Sam Redding is a young adult fiction and freelance writer. She is a resident of Atlanta, Georgia, in a home with which she shares with her three dogs, two cats, and plants. In school, she is heavily involved in the writing programs as well as the marching band and the local volunteer group for mistreated animals. Fall of 2017 she plans to enroll in Georgia State University to begin her major in music teaching and her minor in creative writing
The Lonely One
“What the fuck?!”
That’s what I hear as I run as fast as my battered legs would carry me. That and some shouting, of course.
I’m Holly. I’m twenty-seven and people call me crazy. I don’t think I am, just different. For about two years now, the place I call “home”, has been a large, bland, crowded mansion. There were so many people that lived inside of this place, that I don’t even know how they had even the slightest of energy left to care for us with. There were never enough beds. Many of us were forced to sleep on the cold, hard floors. Sharing bed was never allowed. I suppose they wanted to keep up from having skin to skin contact with any other living, breathing human- and I never knew why. Hell, I don’t know why I’m here, or where I am. Doubt I ever will. Many of the nurses and doctors here have long since lost their patience with us. There were plenty of rowdy ones that needed far too much care for only one caretaker to take them on. Many of them talked of their lives before they were thrown in this hole, to be forgotten about. Several talked of how they had just bore children before being whisked away. I always felt a pang of sorrow for those who had perfect lives before. Some were married to men, some were married to women. I used to be married to a man named Ken. He and I had a wonderful relationship, excluding the times that he used his words to touch me without ever having to lay a finger on me. Surprisingly, I’ve never stopped for longer than moments to ponder on why. I guess I was too wild for him to control; too spontaneous. After being trapped inside of this big beige, cement box for years, you’ll become almost like a friend to yourself. It’s odd, the way you can become friends with your consciousness and have endless conversations with the entity trapped inside of you. I always get caught up in those conversations with the being—or even person inside of my head. He always tells me how hellish it is being trapped inside of somewhere that you don’t belong. On the especially bad nights, he’ll feed me horrible thoughts. Things I am ashamed to have once been in my brain. He can keep me company when I’m lonely which can often causes me to be walking for hours and not realize it. It happened all the time when I was younger. I don’t even remember properly marrying Ken, which leads me to believe that I had the same thing happen then. When I was in school, I would always get caught up in those conversations walking down the halls. I feel a raindrop splatter on my nose when I snap back and by the racing of my heart I assume that I’ve been rotating between running and jogging for quite some time. My mind lingers to Ken. I remember how he yelled at me, and then apologized with sweet kisses. I remember how he’d tower over me and squeeze my shoulders until there were big spots of black and blue on my arms, reaching down towards my fingertips. Of course, later on he’d make up for his behavior with forceful kisses. But even so, they were still sweet—or at least that’s what I would think. If I remembered correctly, Ken still lives in Baltimore, and not far from where we used to live. I could still find him.
No, not could—would.
The only thing I remember from before two years ago is him throwing me back up against a wall, screaming “don’t come back! You are crazy! Don’t you dare come back here!” Not long after that I ended up in this big old cement block. But—he couldn’t mean it, could he? I’m sure he still loves me. It’s not like he would have any reason not to. I mean, our vows bound us together. “Until death do us part”. He didn’t mean it. He couldn’t mean it. I’ve never understood why people call me “crazy”. No one’s ever explained it to me. I’ve always felt different.
Sure, my brown hair might be a little more frazzled than the other girls’. My eyes might dart to and fro more than the other girls’. My brain speaks to me more than the other girls’. But that doesn’t make me crazy... does it? My mama always told me that people stare because they’ve never seen someone quite like me. That they stared because they were jealous of me having a more interesting mind than them. I’d always ask her what she meant by that, but she always seemed to dance around the idea of the statement. I’ve always just assumed that she means it in a good way. I mean—why would a mother insult or judge her own daughter in such a way?
