A short story by Meg Sorick.
I tasted blood. I was on my knees, my eye was swelling shut but at least I was alone. Somehow —and the how was really fuzzy— I had managed to fight off my attacker. The block was quiet and dark except for the street lights at regular intervals. I had been in that dark space between two of them when I was struck from behind. Some preternatural sense had made me move at the last minute so that the blow didn’t find its mark, probably saving my life.
I pulled myself to my feet, abandoned my errand and hurried back to the apartment we’d rented for the month. “Let’s live abroad,” my husband had said. “We’ll never get this chance again,” he’d insisted. “You will love Budapest,” he’d promised. “I can work on my book and you can indulge yourself in history,” he’d tempted.
Julian had a way of convincing me that all his ideas were mine, too. So that when things didn’t go as planned I could share the blame. I kept looking over my shoulder as I ran, terrified that the attacker would return. I never should’ve gone out alone this late at night.
Julian had been tapping away at his keyboard all evening while I read quietly on the other end of the narrow sofa. Without looking up, he said, “Cara, I’m out of cigarettes. Get me some, would you?” It wasn’t really a request. The ‘would you’ was just a polite afterthought. He knew I would go. Most of the time it was just easier to acquiesce rather than bear his brooding if I refused his wishes. Tonight however, I had resisted.
“But Julian, it’s nearly midnight. Nothing will be open,” I reasoned.
“Try the Lado,” he suggested. “They’re open late.”
“You must be joking,” I laughed mirthlessly. “That’s seven blocks away.”
“But Cara,” he pouted. “I’m on a roll. The words are flowing effortlessly tonight. Please don’t make me beg you. You do care about me don’t you?”
Internally I rolled my eyes. I had fallen in love with the quintessential temperamental artist. Tall and gaunt, but roguishly handsome, a brilliant conversationalist, educated, cultured and absolutely the most frustrating and childish creature I’d ever known. He had enchanted me, romanced me, made me lose all sense and reason, and married me six weeks after we’d first met. Our days were certainly numbered. But tonight, I thought… tonight I would accede to his wishes once again and tomorrow I would make plans to leave.
I arrived at the door breathless, my heart thundering in my chest. Perhaps he would come to his senses when he saw my injuries. Surely he’d agree that Budapest was a mistake. With shaking hands, I inserted the key into the lock on the outer door of the apartment building. Tears of relief spilled over as I closed the door behind me and leaned back against it.
I climbed the three flights of stairs and stumbled, weeping, into the apartment. Julian stood and came over to me. I collapsed into his arms as he held them out to me. “There, there, Cara. There, there…”
“Julian,” I sobbed. “We have to get out of here. I can’t spend another night in this place.”
“Cara,” he said, holding my face between his hands. “We aren’t going anywhere.” He grasped me by the shoulders and spun me around. From the darkened bedroom a figure stepped forward. Julian shoved me toward him and snarled, “Now, be a good girl and let the man finish his work.”