The Waystation is a timeworn structure that lies in the sunshine as if it were an old dog enjoying a well-deserved rest. Two ancient mimosa trees guard the front of the building and wave their fragrant lacy blooms, reaching out with dappled fingers of shade and dusting the bare ground below with their spent blossoms of pale pink. The weathered wood may have been the color of toasted wheat at one time, but over the years has faded to a soft silvery blonde. The two floors have many rooms and an attic that runs the length of the house. Numerous double-hung windows peer from its face and several curtains waft in and out on the sweet-scented breeze.
The deep porch extends from corner to corner with four over-sized rocking chairs and a large bench adorned with pillows, inviting you to make yourself comfortable. Five wide steps grace the front of the veranda where an orange tabby cat naps peacefully in a patch of sunshine on the top step, occasionally flicking the tip of his tail at the passing breeze. Scattered about the porch and steps are old wooden tubs and buckets that overflow with flowers, drawing in the beauty of the surrounding countryside.
Footsteps can be heard as a woman rounds the corner of the Waystation. She is pale and of medium height, in her mid-thirties with light brown hair pulled up and arranged in a bun on her head in a haphazard fashion. Wearing a long, full skirt of faded blue calico with a matching blouse and tan apron, her sleeves are rolled up above her elbows and she’s drying her hands as she hurries toward a barn kicking up dust in her wake.
“Samuel” she calls. “Sam, are you out here?”
“Yes, Miss Sarah, I’m here,” a rumbling bass answers from within.
She pauses briefly on the threshold to give her eyes time to adjust from the bright sunshine to the cool dimness of the barn. Her gaze sweeps the interior until coming to rest upon a tall, muscular man with skin the color of molasses. Samuel appears to be in his late teens or early twenties, with hands that seem capable of crushing a watermelon. He is dressed in the manner of a man who is used to hard work and understands which end of a horse needs feeding. He and a little girl are scrutinizing something on his workbench and don’t look up as Sarah enters the barn.
“Well Miss Wren,” Samuel rumbles in tones reminiscent of the Deep South, “I think if you give him some love and the right kinda food he needs, you could take the place of his momma just fine.”
Wren, a child of five or six years, sits on the workbench next to a baby bird cradled in a faded piece of flannel. Gazing up at Sam with shining eyes she exclaims, “Oh, Sam, do you really think I can be his momma forever and ever?”
Chuckling, he strokes her cheek with abundant tenderness. “Yes, you can be his momma until he grows up, then you have’ta let him fly off and be with his own kind.”
“That’s okay,” Wren answers smiling with pride, “Even when he leaves, I know he’ll love me forever. Maybe he’ll even visit.”
Sarah approaches Samuel and Wren, beaming in obvious excitement, “I have news.” Both look up, expectant smiles appearing on their faces. “It’s time; she’s on her way.”
Wren jumps off the bench and dashes to Sarah hugging her tightly, wrapping her little arms around Sarah’s legs and pressing the side of her face against her skirt. “She’s coming.” Releasing Sarah, she turns and hugs Sam just as hard, though she is only able to get her arms around one of his big legs. She gazes up at his face towering above her and grins. “Rachel’s coming Sam, she’s finally coming.”
She can see but can’t move a muscle. Can’t even blink. She can make out the underside of the bed where the dust bunnies clump together in furry forgotten piles, but that’s it. She tries to lift her head, but her body won’t cooperate.
Well, that’s a problem, but at least I’m alive. Thank you for that small favor God.
There is a strong smell of urine with an underlying odor of shit. This is bad. Really bad. Apparently, she’s lost control of her bladder and bowels. She hasn’t wet herself since she was five years old, and that loss of control scares her as much as anything.
What did you do to me Tony?
The violent memory comes crashing down in a flood; Tony pinning her against the bed and squeezing her throat. She couldn’t breathe and her vision kept fading in and out with little pricks of light shooting through the blackness. The pain was intense. That’s when her bladder let go and she realized she was lying in a puddle of warm pee.
God help me. Oh please, please help me.
Feelings of panic wash over her. She knows she’s got to get out of here.
What am I going to do? I’ve got to figure something out before he comes back to finish the job.
She can hear him in the living room. It sounds like he’s on the telephone and pretty freaked out too. She doesn’t feel any pain, however, she does feel incredibly tired and can’t seem to get enough air.
Think, Cara. You’ve got to do something.
But it’s too hard to try and think. She feels drained and the air seems to have gained weight, almost as if it were too heavy to pull into her lungs. She slips into oblivion, taking her worries with her.