Walking, then jogging, then running. I know where I’m going, but I don’t know what I’m doing when I get there. Will he even let me in? Will he even answer the door for me? All of the inevitable what if’s come flooding in all at once and I’m starting to feel more out of control of my mind. My actions, my words, my feelings. I only remember getting like this once before and it didn’t turn out so well. At all. It landed me in rehab for six months, and a therapist for two. Every time I saw the therapist; I told her all that goes on in my mind and she would look… shocked. I don’t know why. I was just voicing my thoughts. It’s not my fault it’s a mad house up there, it always has been. It gets especially bad at night. Oh God, it’s bad at night. They talk to me. Like actual voices. Not just that inner monologue, either, even though it does pitch in every once in a while. It cheers them on. It roots for them. It’s supposed to be rooting for me. It stands on the sidelines and yells “go team!” while these monsters tear me up from the inside out. It always ends with me drowning in an inevitable puddle of tears and dragging my short, stubby nails down my salt-soaked face. What do they say to me? Oh honey, they ask me why I couldn’t do it. Why I couldn’t be like everyone else. Why I think I’m normal. They ask me the questions I can’t answer, because honestly, I don’t know. I never have, and I don’t think I ever will. I wish I could talk to people without them running. But I can’t. So I keep it inside, and hope for the best. Some call it self-destruction. I call it protection.
I notice my breathing has become jagged and forced. My chest is heaving and I can almost feel my heart in my throat. It’s almost choking me from forcing itself up into my trachea. My head starts to scream. The voices are yelling over each other, squabbling with one another. Why are they all talking at once? Oh God- please, stop it… please, please…
“Why’d they do it?” one asks.
“It’s your fault!” another retorts.
“I’m sorry…” I mumble, out loud without noticing. All I wanted was to find him. I wanted to find Ken and give him back what he deserves. What he gave to me ever so long ago. Of course; I can’t quite recall where he might be, but I’ll figure it out. I just need to see him.
I felt every muscle in my body tense up. I heard the ever so familiar feedback and statically altered voices that could only be from that hell that I so gravely escaped.
“I think we might have something, Barnes.”
“Good. Keep me updated.”
How did they track me down so quickly? I don’t remember leaving any tracks behind… I don’t think they could’ve found me from how I broke out of there. It was pretty clever, I thought. But then again, I think a lot of things.
My mind is racing again. Stop it, stop it, please. Pictures of the past going and going, flickering across my closed eyelids. Having my eyes closed doesn’t help either. It just solidifies what’s already there. It’s in moments like this I feel like the circus freak that no one can love. Do others see me like this? God, I hope not. I’d hate for people to see me as the monster I see myself. Wouldn’t that be terrifying? I think it would. It’s not like this world needs anymore monsters and I would be adding to the toxins by being one. I don’t know if I could live with the weight of poisoning the rest of the world further.
I snap back to my senses and here I am, in the middle of Baltimore, on a drizzly, humid night, trying to find my ex, or maybe-not-ex-husband. The smell of liquor and cigarettes wafts through the air until it reaches my nose. That scent alone is enough to send me back to when we were happy, or at least I was happy. It makes me remember how homey our little house was. It was light blue with a little porch out front that contained a few rocking chairs and our white front door. Inside of that white front door, two newlyweds who barely knew the outside world would live. Their names were Ken and Holly and aside from occasional arguing, they had a pretty good life. They had planned many adventures together; one of which they had already been on. It was a short adventure, but it was one they would never forget. Sure; the police got involved, but where’s the fun without someone getting scared? That was our first adventure that we genuinely enjoyed each other’s presence and felt connected. All after that was just downhill. Ken began to despise my love for destruction and need to cause havoc. I never understood why. I always tried to tell him that “It’s not illegal unless you get caught,” but he would always scoff and get even more furious.
One night, not long after we had fully settled into our new home, he came home drunk.
