Only One Decision

Submitted into Contest #112 in response to: End your story with a character standing in the rain.... view prompt

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Contemporary Drama Fiction

ONLY ONE DECISION

by Del Gibson

The gun feels heavy in my hand, it shakes as I tread softly towards our bedroom.

People have asked me along the way, how did I make it through? I say it was a choice. Put it this way, if you had to decide between losing your memories or going blind, which one would you choose? Or which child would you save if the house was on fire? Or better still, if your husband tried to kill you, who would you tell? You can’t tell a soul because no one would believe you. No one would ever believe a woman over the chief of police. Even though we are still technically married, we are very much estranged. He sleeps in our bedroom, and I sleep, if at all, in the spare room; the cold south facing half-room at the back of the cottage we brought five years ago, after his accident.

I hear him shift his weight in bed. Through the doorway I can see him – his bedside light is on, and his back is facing me as I enter.

The accident had been horrendous. Danny was a charming man, with model looks, blond hair, blue-eyes, chiselled jaw, and a toned and ripped body. He was my childhood love. We grew up together as both our fathers were working at the same police station. That is the history of how we met. No love at first sight or courting, and no honey-moon period. All of Danny’s focus was on becoming a high-ranking policeman. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, to overshadow him and to out rank him. Though Danny would never admit to it.

I make no sound as I creep towards the bed.

Five years ago, Danny was shot on the job, on his way to testify in court. Before he left for work that day, he said he was nervous that the death threats still hadn’t been sorted out. I got the call on my cellphone from his right-hand man, Detective Hugh McDonald, he was distressed and on the verge of losing it. I went to the hospital and was told the news. My husband had been shot on the steps of the courthouse by an assailant brandishing a gun. He received a bullet to the chest and another to his shoulder, and he had lost a lot of blood. There were months of rehabilitation and hospital appointments, but he pulled through and went back to work six-months later – a new man, frightening and evil. What he did to me, and how he treated me and the kids, it was the only way, the only decision. 

You look so peaceful when you sleep. I wish there was another choice. I aim the pistol.

The first time he hit me, we had been at a party and Danny had become drunk enough to throw up in the pool. Because of that, we were kicked out and we had to walk home, as Danny couldn’t find his wallet. While we were walking, I stumbled onto the road. I was wearing high-heel stilettos, one of the heel’s broke in the fall, so I had to walk the rest of the way shoeless. Danny had become frustrated by my inability to keep up with him. I blamed him, saying, “if you hadn’t of thrown up in the pool, and left your wallet behind, we wouldn’t be walking home in the first place.” He punched me in the face and continued on walking.  Before his accident, we never fought, and he had never raised his voice towards the children or me.

My hands are shaking too much, I grip the gun with both hands to keep it steady.

The next day after the first time he hit me, he apologised and blamed his alcohol consumption, he had begged for my forgiveness, saying that he would never do that again. But he did, over and over. Each time he blamed me for instigating a fight, provoking him in some way, or generally because he needed someone to bully. Bullying colleagues obviously wasn’t enough. I had seen the complaints from lower ranking police officers, and their accounts of the way Danny was treating them. This all came out in the court proceedings. There have been instances of attacks and Danny lashing out with his words and fists. It wasn’t just at home; he was dangerous at work too.

He rolls over again, this time he is facing me. His eyes are wide-open as I flick my finger across the safety switch. I am frozen to the spot, waiting for his reaction.

The kids, Aiden 10, and Amelia 8, they loved their dad. Danny loved his children and was a doting father until the accident. He no longer played tea-parties with our little girl, and practicing goals in the backyard had become a thing of the past. They both asked me why daddy is angry all the time? Why does he always yell at them? Did they do something wrong? I explained to them, sometimes when people have a traumatic experience like Danny did when he was shot – some people change and become someone else completely. Of course, they are too young to understand the complexities of psychology.

At first, he does nothing, just watches me in silence.

The first time he hit one of the kids, it was Amelia. She was six years old and I was trying to help her with her homework. She wasn’t getting it and was being obnoxious to the point I was having to raise my voice. Danny stormed in from nowhere and grabbed Amelia by the hair and dragged her to her feet. He was saying things like, “you are never too old to be put over my knee,” and “listen to your mother, who the hell do you think you are?” then he slapped the back of her legs with a large wooden spoon he found on the bench, as we were sitting at the dining table. Amelia was screaming, and I screamed at him to stop – he stopped at seven. Welts appeared on her legs and she was bleeding. I quickly ran to her and scooped her into my arms. I was yelling at Danny that I was going to call the police, and all he could say was “go for it bitch, I am the police, they will never believe you!” and he stormed back to wherever the hell he had come from. With a sobbing child in my arms and the other yelling at me from upstairs, I carried her to her bedroom, then I called out for Aiden to come to us. Aiden asked what had happened to his sister, I told him daddy was having a bad time at the moment, and we mustn’t tell anyone what had happened, or they would lock daddy away for a very long time. By default, I became Danny’s accessory to the crime he had just committed against our daughter.

