His arms were a vice around my waist and slung me halfway across the room. My knees buckled under the stress and my ribs cracked against the corner of the nightstand, throbbing with more pain than I had ever felt. A cry shrieked from me before I could suppress it, loud enough for the whole building to hear.
The picture frame and beer bottle toppled onto the carpet from the shaky nightstand, landing right beside my crumpled heap of a body.
The upstairs neighbor grew tired of our noisy discourtesy and stomped on the ceiling. Thump, thump-thump.
Mason huffed, towering over me with his fists at the ready. His self-control was gone. The gray calm before the storm in his eyes was now almost black. The storm had finally come. I had pushed him over the edge.
As I clambered on hands and knees in desperation, my fingers nudged the neck of the beer, the putrid liquid dripping out from the nearly-full bottle. My grip curled around it, finding a strength I never knew.
I swung at him with all my might. The base bashed into his temple and the bottle shattered. Beer and glass exploded in every direction.
Mason staggered a moment, and fell onto the bed. Blood dribbled down his head and pooled on the sheets. The storm of his eyes became colorless and dormant. Unseeing.
Grief and nausea rolled in my stomach. I slumped onto the floor next to the bed, facedown, where none of the horrors could get to me.
I had murdered him. He was my life and I had killed him. I was the monster.
A knock came to the door.
I couldn’t answer. They would know what I had done. They would know what I was.
All the distress finally overtook my brain. I just wanted to shut off. I wanted to be gone. I couldn’t face any of this.
I drifted into unconsciousness, retreating to a nightmare that would be so much better than reality, better than knowing the truth…
Then for the first time, I woke facedown on the floor.
This time when I woke, everything was in its place. No disappearing details for the benefit of my psyche, no denying the truth. All was as it was. Glass everywhere, picture frame on the floor, casserole burning in the oven. Mason lying on the bed, bathed in his own blood. Motionless.
I had done this. I killed the love of my life. He was my everything.
Yet, that had been the problem, hadn’t it?
I didn’t know who I was anymore and he gave me no room to find out. He had tried to trap me in this life, tried to hurt me. And I had saved myself.
I could suddenly feel myself again. I recognized myself in the photo on the floor. There was no shadow of Mason cast over me. I was free. I could breathe.
Part of me still wanted to love him, miss him, mourn him. Tears continued in rivers down my cheeks. The part of me linked with him died too. I doubled over from the pain of his loss.
But the throb of my ribs reminded me why I had to lose him.
I wouldn’t stop loving him today or tomorrow, no matter the abuse I endured from him. There was a reason I had endured him. Because I did love him. Whether he deserved my love or not.
I wouldn’t stop loving him. But I would move on. It was okay to love him and be free.
The door frame rattled as someone battered their way in. I had recoiled from this before. They couldn’t know what I had done.
But what I had done was right. No one could look down on me in judgement for freeing myself.
“Hold on,” my voice rang out, slicing through the eeriness.
Finally out of my nightmare, the door locks worked properly, letting me escape it all. I opened the door to two police officers.
“Are you alright ma’am?” They took in my haggard, mistreated appearance. “We got a call about a possible domestic disturbance.”
Despite my racing heart, I raised my chin and straightened my spine, opening the door wide enough to let them in, to see the disaster I caused.
Both of them crept in, glancing between Mason and me with uncertainty, but I never let myself falter. Tears still streamed along my cheeks. This was the only giveaway to the disturbance inside me.
“I tried to leave him.” I tried with all my might to squash the self-shame that I didn’t deserve. “He attacked me.”
They looked grave, maybe even scared, but not of me. They seemed to actually see me. Not the girlfriend hiding behind Mason, with so much untold hurt. The woman who had to hide everything about herself. These police officers could see it all, the good and the bad. I was completely without armor. I had been in the dark and they were the first to see me by the light of day.
One of them guided me into the hall. A courtesy, getting the body of the love of my life out of view. The other called on the radio, bustled around, secured the scene.
I divulged everything. Every painful secret that I had cooped up inside me. From the moment I lost hold of my life to Mason, to the moment I gained it back.
At the end of my story, I found my heart aching again and the dreaded words still falling from my lips, “I love him. I still love him.”
The officer nodded as she scribbled notes. “That’s understandable. It’s okay.”
I let those words sink into my core. It’s okay.
“One last thing, then the medics will take care of you,” she added. “What’s your name?”
I blinked. During my nightmare, during my time with Mason, I had lost my name, lost my identity. I barely knew who I was anymore.
“Amelia.” A smile graced my face for the first time in an eternity. “Amelia Chandler.”
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber