[A/N: Warning … strong language and domestic violence (physical and emotional)]
The woman stopped typing briefly, and hastily wiped the tears from her face so she could see. It didn’t help – through blurred eyes, she fumbled for the home keys on the keyboard and kept going.
“ – So you see, Doctor, at this point, I don’t know what to do. I can’t stay; I can’t go. I’m caught and I really need to find a solution. You won’t be able to call me. Jim answers every phone call and opens all my mail. Fortunately he doesn’t understand email, so please, if you can help me, email me back. I can check it while –“
A bellow from upstairs interrupted her.
“Jenny, get up here!”
With a sigh, she hit the Send button and turned off the screen. Slowly, she climbed the stairs. “Yes,” she said quietly. “What did you want?”
“Make me some hot cocoa. And bring me a peanut butter sandwich.” She turned to leave, and just as she reached the door, he said, “Where are my jeans?”
“I don’t know. Where did you take them off?” Her tone was quiet and deliberately non-confrontational. It was a bad idea to let him hear her irritation; she had a pair of broken eyeglasses downstairs as mute testimony to that.
“I don’t know either. Never mind.”
She started back down the stairs, but when she was half-way down, he called again. “Bring me that new Custer book that came today!”
“Okay,” she called back. Two steps later, he yelled again, shrilly: “Where’s my hot cocoa?”
“I’ll be up in a minute, okay?” She tried to speak up loudly without yelling or emotion. His hearing was going but his vanity wouldn’t let him admit it, and if she spoke up too loudly, he’d accuse her of being bitchy. Can’t win, either way.
In the kitchen, she mixed the cocoa and put it in the microwave. While she waited for it to heat, she made the sandwiches. He only said one sandwich, but she knew if she only took one sandwich up, he’d want two. If he complained about the second one, she could eat it herself. Although likely enough if she said so, he’d say that he really wanted them both, and if she wanted one she should have made one for herself instead of eating his. “Selfish bitch” and “backstabbing whore” were two of his favorite names for her and she was so used to hearing them that she didn’t really hear them any more.
When the microwave beeped, she took the cocoa out and poured it in a cup. She put the sandwiches on a plate and went into the living room for the book. Balancing the plate on the book, she started up the stairs again.
“Took you long enough,” he muttered, with no words of thanks – not that she expected any. He sipped the cocoa, and scowled. “This isn’t hot enough!” He sat up enough to throw the contents of the cup in her face. “What’s wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right?” He slammed the cup to the floor, careless of the mess he made on the carpet.
She tried hard to be stoic, but the tears restarted, fat drops that rolled down her face and dripped off her chin, making tracks in the hot cocoa.
“Oh, oh. Niagara Falls again. You’re such a big baby. Why did I ever marry you?”
She turned and left.
“I suppose you’re going to go downstairs and sit on your fat ass in front of the computer for the rest of the day,” he called after her. “Lazy bitch.”
Later, she stood in the living room, face pink from the cocoa, and stared blankly for a long time, unmoving. Finally, she looked at the bottles of medicine on the small table – he wanted his pills by his chair so he could take them on some obscure schedule that only he understood. Lithium. Metformin. Melatonin. She put those aside and picked up the last bottle. Seroquel. Take 4 at bedtime. Even though it hadn’t been prescribed for her, she’d once shaken one of the large caplets out of the bottle during a particularly bad day, broken it and taken a very small bit. She’d been out for half a day afterwards. She considered it thoughtfully for a moment, and then put it down when he yelled again.
“Get me some more fucking hot cocoa! And this time, do it right.”
On her way back up the stairs, she stopped by the Seroquel again.
“I guess it’s okay. Sorry I threw it at you before, but if you’d just do what you’re supposed to, I wouldn’t have to get mad.” He drank some more and put the cup on the nightstand.
She stood back and watched him as his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep, then turned and made yet another trip down the stairs.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, her hands moved carefully over the keyboard again.
“I’m sorry to have bothered you, Dr. Riordan. I think I’ve found a solution – the only one I could, really. Please understand; I’m at the end of my rope and there was just nothing else to do.”
She moved the mouse, clicked on the “Send” button, and then sat back. Soon she would never deal with insults and yelling and insufficiently hot cups of cocoa again. Forgive me, she thought, to Whoever was out there, as she closed her eyes and waited.