She ran to the door, surprised to have heard the rapping sound of what surely was her savior. Hopefully. He didn't have time for another jab to her jaw. He reached out to stop her, worried, but his drunken arms were too slow.
It had been this way for months. When he first lost his job, it began with taunts: "I don't know why I married you.," he'd say, "You're so stupid!" And, then (and ever since) she wondered, too, why she married him. But, it seemed so hard to right what was wrong. And, so many, many things were wrong. Was anything right anymore?
Shortly after the taunts- and, not so coincidentally, with the increase of liquid/liquor courage, the verbal abuse turned physical. Like dipping his toe in cold water, it began with a slap across the face. Perhaps she asked for it, because she told him he drank too much.
"Shut up, Susan," was all he said. Then he slapped her, hard. She didn't cry. Wouldn't give him the satisfaction. But, in the bathroom the sting of the antiseptic sang to her, in the words of an old ditty- "We've only just begun...".
Sure enough, the slaps grew more and more forceful. Beer not cold enough. Slap. Dinner not his preference. Slap. Floor not vacuumed. Slap. Dishes in the sink. Slap. Bad mood. Slap.
When she returned from her waitress job at Kathy's Diner, sore feet and smelling of grease, her fingers trembled as they grasped her front door's handle. What waited inside? Tiptoeing in, when all she wanted was to put her feet up. To sit, for one minute. But, no.
The slaps turned to punches. Even drunk, he could dredge up some great force behind those punches. They almost always landed in her gut. This was fine. The pit that sat in her belly all these months could take it. Still, no tears.
But then this knock at the door. Just as Evan was landing a third punch to the gut. He liked to grab me by the shoulders. Center his target, I guess. But, the knock. I turned just as he was about to swing. As he stumbled and fell on the kitchen linoleum floor, I reached the front door.
As the door opened, the strangers black boot held the screen door ajar. The stranger before me blocked the evening sun behind him. I couldn't quite make him out. Tall. Yes, had to more than six and a half feet. Dark pants. Dark shirt. Black, I think. But he was in shadow. A hoodie over his head. A goatee of dark, dark hair. He didn't say a word, but nodded ever so slightly to Evan. I turned back to see my husband lying, motionless, on the floor where I left him. The stranger held out his hand. In it, a human heart.
"Oh Evan," with a smile, she held his heart in her own hand, "it's for you."