Helen

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A woman discovers the courage to kill her abusive boyfriend.

Submitted: January 31, 2012

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Submitted: January 31, 2012

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She's the most beautiful woman in the world and no-one cares.
 
Her boyfriend beats her. 
 
For whatever reason. If there isn't a valid reason, he beats her anyway. 
 
He's a vile, violent son of a bitch. 
 
But at least he's smart about it. 
 
He never hits her in the face. 
 
That's just bad for business. 
 
And the business is crack cocaine. 
 
He smokes entirely too much. His teeth are turning a deep shade of yellow-brown, like dehydrated piss. 
 
He doesn't care. He just wants crack. 
 
She's a waitress, and her name is Helen. 
 
She was beautiful, once. She's still beautiful, only she doesn't seem to know. 
 
Because right now, she's a bit of a mess. 
 
Her ribs hurt. She imagines that one of them might be broken, but even if it is, she doesn't have health insurance. Even if she wanted to, she can't go to the hospital to get it checked out. 
 
But she doesn't care. Not really. 
 
She just wants to die. 
 
Or imagines that she does, anyway. Who's to say? 
 
Not Helen, that's for damn sure. 
 
She works fifty plus hours a week for shit pay. She has to serve shit food to shit customers who give shit for tips. She has to do shit work that you could train a fucking monkey to do. She deals with every hungry fuckhead on the planet for next to nothing. Minimum wage for a waitress is $2.63/hr. And she has to do all of this with a smile on her face. She has to shit rainbows for tips. This doesn't seem fair, does it? 
 
And all of this is to keep her boyfriend's pipe warm. 
 
He doesn't work. He's on the goddamn dole, for Christ's sake. He's on disability leave from his job as an auto mechanic. He broke his leg a couple years ago, but it never really healed right. He doesn't have insurance either. He's been pissed ever since. Well, you could say that he was always pissed, but now, you could say that he has a reason. Perhaps you could argue that fact. Who's to say? 
 
Not Helen. Not rib-might-be-broken-who-gives-a-fuck-anyway Helen. 
 
She brings home a paycheck once every two weeks, and he devours it with his lungs, the way a boa constrictor will devour an entire pig at once. A contrictor, however, will spend up to a month devouring that poor little piggy. But, as we all know, boa contrictors don't smoke crack. He is a snake in constant need of fresh kills, and he is choking the life out of Helen. He doesn't give a fuck about Helen. Evidence of that is clear when she takes off her shirt. 
 
He hasn't fucked her in two years. Not with his dick, anyway. But he fucks her over daily with a good-morning suckerpunch to the sternum. Whatever his imagined frustration is, he takes it out on her. None of this is her fault. 
 
Or maybe it is. Maybe, maybe not. Who's to say? 
 
Not Helen. Surely not. 
 
Her mother always taught her not to make waves. Her mother taught her that smiling politeness is the best way. She told her that submissiveness to male culture is the be-all, end-all solution to every problem (not in those exact words, of course, but the implications became clear every time little Helen was a bad girl and had to spend an hour or so playing "the special game" with Daddy). "Just be a woman", her mother was so fond of saying (with a smiling Stepford-Wife smile that showed her bleach-white magazine-cover teeth). That smile always seemed cracked and strained at the edges, like an old mask worn by too many actors. 
 
What her mother's definition of the word woman was, Helen never quite figured out. 
 
After all, it's not up to her. Is it?
 
Her boyfriend told her once that if she ever tried to leave him, he'd kill her. That's what you might call a committed relationship between a man and a woman. He told her how he'd do it, too. Every lurid little detail. He'd beat her legs until she couldn't walk. He'd break her arms so she couldn't claw at his face. He'd kick her in the spine until she was paralyzed (when her immobility was guaranteed, he'd probably spark up his stem for a hit or two of that good redi-rock). Then he would smack her around a bit, calling her foul names (slut, stupid whore, cunt, chickenhead) the entire time, and then, the coup de grâce - he would grab her by her hair, drag her into the bathroom, and shove her face into the toilet. He would put a nail or two underneath the flush-handle beforehand, so she couldn't empty the toilet in a life-saving panic and somehow prolong her own miserable life. According to her boyfriend, her last, gasping breathes would be taken inside of a pool of rust, porcelaine, and shit. 
 
