Jen was relieved that Brian left the house this morning with little drama. As he gently kissed her bruised cheek, he was sure to remind her that she'd better have dinner ready on time tonight and playfully slapped her on the butt just before walking out the door. Jen heard him back out of the drive and sighed heavily. She started gathering the trash to take to the curb before the trash truck arrived.
As Jen loosened the bag from the kitchen trashcan, she noticed the letter with the beautiful pencil drawing. Retrieving the letter from the trash, she again marveled over the detail in the pencil strokes. "What kind of man would have the creative ability for something so beautiful?" she wondered. There was expert detail in the leaves of the trees and the river looked as if it were truly in motion, gently flowing without care or worry. The drawing was too beautiful to discard to the landfill she decided. She put the still unopened letter into her picture box with her journal under the bed.
The phone began to ring. Jen ignored it. She was not in the mood to fake a pleasant conversation with anyone this early. The ring of the phone nagged at her to answer it and finally, she gave in.
“Hello, this is Jen.”
“Hi sweetie, it's Dad. How are you this morning?”
“Oh wonderful Dad, I get to clean my wonderful house and wash my wonderful laundry today,” she said sarcastically. “How are you?”
“Well, I need to go to the doctor this morning about this dang spider bite. My leg is getting darker and darker. Looks pretty nasty honey. I was wondering if you would drive me.”
She touched her hand to her nose and quickly recoiled from the pain that radiated across her face. She couldn't let her Dad see her like this. He would kill Brian.
“Dad, I wish I could, but I have so much I have to finish today. Can I call Willa and ask her to take you instead?”
“You know I hate when she takes me to the doctor. She insists on coming in the room with me and then tries to tell the doctor how to treat me. It is so embarrassing.”
“I'm sorry Dad,” she said guiltily. “I really wish I could take you, but I just can't spare the time if Willa is available. Let me call her and ask her to take you. I will talk to her about her behavior in the doctor's office. Would that be okay, Dad?”
“Well, I guess it will have to be. Call me back later. Love you honey.”
“Dad, you know I love you too. Bye.”
Jen hung up the phone and called Willa, her baby sister, born nine years after her. Willa had a pretty good life, save a two year bout of depression she spent in bed after their mother's suicide. She would only eat when forced by her Dad or Jen. She didn't bathe much. She spent so much time laying in bed that she started developing bed sores. Then one day, she just changed. It was like a switch had suddenly been flipped. She refused to talk about their mother at all. Willa appeared fully functional and happy. Jen found that very disconcerting.
“Hola Chica!” Willa answered.
“Your cheerfulness makes me feel a little nauseated Willa.”
“Sorry sweetie. Let me try again.” Willa cleared her throat. “What the heck do you want Jen?” she said in an over-dramatized tone of anger.
“Awe, that's more like it Willa. Thank you dear. Dad needs to go to the doctor this morning and I can't take him, because I have too much to do today.”
“You mean, you have too much to do so King Baby doesn't break your nose again?” she said with obvious disdain in her voice.
“Too late,” Jen said. It was pointless to try to hide the truth from Willa. The day of their mother's funeral Willa walked in on Jen changing clothes for the service and saw the bruises on her back from where Brian had beaten her with his shoe the night before. She had tried to cover it up with a story that would explain it away, but Willa was no dummy. Willa hugged Jen, but lovingly demanded that she tell her the truth or she would tell their Dad. Jen made her promise not to tell Dad, because he had enough to deal with after his wife's death. Jen told her the truth, withholding nothing. From that day, Willa refused to use Brian's proper name and instead, called him King Baby ever since. Truthfully, Willa initially used a different two-syllable word beginning with an A for his name, but Jen insisted that she not use curse words around her.
“Are you freaking kidding me? Did that coward break your nose again, Jen?”
“I think so, but I haven't been to the doctor yet. I just don't know how to explain it this time.”