My mind had already been bouncing off the walls and I was near manic when he stumbled in the door, slurring his words and stumbling about. He swung the door open, cigar in mouth and both hands firmly grasping the door frame as if the whole world was spinning at a million miles an hour. Once he made it inside, he leaned against the wall and took a long drag of his cigar. He blew the smoke out in a huff of relief. I can remember him cuffing his face with his hands and mumbling,“Fuck”. I could tell he was out of his mind hammered by the way his eyes drooped and how he reeked of liquor from what seemed to be a mile away. I noticed that his hair was scruffier than it was when he had left. His shirt had obviously been unbuttoned and re-buttoned incorrectly. Even through his mask of alcohol, he wore cologne made of guilt. I can remember easing myself off the couch as calmly as possible, because I knew exactly what was coming for me.
“Where the fuck were you?” I said, crossing my arms. I can almost see the panic rise in his eyes, his cheeks flush and his knees start shaking all at once.
“I-I was out with the guys. Things got a bit intense. You know how they are,”
“Oh, I’m sure the guys were unbuttoning and re-buttoning your shirt like that, and not to mention running their fingers through your hair,” I retort. His hands creep up to his hair to try and smooth what evidence is left over. “I should’ve fucking known. I should’ve known that I can’t trust a guy like you out for more than two seconds or else you’ll go and fuck some other girl. I get it. It’s what guys do. They’re animals.” I scoff, turning my back to him. My cheeks flushed with rage and my fingertips tingling with the need for revenge.
He looks at his feet. Then off to the side. I can see him tensing up but nothing would prepare me for what would happen next. He clamped his hands around my throat and pushed me up against the wall and held me there until I was almost certain that my face was as purple as a plum and I was croaking for air. He unlatched one hand from around my throat and curled it into a fist and punched me right where my nose meets my face, but at an angle so I was almost certain that he broke it. I screamed in pain but he clamped his free hand over my mouth and brought his mouth close to my ear so that only I could hear him say, “tell anyone about this and you’re dead,” I remember every muscle in my body tensing up with fear. He lingered so that I could feel his hot breath reaching from the back of my neck to what seemed like the small of my back. It sent shivers down my spine. He loosens his grip around my neck but not before he plants one heavy punch right on my left eye. He let go almost as quickly as he grabbed me and spun around. I sunk to the ground and buried my head in my hands and shook as the moment replayed over and over again in my head. I remember vaguely blacking out and coming to later in the night, when all of the lights had been shut off and the doors had been locked, and the curtains were drawn. I heard a distant rumbling from upstairs, which I assumed was snoring. I shakily got to my feet and wandered into the kitchen, where the knives were kept. I picked up my favorite one, and glanced towards the staircase. I thought to myself, “I could… I could give him what he deserves…” And just like that, the entity that encased my body had me at the top of the stairs, glaring into our bedroom where he slept, with the door open and completely exposed for me to prey on.
Inside the room is filled with his constant breaths. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. My fingers tightened around the handle of the knife. I carefully make my way over to him and lean down so I am almost face to face with him. I trace his lips with the knife. Then I work my way down to his esophagus and trachea, then again back up to his lips. I mumble to myself, “What a shame it would be… if I were to... slip,” and as those quiet words leave my mouth, I slashed wound about an inch and a half across his bottom lip. He jolts awake and I throw myself on top of him so that he can see me. I positioned the knife so I could make sure that he saw it. He yelled in fear, something I’ve wanted to hear for a very long time now. We wrestled for what seemed like forever when he flipped me over and ripped the knife out of my hand by grabbing it from the blade. His hand and lip were dripping blood onto me as he shouted “you listen to ME. Get out. Don’t you dare come back here.” He reached for the phone on the bedside table and dialed 911. “Officer? Hello, my wife tried to kill me.” I thrashed around underneath him as I listened to him give them our address. The last thing I remember from that night is him hanging up the phone and raising his hand as high as possible and hitting me. Then everything went black.