Suddenly, he is on top of me, punching me in the face. I feel real pain as teeth dislodge, my lip is bleeding profusely, as well as my nose which is broken. He tries to wrestle the gun from me, at the same time the gun goes off.

The last time he hit me was the worse of them all. I ended up in A & E, having to explain why my nose was broken and why I had a gash across the back of my head. I had been unconscious for a time, but I don’t know how long I was out. I lied to the staff and told them I had slipped and fallen down a flight of stairs at home, and I had tumbled down head-first. I told them I had been drinking and slipped on the hallway rug. They queried me at first, in-front of Danny. The triage nurse looked me up and down, she frowned at me and turned to him and asked him if that was what had occurred? Did he witness the accident first-hand or did he find me unconscious at the bottom of the stairs? She was typing her notes onto a tablet; recording everything digitally. She took my temperature and blood pressure, right there in front of all the people waiting in the seated area. Most were having sneaky glances at my injuries. I was covered in blood; it was stained on my top, and my arms and hands were drenched in it. My hair was a tangled mess of red – I knew I looked horrendous. Twenty-five stitches later, pain-relief and vital signs re-checked, I was free to go home with Danny.

I roll out from under his dead weight. His eyes open for a moment and he asks me why I shot him? In a state of shock, I tell him he was right, no one would have believed me. I had to make him stop. Little tears appear in the corner of his eyes. He looks at me, and for a fleeting second, I glance the old Danny coming back. But in his last breaths, he tells me I am a fucking bitch, and that he wishes me dead, and that our children had never been born.

I got off the charges by pleading self-defence. I knew it would go that way. So, I had written everything down to my lawyer about the assaults. With my statements, and those from his colleagues, the judge denounced me of any wrong doing. We also had the hospital report from the injuries I had sustained from the month prior, as further evidence. Of course, I had said Danny had tried to shoot me, and as we struggled, he was shot dead.

I was free at long last. Free to mother my children; without the tension of an unpredictable husband. I was free to be the woman I always wanted to be; alive and happy. Free from the violence that would surely have ended in my own death. No more fear, no more hurting. Gone was the man who tormented me and our children. In this case, my life, the only decision was the right one.

As I stood under the rain spilling from the sky, watching them bury the man who practically ruined my life, I realised in that moment that I have a new life, one I will choose for myself and my children. Before I left the cemetery, I decided then and there, we would move to a new place, where there are no memories of violence. No more holes in the walls. No more broken windows. No more broken possessions. No more broken bones. The rain lifts my spirits, it washes away my pain, cleansing my past. I walk alone towards my car, and I open my arms wide to the downpour, and scream in joy at the sky.

THE END



Copyright © Gibson, Del 2021

September 20, 2021 22:02

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5 comments

Kiara Hernandez
11:21 Oct 01, 2021

Your story was really well written! The switch between past and present really helped to build tension. I hadn't noticed but up until the point where the gun goes off I was clenching my teeth. It was heart wrenching which made the end so much sweeter. Great read!

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Del Gibson
19:27 Oct 01, 2021

Thank you for the feedback, much appreciated! I am glad you enjoyed it! I shouldn't laugh about the clenched teeth, but that was basically what I was looking for! 😁

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Sarbjeet Kaur
03:35 Sep 30, 2021

I liked this! I would suggest putting a trigger warning for abuse as the story does get pretty graphic. I loved the framing of this story from shifting between the past and present. The themes in this story are so important as well - having an abuser who has a position of authority: the line "I am the police!" hit hard. The symbolic "washing away the pain" ending was satisfying and emotional and I loved the last sentence. Well done!

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Del Gibson
18:07 Sep 30, 2021

Thank you for your kind words and I am thrilled you liked the story. Also thank you for pointing out the issue around trigger warnings, usually I do but it slipped my mind this time (not good on my part.) I am glad you enjoyed the story.

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Sarbjeet Kaur
20:25 Sep 30, 2021

Yes of course! And no problem! :)

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