Stacy stormed into their luxury apartment and made a beeline for their bedroom. She grabbed two suitcases and threw them on their queen sized bed. She knew that he would stay at that party for another hour or two, he had always made sure he left last, but she still felt pressured to hurry. If he happened to come home while she was doing it, he would try to talk her out of it. She had already made up her mind, so he would not have been able to sway her, but she didn’t want the delay. Plus, she wouldn’t put it past him to get violent again. It all felt so crazy, she never thought he had been capable of that! She hadn’t been happy for a while, but she had always thought that eventually they would work past their issues. Everything was different now! She needed to escape right away!
As she stuffed her suitcase, she remembered his claim that everything in their home belonged to him, but she didn’t care, she needed clothes! Besides, she thought, what would he do with them? She felt no attachment to anything else in their house. All of it was beautiful, but it had all been picked to convey that image he so desperately clung to, which suddenly seemed so unimportant to her. She took a hair dryer and a couple of things from the bathroom and stuffed them into her already full luggage. She closed it up and marveled at just how much she didn’t need!
Stacy put on a jacket and was about to call a cab when she passed by the master bathroom and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She expected to see blotches from crying, but she didn’t think that she would find a red mark where he slapped her. This sickened her to think she would get this reminder each time she saw her reflection, but she didn’t have time to mull it over much. She didn’t have time to cover it with make up either. She grabbed a silk scarf so she could rush out the door.
She arrived at the bus stop with the scarf wrapped around her head and tied under her chin. She also wore sunglasses even though the sun had already set. She realized how peculiar she looked, but she didn’t want to be recognized by anyone who might know Hadeon. It sounded very paranoid, but Stacy didn’t want anyone to stop her. As she payed the taxi driver, she discovered that she didn’t have much money left. The cab sped away, and as she studied the bus schedule, it dawned on her that in her haste to get away, she hadn’t actually made a plan on where to go! She didn’t have a lot of resources to work with, so for a moment, she wasn’t sure where to go. Suddenly, she saw a time table for Makawee, Tennessee, and it became so obvious on what she needed to do. She told the ticket agent, “One way to Makawee!” It took the rest of her money, even her change, but she didn’t care. She felt more confident now that she had some direction!
She felt grateful that she didn’t have a long wait, but it didn’t feel so short at that moment. Every sign of movement and every slight noise made her sure that he had found her. As she waited by the lane where the bus would pull in, she avidly watched for him, ready to run inside if he pulled up. There weren’t many people taking a charter bus on a Saturday night, but she could only imagine the embarrassment of the scene he would cause if he found her there. The bus pulled in, but she still looked behind her in case he tried to stop her at the last moment. To her immense relief, she was able to board the bus without a fuss! As everyone else got on, she still watched for him, and she felt grateful that her worries did not manifest themselves. It didn’t feel real to her until the bus driver turned his engine on and they started to pull out of the driveway. She continued to look out of the window, half expecting to see him tailing her, but once they got far enough, she didn’t think it was too likely anymore, and a huge weight lifted from her shoulders. She was finally free!
Later on in the evening, a handsome couple in their early sixties cuddled together on a comfortable couch while wrapped in a crocheted blanket as they watched a comedic show. All of a sudden, their phone rang, which roused both of their curiosity. The lady turned on a lamp next to her and requested, “Frank, can you mute the tv?” Frank did so as she walked to the other side of the room where the table with the phone on it stood. She picked up the receiver and hesitantly said, “Hello?”
An automated voice answered her, “Hello! You’ve received a Collect Call from…”
Stacy’s voice filled in, “Can you pick me up from the bus station?”
The automated voice finished with, “Do you accept the charges?” Frank and his wife turned to each other with very grave expressions.
Frank spotted Stacy with two suitcases standing alone under a lamppost while it rained on her. He and his wife ran out to her, and his wife exclaimed, “Stacy! Oh my god, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Mom,” Stacy tried to convey bravery since she knew they were probably already worried sick.
“Let’s get you out of the rain!” Her mother put her her arm around her shoulder and tried to lead her to the car.
“Wait a minute, Barbara!” Frank put an arm out to stop her. He studied Stacy’s scarf closely, and she cringed as he gingerly took it off. When her parents saw the red mark on her face, Barbara gasped and Frank growled, “That son of a bitch! I’ll kill him!”
