Sensitive Content Trigger Warning: References to domestic violence, substance abuse, physical violence
Lauren Hollings pulled the blankets tightly to her chin, listening to the roar of the hemi engine as it pulled down the tranquil street in the early morning hours when sleep was either friend or foe. And it had been foe for too long to recall. The empty space beside her was a constant reminder of the life she had naively been duped into. Fat tremulous tears gathered in her eyes as she heard the key engaging the front door lock, then the deadbolt, the heavy leaden footsteps making their way drunkenly towards the bedroom door.
The glimmers of moonlight betrayed the scene with its beauty, all softness and moonshine, casting a beautiful golden glimmer across the room, directly onto the door he would be coming through at any moment. The door that had twice been replaced when she’d made the terrible mistake of locking it to keep him out. She tried in vain to slow her breathing as it hitched in her chest, hoping she might pretend to be asleep when he came in, her eyes glued to the door in half slits.
Her eyes shut quickly, the smell hitting her before he had fully entered the room. Replaced was the scent of the beautiful night-blooming jasmine she so loved by the overwhelmingly repugnant smell of whiskey. An involuntary gag almost escaped her lips as he moved in closer to the bed but she refused to let her body betray her. Reflexively, she yawned, taking in more of the whiskey smell. If it were possible, she thought she might become intoxicated herself by the fumes alone. Tim stood over her, leering the way he often did. Deciding her fate, that had seemingly come to rest in his hands and his alone.
Gone were the days of spending time with her younger sister or closest friends. Tim had made certain of that. Gone were the days of spending time with anyone other than Tim. It had happened so slowly but all at once somehow. Where had the lively Lauren gone? Lauren who had once gone to book clubs, and brunches with friends. Only to be replaced with a shivering imitation of the woman she had once been, now cowering under the covers. Waiting for her fate to be handed to her.
Her mind spun with questions as Tim stood over her. Breathing his fetid breath down on her. This was not the life she had chosen. The Tim she had met and married was charming to everyone he met. Holding hands in the park. Showering her with flowers. Unyielding attention. She had been the very essence of the apple of his eye. And he was her knight in shining armor. Her very own prince charming. Tim had plucked her out of oblivion and made her feel special. Loved beyond measure. And she so desperately wanted to be loved.
But that Tim morphed into someone else, something else. Someone she barely recognized. Or wished she didn’t. This Tim was angry and bleak. Nothing Lauren ever did was ever right in his mind. She recalled vividly a night she made a lovely dinner of spaghetti and meatballs with homemade garlic bread, his favorite, but when Tim came home from work, he had his heart and mind set on something different. The dish crashed into the wall not two inches from her head before she watched the ruined meal sliding down the wall next to her head as she shrank in the kitchen, her body trembling. The days of toiling happily waiting for her beloved to return home from work had devolved into listening for the engine pulling down the street, waiting to see which Tim would walk through the front door. Old Tim rarely made appearances in their lives anymore. Replaced with New Tim. Horrible Tim. The Tim who had come to stay. This was not the life she had chosen. She wanted to disappear from this life.
The tension in her body melted away like butter in a hot pan as she felt his presence turn away from her and walk out of the room. She might escape a night of his drunken pawing assault this night. Her mind continued to spin with thoughts of what her life had become. Startled out of her reverie, she heard the back door of the house open as Tim made his way out to their backyard. She couldn’t imagine what he could be doing out there in the middle of the night. The only thing back there was the tool shed. Her mind whirred with possibilities. Fully tense again, unsure if she should venture out to see what he was up to and chance him seeing her awake and dealing with his drunkenness, or staying in bed and dealing with whatever mess he made in the morning. He was prone to make messes in his inebriated state, but they usually occurred where ever he elected to roll over and vomit at the time, or in the kitchen, if he decided to make food after rolling in from some bar in the wee hours of the morning. But this was something altogether new.
Lauren lay in bed for some time. Mulling over her predicament. Listening to the muffled bangs and shuffling from the shed in the backyard. Pulling the blankets even tighter to her chin, and rolling away from the door she fell into a troubled sleep. Whatever he was doing, it would have to wait until the morning.
Tim Hollings had been a proud man. His life was moving steadily along when he met Lauren Hastings. Now Lauren Hollings. He had been happy. Content. He had been an all-star in high school. Made it through college with average marks. Got himself a decent job. But then things started to go wrong in his life. Tim became angry at the world. He started drinking more. And then he lost his job at the insurance brokerage. And the one after that. This was not the way things were supposed to turn out for him. No matter what he did, he could not seem to get his life back on track. Tim got angrier.
The night Tim came home to find Lauren pretending to be asleep again, he stood over her, the anger flooding his body like hot lava. He began to see red as he stared down at her. Where once he saw love, he now only saw hatred and loss.
Almost as if on autopilot, Tim turned on his heel and headed straight through the house and out the back door to the tool shed. He tore through the tiny building until he landed on the item he had been searching for, knowing without knowing. When his hands landed upon the pruning shears, tears streaming unbidden from his eyes, he turned and marched back into the home he had shared with his wife of four years.
When he returned to the bedroom, Lauren lay in their marital bed, breathing evenly. He knew that she was truly sleeping this time. And he knew that this would be the last breath she would ever take.
Tim takes exceptional care of the jasmine bushes that grow in the backyard. It appears that human remains are an excellent fertilizer. It took seven years for Lauren to be declared legally dead after she was reported missing, but the $750,000.00 life insurance policy finally paid out. Tim’s life is back on track and his new wife is very happy tending to their life and making his favorite meals.