Overheard

“He said he’d call.”

“They ALWAYS say they’ll call. That’s their way of saying they’ll never call.”

“But I thought he liked me.”

“Didn’t you and I go see that movie, He’s Just Not All That Into You? That wasn’t based on fantasy, Doris. If he doesn’t call right away, he’s ‘just not all that into you’. Forget about him. Move on. There are other fish in the sea and another one will be by in 20 minutes.” Trina laughed.

“Very funny. You HAVE a boyfriend. In fact, everybody has a boyfriend. Everyone but me.”

“That’s true,” Trina acknowledged. “Stop checking your phone!!!”

“I was checking the weather.”

“We’re OUTSIDE idiot! You’re IN the weather!”

“Doris? Is that you?”

She turned around to see a skinny, bespectacled man in a white polo shirt and black jeans.

“Frank?”

“You remember me!” The man’s face turned bright red.

“How could I forget,” Doris’ voice was flat. This was the last person she ever thought she would see again or wanted to see again.

“I think about you all the time,” he said, blushing a second time.

“Oh.”

“Do you think about me?”

Doris shuddered inside. “Frank, it’s really nice to see you, but we’re in a hurry.” She grabbed her friend’s arm and started walking down the street as if they had somewhere to go.

“What was that?”

“High school.”

“High school?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Is he???”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it.”

HIM????

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/05/19/call/

Party On

“Babe, let’s go home.”

“But I’m having fun. You never want me to have fun.” Cora’s eighth apple cinnamon martini sloshed over the glass. OO7 she wasn’t.

“Cora, sweetheart, your left tit is just about outside your dress. Your lipstick is smeared down to your cleavage. I’ve had to hold your hair back three times. The heel broke off your shoe when you fell down the stairs, seriously, hun, it’s time. How is this fun?”

“Go home by yourself.”

A lightbulb lit in Travis’ mind. “You got it, sweet cheeks,” he thought.

He made his way through the crowd of guests all in various stages of inebriation, and opened the front door. The night was cold and clear. The sky held the infinite promise of the Milky Way.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/02/rdp-monday-slosh/

Shaving

“What if I shaved it off?”

“Your moustache?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s your moustache.” She shrugged, pulled her turtleneck over her head then pawed around the bed to find her glasses.

“I’m going to do it.”

Marcy went to the kitchen and made coffee. This was one hell of a hangover. Saturday nights were wildly fun, but this was a pretty high price to pay. It wasn’t long before the coffee was ready. She filled a cup for her and a cup for Paul.

“Marcy?” Paul called out from the bathroom.

“Yeah?”

“Come and see. I want to know what you think.”

She took both cups to the bathroom. “I made you coffee.”

He was turned away from the door, facing the shower wall.

“Paul?” He turned around slowly.

“Well?”

Marcy set down her coffee and looked thoughtfully at Paul. He was — had always been — one of the handsomest men she’d ever seen. Lapis eyes, brown hair, warm and friendly smile, strong chin. Until this moment, he’d also, always, in her life, anyway, worn the heavy moustache of their time in history. Without it?

He looked at her as if he were a child looking for approval. She wanted to cradle him in her arms, tell him everything would be all-right forever, erase all his doubts with a certainty that existed no where on earth.

“Well?”

“It looks good, Paul.”

“You hate it.”

“No, no, not at all. I like it. It’s good.”

“What does ‘good’ mean?”

Marcy sighed. “Paul, if you don’t like it, you can grow it back.”

“See? You hate it.”

Marcy understood then that HE hated it.

She went home. She was dehydrated from drinking and dancing the night before, exhausted and psychologically worn. This whole day would be given over to recovering enough to go to work on Monday. A shower helped clear her brain and she thought…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/02/23/rdp-sunday-moustache/

Catalogs

“Hi babe. Whatcha’ got?”

“Seed catalog. It’s my first one EVER. I feel so grown up!”

“Uh, that’s not your name,” said Josh, looking at the mailing label. “I think that’s the people who lived here before us.”

Spring was still a long way off, but the catalogs arrived well ahead of time to prime the atavistic urges of the snowbound denizens of the far north. Kira took off her boots and set them by the door.

“It doesn’t matter. We’re here now. We have our own house, our own yard, maybe a garden in summer. This proves it!” Kira held up the catalog with it’s WAY too brightly colored flowers and photo of bi-colored corn on the cover. “Isn’t this pretty? We can grow corn!!!”