Keep in mind that crack, or cocaine in general, acts as a laxative. 
 
She could always go to a battered women's shelter, but nine times out of ten, they throw you back out into the street after a week or two. They throw back into the loving arms of your vengeful, murder-enthused boyfriend (who has sworn Up And Down that he lost his temper just the once, and it will never Happen Again). And she tried that, once. When she came home, her boyfriend made it so that she couldn't breathe right for about a month. Come to think of it, she still can't really breathe right. She just wheezes. Sometimes she gets lightheaded. She has to stop for a minute and hold onto something, anything, just to get everything back together, mentally and physically. That's one of the things that her boss calls a 'no-no'. 
 
Her boss is a fat, perverted old shit. Typical middle-management type. He's always looking up her uniform skirt whenever she bends over, which she tries not to do, but sometimes there's just no other way. And he makes damn sure to be there whenever there's no other way. 
 
Helen is a lamb in a playground of wolves. A sacrifice to some lustful, hungry god. 
 
She could kill her boyfriend, she sometimes thinks. She could kill him by poisoning his food, on the rare occasion that he actually eats. She'd like to drown him in the toilet, which was always her promised demise, but frankly, she doesn't have the physicality. She could get a gun, but she doesn't have the money. She could probably get one illegally, through one of her boyfriend's connections, but he rarely lets her leave the apartment. 
 
She's imprisoned by a cripple, and she knows it. 
 
Could it really be up to her? 
 
The idea, once buried deep in her soul, grows stronger with each passing day. With each passing blow to the gut. Every bruise seems to scream at her, "Do it. You know you can. All that shit in the media about women's empowerment, this is exactly what the fuck they're talking about!" She finds herself fantasizing about the idea more and more these days. The only question, the bruises seem to ask, is how. Once she has the how figured out, then she's all set. She's running the goddamn show. 
 
The bruises speak in a foreign language, as ancient as time itself. But Helen gets the idea. 
 
 
 
------------------------------
 
 
 
Tonight she dreams. Mercifully, she doesn't usually remember her dreams, but tonight is different. The dream-world seems to materialize in front of her through a red haze, as though a blood vessel has been severed in zero-gravity conditions. The haze slowly clears, and she looks around apprehensively. She is in a forest, old and dense and rotting. The trees have all died long before, from the looks of things, and their branches have no leaves to inhibit the sunlight. She looks up, and sure enough, the sun is out in splendid form. But when she looks down, she seems to be surrounded by shadows. When she looks in any direction, she can't see more than twenty feet in front of her. It seems that the red mist hasn't gone away completely; in fact, she is surrounded by it. And she is aware of something else- there is a strong odor in the air, but not the metallic smell of blood that she expected. It's an antiseptic smell, one that can only be produced when a combination of cocaine and baking soda and burned. It's the smell of the tiny prison/aparment that she has grown to hate. It's her boyfriend's smell. 
 
The shadows are from the trees, and the trees, thick and robust even in death, are moving. The air is as still as a graveyard, though, and even a stiff breeze shouldn't be able to move these once-living monoliths. 
 
A tidal wave of realization washes over, and her knees buckle and shake. The trees aren't swaying in the wind- they're pointing at her, their branches like diseased tentacles. All of sudden she is aware of the sound of laughter, as if from a crowded theater in the distance. And as she peers more closely at them, she realizes that each tree seems to have grown a face, distorted with mocking joviality. She knows that she'll go batshit-crazy if she has to listen to this much longer, and she is on the verge of a total nervous breakdown when a new sound breaks her from her hopeless reverie. 
 
Footfalls behind her now. Not steps produced by human feet at a human pace. Instead she hears the lengthy, bounding strides of an enormous beast. She whirls around and sees a vague, menacing shadow, one which is approaching her with decidedly inhuman determination. She is frozen in place, and as the shadow moves closer still, she makes out the shape of a wolf. A huge black wolf, but striding confidently on two legs, like a man. It seems to be covered in blood, because a sticky liquid in its fur is reflecting the few rays of sunshine that manage to get through the tops of the surrounding trees. 
 
