Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ali Awakened

Hydelands a Taylespun Blog 

     In college she was stunning.  She was the real deal.  Her long dark hair framed her face like a princess.  Her skin was smooth and creamy.  She tanned up in the summer, but just slightly, never overdone, never too dark.  She had long, thin fingers that held the charcoal stick with finesse.  Her figure studies were usually one of the top three or four in her classes, consistently, not occasionally.  She seemed on track to have a fine career illustrating novel covers or children’s books.  She had the potential to be more than special. 
     As we have all learned, potential and a five might get you a coffee and a small sandwich, but that’s about it. It was her smile that opened doors, but that smile had opened the wrong one.  Antone had been beyond the doorway.  Antone was his given name, Colossus is what most of his pals called him.  “Call me Col,” he had told her that first day.
     Ali sat on the stretcher at St. Anne’s Hospital, the one near the park in the south end, remembered how she felt that first day, seeing him fill that door frame.  The sheer bulk of him that had earned him his nick-name was impressive.  His voice smooth and familiar.  Col held out his hand, she smiled as he took hers, planted a delicate kiss on the back, and lit a new light in her life.  Her heart raced.  Her eyes dried up and the sweat in her palms made them almost slippery. Before too many sunsets had passed they had become an impressive couple.
      The noise in the ER became more sustained and clearer as the drugs wore off.  She had been in a fog, nearly out, maybe for good.  Col had carried her in.  He had slung her over his shoulder as he pulled her from the White Ford pick up he maneuvered around the city.  He didn’t rush, didn’t think that was necessary.  He did in fact keep his cool.
      The giant man remained calm as he told the triage nurse she had swallowed whatever had been in both of the bottles he handed to her.  “She has been down lately, but I never expected this.” He told her, with a slight waver to his voice.  “Don’t let her die on me,” he said. Catching the two words. “Not yet,” before they came out.  He was calm.  Too calm, the nurse thought.
     Ali watched the conversation from her diminishing fog.  She recognized the smile on her husband’s face.  It was the same as that first night, bringing the light.  The clenching fist at his side might be mistaken for nervous energy, but she saw it for what it was, and that fist brought the dark.  
     Where there is light, there is always dark.  
     She had not seen the darkness herself until nearly a year after their wedding.   She didn’t see what a powerful weapon it was until a few months after that.  It was nearly two years after their wedding before he had actually hit her and another year before he hit her again.  How many times had she said as a young girl, that she would never be a battered woman.  She would walk away. She would… la dee and then  da…  All bullshit.  At first Ali had felt responsible for the darkness, then scared and now just plain terrified.
     Those pills should have been her escape.  The only path to walking away had become the bottom of a bottle of mild tranquilizers and “a little something to help you sleep through the night.”  
     She watched her husband smooth talk the triage nurse, or at least try to.  That nurse looked wiser than most.  It was in her eyes.  Even at this distance and through her diminishing fog, she could hear his voice changing as he more desperately built the case of falsehoods and bullshit.
     “She fell before I could catch her.  I was walking her outside, trying to keep her awake and she just fell hard, right into a tree trunk.  Was gonna call 911, but thought I could get here quicker.  Don’t know what I would do with out her.”  Ali heard it all.  It was a well rehearsed package of bullshit.  He turned away from the nurse and walked through the managed chaos of the ER and came beside her.  He squeezed her broken arm.  Two places they had said.
     He had come into the bedroom right after she had swallowed the pills.  There weren’t enough, she was sort of sure, but at least, she thought it would get her into the system.  Someone would recognize her plight.  There might even be help.  She swallowed what she had with a quarter glass of Madeira.  He had come home too soon.  He walked into the bedroom, saw the empty vials and drew all the right conclusions.  She was just beginning to fade.  The lights were dimming, sound becoming unimportant.  She could see he was shouting, but heard nothing more than a whisper.  It felt pretty good.  He couldn’t reach her in here.  She allowed herself to fall deeper.  
     Colossus stepped up to the bed she was lying in, and gently took her hand, like the first time she thought.  I made him sad.  He picked her hand up and kissed it gently, then pulled it toward the night stand.  With her wrist resting on the small table that held the lamp and her Echo he took a long deep breath.  He pressed her arm tightly against the wood.
     "This will keep you awake, you stupid bitch.”
     He raised his other hand, already fisted and brought it down onto her extended forearm.  It snapped, yes, in two places.  She snapped awake, as she had again while he applied discreet pressure to the Nautilus Shell shaped bruising halfway between her wrist and elbow.  He had her attention.  Completely.  The nurse in the background seemed so unaware and in a different world.  The telephone at the side of her head had her full attention as she nodded it and turned away.
     "Honey, “ he said quietly, “you with me?”
     She slowly nodded.  Tears in the rims of her reddened eyes. One long drip followed the contours of her pale cheek toward he clenched jaw line.
     "I need to leave, something’s come up.”  He had a knowing sense the triage nurse saw through his bullshit.  Her eyes gave her away,  Her smile seemed just too phony, Her voice too gentle.  It was as if she were trying too hard to match his calm.
     "So, listen well, my once beautiful wife.  You say nothing.  I am going to visit your dear sister and her impotent husband.  We will wait for word of your recovery together.  You don’t get to die until I tell you you can die.  I will in fact help you to die when the time is right.  That won’t be for awhile sweetheart.  First you will watch as your family dies, one at a time.  Your impotent brother in-law sports writer first.  That way your sister suffers a bit with you, then her, and then, that sweet little niece of ours, Suzie.  Yeah, she reminds me of you.  How you must have been as a girl.  So sweet, so pretty.  So trusting.  So say anything and she is first. It is all in your hands.  Wake up, Ali.  Don’t fuck this up.  Their lives are in your hands now.  All of them.”
     The tears overflowed.  She could no longer keep them to herself.  How she wished she had taken more or stronger pills.  She never considered her choices to stay with him.  She understood on some level she had given him control of her life.  Now it seemed her’s was no longer enough.  Her family.  She began to sob.  Her heart and soul felt gone to her.
     Colossus said nothing more.  He released his grip.  Winked at her, smiled a sarcastic smirk, and turned away.  She watched every step as he blended into the crowd of  chaos.  She barely took a breath.  She felt the coolness of the soft grip on her good arm.  She turned to see the triage nurse standing beside her.
     "Honey, you are going to be okay.  I know what he did to you. I have seen that type bruise before.  Comes from the side of a man’s fist when he brings it down like a  hammer.  And his bullshit stories would not have convinced an nursing student.  Find your strength.  I have called the police, and you have a story to tell.”
     She looked at the nurse.  Those gentle eyes never broke focus.  Ali found comfort in that powerful gaze.
     "My family,” Ali started,  “he has threatened them.”
     "I’ve called your sister.  Her number was listed as your emergency contact.  Your family is on the way.  Tell them what you have held secret for so long.  I think you will be surprised to learn what they know.  Make today day one sweetie.  It is time to walk away from that beast and move on.”
     Ali laid in the gurney, her heart pounding, reaching for the strength she needed.
     Ali still simply wondered if she had it, if she could so it.
     Without warning, Suzy came to her side and started planting kisses on her aunts pale cheek.  Ali closed her eyes and accepted the pure, clean love those sweet kisses contained.

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