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Author: Heather MacDonald


You scurry around the house collecting socks, sweaters, and toys to throw into the backpack. Your knuckles gripping the bag are white. Will Josh hear? Danny stirs in the playpen, and you pray he won’t wake.

Sliding a chair to the fridge, you pull down the teddy bear cookie jar and draw out the cash inside. No need to count, the total is cemented in your skull. You return the chair to the table, careful not to disturb the jungle of empty beer bottles on top.

Packing a toothbrush and diapers for Jeremy, you glance in the mirror. Your cheekbone has morphed into a purple lump. The cut in your lip bleeds anew as you grimace at your reflection.

You tiptoe into the bedroom. Josh snores, his boots dangling off the end of the bed.

You edge to your dresser and glide the drawer containing your underwear open. Your clammy hands excavate for the prepaid cell phone your friend Sophie pressed into your hand a few weeks ago. You haven’t seen her since, but know she’ll answer when you call.

“Anytime, day or night. You phone when you’ve had enough.”

She answers after the third ring. Your shuddering breaths are a beacon, no words necessary.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” she says.

When headlights beckon, you shoulder the backpack and wrap Jeremy in his blanket, muffling his whines in your shoulder. One empty bottle droops in your free hand.

Tossing the knapsack in the backseat, you strap Jeremy into Sophie’s spare car seat.

Turning back to the house one last time, you pause. Then, you grit your teeth and fling that empty bottle at the front steps. The shards of his control splatter across the pavement. You climb into the car and slam the door behind you.

Flash Fiction by Heather MacDonald
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