Closer now, and she sees that the wolf, while gaining impossible speed, is limping. 
 
Not on four legs. Two legs, like a man. Or a boyfriend.
 
A burst of adrenaline unfreezes her from her spot, and she turns to run. She makes it about fifteen feet before she is grabbed. She looks down. Tree branches have snaked around her wrists and ankles. She cranes her neck around and sees those same sadistic smiles in the trees. Their laughter is louder now. She struggles to break free, but the branches only tighten their collective grip. 
 
This is all too much. She starts to scream. She doesn't know if she's making any sound, because the volume of the laughter has intensified to the point where linear thought is no longer a possibility. If a woman is killed in the forest, with only the trees to bear witness, does she make a sound? 
 
As she thrashes around, screaming at the top of her lungs (or trying to), the wolf reaches her and comes to an abrupt stop. Its eyes are like two tiny fires, and she can't stand to look into them directly. Its mouth is twisted into a predatory grin. It extends a humanoid finger and holds it between her eyes, about six inches away from her face. Her eyes focus on it, despite her attempts to shut them forever. She's stopped screaming, at least for a few seconds. Her voice seems to have been completely cut off, and her eyes are overflowing with horrified tears. For no reason she can identify, an old saying wanders through what is left of her mind: 
 
"Hell is the impossibility of reason." 
 
The wolf's finger slowly guides her gaze down and to the right. At the base of one of the trees, the one that seems to be holding her right wrist in a vice-grip, there is a long, shallow hole, about big enough to fit a body. The body of a five-foot, one-hundred-pound waitress, perhaps. As if reading her mind, the wolf's grin widens, exposing multiple rows of teeth, rotting yet still formidably sharp. Behind the shallow grave (at this point, there's no sense in pretending it could be anything else) is a tombtone. The stone is crawling with ivy. It's been chipped, sanded, and worn away by time and the elements. On it is an inscription that declares this grave to be the final resting place of one Helen Laner. No birth-date or death-date. No sentimental cemetary staples such as "Loving Daugher" or "Devoted Partner". No, none of that for dearly departed Helen. Underneath her name is another inscription, this one reading "She had a chance, and she Blew It". 
 
She had a chance and she blew it. She had a chance and she blew it. 
 
The words won't stop echoing in the inner corridors of her mind; over and over again, and with maddening clarity. She starts to scream again, and this time she hears herself. In fact, she hears everything. In addition to her own terrified pleas and the laughter of the forest, the wolf has added his own commentary track of giddy amusement. It throws its head back and lets out a hearty guffaw, like a drunken reveller at a New Year's party, and then lets out a bestial howl at some unseen moon. And through all of this, her face running with tears, her body aching from her restraints, she screams loud enough to wake all of creation. 
 
 
 
------------------------------
 
 
 
Helen awakes, shooting upwards as if subjected to a sudden and powerful electric shock. She throws her head around frantically, expecting to see trees, red mist, and that fucking wolf. After a moment, she manages to bring herself back to reality. She turns to her left, and there is her boyfriend. He has passed out from pure exhaustion. He barely sleeps, but when he does, he hibernates. Three weeks straight on the pipe, three days straight of dreamless comatose rest. She is all too familiar with the pattern. 
 
She rises from the bed and goes to the kitchen for a glass of water, replaying the dream in her head. She has shaken off most of the immediate fear of her ordeal, with the exception of one surreal little detail- that fucking tombstone. She had a chance, and she Blew It, it had read. She fills a glass, drains it, and is about to refill it when a brilliant flash of lighting shoots through her waking mind. 
 
She has the chance now
 
Standing in the kitchen, looking at her reflection in the window above the sink, she digests this thought with the conviction of a starving man at a seven-course meal. 
 
You have the chance now. Take it!, the bruises scream at her. 
 
Helen puts the glass down next to the sink. Her hand disappears into a drawer and returns holding a serrated bread kinfe, its teeth gleaming in the light of the pale, sickly moon. 
 
She stalks back into the bedroom, knife in hand, like a hunter closing in to put a wounded animal out of its misery. 
 
Out of her misery. 
 
She walks over to his side of the bed. She rolls up the jean cuff of his right leg- his good leg- and places the razor teeth of the knife against his achilles tendon. 
 
