Short Fiction ~ Henri Colt
The desperation in her voice haunted him during his rush through Saturday night traffic, and Logan’s thoughts raced as if he were driving into the scene of an old pulp movie. He had told Eve it was too late to go for a run, but she was stubborn, and a marathoner. He admired that, but he never liked the way she could be gone for hours pounding the pavement by herself.
He burned red lights and illegally crossed lanes, passing dozens of vehicles in his haste. Before making a sharp turn into the old church parking lot, he was jolted by a speed bump. The area was dark except for a street lamp a hundred feet away. Eve’s half-dressed body was slouched against the decrepit shell of a Metro booth near the lot’s entrance.
He pulled up in front and jumped from his car. His wife was naked from the waist down. Her light running jacket was ripped, and her sports bra had been pulled around her neck, exposing her breasts. Her head tilted limply to one side like an abandoned rag doll with rolling eyes. Her forehead was covered in blood.
Please God, he prayed silently. Scrambling toward her, Logan noticed shreds of gray acrylic fabric from Eve’s running pants strewn about on the pavement. Her light green headband lay in a puddle of vomit next to her cell phone. She was barefoot, and he never saw her sneakers.
When he knelt beside her, he retched, shuddering at the sight of her cracked lips and broken front teeth. Her cheeks were bruised, and her right eye was swollen. He knew the jagged laceration stretching from the corner of her mouth down to her chin would scar her forever. He hoped the punch hadn’t broken her jaw. Wiping fresh tears from her face with his shirttail, he engulfed her body in his.
Eve’s face was expressionless in a sad, absent sort of way. Her body was cold and limp as if any strength she might have mustered to resist the onslaught had suddenly been drained from her. She didn’t seem to be looking at him, but rather through him, as if she were gazing emptily into the starless night.
Her voice was broken and raspy. “Get me out of here,” she whispered.
He wiped his fingers across her swollen eyelids and tucked a few locks of disheveled brown hair behind her ear. He tried to pull her onto her feet, but she didn’t have the strength to stand. Her neck disappeared into her shoulders from the effort, and she collapsed like melting wax onto her knees.
“I’ve got you,” he said, lifting her again with both hands under her arms. She was heavier than her thin, 5-foot frame suggested, but he was able to carry her to the car. He leaned onto the hood, bracing himself as he reached down with one hand to open the door. She moaned when she crumpled into the passenger seat. A streak of blood dripped from between her still uncovered thighs, and there were bruises on her shins and small porcelain feet, as if she had been kicked and stomped upon. He reached across the headrest to pull a plaid woolen dog blanket from the back and draped it over her shoulders. Folding the blanket around her, he covered as much of Eve’s shivering, mostly naked body as he could, trembling when he wiped what was probably dried semen from her chest.
A few passers-by were gathered near the parking lot. They seemed to move cautiously toward the car, but with curiosity, not to offer help. Their undulating movements in the shadows of the nearby street lamp reminded Logan of dancers in a scene from West Side Story. Suddenly, like fish swarming in expectation of a feeding frenzy, they began running toward him.
“Let’s go,” Eve pleaded.
He closed the car door and darted to the driver’s side so he could slide behind the wheel. When he turned the key in the ignition, his headlights blinded the crowd. Backing away from the curb, he struck an orange traffic cone that bounced onto the adjacent greenbelt.
“We need to get to the hospital,” he exclaimed, putting the car into forward drive. His words bounced off the windshield and hung heavily in the claustrophobic space.
“No,” she mumbled.
“You’re hurt, Eve. We’re going to the hospital, and I’m calling the police.”
“Just take me home. Please, just home.”
He sped onto the boulevard, undecided whether to turn toward the hospital or go left to their house on Central Avenue. Eve vomited over the dashboard well before he reached the intersection. He immediately stopped the car and held her in his arms.
“I’m so sorry,” he told her over and over. But his words, although ageless, felt insignificant.
Henri Colt is a physician-writer whose passions include mountaineering and tango. His short stories have appeared in Rock and Ice Magazine, Fiction on the Web, Active Muse, Potato Soup Journal, Adelaide Literary Magazine, and others.