“Why don't you consider telling the truth, Jen? Ever think about that?" Jen could tell Willa was pacing the floor. "She is a good doctor. Dr. Laurie has known us since we were born. You know she would help you get out of this situation with King Baby.”
“Willa, I think about it all the time. I'm just not ready to go through all of that yet. So, will you take Dad please?”
“Of course I will, but you have to promise me that you will go to the doctor today. Okay?”
Reluctantly, Jen agreed to see the doctor and told her sister that she loved her and begged her not to act like a know-it-all with the doctor this time. Willa promised she would behave, said good-bye and hung up.
A scream from the buzzer on the washing machine stole Jen's attention from her frustration. She changed the loads out and brought the dry clothes to the living room to fold. As she rounded the corner into the room, she saw the mail man swiftly walk away. He was too quick for Jen to catch. She had intended to give him the letter with the beautiful pencil drawing to find the person it was addressed to, but to no avail, he was gone.
As she folded Brian's underwear and stacked them into an impossible tower on the table, she thought more about the letter. She knew it was against the law to open mail addressed to someone else. After a little thought, Jen said out loud, "Who obeys that rule when something is mistakenly delivered to their address?" Her curiosity got the best of her and she abandoned the laundry to retrieve the letter. Sitting on the floor beside her bed, she reached under the bed, pulled out the picture box and opened the envelope, careful not to smudge the artwork.
It was a short letter dated January 27, 2005, just three days before. Written on beautiful cotton paper, the blue ink read:
My Dearest Christine,
I wait for you, to be free from the pain, the struggle, the prison you have locked yourself in. My heart beats fast! I want to run to you, rescue you, free you from your torment! Yet, instead, I wait. I pray. I trust God to keep you.
I Love You,
Jen had to catch her breath. For a moment she forgot the letter was addressed to Christine. Eric's words were clearly desperate. Jen wondered who this woman was and what kind of torment she was suffering. If only she knew how to get the letter to this woman. If only Jen herself could be rescued. But... back to reality. There was no time for fantasizing, she had to come up with a reasonable explanation that would explain her broken nose to the doctor.
"Oh no! Jen shouted. She heard the sound of the trash truck leaving her street. Glancing over to the kitchen trash, she realized that she had been so distracted that she had forgotten to take it out. Maybe she could get her trash into the neighbor's can without them noticing.
She finished the laundry and decided to take a long hot shower. Jen let the hot water stream over her face, wishing the water could wash away all of the damage and carry it swirling down the drain. She stepped out of the shower and into her soft white bathrobe that Brian had stolen from the fancy hotel he visited last year on a business trip.
Closely inspecting her face again for old bruises, she applied her foundation hoping the doctor would remain unaware of them and focus only on the broken nose She twisted her hair into a quick up-do, and dressed for comfort.
As she drove the three miles to the doctor's office, she gripped the steering wheel considering the different scenarios that might play out during this visit. She imagined everything from the doctor noticing nothing but the broken nose to sitting with a Domestic Abuse advocate trying to convince her to press charges against Brian.
When she finally arrived, her anxiety level was through the roof. Walking through the door to Jessica, the receptionist at the front desk and one of Jen's closest friends, she shamefully lowered her head in embarrassment at the people who were glaring at her bruised eyes and swollen nose. She knew they were all trying to figure out what had happened that would make her look that way. She hoped they would just think she had recently had a nose job. When Jessica raised her head up from her work to greet her next patient, her jaw flung open as she whispered. “Jen, what happened to you?
Quick, think of something Jen...
“It's actually an interesting story,” she began, trying to force a playful smile. “I was organizing the baking dishes in my cabinets yesterday. When I was finished, I stood there admiring how nice it all looked, when suddenly, one of the glass dishes slid off of a cookie sheet. As I tried to catch it, I accidentally shoved the dish into my nose. The bad news is, I think I broke my nose. The good news is that I did save the glass dish.” With that, Jen forced out a light-hearted laugh.
“Jen, I think next time, you need to let the stupid dish fall. Come on, let me get you into a room to see Dr. Laurie.”