"Honey," she says, shaking his shoulder with her free hand. "Honey, wake up." 
 
He doesn't budge. His snores are bestial, and she imagines that the wolf from her dream must sound much the same when it sleeps. 
 
"Honey, wake up," she says again, louder this time. "Wake up!" 
 
He doesn't move an inch. He's really out. 
 
Helen tries one more time. "Honey, get up! Wake up!" She inhales deeply and bellows, "Get the fuck out of bed, you shit!
 
This gets a reaction. She has never before dreamed of taking that tone of voice with him, and apparently, neither has he. He lifts his head from the pillow, his eyes half-lidded in a foggy moment of R.E.M.-sleep hallucination. He looks up at her, and his eyes widen. They widen with anger. Now she has his complete, undivided attention. 
 
And she wouldn't have it any other way. 
 
She grins malevolently and slices the tendon, right next to his heel. He howls in pain, and again she is reminded of the wolf. His gutteral shout is the most satisfying thing she has ever heard. The wound is deep, and already small jets of blood are issuing forth onto the white linen sheets. He rises at once to meet her, towering over her despite the fact that now both of his legs are damaged. 
 
She doesn't flinch; in fact, she never breaks eye contact with him. She just keeps grinning like a sadistic bully. Well, it takes one to know one. He manages to stand up for maybe three seconds before the pain of the severed tendon makes itself fully known. He howls again and falls forward, knees buckling, hands shaking. Tears start to run from his eyes. She has never seen him cry before, and the sight of it shoots a surge of adrenaline through her system. 
 
Helen doesn't miss a beat. She casually retreats as he lumbers forward onto his knees, producing a loud thump as he kneels uncontrollably in front of her. The perfect pose of submission. Obedience. Servitude. 
 
His eyes, tears running from them like twin rivers, have taken on a crazed, panicked look. He throws his arm forward, hoping to grab onto her. Again, she doesn't miss a beat. She grabs his arm and, calculating her every move, drags the serrated blade across his wrist. Not down the length of his arm- that would be too quick. He might bleed out in less than three minutes if she did that. And she wants to see him squirm first. After all, the night is young, and nights like this are made for lovers. 
 
Right? 
 
He has stopped screaming, but he grunts as he crawls towards her. She is leading him into the kitchen, never deviating from her casual pace. She wants to get him in the kitchen because unlike their bedroom, the kitchen is a wide-open space. A killing floor. 
 
Helen keeps grinning. 
 
Now he is forming words out of his grunts. "You fucking cunt," he snarls. "You fucking whore. You whore." She starts to chuckle. The sight of him crawling, with one wounded wrist and both legs shot to shit, is really quite amusing. Sights like this come along only once in a woman's life. She backs slowly into the kitchen, waiting patiently, like the mother of an injured child. 
 
"You fucking cunt," he continues. "I'll fucking rip your face off...I'll tear your fucking tits off...I'll eat your fucking eyes...I'll-" 
 
She cuts him off by jumping deftly over him with the grace of a trained ballerina. Now positioned behind him, she brings the knife down in two quick swipes, marking a bloody X on his naked back. He screams again, more quietly this time, and tries in vain to turn around. She puts one foot on the back of his neck and dances her way back over his mutilated body, returning to face him once again. 
 
She lands just out of his reach, giggling as he tries again and again to reach her. She wags her finger back and forth in a scolding manner, saying "No, no, no no no no no...." in a low, mocking voice. "No no no no no. You've been very naughty. And naughty boys don't get what they want." 
 
He looks at her with a mixture of disbelief and pure rage. After all, how could this be happening to him? Since when does Helen, of all people, have free will
 
He watches her amble over to a cupboard over the stove with an escalating sense of horror. She reaches in, moves a few dishes around, and pulls out two things- his pipe and his stash. 
 
"No, no, no!" he shouts, as loudly as his lungs can manage in this damaged, bewildered state. "No, no, no, you cunt! You fucking cunt! Give that back! Give that to me right fucking now!!!
 
Helen just goes on wagging her finger and clucking her tongue at him. She takes the pipe in one hand and throws it as hard as she can at the hardwood floor in front of him. It explodes, sending a sizable piece of glass into his left eye. He screams out again, like an animal caught in a trap. 
 
