I go to the kitchen first, and open the third drawer by the sink. That’s where David keeps the hammer. It feels heavier this time. My hand shakes as I pull it from the drawer.
My hand isn’t shaking because of the hammer. It’s because of what I’m about to do.
Who I’m about to talk to.
I take a breath as I step into the doorway of the bathroom. It’s very dim inside. Pale light filters in through a single clouded window and the white tile floor sparkles clean before me. I should know, I’m the one who scrubbed it this afternoon. Scents of lemon and bleach fill my nostrils as the door closes behind me. My hand slips over the knob, and I push the button in the center. I don’t need any interruptions.
I keep my eyes down as I cross to the sink. When the temptation becomes too great, I close them, taking another deep breath. My hands move to rest on the counter top, the hammer hitting the laminate with a dull thud. Even before my eyes open, I know he’s there. I can feel his presence in my gut. It’s a sick feeling. A nauseous feeling. But he just waits patiently for me to open my eyes.
So I do.
I see him in the mirror looming behind me. Smoke and darkness silhouetted against the plastic shower curtain, and eyes filled with a glimmering seduction that is both frightening and tantalizing. His chin rests on my shoulder, filling the curve against my neck.
“You didn’t do your hair today,” he remarks, his hot breath releasing against my cheek.
“It’s Friday,” I stammer.
“Ah, yes. Cleaning day.” There’s a chuckle, and he raises a hand, digging long, sharpened nails into my scalp. “It’s funny, isn’t it? Right now, your friends are out having a good time. And you’re at home, scrubbing floors.”
His fingers slide the length of my hair.
“They know I’m busy,” I reply.
“Is that what you tell yourself? No. The real reason is obvious,” he whispers, pressing his lips against my ear. “They don’t invite you anymore because you’re too ugly.”
A knot forms in my throat. I knew he would say this. It’s always the same. But it still hurts just as much as the last time. When I try to look away, he places a hand firmly around my chin and holds my face up steady to the mirror.
“You little slob,” he hisses. “You fat, ugly slob.”
“Did you have dinner yet? I hope it wasn’t too much. It will be harder to force it back up,” he reminds me. I glance nervously at the toothbrush. “You better hurry, before David gets home.”
“No,” I say, firmly. “I’m done with that.”
“Oh really? You’re certain?”
His face turns into my hair, and he inhales deeply. The sensation causes me to shudder, and he chuckles again, the deep tones of his voice echoing off my sparkling clean tiles. I look away from the toothbrush and at a bottle of liquid foundation. It’s tucked against the corner of the mirror, next to my brush, eyeliner, and tube of Wonderwand volumizing mascara.
“Make-up won’t help. Your face will still be round.” He pinches the soft flesh of my neck, just beneath my chin. “They have surgeons for this, but you can’t afford it. So you just have to stay ugly.”
My eyes begin to cloud as I feel the anger rising inside me. Not at him, but at me. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. I promised I wouldn’t let him get that far. But here we are, like every other night in front of the mirror. His laughter. My tears.
“Aw, shhh,” he coos. “Don’t cry. I’m here.”
A slender finger reaches out, and drags the teardrop down my face.
“I’m always here.”
Sometimes it seems like he has always been there, but that’s not true. There was a time when I could look in the mirror, and he didn’t come. I could look in the mirror at my round cheeks and kinky hair and say, “Hello, beautiful!”
But not anymore. Now, every time I looked, all I could see was what he told me to see.
A fat, ugly slob.
“You better get things done, we’re running out of time,” he insists.
“Yes,” I agree. “You’re running out of time.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
I tighten my grip around the hammer.
“I’m not going to see you anymore,” I tell him.
“You think it’s that easy? Well, it’s not. It will be hard to keep me away. Harder than you can manage. You’re not that strong.”
“I know. But I’m not going to do it alone. I’m going to get help.”
“No. I’m not.”
He recoils a moment, as if in shock, and towers behind me. The smoke billows, and the darkness swirls within him. The glitter in his eyes is gone. Now all I see is only hatred. Now all I see is only rage.
There is a knock at the door. “Julia? Julia, are you in there?”
CRAP! David is home.
“Pathetic!” he growls.
Knock, knock, knock. “Julia, are you ok? Open the door.”
“You stupid, little–”
I raise the hammer and his eyes widen. Endless pools of nothing, staring at me in horror.
“You think that will stop me? You can’t kill the devil!”
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK. “Julia! Please, open the door!”
I stare at him for the last time. “But you’re not the devil. You’re just my devil. And this is your end.”
I swing the hammer right into the center of the mirror. It shatters in large shards, crashing into the sink and all over the counter, some even reaching the floor. I step back and look at the destruction. My heart pounds furiously in my ears, almost as furiously as David beating on the door.
But it’s over. He’s gone.
My hand grips the doorknob, and I turn it slowly. David pushes his way in, wrapping his arms around me tightly. His breaths are as ragged as mine. I rest there in his embrace. I lay my head on his shoulder, and feel his hands press against my back, pulling me as close to himself as he can manage.
“What happened?” he asks, urgently. “Are you ok?”
“Yes,” I tell him. “I’m fine.”
And for the first time, it’s true.