Cara (30 minutes earlier)
Cara shifts restlessly for what feels like the hundredth time. She is incredibly uncomfortable. There is no such thing as a good position when you’ve been wedged between the bed and the wall for an hour, but at this moment, it’s more important to be as small and inconspicuous as possible. She eyes the bedroom window, wishing the drop to the ground was a little bit shorter and the landing a little softer. Her bladder throbs every time she moves and reminds her that peeing is getting to be a real priority, one she better deal with soon. She’s afraid to risk making any unnecessary noise and using the bathroom would draw attention to the fact that she’s still in the house. If her boyfriend, Tony, has temporarily forgotten she’s here, that’s fine with her. She can hold it a little longer.
“Fucking piece of shit,” Tony yells from the other room, causing her to jump. It sounds like he’s starting to reach the point of no return. She’s been there before, and is afraid, knowing this will probably end badly.
Her hand trembles as she pushes an oily strand of hair out of her face and tucks it behind her ear. She knows she smells. She feels nasty and wishes she could take a shower and wash her hair, but that will have to wait.
She lifts the edge of the comforter and peers at the dust under the bed, fighting the urge to sneeze. She lets it drop back in place and sighs, leaning her head against the mattress. She wonders if her best friend, Rachel, has talked to her boyfriend, Marco, yet. Marco is Tony’s boss and the only one Tony respects enough and possibly fears enough to listen to. He might be able to talk some sense into Tony. Calm him down and maybe even force him to get off the juice. He could make Tony think that it’s about the business, and that Marco can’t risk having him high all the time. It might work. Then maybe she could get out of this alive.
Oh God, I hope so. I need Rachel’s help.
In desperation, she’d finally broken down and called Rachel the day before, hoping there was some way she could help. Cara felt like crap for dragging her into this mess, but she didn’t have any other options. Coming clean about how Tony had been acting was one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do. It made her feel like such a failure, like maybe it was partially her fault.
“I’m so sorry Rachel. Thank you for understanding. I’ve really missed you; you know.”
“I’ve missed you too. It felt like you were never going to call me again. I’ve been worried. What the hell is going on?”
“It’s Tony,” Cara admitted. “He started shooting up with steroids again because he wants to ‘seriously bulk up.’ It scares me to death when he does it because it makes his temper even worse than normal, and you know his temper is already bad enough as it is. And now, ever since we picked up that new delivery, he’s been using non-stop. Smoking and snorting it. Steroids and meth are a seriously scary combination. He hasn’t slept in three days. It’s a freaking nightmare. Every time I try and say something, he claims he needs to check it out and make sure the stuff is good quality. He says he’s got a reputation to maintain, and that he can’t risk putting shitty product on the street because it would affect sales.” She stopped suddenly, drawing in a short, hard breath, “Oh, my God, Rach, don’t tell Marco that Tony’s using so much. He’ll kill him.”
“Cara, you’re so full of shit. Why are you worried about him? He’s the one being an asshole.”
“Yeah, I know, but that doesn’t mean I want Marco to beat the crap out of him or anything. Please, just promise you won’t tell him that part.”
“Alright, alright, I promise, but you’re the one who’s the victim here.”
“I know it’s stupid, but I don’t want to risk doing anything to make him mad. He’ll lose it if he finds out I told you. He’s been getting worse for the last month. The steroids make him seriously aggressive all the time. He’s so volatile I feel like this house is sitting on a case of dynamite. Anything can set him off at any time. I mean, holy crap, we have holes in the ceiling.”
“What? Why? What did he do?”
“Okay, so you know this is a decent neighborhood, right? I mean, this area of Corona is nice. But mice keep getting in the house, probably because of the open hills behind us. They’ve been hanging out in the attic, and when they’re running around up there squeaking and chattering away, it sounds like they’re having a party, and that totally freaks him out. He hates rodents of any kind. He can’t even stand hamsters. Every time it happens, he starts cussing and screaming at them, and then grabs the broom and starts pounding on the ceiling. He’s a big guy, and a big, angry man with a broom handle and a popcorn ceiling doesn’t end well. The ceilings in our living room and bedroom are starting to look like the surface of the moon.”
“Oh, my God, that’s awful.”
“Last week was really bad. He was raging so much that he started chasing me through the house. I locked myself in the bathroom because it seemed like the safest thing to do, you know. I was pretty sure he wanted to kill me. But then he put his fist right through the door and looked through the hole telling me to come out. I finally caved, and of course, I regretted it. I’ve got the black eye to prove it. I can’t even go into the restaurant until it fades. I had to call in sick today and tell them I needed the rest of the week off too. I put a poster over the hole. It was the best solution I could come up with. At least now I can use the toilet without an audience.”
