Picking up the pieces

Alice sat hunched over in the empty bath-tub, desperately clutching her knees to her chest as she tried to come to terms with what had just happened. She had her face buried in her bath-towel, trying to suppress a mixture of blood, tears and the pain which repeatedly bolted through the right side of her face.  This was the same girl who once had no intention of letting anyone come in the way of what she wanted in life, someone who stood up for herself and anyone around her and lived her life only for herself. Everything started to fade in the last couple of months, friends stopped making the effort, teachers no longer cared and even her family were slowly losing patience with her dull attitude towards life.

She couldn’t take her eyes off of the door handle, despite the toilet being the only room in the flat where she could lock herself away, she didn’t feel at all safe. At least there was something solid between them for enough time for her to come to her senses. Alice knew that she wouldn’t have made it to the front door quickly enough. On a track, she could out run him any day, but in the flat it was more about who had the most power and she lost that battle a long time ago.

BANG! Bangbangbang!

Jack was furious as he suddenly started to realize that she had secluded herself, even if it was only temporary. Alice panicked as she scrambled around, fumbling through pockets for her phone.  That phone was the only thing that could save her now.

       Please, please be in here. Please. Come on. Where are you, you bloody thing!

As if it had read her train of thought, it started ringing. She heard it on the other side of the flat, still charging on the sofa where she had left it. Her new iPhone had barely rung for a second before she heard it shatter to pieces against one of the walls. That was another £500 completely wasted and there weren’t more than a couple of days that went by without him breaking something of hers, or demanding she buy him something.

“If you don’t open this damn door you’ll wish you were dead by the time I get my hands on you!”

She couldn’t breathe from the intense jabs of pain piercing her body at every word he hissed. Alice felt her heartbeat inside of her head and every time she took a breath, an unknown sense of paranoia and disillusion overwhelmed her. The continuous pounding of his fists on the door only slightly brought her back to reality, but along with every thud came the most intense pain in the side of her jaw. Her brand new bath towel was covered in blood and although she hadn’t looked in the mirror yet she was fully aware of it pouring from her mouth. She dreaded coming to terms with what he had done to her this time. The banging on the door began to fade out slightly as Alice stared into the mirror. She had never admired her reflection much, she found herself plain, uninteresting and tried too hard to cover this up with layers of make-up, but as she stared at her reflection in the mirror she felt her heart breaking. She couldn’t even begin to understand when she let herself become this hopeless individual, so weak and lacking in self-respect.

“Please let me in. I’m sorry. Please let me help. I promise we can sort this out”

This was not the first time she had heard these unbelievable lies, but it was certainly going to be the last. There wasn’t a hint of anger anywhere in his voice, just feigned guilt and self-loathing. Alice had become accustomed to the sickening calm in his voice and the way he had used it to win her over continously throughout the past few months.

BANG! “Open this damn door right now! How dare you ignore me! I’ll call the police, show them you’re doing this to yourself, you’re bloody mental! Open the door you selfish cow!”

The spiteful lies and the pounding on the door began to fade out again as she thought back to the first time she genuinely thought he might kill her. It seemed like a game in comparison to tonight’s events. The kind of ridiculous game adults play to add more excitement to their relationships. That’s not even close to what Jack had in mind. He wanted to terrify her, make her realise it was his way or no way. Alice was incredibly lucky that time to have only sustained a few bruises around her neck and shoulders, nothing she couldn’t hide under a jumper.

There weren’t many days where she didn’t get a slap in the face or a sly push into something; these actions were to remind her who was in control and after a while it almost seemed normal. Alice could feel her heartbeat pounding again, this time through her face and although the bleeding had finally stopped, he was still hammering his fists into the bathroom door. She would have no way of explaining this to anyone, and the last time she called in sick with little notice, her manager had given her a final warning. Jack had begun pleading Alice to open the door, but the more she ignored him, the quicker his anger came flooding back into his voice and she knew at this point, she had to escape.

The flashbacks were happening every few moments. Split seconds of trying to piece together what had actually happened less than an hour ago. Alice was too tired to cook for Jack after her 15 hour shift at her second job, and she’d forgotten her purse at home, leaving her no money to eat throughout the day. She felt sure she had put it in her handbag that morning, but once she got home, all she wanted to do was relax in front of the television. During the adverts, Alice moved into the kitchen to pour herself a drink and within seconds Jack was standing over her. Nothing could have prepared Alice for what was about to happen.

“Jack could you please move?”

Alice remembered the glow of anger in his eyes at the words she had just mumbled as she had tried to slide past him. In an instant he had launched her across the room, her face hitting the side of the oven and causing her body to give way, leaving her crumpled on the floor. As she struggled to pull herself to her feet, all she could recall was the immense pain cracking through her back and her neck.

The next crack was that of the bathroom door being dented in, followed by threats and explicit abuse.

“This is all your fault Alice! I’ve tried to help you, but the more you behave like this

only shows how much you don’t deserve to be with me”

Alice felt the blow to her face all over again. It wasn’t just a playful slap this time; it was a full-force fisted punch to her jaw, which knocked her flying back into the cooker, smacking her head as she fell once again to the cold, marble floor. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt such intense pain as half of her body was already tender, and the cut inside of her lip stung as if someone had just forced her to drink freshly squeezed lemon juice.

With every thud on the bathroom door, she could see the wood denting further
inwards under the force of his rage. There was no way out for Alice because when Jack broke through the door, and he would, there was no doubt that he would leave her close to death. Alice used all the effort she had left to haul herself onto the open window ledge, 18 floors up and over-looking the city’s night lights. She could climb out of the window, but it would be near impossible to cross over to the other block. She had to try and as she peered over the side she noticed Heather’s window just below hers, slight ajar, and wondered whether she could make it without falling to the concrete below. With every inch of her aching and her swollen eyes making it hard to focus, she managed to lift herself out of the window just as Jack punched a clear hole through the door.

1 minute.

The thought brought her to her senses but she had nowhere to hide and despite
being mentally wide awake with fear, the pain shooting through every inch of her body
made her physically too weak to move. As Jack found the lock, he launched himself
across the little bathroom and tried to grab her from the opposite side of the ledge.

Alice had never seen Jack so livid and suddenly 18 floors didn’t seem so terrifying, as whatever pain she may endure from a fall could not hurt worse than what he had already done to her this evening. As she looked past him, still gripping the window ledge, down the empty hallway of her flat. She quickly thought of all her keepsakes, memories and how her home no longer kept her safe.

She looked up into his putrid grey eyes, and let go.

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