With him still watching, she glides over to the sink. Opening the bag, she dumps a few marble-sized crack rocks into her palm. 
 
"My, my, sweetheart," she says, still in the tone of a pre-school teacher scolding the class clown. "Quite the little stash we have here. How much did all of this cost?" He just looks at her, dumbfounded and enraged. But what she sees most of all in his face is also the most rewarding part of what's happening here tonight- for the first time ever, Helen sees true fear in the eyes of this pathetic shit-fuck excuse for a human being that she used to call her boyfriend. Payback, apparently, is still a bitch. 
 
She takes a rock from her up-turned palm and drops it into the sink. She turns the garbage disposal on. He shrieks in terror. 
 
"What's that, sweetness?" she asks. "I can't hear you!" She points at the disposal in the sink and shrugs, as if to say, Nothing I can do, babe, you'll just have to watch and wait. 
 
Another rock down the sink. The disposal chews it up and shits it down the drain. Another. And another. He is screaming at the top of his lungs now, and of course Helen can hear him. She's never heard anything so clearly in her whole life. 
 
As she empties the last of the bag, and then the bag itself, into the sink, she switches off the disposal and turns to meet his gaze once more. But he's not looking at her. He can't. His face is buried in his hands and he's sobbing like a little kid with a skinned knee. 
 
She saunters over to him, saying "Oh, there, there, little one," in a mockingly comforting voice. "It'll all be over soon." She kneels next to him and puts her free hand on the back of his neck. 
 
"Now, are you gonna be brave? Are you gonna be my big brave guy? Huh?" He looks up at her, eyes brimming with tears, pale face coated in slick sweat, as pools of blood from his wounds meet to make one large puddle. The look in his eyes speaks volumes about fear. About total shock. About not fucking believing what he's seeing with his own two eyes. 
 
Well, one eye, really. Helen chuckles again. 
 
Still looking up at her in all his wounded glory, he tries to say something, but the pain from his injuries and the shock to his psyche only allow him to produce a small, rodent-like queak. Helen leans forward and kisses him on the cheek, underneath his undamaged eye. 
 
"There, there. There, there. It's all gonna be okay." She puts the knife to his throat and drags it across. Blood sprays out like a fountain. He chokes and gurgles, but the sounds get quieter all the time. After a minute or so, the blood flow peters off to a steady, rhythmic pumping, as if someone were clenching and unclenching a hose. 
 
It's all gonna be okay. Boy, is it ever. 
 
Helen watches the last of her ex-boyfriend's blood pour out. She watches for a few minutes more for good measure. Then she goes back into the bedroom. 
 
When she returns, the knife is no longer in her hand. She has changed out of her blood-stained pajamas, and is dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a thin, gray hooded sweatshirt. She steps over her ex-boyfriend's carcass (he's my EX-boyfriend now, she thinks giddily), careful to avoid stepping in any blood, and makes her way to the front door of the apartment. She looks back one last time, taking in the sight of his pathetic corpse, and closes the door behind her, smiling all the while. 
 
She walks out into the street, feeling refreshed. She feels as if her whole life up until this point has been one long nightmare, one that she has finally awoken from. She walks down the street, and out of nowhere a song that she has never heard before pops into her head. Normally, this kind of thing would give her pause for thought, would maybe even worry her. But tonight is all about first times, right? 
 
Right. 
 
She continues down the street, with no particular destination in mind. A passing summer rain has fallen recently. The streets are slick but not slippery, and a light fog has fallen. Not the red mist from her dream, but a pleasant translucent cloud. The night air is cool and inviting. 
 
The song playing in her head is very pretty. 
 
Never mind the fact that she can't remember if she's ever heard it before. She could swear she hasn't. 
 
But she sings along to it, without hesitation. 
 
Without feeling foolish. 
 
Without a care in the world. 
 
She feels light as a feather. 
 
She feels like she's walking on clouds. 
 
Helen is running the show now. 
 
Helen feels like she could fly.
 
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you 
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you 
But in your dreams, whatever they be 
Dream a little dream of me
 
 
1 - 31 - 2012


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