Saturday, July 30, 2016

Polly, part 3

She gripped the rim of the porcelain sink and tried to steady her hands. "One last time," she whispered to herself. "One. Last. Time."

Polly finished washing her hands and dried them off. The restroom door opened and her lawyer, Ms Pennington, poked her head inside.

"It's time, Polly."

Taking a deep breath, Polly steeled her nerves. "I'm ready. Let's do this." The day she had both dreaded and looked forward to had finally arrived. Her husband's court date, where she would testify against him. The final step in breaking free.

After they were seated in the courtroom, her husband was brought in. Her heart lurched at the sight of him. He was in handcuffs, but wearing a suit. He had pasted a sad, remorseful expression on his face. Polly was terrified that despite the accounts from their neighbor and the police who responded, she wouldn't be believed. Ms Pennington noticed the look on Polly's face and squeezed her hand.

"Stop worrying. We've got this. He can't hurt you any more."

Thursday, July 14, 2016


"She smelled amazing, like cinnamon. Man, I wish I'd remembered I was allergic to cinnamon. Might have been a warning sign to me."

"What happened?" I asked.

"Same old story. Boy meets girl and falls in love. She was amazing. Tall, long dark hair, big eyes, killer laugh. Loved to dance. I'd play and she'd dance."

"Did you play publicly?" I asked.

"Nah, that was just my hobby. I'd play at home. Not even many of my friends knew I could do it. I dreamed of being a rock star, playing on stage. I know I couldn't handle it, though. I was a suit. I worked 8-6 or longer Monday through Friday, in my big corner office buying and selling. I made a buttload of money and spent it freely on Lila. We moved in together after dating for six months. I bought a house and a ring. Held on to the ring for a long time, though. I was planning on proposing on our anniversary. That never happened."

"Why not?" Now I was curious.

"Turns out she wasn't who she said she was. Corporate spy, of all things. She was using me to get insider information for her real employer, a competitor of my company. I came home from work one Friday and she was just gone. Her clothes and things, too. But she left behind almost everything I'd bought for her. Her key was on the dinner table with a note saying sorry. On Monday I went into work and walked into a shitstorm. Half the employees were let go, me included. She'd done her job too well."

"What happened then?" I asked.

"I sold the house. Sold the ring I'd been carrying around and used it to buy a new guitar. Of course I couldn't give up on my old one, though. I use the new one for performing. I sold almost everything, actually. I didn't need all that, just bought it for her. Put nearly every penny in the bank and started traveling, playing wherever would let me. And honestly? I'm much happier now."

"Did you ever hear from Lila again?"

"Yes, once. After about a year she came into a bar where I was playing with some friends. When I took a break she came up to me and wanted to talk. I didn't want to talk to her, though. It still hurt too much. She said she was sorry and that she wished she hadn't hurt me, it was just business. I think she was doing the same thing again, though. She seemed out of place with the friends. Something didn't fit. Not my problem, though. No more attachment for me."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


"Jill, we have a crisis!" I hear Annie, my assistant editor, call out from her office next to mine.

"We can't have a crisis. My schedule is already too full," I yell back to her. She walks into my office as I continue. "It's 10 am. I have meetings at noon, 1:30, and 4. Abbie has karate practice at 5:30 and Ben has dance class at 6. Paul is out of town until tomorrow and Nancy is sick." Paul is my husband and Nancy is his mother. She helps out with the kids' schedules whenever she can, but she has the flu and there is no way she can feed and chauffeur our 9 and 7 year old kids to their various activities. Not today.

"Well the Andersons called, and they don't like something Chad said in their last meeting and want to pull all their ads for the rest of the year."

Shit. She was right. That is a crisis. Harry and Marlowe Anderson own several businesses in the area, and are the largest advertisers by far in our regional magazine. Losing their ad business basically equates to losing the salary of one of our employees. "Okay. First, have Chad in my office in five minutes. Second, have Janie try to reschedule one of my meetings. If she can't, I will need you to cover for me at one of them. Or more. This might actually take a visit to them, not a phone call. We absolutely cannot afford to lose their business."

