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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I just got this published in a local literary anthology, but I think it still needs work. I originally wrote it for a fiction class I took last fall.

Submitted: March 21, 2007

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Submitted: March 21, 2007





"Where are you?" Alex asked.

"It doesn't matter. You can't do anything," Jayme finally answered, gripping her cell phone tighter.

"That's not true," he said. "It does matter." He could hear faintly the sound of water in the background. "I'll see you in a few minutes," he said.

"No you won't," she said. "I'm not telling you where to find me."

"You don't need to. Just stay there."

"Fine." She pushed the end button on her phone and began wiping the tears from her face.

She heard him pull up and park behind her car, then the pebbled sidewalk under his feet, then his footsteps on the wood of the dock she was sitting on. She didn't turn around, just said, "Why do you care? You know there's nothing you can do."

"You need someone to care right now," he replied. She rose slowly, and watched Alex's face as he surveyed the all-too-familiar damage, his gaze traveling from her face, down to her bare shoulders and shins, back to her swollen eyes. He said, "Why this time?"

She looked away. Finally she said, "I told her about you. About us." She felt the tears coming again and bit her lip hard.

"That's it?" He shook his head.

"It's not like it's ever anything so horrible."

"I know." He stood there for awhile, looking at her. Then he asked, "Why your face? Doesn't she usually avoid that? So people don't ask questions?"

"She said she was going to make me so ugly that you wouldn't even look at me anymore."

He took a deep breath, then said, "It didn't work, hon. I'm still looking at you." He put one finger under her chin when she turned away and tilted her head up. "I'm still looking." After a moment he said, "You can't keep putting up with this. One of these times she's really going to hurt you. Put you in the hospital, maybe."

"I leave for school in just a couple of weeks. I'll be fine until then."

"What if you're not?" he asked, staring at her. They had this discussion every time it happened, and he knew where it was going as well as she did.

"I will be. I've been fine for eight years. Two more weeks is nothing."

"Fine? Honey, you're not fine. Look at your face."

"It's just bruising," she said, not making eye contact.

"But it's not," he answered. "What about everything else?"

She looked at him, daring him to continue. When he didn't, she said, "What about it?"

"We've had this discussion before," he said. "What am I supposed to say?" He looked at her for a long time, and then her gaze dropped to the wood of the dock.

Finally she said, "I haven't done any of it in awhile."

"You got drunk on Friday," Alex said. "You called me at three in the morning. Remember?"

"I haven't done anything else in awhile."

Alex knelt beside her and began to pull up her shirt sleeve. She stopped him with a hand on his wrist. "You don't want to see," she said. "You know I'm lying."

"See?" he said. "It's not just bruising."

"Well what am I supposed to do?" she asked, turning away. "She has nobody else."

"I know," he said. "But you can't be her punching bag."

"What do you want from me?"

"I don't know," he said, the fight going out of him. "Come here." When she didn't move, he leaned in and put his arms around her. She just knelt there for a few long moments, and then her arms slowly went around his waist.

"Move out," Alex said suddenly, loosening his hold on her. "Go back, pack a bag or two, leave the car and come with me. She can't stop you." When she just looked at him, he said, "Please, I can't stand to see you like this. I want my Jayme back."

"You're serious?"

"I'm sure my parents would love to have you. All I would have to do is explain the situation to them. Would it be okay for me to tell them?"

"After a long pause, she said, "Yeah," and stood up. She picked up her sweatshirt off the dock and headed for her car. Alex jogged to his truck to move it from behind her vehicle, and followed her to her house. She parked the car off to the side of the driveway and killed the motor, but Alex left his truck running.

LuAnn, Jayme's mother, didn't acknowledge them as they walked past the sofa. Jayme didn't bother to speak to her, and Alex followed suit. In her room, Jayme pulled three suitcases out from under her bed and laid them on the mattress.

"What do you want to take?" Alex asked as she began to stuff jeans and sweatshirts into the first suitcase.

"Anything you can grab," she answered.

Alex began to pack up her T-shirts, taking the time to fold them haphazardly. When he'd partially filled the bag, he reached for the faded pair of jeans he'd seen her in a million times. She pulled them back out of the suitcase and put them on the bed. "I don't want them," she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"It's time to get rid of them." She said no more, just turned to her dresser and continued to pack.

After Jayme had collected her things from the bathroom and put them into a bag, she returned to the bedroom where Alex was closing the latches on the last suitcase. They headed through the house, lugging the three suitcases and the plastic bag, but were halted by LuAnn's voice from the sofa.

"What do you think you're doing?" she said.

"You've laid your hands on her for the last time," Alex said, not even pausing as he walked through the living room. However, Jayme faltered and then turned to look back at her mother.

"I can't be here anymore," Jayme said. "I can't do it."

LuAnn slowly came to her feet and headed toward her daughter, and Alex dropped the suitcases he was holding. LuAnn stopped and looked at him as he stepped in front of Jayme, then turned and kicked the bottle that was sitting next to the sofa, spilling its contents onto the carpet. Jayme's attention focused on the stain as it spread. White carpet. That would never come out.

"You're not leaving, Jayme," LuAnn said. "What the hell is your problem? You're going to throw your life away for some-"

"Don't say it," Jayme said, stepping around Alex. "If you say it, I'll never forgive you."

LuAnn looked at her daughter for a long moment, then her jaw tightened and she said, "You're not leaving with him. Not with some black scum."

"I'm done with this," Jayme said, turning her back to her mother. LuAnn didn't try to stop them again, but they could feel her eyes on them as they left the house.

They were silent for the length of the drive to his home. Sometime in those ten minutes, their hands found each other and their fingers entwined. Just before they let go to exit the vehicle, Jayme looked down at their hands and noticed, for the first time, just how dark his fingers were next to hers.

"Why does it even matter?" she asked.

Alex squeezed her hand. "I wish I knew."


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