooned. “It will never happen again, I swear it.”
“You’re lying,” Jamie told him. Still, she lifted the shot gun from between her knees and laid it carefully in her lap. “You always promise “it will never happen again,’ but it always does, and I can’t take anymore.”
“I’m not lying this time, Jamie. I mean it. I love you, and I’ll never hit you again. Just come on out of there and let’s go back in the house, where it’s warm, and we’ll talk.” The coaxing seemed to be working because Jamie stood up from behind the bushes with the shot gun before her. For a second fear seized her. She realized he saw her holding his gun. She couldn’t go back in the house with him now; surely he would beat her again or carry out his threats of killing her.
“No Damon,” Jamie said, “I’m not going back to that house with you. Not to keep living the way I’ve been living the last six years.” Jamie felt something awaken in her, something she’d never felt before during her marriage: control. “I will not be treated the way you’ve treated me ever again,” she told him. Damon’s look of anger at seeing Jamie with his shot gun changed to one of confusion and fear as she lifted the gun and took aim.
“Jamie what are you doing? You don’t know how to handle a gun.”
“I know more than you think I do,” she answered. “I know you think you’ve got control of me, but you’re just a big bully.” She kept the gun aimed at him.
“Oh, please,” she spat, with more confidence in her voice. “I’ve seen this gun waved in front of my face enough times to make sure that I don’t hurt myself with it. But you, on the other hand—“ Her voice trailed off and a smile came to her face at the thought of ridding the world of one more wife beater.
“Jamie, I’m not kidding now. Put that gun down before it accidentally goes off. I swear, if you weren’t so stupid you’d see how much trouble you’re creating for yourself now.”
“I’m stupid?” Jamie said sarcastically. “I’m not the one staring down the barrel of a gun, am I? I think you better start prayin’ that God will accept your sorry ass even after all the hell you’ve put me through.” Jamie aimed at Damon and hearing him yell “No!” pulled the trigger.
She walked over to where he dove head first, just barely missing not getting hit by the slugs. He looked up at Jamie who was staring down at him, holding the shot gun by the barrel.
“Not that there will ever be a next time, because I’m leaving you, but if you ever threaten me again or even come near me, it’ll be you with a hole the size of Rhode Island instead of a tree trunk,” she said, then swung the butt of the gun and hit him in the side of the temple, knocking Damon out cold. Jamie looked up at the sun, which hadn’t climbed much higher in the last half-hour, and smile, happy to be alive.