Twelve hours later, with the offence worked out with the Andersons, Chad severely reamed and on probation, and the other clients handled and ruffled feathers smoothed, I called Paul for our nightly chat.

"Hey, Babe, how was your day?" His face filled the screen of my iPad. I couldn't help but smile at him. I could tell he was with other people, though.

"I had the worst day," I began. I wanted nothing more than to simply talk to my husband about my rotten day. After getting the work crisis taken care of, I was late leaving work which meant I was late picking up the kids, who were each late for their activities. The day ended with a hungry, cranky, overtired mutiny. After a late dinner of takeout pizza they went straight to bed. I was having a hard time talking to Paul, though, since he kept getting interrupted by others in his group, or he'd interrupt me to add a comment to whatever conversation was going on around him. I found myself growing more frustrated.

Finally I just couldn't take any more. "Listen, Paul. I'm exhausted and you're busy. I'll see you when you get home tomorrow night and we can catch up then." He distractedly said goodbye and we ended our call.

I got ready for bed, but couldn't go to sleep easily. My mind just wouldn't stop replaying all of the headaches of the day. I was already feeling out of sorts and the disjointed call with Paul didn't help any. I felt like such an afterthought in my own life. At work I was the boss,which made me the fixer of problems. I didn't have many opportunities to find the joy in my work like in the past. At home, I was "mom" - I kept the schedules, made sure everyone was fed and clothed, and kept the house clean. But who was taking care of me anymore? Who was I supposed to go to when I needed to talk, when I needed support? I knew I wasn't sleeping for a long time anyway so I brought up a book on my iPad and started reading. That always helped distract my mind so I could fall asleep.

About an hour later my phone vibrated. I picked it up and had a text from Paul. I'm sorry things were so crazy here tonight. I want nothing more than to be home with you to help you unwind after today. I'm sure you're asleep and won't see this until morning, but know I love you and can't wait to see you again. You're a kick-ass wife, mom, and editor. I am in awe of you.

And just like that, all my doubt and tension vanished. There is my support. I put my iPad away and settled into bed. Tomorrow would be a better day.

Friday, July 8, 2016


She showed up at my door soaking wet, bruised, and covered in glitter. I of course burst out laughing. As she stood there, dripping and sparkling in the porch light, glaring at me, I finally composed myself enough to ask what had happened.

"What do you think, genius? I broke into a snow globe factory. No, I was attacked by a Twilight vampire. Or maybe I was assaulted by drag queens." She pushed past meand stomped down the hall to the bathroom. "Please tell me you've done laundry and have some clean towels. And I know I left some clothes here last week."

"Augusta..." I begin, when she turns around and gives me that cold glare again.

"Do not call me that, Aldous!" She turns back to her task of digging in my hall closet. If she'd asked, I would have told her that of course I'd done laundry (I was the tidy twin, after all) and there was a stack of fresh towels in the bathroom. I decided to make her work for it, though.

"So, Aggie, are you going to tell me what happened? Did you piss off Tinkerbell or something?" I finally took pity on her and pointed her to the bathroom. As she dried off I opened the drawer I'd learned long ago to keep for her belongings and took out a change of clothes for her. She is as chaotic and disorganized as I am organized and neat. Or anal and stodgy, she calls me. We were twins, and similar in looks and build, but very different in our personalities.

She thanked me as I handed her the clean clothes. "Actually, pissing off Tinkerbell is a pretty accurate description," she said with a wry smile. "Piper had two friends over to play today, Fallon and Finley. Also twins, but not fun ones like us. Identical little seven year old devils. Tiny blonde, yet deceptively strong, little demons. The girls wanted to go to the pool but Piper's mom had said no, so I wouldn't take them. I caught the little darlings filling up the parents' huge bathtub with water. The faucets weren't doing the job quickly enough, so they also brought the garden hose in through the bathroom window. Water was of course everywhere, and I slipped and fell as I was trying to get them all to turn off the water. I don't even know where the glitter came from. One of them made a glitter bomb, I'm sure of it."