“‘If you build it…'”

“What?”

“Never mind. Whatever you want honey.”

Josh was thumbing through a catalog that had arrived at the same time, one that also had the previous occupant’s name on it. In it was the photo of a shiny, new, rototiller. Bright red handles and bright sharp blades. A chill went down Josh’ spine. “I don’t want to think that,” he thought, shaking the disturbing image from his mind. He turned the page and there was a beautiful, big chain-saw. “Good god,” he thought. “Is that how I really feel about Kira?” He set the catalog down on the coffee table, but the images persisted. He got up, took the catalog and threw it into the recycling in the kitchen, but the disturbing pictures remained in his imagination.

“Is this what I’m REALLY like?” his heart beat 100 miles an hour. “I LOVE my wife!”

The kitchen recycling can was clearly not going to do the job. He took the catalog out to the alley and lifted the lid on the big recycling bin, but as he was about to toss it in, the neighbor two houses down started up her chainsaw, the little one she used for cutting branches.

“I’m a homeowner now. I’m going to need this stuff.” He looked around the neighborhood. Sam had rototilled his yard last year. There was Mrs. Jamison, using a chain saw to cut back her lilac bush. This wasn’t about Kira. This was necessary to maintain the value of his property. He wasn’t evil to want power tools. No.

He stood in the alley and thumbed through the catalog again, this time a large vice caught his eye. He saw Kira’s narrowing head and bulging eyes. “Do Mrs. Jamison and Sam have thoughts like these?” He dropped the catalog into the cavernous realm of the recycling bin, and as he did, he saw Kira rotating wildly in the garbage truck’s hungry maw.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/rdp-saturday-spring/

More Things Going Bump in the Night

“Jordan, sweet boy, I”m right here. I’m right here. Tell me about your dream.” Tom lifted the little boy out of his crib. Jordan needed to have his crib converted to a toddler bed, but Tom had put it off. “I’ll do that tomorrow,” thought Tom, holding his son to his shoulder. Jordan’s sobs slowly subsided and he put his thumb in his mouth.

“Look under the bed, sweetheart,” he said to Miranda. “See if there’s a door.”

“I might not be able to see it, Daddy, if it’s Jordan’s door.”

“Good God. You can’t expect me to believe that trolls have some kind of exclusivity in the construction…” he stopped. He was talking to his five-year-old daughter, not arguing with his wife.

Just then Joan’s nurse — a brisk, cheerful Filipino woman — came out of Joan’s room.

“She’s sleeping, sir. You want I go home?”

“Yes, Blessica. Thank you again.”

“What wrong with Jordan?”

“Bad dream.”

“Those duendes, they…”

“What? Duen… WHAT?”

“Bad men come in the sleep. Maybe live in this house a long time.”

“We built this house, Blessica. Just three years ago.”

“That doesn’t matter to duende Mr. Tom. The world is older than your house. Who knows about the ground you built your house on?” Blessica shrugged.

“Trolls, daddy. I told you.”

“Night horse,” sighed Blessica. “All the children have them. Maybe closer to old times. We grown ups? We far away. You want me stay, Mr. Tom?”

Suddenly Tom felt totally overwhelmed. How in the world had his life gone sideways like this? A wife with a fragile brain. Her Filipino nurse offering to spend the night to protect them. Trolls building doors under the beds of his children. His little boy crying on his shoulder. His little girl giving him advice — from direct experience — about supernatural beings that lived under the ground and invited children from the surface to tea parties.

“Blessica, take the guest room for tonight. I’ll pay you to stay in case…”

“OK, Mr. Tom,” she said.

“…something happens, and this is more than a nightmare, my wife…”

“I understand, Mr. Tom. I will go get my overnight bag from my car.” As a mental health nurse, Blessica was always prepared.

***

Here is a link to all the other five episodes of this saga… Backwards, unfortunately…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/11/04/rdp-monday-duende/

Professional Jealousy

Warning: somewhat raunchy

“You got it! The whole thing. Windows facing the ocean. A desk as large as a skating rink. A parking space next to the elevator. And this cushy job. Way to go, Babs.”

“Don’t act like it’s gift from Santa or something.” The leggy blonde tossed her mane of shining champagne hair over her shoulder. “I worked and sacrificed for this.”

“We all do, for whatever we get,” sneered Ken. “Some of us sacrifice more than others.” Behind Ken’s bright white smile was a well of resentment. “I just wanted to be the first best-selling male doll. Look what I had to give up.”

