My head flies from its feathery perch, sleep escaping as my eye-lids jerk open in my darkened bedroom. In haste, I slide from between the wrinkled sheets, running barefoot down the hardwood hallway to Elise's room. She rushes into my arms, her pupils large with fear and fatigue.
"You stay here my love." My lips caress her warm forehead. Her door protests softly as it closes.
Grabbing a heavy glass vase, I step onto the first steps, descending the staircase with care to miss the creaky boards.
A fist-sized rock lies on the welcome mat amongst splinters of glass glinting in the moonlight. His hand fumbles with the deadbolt lock. I smile recollecting the locksmith's sage advice to install an impervious double-cylinder deadbolt.
"You bitch! This is MY home. I demand that you let me in."
My knees wobble, I lower myself sitting on the lowest step, setting down the vase, dropping my head to my thighs, tears escaping from my eyes. The hammering of my heart speeds up the shallowness of my breathing.
Stomping footsteps signal him walking to the backdoor where the full-steel door awaits with its double cylinder lock. Cold air blows onto my legs, urging me to move.
I tip-toe to the landline in the living room, lifting the receiver, hearing nothing. On running legs I return to the foyer, grabbing my purse from the wrought iron coatrack, gasping as a particle of glass cuts my soles.
Dumping my purse onto the floor, my fingers scramble to grab my cell phone.
My eyes scowl seeing 'no charge.'
Frustration squeezes down my cheeks. Padding upstairs into my home-office, I shove the charger into my phone, waiting with impatient breaths for the charging to begin.
The house echoes with his pounding and swearing. My fingers shake. I swallow down the bile in my throat. With a deep breath, I push 9-1-1.
"Hello, what is your emergency?"
My body shakes, stuttering, stifling my words.
"Ma'am, stay on this line. We have captured your location. Police are on their way."
"Momma." I welcome Elise's warmth as she curls onto my lap, enfolding her body around mine. We rock to-and-fro, comforting each other with this rhythm.
Blue and red lights flicker across the walls.
"Stay here, my love. I'm just going downstairs to talk to the police. We're okay, all safe now."
Tip-toeing down the stairs, I pull back the living room curtains, peeking out onto the street where a cruiser sits, doors ajar, lights beaming, two uniformed officers shoving Doug onto the backseat.
I recognize his anger, that redness to his cheeks from drink, the darkness in his squinting scowl, grateful that a locked door separates me from him.
Two people walk up the pathway to the front door, the knocking urging me to move away from the spectacle on the street.
Opening the door, my eyes stare at two women: one in uniform, one in jeans and jacket.
"May we come in, Maeve?"
I frown hearing my name. Grabbing the doorknob intending to open it for these women; however, my shoulder hurts from my abrupt pulling. Rubbing my arm, I spy the absent key, lying in the blue glass dish on the nearby table, slipping it into the lock.
Cold air and fluffy snow join me as the women step into my house. Pinkness colours my cheeks as I realize my nightie is diaphanous. I wrap my arms across my body, watching as they remove their snow boots.
"Maeve, how about I brew up some tea?" Her soft voice matches the expression in her soft blue eyes. "So, point me towards your kitchen, and I'll figure our where things are. Okay?"
I point down the hall to the back of our house, my eyes tracking the footsteps of the officer to my kitchen, seeing her flick on the ceiling light.
"Let's go sit down."
I feel the warmth of her palm on my bare elbow, leading me to a sofa. I drop onto the soft cushions, resting my head upon the cushiness. Through my closed lids, I sense the gentle glow from a table lamp.
Silence wraps around me, compassionate, consoling. Sitting up in dread and guilt, my eyelids jolt open.
As if this unnamed woman reads my thoughts, she tosses a throw over my body, patting my hand.
"Your daughter's asleep, safe with a plain-clothed officer. She enjoyed a short read aloud, "Harold and…"
"And the Purple Crayon; a favourite."
"I'm Glynnis. I work with the police but I'm not an officer. I am a social worker by training. I'll be with you to support you and Elise."
I collapse head, shoulders, back onto the softness, uncertainty weighing me down like a boulder.
"Ah, Maeve, the tea's arrived. My goodness, in my opinion, tea helps to smooth life's bumps and bruises."
I sink into the gentle pools of her eyes, accepting the mug of tea with shaking hands. Sipping the hot liquid, my tongue wiggles at its sweetness.
"The honey, you've experienced a shock, it'll help."
The uniformed woman sits on a dining room chair, a notepad opens on her lap, pen in hand.
"Maeve, right now we need to make some decisions, for the next hours, days, week. Don't worry about making a statement right now," Glynnis nods at the officer, "I'll go with you tomorrow to the local detachment. One of my staff will babysit Elise."
Her words wash over me, all meaning muffled. I nod more from politeness than agreement.
"Elise's father is under arrest for breaking the terms of his parole. He is in custody."
I draw a deep breath.
"That's good, isn't it?"
This isn't the first time… he'll be back—- released again… damn him to hell
"Tell me your thoughts right now."
"He'll be back. Just like always. The police are useless." I glimpse the officer's eyes widen, "sorry, it's just the truth."
"Fair enough, Maeve, but this is a new time, I'm here with you, so we can create a new ending, a better beginning for you and your daughter, Elise."
"I don't think I can take anymore. I worry so much about Elise and what she has seen and heard."
"That is precisely how I can help you and Elise to heal, to choose a new path, away from him, without him."
"BUT, all the other times…"
"Yes, I agree that the police have failed you in the past, just like a lot of other women. I'm here now, for you, to be with you as you move forward."
"The house, our marriage, custody of Elise, it's all too much!"
"We, WE will get through this together. Understand?"