“That’s it. Cara, you need to get out of there before he really hurts you. Just the fact that he’s been slapping you around makes me crazy.”
“I know, I know, but how can I? He said he’d kill me if I left, and I believe him. You haven’t seen him lately. He’s different. Besides, I don’t want to leave him. I love him. I mean, I love the guy he used to be without all the anger. We used to be so good together. I want my old Tony back.”
“That’s such bullshit! How can you want to stay with someone who says he’ll kill you? Are you crazy? Oh, my God, I want to kick his ass.”
“I know you’re pissed Rachel, and I’m sorry for dumping this on you, but I need your help. You’ve always been there for me, like sisters, remember?”
“Of course, I remember. Sisters of the heart. We came up with that name when we were five.”
“Right, so as my sister, I trust you more than anyone, but we need to be careful. Please, just talk to Marco and see if he can do something. I’ll be okay until then, but don’t wait. Do it right away, okay?”
“Okay, I promise. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
That was yesterday, and now here she sits, jammed up against the wall, shifting around in an attempt to find a more comfortable position and alleviate some of the pressure on her bladder, hoping for the best. Fingering the side of her jaw, she winces. It’s sore.
You, asshole. I know you think I’m fat, and I get that you don’t like fat chicks. You make sure everyone knows it too with that stupid “No Fat Chicks” bumper
sticker on your truck.
She knew he’d be even more pissed off if he knew why she was filling out. Yeah, things would go from bad to worse instantly if he knew.
In truth, she is more beautiful than ever. Though still a very petite woman at only 5’ 2”, her naturally slim figure is now that of a vital, mature young woman instead of a busty twenty-one-year-old. Her skin glows and taking the prenatal vitamins the doctor prescribed is making her hair shiny and her nails healthier than she remembers them ever being.
She delicately touches her eye and listens to make sure Tony is still occupied. It sounds like he’s busy taking the stupid toaster apart again. He’s torn it apart and put it back together four times so far. Amazingly, it still worked for a while, at least it did after the first three times. But, because it hasn’t worked worth a damn recently, he’s obsessing about it and tearing it to pieces over and over again.
That’s what happens when you’re a house tweaker, you tear crap apart and put it back together again.
It’s cool with her though, because it has the added bonus of helping him to forget she’s here. But it wouldn’t do to let her guard down. He might be occupied now, but you never knew when he might decide to target her again.
The lack of sleep is killing her. It’s impossible to get any decent rest with Tony flying high all night, blasting music and banging on ceilings. All this time hiding beside the bed is getting to be more than she can take. She’s exhausted and the baby is taking too much out of her. Finally, she can’t fight it anymore. She closes her eyes, places her arms across her stomach, and shifts around until her head is in a more comfortable position.
God, please keep me safe. I’m too tired to do this anymore.
She tries not to cry as she reflects on the hell her life has become. She sniffles a little and attempts to pray, but she doesn’t believe God is listening today. It’s all up to Rachel and Marco now. She drifts off to sleep.
Tony (30 minutes earlier)
He’s focused…seriously focused and positive the toaster is going to work this time. He can feel it. He’s cleaned and tightened everything he can think of at least twice and believes this is going to be the one that does it. He never even considers the idea that he’s been spinning out of control for so many days he doesn’t have the ability for rational thought anymore. In his mind, he’s the one who has it together. Everyone else is totally fucked-up and messing with him. Maybe when he finishes, he’ll find Cara and bang her brains out. He runs that scenario over in his mind as he continues to tweak the toaster.
When his cell begins to ring, he considers ignoring it, but glancing at the screen notices the caller ID says Marco.
Shit I’m gonna have to talk to him.
He mutters, “Be cool man, just be cool,” and picks up the phone. “Hey, Marco, dude what’s up?”
“Tony, what’s happening, everything going okay man?”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s cool. I’m just sitting here fixing this damn toaster again. Cara got something stuck down inside trying to get a Pop Tart out yesterday and it’s been a real bitch getting it working again.”
“Nasty, those things will kill you man, they’re solid sugar. Why do you even keep that kind of crap in the house?”
“Yeah, I hear ya. I keep telling her that, but she loves ‘em, you know, especially the chocolate ones.” It was amazing how easily lying came to him these days.
“Whatever. Hey, listen man, what’s up with the shit? Are you moving the stuff or what? You haven’t exactly been keeping me in the loop lately and that’s starting to worry me. I don’t like not knowing what’s going on.”
“Yeah, Marco, no problem man. Me and Cara got deliveries lined up for later tonight. It’s gonna be a good week. Chill bro, I got it under control. No worries.”