Frank marched towards the driver’s side of the car, but Barbara grabbed both of his arms to stop him. “Frank! Don’t! Frank, you are a police officer!” Frank relented and braced himself against the car. Barbara pat his back gently and suggested, “Let’s take Stacy home!” Frank nodded and got into the car in a huff. He opened the trunk for Stacy, who quickly tossed her luggage in and got inside the vehicle.
For a while, they drove in silence. Stacy felt more awkward than she ever had in her life. Frank still seemed irate about the fact that Hadeon had hurt her, and Barbara looked as though she had billions of questions that she was repressing until Stacy gave her permission to release them. Barbara couldn’t hold back anymore, and she broke the tension by inquiring, “Are you hungry?”
“No,” Stacy replied truthfully. With everything that had happened that night, she couldn’t fathom desiring food.
Frank then probed, “Did you press charges?”
“No.” Stacy knew eventually she would have to explain herself, but she had trouble digesting it herself, so she felt that divulging a little at a time would make it easier for everyone. “I was too busy trying to get away to even think about calling the police.”
She expected him to get angry that she hadn’t reported Hadeon, but instead, he surmised, “Eh, that son of a bitch probably would’ve bailed himself out and wouldn’t have learned a damn thing anyways!” He paused a moment and added, “Has he done this before?”
“No, he’s never done this before!” Memories flooded through Stacy’s memories. She almost explained how wonderful he was in the beginning of their relationship, but that thought made her heart ache and she started crying. Barbara and Frank took that as a cue to end the questions, and they seemed close to crying themselves as they drove in silence again.
When they got into the living room, Frank set her bags down and Barbara informed her, “We turned your old room into a gym, so you’ll have to sleep on the couch tonight.”
“Okay.” Stacy shrugged. “I probably won’t be able be able to sleep much tonight anyways.”
“Oh, my poor baby!” Barbara tightly squeezed Stacy, and while Stacy appreciated her sentiment, she also felt a little foolish for garnering so much pity, so she stood limply as her mother hugged her. “Welcome home!”
Her mother let go, and Stacy stared at the living room incredulously. She had grown up here, so everything was very familiar, but she had been away long enough that it put her in an almost dream like trance to stand there at that moment. Her mother called it home, which twisted her stomach a bit. Just a few hours ago, home had meant their apartment in Nashville, and while she had no desire to return there, everything still felt too fresh for her to call this place home again. She had put all of her focus into escaping, and now that she got somewhere safe, butterflies ravaged her stomach as she started to think about where the next step would take her.
Almost as though he had read her thoughts, Frank reassured her, “You did the right thing, Kiddo! Just take it one day at a time!”
“You’re right,” Stacy agreed. She didn’t feel too confident yet, but focusing on getting through the night seemed more doable than trying to think of a new path for her whole life!
As Stacy turned to retire to the couch, Barbara asked her, “Did you try calling us again?”
“No.” Stacy turned back around and saw that the answering machine was blinking. Her nerves were rattled at this sight. No one called her parents in the middle of the night, so only one person would call at this time…
Barbara hesitantly pushed play, and Stacy’s fears were confirmed! Hadeon’s voice rang out, “Stacy? Are you there? Staaaaacy! Come on, answer the phone! Don’t be childish, we need to talk like grown ups…” As Hadeon went on, Stacy hypnotically walked over to the answering machine, and for a moment, she considered his claim. However, she soon grew incensed at his nerve. He wasn’t trying to win her back, he insulted her and demanded that return! After all he put her through, he expected her to crawl back to him and apologize to him!
She picked up the answering machine and smacked it against the table several times as if it had betrayed her by playing his evil voice. “Hey, hey, hey!” Barbara put her hands on her to get her to calm down.
Stacy realized how irrational she had been and stopped, but her emotions were still overwhelming her, so she began sobbing again. Frank comforted her, “It’s okay!” He and Barbara each embraced her.
After a while, Barbara asked her, “Are you going to be okay sleeping by yourself?”
“I’ll be fine,” Stacy replied somewhat hollowly. Frank and Barbara each said goodnight to her, and she was vaguely aware of saying goodnight back. She turned off the light, wrapped herself in the quilt, and laid down on the couch with her eyes wide open. The only light in the room came from the faint glow of the moon against the trees outside, which cast shadows throughout the space. Everything felt so strange, and she knew as hard as this day had been, this was only the beginning!