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A sharp pain wakes you. A sliver of early morning light blinds you as your eyes struggle to open. One does not and the other scans your surroundings. You’re curled up into the fetal position on the carpet at the foot of the steps. There is a sopping wet blood stain underneath you. The blood pools up around your hand as it pushes into the fibers, attempting to lift yourself up. The bone in your left leg is visible through a puncture wound and from the knee down, it’s bent awkwardly to the side.
Your bruised arms lose their strength and you collapse. You lie there for a moment and assess your wounds. Aside from your broken leg and swollen eye, you have bruises everywhere and likely a cracked rib. Your breathing is labored and it’s possible you have some internal bleeding.
You’d only fallen down a few steps, so this amount of damage was unexpected. From what you can remember, it felt as if a pair of hands had shoved your shoulder blades.
As the memories of your accident flooded back, you remembered the journal. Again, you used your arms to push yourself up and glance around the small hallway. You spy it just a few feet away, just past where the blood on the carpet had spread.
The waves of pain rocking through your body are immeasurable. By now you’re surely in shock because of it. Your eyes well up with tears as you realize how hopeless you are. With one movement, your hands are at your hips, patting the pockets of your paint-splattered and blood-soaked jeans. There is no phone to be found.
As if on cue, it begins ringing from downstairs. The muscles in your neck tighten as you realize you have to make the trip down another staircase. You worry what might happen if you stay here any longer, unsure how fresh the blood on the carpet is.
You manage to make your way to the living room, slowly sliding down the stairs backward, careful not to let your numbed leg hit too hard on the step below it.
You crawl over to the couch, grab your phone and dial 9-1-1.
The few items you threw in your purse while you waited for the ambulance are the only things to keep you occupied. Your hospital room is cold, your leg itches within its cast, and the television is broken.
You pick through the messenger bag until you find the journal. You flip through the pages, still confused at the words that jump off of the page in errant writing.
You open to the first page and begin reading. The writing is small and messy but perched on the lines of the paper in an orderly fashion.
“This is the only way I’ll be able to get any of this out without Hannah suspecting I know. I can’t take this anymore.
I think she’s cheating on me. I think my wife is cheating on me. It seems so real to see those words spelled out after thinking them for so long.
She’s been spending long hours at work, cries much more often, and never talks to me anymore. It’s like she’s another person.
I’ve only been her husband for a few years, but we’ve practically been dating our entire lives. I’ve never seen her act like this and I suspect she’s hiding something.”
The next entry is definitely from another day, the ink is a different color.
“I know Josiah can tell something is wrong. Don’t ask me how a two-year-old can sense marital problems, I just think he knows something isn’t right.
Last night he cried all night long and carried on more so when Hannah went to check on him.
She spent the night in his room that night, I found her under a baby blanket in the rocking chair. That’s the first night we’ve spent in separate rooms since we’ve been married.”
You’re reading is interrupted by a smiling nurse carrying a tray of food. She sets it down on your bedside table and rolls it over to you.
There are three different shades of brown mush and a dollop of what you assume is mashed potatoes. You give the nurse a small smile and say “thanks” as she leaves the room.
You shove the food into your mouth, attempting to eat the so-called food as fast as possible for fear of tasting it.
was all the next entry read. It was written in the center of the page and there were obvious tear stains on the lines of the page below it.
Your heart broke for the poor man, but at the same time, your curiosity was heightened and you turned the page.
“Hannah left yesterday. She must have come home on her lunch break and packed while I was working upstairs. You can never hear what’s going on in the rest of the house from up there.
She walked out without a word and didn’t even say goodbye to us. I came downstairs to make dinner and found her note. It just said “I can’t do this anymore” in crazy handwriting that didn’t look like hers. I didn’t write it and Josiah can’t even hold a pencil, so I don’t know who else could have written it if it wasn’t her.
It’s been a whole day and I’m still waiting for her to burst through the door with her hands full of grocery bags.
But I don’t think she’s coming back.”
A tear falls from your eyes as you relate to the loneliness this man feels. The journal falls from your hands as you totally lose control of your emotions. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s the pain meds making you loopy or the loneliness you’re now acknowledging.
Either way, it keeps you from reading the journal any further, you close it and set it on your side table. Under the sickly fluorescent lights, you see a name scratched into the leather cover; “Darren.”
Last Week’s Story: Independence Part 1
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