September Short Story

How Did This Happen?

Waking up feels strange. I feel dazed, like everything is far away. Pushing myself upright, wincing at the pain in my head, I swing my legs round and place my feet on the floor. I open my eyes. I’m grounded. The room starts to settle into place around me. I’m in my apartment, on my sofa. I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m so used to waking up in that booth at the all-night diner. Most people would probably be left feeling unnerved having woken up with no recollection of the night before, but honestly, it’s something you quickly get used to, and based on my experience, I’d rather not remember what happened last night.  

I hang my head between my knees. I notice I’m still fully dressed from the day before. I Shift my foot a little and it nudges something on the floor. I hear a bottle fall. It rolls under the couch. With a heavy sigh I kneel and stick my arm under the couch to retrieve it. Vodka. Empty. Great. If I’m honest with myself I could have guessed that without looking. What’s weird though is I only have a headache, which after an entire bottle of vodka should be impossible. I should feel like death. Even sitting up like this should have been a challenge. I don’t doubt that I drank the whole thing. Maybe you’re dead. No, you’re not that lucky. The thought passes through my mind and I feel nothing. A hint of relief perhaps? But nothing more. I’m a little concerned. Seems I might have to try and remember what happened last night, in case something really is wrong with me.  

Okay, let’s go over what we know. I’m in my apartment, alone, as far as I can tell, I was likely drinking alone, which unless there’s any outgoing calls on my phone, which I can’t find anyway so it’s unlikely, means I can’t ask anyone else what happened to me last night; something bad happened, that’s for sure. There’s no way I would have drunk so much otherwise. Yesterday me clearly had to deal with something she didn’t want to, and today me is going to have to figure out what that was, or still is I guess.

Coffee. I’ll go get coffee. The air will be refreshing, and the caffeine will wake me up; clear this headache, so I can focus. Glancing at the door I see I’ve left my keys in the lock, saving me the usual fifteen minutes of searching for them. I’m sure I look like shit, but the baristas at the Starbucks down the block are used to seeing me like this by now. I cross the room, unlock the door and shoving my keys into my pocket pull it open. Well at least I try to. The door doesn’t shift an inch. Did I not unlock it properly? I retrieve my keys and try again. Still nothing. I try again and again. Is it jammed? Is the lock broken? I step back defeated. My chest begins to feel tight. I’m stuck. No. Now is not the time for a panic attack. Relax. I can call my super and he can come fix my door. It’s okay. I still don’t know where my phone is though. I need to find it, or I can’t get out. I turn the couch inside out, check my jacket hanging on the back of the chair, fuck where is it? Did I lose it last night somehow? Fuck, I don’t remember…  

A sudden stinging, a burning, on my forearm makes me yell out in pain. I clutch at my arm. What the hell was that? I look down, there’s a small circular burn on my inner forearm, like a cigarette burn. “What the fuck?” I whisper. How could I have been burned by a cigarette, or at all, I’m the only one here. Wait, I remember being on my phone last night. I was trying to make a phone call. I was trying to make a phone call and he didn’t want me to, so he’d stubbed his cigarette into my arm. I look down at the floor. There’s my phone, smashed as if stamped on, and a crumpled cigarette next to it. This is weird. Something isn’t right. I need to get help. I make for the bedroom. I’d hidden a burner phone under the mattress a few months ago when he started taking my phone away from me, in case things went too far and I had to call for help. I’ve barely moved a couple of steps before I cry out in pain as my body crumples to the floor.  It felt like I’d been kicked in the back. As I fall my eye connects with the corner of the cabinet. Pain shots through my head and my eyes fill with water. I twist my body to try and see what had pushed me, my vision is blurred, but still I can see nothing that would have caused me to fall. All I can feel in my heart beating fast, pumping pain and fear through my body. I’m definitely going to need stitches again. I’m starting to shake. I must be going into shock. I still don’t know what is going on. All I know is I need help. I need to get to my burner phone. I reach up and grab a hold on the edge of the cabinet in an attempt to get back on my feet, but my head is spinning. I just about lock my legs into place beneath me when something whistles past my ear and smashes in to the wall. I try and step forward and hear the sound of glass underneath my shoe. He must have tried to throw the ashtray at me. Thank god he missed. My head is in enough pain. I cover my head, in case anything else gets thrown at me, and try to stumble once again towards my bedroom. I’ve given up trying to figure out what’s going on. I just want to get away. More things are hurled at me. What I think was the T.V remote hits the back of my leg. Eventually, I make it through the door frame into the bedroom. I get behind the door and slump to the floor, letting my weight push it shut behind me. I clutch my eye and try to control my breathing. I still need to get to the burner.  I think maybe I’m safe in this room, if he’s, if whatever it is is still in the lounge, maybe he, it, can’t get in here. I take the chance and drag myself over to the bed. It’s a struggle to lift the mattress so I can get to the burner, but I manage it despite the pain. I let the mattress drop back onto the bed frame. The movement causes a letter to jump off the bed and float down next to me. Big red letters read “FINAL NOTICE”. I reach for it and quickly scan through. Oh god. I remember what happened. I pull myself up on the edge of the bed. Yes. The bed is covered in more letters, all demanding money. Final payment warnings, threats of legal action, repossession notices and an eviction notice. I’d been cleaning out the wardrobe and had found all these letters tucked away at the back. He’d been lying to me that we were fine. He’d sorted everything. When he came home last night I’d been sat on the bed pouring through these letters. I’d stormed into the lounge and confronted him about it. How could he have hidden this from me? I told him I couldn’t do it anymore. That I was leaving. I had been trying to call my Mum and he had snapped. It wasn’t the first time he’d lashed out at me, but this had been worse than all the others. He wasn’t angry. He was vengeful. How dare I leave him. The bedroom door slams open. There’s still no one there. I know it’s him though. For some reason I’m reliving what happened last night. I can’t escape it. He’s coming for me. The last thing I remember is an invisible hand twisting into my hair pulling my head up before slamming it down into what felt like a knee. Then things go black.  

Waking up feels strange. Everything hurts. The room is bright. The light hurts my eyes. I’m slowly aware of the tubes on my face. I’m in the hospital. I turn my head slightly to look around the room and I see him. He’s talking to a nurse. He’s smiling. He’s given the doctors a fake story. Told them I fell down the stairs or something. And I’ll agree with him. I know I said I would leave, but I won’t. I’ll go along with what he’s said and when I’m better we’ll go home, and it will be as if it didn’t happen, until the next time. Because I’m afraid, and it’s easier to believe the lies he tells me than it is to face the truth.


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