I couldn't help laughing at the thought of a wet, glittery Aggie chasing three little girls around. "What did the parents say?" Aggie works as Piper's nanny and I was concerned about her job at this point.

"Oh, they did what they usually do. Laughed at how precocious little Piper and the evil twins are, and called their maid to come clean up. I wanted to stay to help her clean since she was the last person who should be doing it, but Mr and Mrs Pollifax were having guests over and strongly hinted I should make myself scarce before I dripped water or glitter in the rest of the house. Since getting to my quarters would mean going through the rest of the house I just came here."

"Well, thanks for that, since you've been more entertaining than anything else I was going to do tonight." My sister seemed to attract the more interesting types of people. But whenever I said that to her, she'd just roll her eyes at me and say "Hudson, crazy loves me. I don't know why but maybe it's in the genetics." And yes, I go by my middle name of Hudson. Augusta Hazel and Aldous Hudson, those are our names. And no, our parents insist they don't hate us. We've asked. Old family names or something like that, although I suspect mom and dad were chemically impaired while naming us. Of course they'll never tell.

"So what are you doing tonight, then? Want to go out? We haven't been to Jonzey's in a while, or we could go to a dance club." Jonzey's is the neighborhood pub. Good food, good people, and close enough to walk home if we drink too much. Which seemed to happen when we drank together. Sibling competition I am sure.

"Fine, let's go out. I have class in the morning, though, so no drinking. Lets just go dancing. Want to call up Billie or Margot?" Billie and Margot are two of her friends from uni that live near me.

"Nah, we'll stay out too late if they go too. I have to work tomorrow too, you know," Aggie said, sticking her tongue out at me.

"So mature, Aggs. Are you sure you're the nanny and not Piper?" I laughed as she flipped me off as she walked out the door. I locked it behind us and we started off down the street.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Polly, part 2

She wasn't supposed to be here. She was supposed to be happily married still. She never expected to
wake up one day and realize her husband was not who she had thought he was. They had been happy, back when they were dating, after she'd finished college. They were both 27 when they married. A year later they'd saved enough to put a nice down payment on their dream house. Both of them had good jobs; he was an engineer and she was a graphic artist. At 30, they'd agreed it was time to start a family and that's when things started changing. He pressured her into giving up her job, since they were planning for her to stay home with their baby for the first several years. She couldn't even pinpoint a specific time when he became abusive. He was too subtle for that. When a baby never came, he began to verbally attack her. Never physically, though, and she always brushed it off. Stress from work. Financial pressure. A bad day at the office. The anxiety of trying to conceive. She always shouldered at least part of the blame.

But then, it happened. She still isn't sure what set him off. She woke up and he was acting strangely. He kept asking her questions, almost like he was interrogating her for some reason but she couldn't think of anything she'd done wrong. As her confusion grew, so did his anger. Before she knew it, she was flying up against the dining room wall. A picture frame broke and cut her arm, badly enough for her to need stitches later. She could feel her eye swelling. He started kicking her in the ribs, yelling incoherently. She couldn't remember but she apparently was screaming. Thankfully a neighbor heard and called 911. Police arrived while he was still beating her, and they pulled him off of her and called for an ambulance.

She'd never forget the look on his face when he realized what he'd done to her, and how much trouble he was in. He started begging for her to forgive him, telling her he loved her and he didn't mean to hurt her. As he was yelling from the back of the police car and officer was asking if she wanted to press charges. She looked into the eyes of the stranger who had once been the most important person in her world, and without hesitation answered. "Yes, I would like to press charges. And also get a restraining order." The officer turned her over to the paramedics, who transported her to the hospital.