“Ken, you didn’t ‘give up’ anything to become the first best-selling male doll. It’s the REASON there wasn’t one before you.” She tapped a pencil on her desk in disgust. “You know perfectly well that the developers couldn’t figure out the paradox. Should little kids see, you know, or should they just make you without, well, you know, the way they did. What man wants even to imagine the absence of, well, you know, even on a 12 inch plastic…”

“Why do we always have to go THERE?” asked Ken.

“YOU went there. I didn’t. This was supposed to be MY little celebration, just me and my best pals and a bottle of Dom Perignon. Why do you always do this? Turn everything to you and your…”

“Because he’s a conceited solipsistic jack-ass,” answered Joe. “Babs is right. Once you came out of production, the rest of us couldn’t have…”

“This isn’t about you, Ken, or you, Joe. Your stupid frat-boy complaints have no currency here. You’ve seen my new office, and now you two need to get out of here and get back to work.”

“Dammit, Babs…”

“I hate that, Joe. You know perfectly well what my name is. Babs. Really. Close the door on your way out.”

When they were gone, she poured half a bottle of champagne down the sink in the marble and gold executive bathroom adjoining her office. “Men,” she sighed, “or something.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/11/02/rdp-saturday-cushy/

Rock On

“Dad?”

“What?”

“Remember the trolls?”

“Miranda, honey, I will never forget the trolls. Why?”

“They want to meet Jordan.”

“I don’t think your mother can go through this again, Miranda. She’s very fragile now, you know. She’s only been home from the hospital a few months.”

“I know. I told them that Jordan is still a baby and can’t even walk that good, but I wanted to let you know in case…”

“Miranda you never told me much about these trolls.”

“There’s not much to say, Daddy. They’re just rock people.”

“‘JUST rock people’? Miranda, that makes no sense to me.”

“Weren’t there trolls in your day? They told me they’ve been around as long as the sky and the planets and the sun and the stars.”

“I’m sure if they’re rock people that’s true, but…”

“Haven’t you ever talked to a rock? I talk to rocks all the time.”

“Miranda, you’re five. Five year olds talk to everything all the time. It’s part of being five. It’s not part of being a daddy. Daddys who talk to rocks, well, Miranda, it usually doesn’t end well.”

“But daddy, you told me rocks are in EVERYTHING. They’re in my crayons and clothes and even in me!”

“That’s true, sweetheart, but usually they don’t build secret doors under a little girl’s bed.”

“I didn’t know that, Daddy. I thought that was part of growing up, like a loose tooth. If there’s a tooth fairy and Santa Claus, why not trolls?”

Tom closed his laptop, recognizing that this was an important moment in the life of his little girl and how he dealt with it would affect her life forever. The long litany of life’s disillusionment sped through his mind. He sighed. “Come here, Miranda,” he said, lifting his little girl up on his lap. “I confess, Miranda, I don’t understand the story of the trolls. I don’t know what happened that night other than your mother and I were terrified we’d lost you forever. When the police officer said it happened all the time — little girls disappearing behind tiny doors built under their beds — well, it really didn’t help. How could such a thing happen?”

“Simple, Daddy. The trolls came up from the middle of the earth and opened the door. Those doors are everywhere. We just can’t see them most of the time. Are you going to tell me there’s no Tooth Fairy that it’s you and mommy? And there’s no Santa Claus? That’s you and mommy too?”

Tom nodded. Clearly the trolls were not going to be dismissed as one of those inscrutable stories adults tell children, stories meant to nurture that magical sense of wonder which kids have on their own, all the time. Thinking about it, was it any crazier to tell his kids that a fat guy in a red suit landed on the roof with reindeer? A real door under Miranda’s bed was really LESS crazy than a fantasy fat guy flown through the sky by ungulates.

“Miranda, I’d really rather Jordan didn’t go visit the trolls if there’s anyway we can keep that from happening. Your mother would never recover from a second experience like that. Maybe you can explain that to your rock friends?”

Just then, from down the hall, the last room, came a cry from a little guy who was supposed to be sleeping. “Daddy! DADDDY! DADDY! I have a bad dream!!”

“Sorry Dad.”

Last spring I wrote a story about a little girl’s experience with trolls. Seeing the prompt today, there was only one place I could goHere are links to the “backstory.”

