"Layla, please let me in. I just want to talk!"
"The last time we 'talked'," she spat back, "I ended up with two fractured ribs."
"GODDAMMIT LAYLA!" He banged on the door, shaking the feeble wooden frame.
She had struck a nerve. She imagined his face. His square jaw tight and clenched, the veins bulging out of his neck, his dark, almost black eyes, tightening with rage. This made her smirk.
"Just get out of here Jared! I'm done talking to you, we're over!."
She heard him inhale sharply, followed by slow exhale.
"I'll be at Nick's."
Of course he'd be at Nick's, where else did he have to go?.
She stood by the door and waited until she heard his footsteps fade down the hallway. Then she waited a couple minutes more before calmly walking over to the couch to sit down.
He wasn't going to win this time, it was finally going to be her turn.
She lifted up her ratty t-shirt, and traced the scars on her stomach with the tip of her finger.
A lot has happened in the past year...
She remembered when she first met Jared. She was new to the city, and a kind neighbor had invited her to a party. She knew no one there and, being of her shy nature, she stuck to the wall like glue. She had made eye contact with him from across the room. He had flashed her a cute, white smile before approaching her. The same scene she had seen in movies hundreds of times.
But the movies never quite played out like this.
A couple weeks into their relationship, he took her to meet his friend Nick. She had never seen an actual crack house, but she was fairly certain that Nick's place qualified. She remembered inching closer to Jared as she passed by various frail bodies passed out on couches and several mattresses, piles of needles and rusty spoons littered on the ground around them. The wall paper was cracked and peeling and the dingy carpet was ripped up in several places, revealing the gray concrete underneath. She didn't say anything. She just clung on to Jared's arm and averted her eyes, staring at the floor beneath her. They had made their way to a room in the back and Jared had quietly rapped on the door before peeking inside.
"Jared!," Nick had proclaimed. "Is this the new broad you told me about?" He chuckled, and Layla looked away.
"Sure is," he wrapped his arm around her. "Layla, Nick. Nick, Layla."
"Nice to meet you," Nick extended his hand. She tentatively took it and gave it a feeble shake.
"Quiet one, huh?" He looked at Jared.
"Yeah she is." Jared looked at her and smile. "But I think she's about ready to come out of her shell." He winked.
"Well you came to the right place!" They shared a laugh.
She was starting to feel uneasy.
I should have left. Right then and there.
Jared had talked her into taking these pills. She didn't want to take them, not in the slightest bit. Every fiber in her body was urging her to leave, to throw the pills on the floor and get the hell out of there. She should have listened.
But I didn't realize that then. I was too naive....
She just wanted to fit in. She just wanted to feel like she belonged. Just once. And she didn't want Jared to think any less of her. She didn't want Jared to leave her.
And now I can't get him to go away...
So she took the pills. But it didn't end there. Jared pushed her to acid, cocaine, and she eventually ended up addicted to heroine. It consumed her life. She never wanted to go to work, or out with her old friends. She started spending more and more time at Nick's, even when Jared around. She lost her job, and shortly after, her house. She had become one of those mangled bodies on Nick's couch.
They were so disgusting. I was so disgusting...
Her and Jared were low on money. He eventually lost his job as well. Nick told her that he never held a job down for long, and that he'd find another eventually. But several months past and they had no such luck. There weren't many places around willing to hire a couple of addicts. Things were getting worse. Nick's hospitality only extended so far, and drugs weren't free. All the stress revealed a new side to Jared. A side that Layla never would have guessed was hidden behind his charming, bright smile. He was filled with rage, and he took it out on her. The worse their situation got, the harder he beat her. She was his punching bag, a tool for venting his frustrations. He was so much bigger than her, she couldn't have fought back if she even tried. And no one in the house really cared enough to help her. They would just get up and leave the room. Several of the girls in the house were beaten on a regular basis. It just seemed to be how things were supposed to work.
Black eyes and broken arms and busted ribs and bruises. She was broken.
Until Jared got an idea. He decided to pimp her out on the street. Layla was going to object, she swore to herself that she wouldn't do it. She had to hold on to some, last shred of dignity.
But then the beatings stopped.
Jared couldn't sell a broken piece of merchandise.
So she gave in and went with it. Things would be better this way, she remembered assuring herself. There was no way it could be worse than the beatings.
Except it was...
She walked the same strip of sidewalk under an old bridge almost every night. She was a plain girl, but fairly attractive. And a far better alternative then the others that walked the same strip, even if she did look a bit disheveled and unkempt. Cars would pull up, and she would get in without a second thought. One man after another. And some of them wouldn't even pay her. They held her down, muffling her screams with duct tape or their hands. She would kick and squirm, but they easily overpowered her. They had their way and tossed her back to the street corner. And after a few months, it didn't matter to her anymore. She was too numb to care.
I must have slept with hundreds of men...
She got into the wrong car on night and found herself in a holding cell with several other scantily clad women. She remembered seeing a small mirror on the wall and stumbling her way towards it.
I hadn't seen my own reflection in ages.
Her eyes were bloodshot and sunken into her skull. Heavy, red bags seemed to be pulling them downwards. Her once voluminous, shiny, raven black hair was now wiry, coated with grease and plastered on to her ghostly pale face. Her nose was still slightly crooked from when Jared had broken it, and there was a small scar on her cheek from when he threw a beer bottle at her.
That's when she snapped.
She curled up into a ball on the floor, buried her face in her hands, and cried. She balled and wailed until one of the guards shouted at her to "stop with all the racket".
The next day she was put in front of a judge. He was a small, frail old man. His glasses, full white beard and kind nature had gotten him the nickname of Santa amongst the other judges. He took one look at her tear stained face and pin holed arms and decided to send her to mandatory rehabilitation instead of serving jail time.
She gladly accepted the sentencing.
The next few months were torturous for Layla. Her own, personal, living hell. They offered her drugs to make the withdrawal easier, but she refused.
Taking a drug to get over another is ridiculous...
She wanted to make it on her own, and she did. The only thing that had kept her going was the thought of her release.
Some of the doctors there were hesitant to let her leave. They felt she needed some therapy, to help her deal with what she had been through. But she plastered on a smile, and told them that she would be ok. She said she was coping.
And I am.
She got up from the couch and walked into the bathroom. She splashed a cool blast of water onto her face, and pulled her sleek hair back into a ponytail. Grabbing an oversized sweatshirt from her closet, she yanked it over her head.
Now or never...
Seizing the heavy black case off of her tabletop, she strode to the parking lot and placed it in the back seat of her beaten, old sedan. Layla ignited the ignition and headed towards the house she knew far too well.
After pulling up to the curb, she got out and opened the back door. She removed the rifle from its case and put the extra ammunition in front pocket of her sweatshirt. She burst through the front door and opened fire.
A gunshot rang out, hitting a woman square in the chest.
Another hit, followed by a quick reload.
She had practiced reloading all last week. She knew she had to be fast.
Layla shot her way through the front of the house, working her way towards the room in the back.
Swinging open the door, she saw Nick and Jared cowering in a corner behind the bed. Crossing the room, she pressed the barrel of the gun right against Nick's trembling forehead and pulled the trigger.
"Holy fuck Layla!" Both her and Jared got covered with the remnants of Nick's skull. Blood stained the wall behind him.
"Please Layla." His voice quivered. His eyes were wide with fear and regret, amongst many other things. He tried flashing her his trademark smile as he spoke. "You don't have to do this. We can work this out. I love you honey, you know that. I just want you back."
Layla tilted her head back and laughed.