The next time she fell down the stairs, Rose didn’t trip on her pajamas. She tripped on her husband’s fist. She was twenty when it happened, and they had been married for nearly a year and a half. Already she was disenchanted and was trying to find a way out of it. Actually, if she was honest, she had known the day she married him that she was making a mistake, had cried throughout the entire ceremony, knowing she didn’t love this man, that she loved someone else…but somehow events had worked against her and she didn’t know what else to do.
She worked for a video production company and had been up since four in the morning. She had been on a shoot at five, working hard, pulling cable, setting up equipment, assisting one of her favorite cameramen, Rick, as he climbed all over the newest addition to the Saudi Royal Navy’s fleet of ships. It hadn’t all been hard, dirty work. There had been a few light moments such as when two of the Saudi sailors had offered Rick two camels and a great deal of gold for his assistant. They had been quite insistent, too, until Rick (who was like a big brother or uncle to her) had finally put down his camera and grabbed Rose in a huge bear hug and told them, “She’s mine!” Kiss on the lips. “You may not have her, not even for fifty camels!!”
They had escaped the ship then, amidst a flurry of laughter. Rose always enjoyed working with Rick, had no idea how sad she would be several years later when he suddenly collapsed and died on the set of a nationally popular religious show.
After the shoot had come the clean up, the long trek back to the studio where everything had to be put away. Bill and Jim had begun the arduous task of editing the footage from the day, and Rose knew that in the next few days she would be busy getting copies transferred from the United States NTSC standard to the Saudi PAL and SECAM. This night, however, she had to clear up some client billing paperwork before she could make the forty minute drive home.
By the time she arrived at her mom’s house, it was after ten o’clock, and she was exhausted. All she could think of was a shower and bed. She had to be back at work by eight thirty the next morning. She pulled up to the house, turned off the car, and just sat there, eyes closed, gathering the strength required to carry herself inside. She was surprised to see that her mother’s car wasn’t in the yard, but thought nothing of it. She looked up to the window of the bedroom she shared with Jeff and was sorry to see the light still on. Damn, I was hoping he would already be asleep, she thought to herself. Finally she opened the door and exited the car. It was dark out in the country, but the moon was full and she let its silvery shimmer guide her to the front door.
As she walked up the stairs, she could hear the television in their room. As she reached the top of the stairs she forced a smile to her lips and walked into the room. Jeff was lying on the bed, a beer can leaning haphazardly on the bed beside him, two more, empty, lying on the floor.
“It’s about time you got home, Rose”, he snapped.
“Sorry”, she replied sarcastically, the smile fading from her face. “I was working. We had a Saudi commissioning today and I told you I would be late.”
“Did you bring me any cigarettes?” he asked angrily.
She felt annoyance begin to rise within her as she responded. “Uh, no. I worked until after nine and I came straight home.”
As she said this she looked around the room and noticed the ashtray was overflowing with his cigarette butts. She hated the way he smoked his Marlboros down to the filter. She didn’t know why it pissed her off so much, just knew that it did.
“Couldn’t you walk to the store to get some?”
The store was only a mile away, no big distance for a corn-fed country boy, as he liked to call himself. More like ” fucking redneck”, she thought whenever he said that.
“How was I supposed to get to the store?” he shouted. “You had the fucking car all day! And then you come home without any cigarettes for me? How selfish is that?”
Now Rose was really angry, but she tried to remain calm. Confrontations repelled her. “Path of least resistance”, that’s me….”Sorry I had the damn car, Jeff! Sorry I was working, but someone has to.”
She turned away from him to put down her purse in an effort to stop herself from saying anything more.
“Oh, so now you’re giving me shit because I don’t have a job?” he yelled. “What the fuck is up with that? I look for a fucking job every fucking day. Don’t you dare treat me like that, Rose. Who do you think you are, your mom?”
“No, I didn’t mean it like that, Jeff. Look, I am sorry I didn’t bring you any cigarettes, but I didn’t know you needed any. I am sorry I had the car all day, but I had to work. I should have thought of bringing you something on my way home. Sorry”, she mumbled, defeated.
When anger was directed at her she just folded. She didn’t know why she couldn’t get angry back, but she just couldn’t. Once she had known someone with whom she could get angry because she trusted him. She didn’t trust Jeff, though; or anyone else for that matter.
“I had to walk to Brinkman’s, Rose! It’s a fucking mile there and a mile back! Luckily I could stop at mom and dads on the way for a break and to get something to eat since there is never anything here in this fucking house!”
Right, Rose thought. You stopped at your folks’ house and then your dad drove you the rest of the way to Brinkman’s and then brought you back here. You damn fucking liar…She said nothing, however, just stared at him.
“I can’t believe you didn’t think of me at fucking all! So, why don’t you go to the store now?”
Rose gave up. It just wasn’t worth the fight. “Whatever. I’ll go, but dammit, you are such an asshole!” she yelled as she picked up her purse and turned to leave the room.
He was behind her faster than she could imagine. He grabbed her arm and glared into her face; she realized for the first time that his eyes were glazed over, his pupils the size of pinpoints.
“What the fuck did you just say to me?” He whispered menacingly.
Now she was truly afraid. “Nothing, Jeff” she said as calmly as she could. “I’m going to the store to get you some cigarettes. Would you like anything else?”
She tried to sound as conciliatory as possible, tried to be soothing.
“You hate me, don’t you?” he snarled.
“No, Jeff, I love you.” In her head she was screaming, damn straight I fucking hate you!, as she surreptitiously moved backwards towards the door.
“You’re a liar!” he screamed at her.
When he lunged at her a split second later she almost got away. She made it out the bedroom door and was nearly to the steps when he grabbed her hair and swung her around to face him.
“You are a fucking bitch!” He yelled. “Go get some cigarettes!”
Then he did something he had never done before: he hit her. Hard. In the face. She felt pain, surprise, and confusion as she stumbled backwards, and then suddenly she was tumbling down the stairs. Her back, her hip, her head, all slammed repeatedly onto the wooden stairs and into the stucco covered wall. She landed in a crumpled heap on the first floor landing. She was never sure if she lost consciousness, but the next thing of which she was aware was looking up to see Jeff glaring at her from the top of the stairs.
“Get me two fucking packs”, he yelled. Then he turned and went back into the room.
Oh Christopher, she thought as the tears began to fall and the pain set in. What have I done and why aren’t you here to save me? A few moments later she got up and headed to the store, wanting to get there before the bruises began to show.