Blood dripped onto one of the white tiles of her kitchen floor as Ada clasped her left index finger with her right hand. In her haste to cut the vegetables, she had sliced her finger, and while the wound was not serious, the bleeding and pain were far out of proportion with the severity of the cut. She winced and whimpered as she walked over to her sink to run some water over the wound. It ached in rhythm with her heartbeat. The sight of blood always made her queasy.
She looked at the black and white tiles of her kitchen floor and followed the drops of blood from the bar to her sink. The blood gleamed on the white tiles and blended almost imperceptibly with the black ones. After some time under the running water, she wrapped her finger in a paper towel and grabbed another one to mop the blood off the floor. She found a bandage in one of her kitchen drawers, and with her war wound attended to, she finished chopping the vegetables and dumping them into the wok on her stove. Dinner would be ready soon.
Outside, in the fading light of the day, she watched the rain fall. The big drops struck her kitchen window and dribbled down the glass slowly distorting her view of her backyard. It had been raining most of the week, and her small patch of grass was waterlogged. The iron table and two chairs that took up most of her tiny patio sat drenched in the rain. She longed for warm, dry summer days so that she and Shane could enjoy their dinners outside like they had many times the previous summer.
Her doorbell rang. Ada checked the bandage on her hand as she walked to the door. She kept her injured hand by her side as she opened the door for Shane. He stood before her for a moment, grim-faced before he said hello and leaned in to hug her.
“What’s wrong?” Ada asked. She shut the door behind him as he walked into her foyer.
“I had a long day at work and then I had to fight traffic to get over here. Your place is not convenient for me.” He kept his eyes on her as he walked into her living room.
“I’m sorry,” she said giving him a sympathetic look. “I made dinner for us. Are you hungry?” Ada gestured to the kitchen behind them.
“Not really. What I really want is for us to stop this charade and for you to move back in with me.” He plopped down on a chair on the edge of the living room but stared at her intently. His aggravation invited her to ignore him.
Ada stiffened. “We’ve been through this already, Shane. I’m not moving back in with you. Not any time soon.”
Shane threw his head back and sighed in exasperation. When he faced her again an ugly sneer twisted his face. “You fucking bitch! You’ve done nothing but take advantage of me since you came crawling back to me!”
Ada stepped back like the wind had been knocked out of her. Tears stung her eyes almost immediately as his words pelted her. She reacted instinctively. “Get out!” She pointed to her door as if he needed some help with finding the way.
In that instant, she knew that he wasn’t worth it, that the illusion of them working on their relationship was truly a lie she had told herself. He had no intention of changing. What Jenny had said all along was true.
Shane snarled at her as he stood up. At first she thought he would do as she had demanded, but instead, he closed the gap between them and grabbed her throat in one of his big hands. She gasped as he clamped down tightly on her throat. All sound expelled from her ears except, oddly, the crackle of the stir-fry in the wok on her stove. She wanted to tell him she had to attend to the dinner, but she whined. “You’re hurting me!”
He pushed her down onto the bar behind her leaned down and looked into her eyes. She could see the crystal blue of his irises. They were so deceivingly beautiful. She struggled with his grip but nothing she did helped her breathe at all. She feared at that very moment that he would kill her, that she would meet her demise as Jenny had warned so many times. Tears streamed from the corners of her eyes and ran down the sides of her head.
“You ungrateful little bitch!” Shane screamed. His lips were pulled back from his teeth like a rabid dog and spittle flew from his lips as he spoke.
Ada wiggled and tried to kick him away but she was bent back over the bar and her legs were off the ground. The angle hurt her back and the weight of his body against her made her legs unmovable. Her eyes move frantically side to side as she looked for some way to escape. She couldn’t move her head much in either direction as his grip held her in place. She felt the pressure increase and her eyes began to bulge as she gasped for breath.
In a blur of an instant, she thought she was going to die. Her mind almost blacked out, curled up inside itself and waited for its last breath, but Ada wouldn’t let it. The noise of the wok seemed to mirror the tension of the moment crackling and spitting like an angry onlooker.
Suddenly, she remembered the knife she had used to cut the vegetables. It lay just beyond her head. She removed one of her hands from Shane’s stiff arm and flung her arm above her head grabbing the knife. Before he knew what was happening she stabbed forward into the air above her and gouged his bicep with the knife and pulled down on it with all the might she could muster in her dazed state.
Shane screamed and staggered back like he had been shot in a hail of bullets. He fell to his knees and stared at the knife as if he didn’t believe what he was seeing. Blood gushed from his arm as he pulled the knife out, but Ada didn’t stick around to watch him recover. She bolted for the front door.
Once outside, she started screaming. “Help me! Help me!” She ran across the street to old Ms. Keller’s house and banged on the door. She looked back at her front door expecting Shane to come after her at any moment. Instead, Ms. Keller opened her door slightly her face cut by the door chain.
“Ms. Keller, please, call the police! Please!”
“What happened, Ada?”
“My boyfriend is trying to kill me!”
Ms. Keller shut the door and Ada heard the chain rattle. She opened it up quickly and pulled Ada into her home. The old woman, alert and fast-thinking for her age, slammed the door shut behind Ada and fastened the bolt and chain.
“My phone is in the kitchen,” the old woman said as she pointed down the hall. “Are you hurt, dear?”
Ada shook her head to indicate she was fine as tears streamed down her face. She tried to speak but her emotions overwhelmed her and her throat ached. She wiped her eyes and walked into Ms. Keller’s kitchen to find the phone and dialed 9-1-1 as her hands shook. When the dispatcher answered, Ada looked at Ms. Keller, who stood in her kitchen, wide-eyed and tense as she looked from Ada to her front door.
Ada didn’t know what to say at first when she heard the dispatcher’s voice, and then, she blurted out the only thing that she could think of, “My boyfriend tried to kill me.” Ms. Keller gasped as if those words were too much, but Ada kept talking while the tears streamed down her face. The nightmare of what had just happened consumed her. She kept hoping she’d wake up and all would be right again, but it wasn’t.
A gloomy haze moved over her as she stood with the phone to her ear answering the operator’s methodical questions. She pressed her back into the wall to keep herself steady. The police were on their way. An ambulance too. She hung up the phone and slid down the wall until she was sitting on the floor. She buried her head into her folded arms and wailed. Ms. Keller padded over to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders trying to comfort her, but nothing could undo the fear and loathing she felt at that moment. Her whole body shook as if she were cold. She stayed in this position until an advancing siren yelped off just outside the front door.