When she knew that it was safe and he was gone, she emerged from her bedroom to face the morning. The image looking at her from the bathroom mirror was not unfamiliar, yet she viewed it with the detachment she had come to feel at such times.
She did not bother with make-up. There was no one to care about the bruises or the cuts. No one to care about the intangible wounds inside of her head.
She bathed away the clinging residue of his use of her, trying not to remember the way it felt with his heavy body pinning hers beneath him, the foul stench of his breath against her face.
There were times when she thought he would strangle or crush her, times when she could not catch her breath and struggled to gulp air into her lungs. There was a point, she knew, that a person stopped caring, stopped trying to breathe, just gave in.
She imagined drowning would be that way. After trying so hard to reach the surface, the body unable to endure the wait. The involuntary intake of water...perhaps coughing out any remaining air until each spasm of the diaphragm expelled and inhaled only liquid. Oxygen starved blood not supporting life until you just didn't care, stopped trying to breathe, just gave in.
She wondered sometimes if that was how it had been for the baby. Somehow, it had felt much more violent than that.
She didn't need to imagine the scene. The carpet still bore the remnants of the blood stain that had crept around her as she lay there, knowing that what had just happened to her was not right.
She went to it now, and laid down, very carefully, positioning herself just-so, as though trying to pose inside of a dead body's chalk-line.
She could remember first curling into a fetal position herself, overcome by the pain.
Then the blood...so much blood. She didn't know if it were her own or the infant's. It seemed impossible for it to not be both. When the urge to push came over her she could do little but comply, rolling to her back and straining, feeling yet another warm gush of fluid along with the body that was to have been her daughter erupt forth from her womb.
She remembered feeling so cold, curling around the dead child, not caring that she lay in their blood, not trying to summon help, just giving in.
She sang softly, crooning a sweet lullabye as she had that day, quietly stroking the downy fuzz of hair that would have been beautiful one day. She could imagine combing and braiding the hair, placing tiny bows or ties, getting her ready for her first day of school.
Her own hair was matted and dry. She wanted to keep it that way, to make herself as unattractive as she could in the hope that he would tire of her and no longer want her. It was the only recourse she could think of, other than placing a knife to her veins, for an eventual escape.
Because she knew he would never let her leave, not as long as either of them still drew breath.
Sometimes she contemplated murder. Times when her teardrops fell upon the rug and her mind invented ways to accomplish the deed. She knew that she did not have the strength to use a knife upon him, although that would have served to satisfy the need she had inside to feel him suffer and know pain.
So instead she would comb her hair back into a ponytail and place a cap upon her head. The walk to the library was not far, and she was good at seeking anonymity. Keeping to the sides of the room, slipping around corners, avoiding notice; it was something she had become adept at after all these years trying to evade him as much as possible. To boldly walk down the middle invited attention, and attention always brought pain.
She would keep to the aisles filled with musty volumes, sometimes taking a corner against a wall to sit and read. She hadn't found what she was looking for, not yet; but she knew that when she did, she would know.
She would find something easily attainable but not obvious. No one could guess that foul-play would be involved or she would never be free. But she wanted him to suffer, oh, yes, it couldn't be quick. She wanted to see him writhe in pain on the carpet as she had, wanted him to feel the loss of his own soul as it grew cold on the hard floor, as she had.
She wanted to see him stop caring, stop struggling to breathe, just give in.
Just the thought of it gave her the strength to face each day.