Shaking her head as if to clear out the memory of that morning, Polly cleaned up her dinner dishes and went to run a hot bath. She couldn't remember the last time she'd taken the time to relax in the tub. As the water filled the bathtub, she looked in the drawers at what toiletries she had available. She could always use some body wash or shampoo for bubbles. Just then, she noticed a small purple bottle in the back of the drawer. It was a bottle of her favorite lavender bubble bath, a very difficult to find brand. Her grandmother had first bought it for her when she was a preteen and it was always her special go-to relaxation method for most of her life. Such a small thing to find, but the joy she felt in finding one of her old comfort items brought her to tears. It felt like a blessing from her grandmother, that she was doing the right thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Polly carefully placed the cardboard box on the small table. "So this is it. This is home for the next however long." She looked around the small boxy apartment. The front door opened into a small hallway with a kitchenette on the left and a living room on the right. At the end of the hall was a bedroom and a bathroom. One small, plain square. A tiny two-person table was in the kitchen for dining. The decor wasn't fancy, but at least the apartment was clean.

Miss Cora showed her around. "There are some basics in the cupboards and I left a casserole in the fridge. Just heat it in the oven for half an hour or so and you'll have dinner tonight." Polly followed the older woman down the hall. "There are towels and a change of sheets in the hall closet. There are a few toiletries in the bathroom, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and the like. I wasn't sure what you'd need. Anything you don't want just set aside and I'll save it for another woman." Entering the bedroom, Polly was taken aback by the cheerfulness of the room, although she noticed the lack of window. The bed was made up with a sunny yellow comforter and there was a big vase of flowers on the dresser. Miss Cora was still talking. "No windows in any of the bedrooms, I asked my Joe to cover them up years ago. Made the women feel safer, and they can sleep better at night. Nothing to make them feel like someone could be watching them." As she heard the words, Polly realized that is what she had been feeling the past few nights. She couldn't relax enough to get a good night's sleep because she was afraid someone could be at the window. Watching, waiting. Planning.

"I'll leave you to settle in now. Anything you need, just let me know. All the phones in the building are programmed. There are two speed dial buttons. The red one is 911. The green one calls the shelter line. Not the official one, the one just for residents. One of us will be happy to help you." Cora gave  Polly a smile and a reassuring pat on the shoulder and let herself out. Polly sat on the nondescript couch in the living room. She had a small television set, and end table with the phone, and a side chair. A few magazines graced the coffee table and a floral print hung on the wall. The curtains were opened a little and she noticed the glass had an odd look to it. Smiling, she remembered Miss Cora saying something about a privacy coating on the windows. She could see out, but no one outside could see inside. Even though she was two floors above the ground level, that helped her feel more secure.

It was nearly dinner time, so Polly put the casserole in the oven and found dishes in the cabinets. She filled a glass with water from the sink and set it on the table along with a prescription bottle from the hospital emergency room. It was almost time for another pain pill, also, and her antibiotic. She slowly unpacked the meager contents of her box. She hoped she had everything. It broke her heart to leave so many of her possessions, but that's all they were. Possessions. She could replace most everything eventually. She did manage to take her grandmother's rings. As she entered the bathroom to put away the few items she'd grabbed hastily off the counter at home, she was startled to see her reflection in the mirror. Her blond hair was in a stringy ponytail. Her face was makeup free and ashy, with a large purple bruise on one cheek and under her eye. She carried herself carefully, favoring the taped ribs. Luckily she no longer needed the sling for her arm.

Finally, the casserole was done. She removed it from the oven and served herself some on a plate. It smelled delicious and she was not surprised that Miss Cora could cook so well also. From the time she met the older woman in the ER Polly was in awe of her. She was thankful the social worker that was on duty happened to be one who worked with Miss Cora's underground network to help abused women escape their partners. One week ago, Polly would have laughed at the idea of her husband becoming violent and hurting her so badly. Looking back now, though, after talking with Miss Cora, another counselor, and a couple other women there, she could see the warning signs over the years. But for tonight, she was going to eat a good meal, get a good night's sleep, and in the morning go downstairs to the shelter. All the women could stay in the apartments rent free for as long as they needed, but in return they helped out in the running of the place. Tomorrow she'd be assigned a job to do and meet other survivors.

For the first time in a long time, Polly was looking forward to tomorrow.