Part One: Bad Dream

Part Two: Hot Knob

Part Three: Blasé Cop

Part Four: Real as Real

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/31/ragtag-daily-prompt-thursday-the-secret-door/

A Miss is as Good as a Mile

Back in the 70’s a man and woman fell in love, I don’t know where and I don’t know how. Could’ve been at a saloon, could’ve been at her sister’s wedding where the guy was the best man, standing tall in his shiny black boots. Hell, maybe it was at the dance after the rodeo, could’ve been any of those places Maybe he saw her across a room or some other damned place, and felt his heart ping and then melt. She felt a stirring inside, recognized him from some long ago place, their hearts whispered, “That’s the one.”

Could’ve gone a lot of different ways. Maybe they danced. Maybe they only saw each other across the bleachers at a football game, I don’t know how, but there were those five or six minutes. Maybe they were dancing, and her fiancé cut in. Maybe his girlfriend said, “What’re you looking at?” and commenced pouting. No way to know.

But I do know this.

It was in spring just after Parks and Wildlife stocked Homelake. He was there fishing, still tall, but big bellied under a sweat-stained cowboy hat. Come the thaw, his tackle is always in the back of his beater farm truck, a bronze and white Chevy Scottsdale. He takes a minute to load the hook and looks off at the sky, at Mt. Blanca in the fast-changing spring light, the moving clouds.

She walks by with a friend. She’s a little bent, with a mutt on a leash, half collie or something, maybe cattle dog. She looks up and sees him gazing into the distance and turns to see what he’s looking at.

“Takes my breath away,” she says.

“Don’t I know it,” he says.

“What’re you catching?”

“Rainbows.” Big grin.

“Big enough to eat?”

“Most of ’em.” He’s smiling. He looks at her.

She pauses. She’s been gone for decades, following her husband, raising kids, building a profession, but now she’s home again. She hears the home-tones in his voice, the accents of her childhood. It warms her to the core.

“Take it easy!” she says, waving and going on her way.

“You take it easy, too, darlin’,” he says.

Another Story*

The night was dark, not in the least surprising, and the leaves, shunted about by the wind, spun like small dervishes outside her window. However, since no one saw this, it never really happened. Tricia slept, dreaming of the beginnings of a migraine. “I’ll shake it off,” she thought in her sleep and because it was a dream, she did just that, and slept on. A line of red began to show across the cloud-streaked horizon, and still she slept.

—————-

As the red tinged the sky, Tom was unlocking the door to his sprawling studio apartment overlooking the park, after yet another night of debauchery and remorse. “This has to stop,” he thought, again, as he tottered into the bathroom. He turned on the cold water and splashed some on his face. “I ain’t livin’ long like this,” he thought, looking in the mirror.

—————-

There was frost on the grass in the morning and snow was still a distinct possibility, but for now it seemed spring had come in earnest. The red light of the rising sun painted the faraway snow-peaks pink. Remembering Homer, *ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς, Annie said softly as she stretched and smiled. “Summer sheets. I hope it’s not too soon,” she thought. *Rosy-fingered dawn

—————-

Don was up before light, worried about death. He’d had one small heart attack and was on meds now and taking better care of himself, but he’d also developed anxiety over his funeral. As night retreated, Don was typing furiously on the local community Facebook page, writing his rant about the Catholic church. “I need to plan my funeral,” he wrote. “The Catholic church used to be $150 to rent the basement for an event. Now it’s $250. The church is greedy.” Did he anticipate the backlash and the trolling that would ensue? Among the chain of comments, was, “The church is corrupt. What about all the child molestation the church is paying for to the tune of $2 million?” Here? In this small town? The Parish of St. Joseph the Worker? All followed by a long litany of misspelled factual information from the secretary of the parish explaining the costs of repairs and maintenance in an economy where everyone — including God — struggles to make ends meet.

—————-

When it was over, these four last moments and many others, hurled into infinity by the red flame of apocalyptic justice, sped into the interminable memory of the universe.

—————-

*Going through short stories to see whether they’re finished, what they are, it’s kind of fun. I really enjoy writing short, short stories, something I’d never have tried had I not joined WordPress some years back….

The Kindness of Strangers

“Stop! Stop! What are you doing? Have you lost it completely? This is a 25 mph zone and it’s RAINING hard! Can you even see anything?!”

He put his foot down even harder on the gas pedal. “Why do you do this to me? You make me do these things. If you want out, get out.” He reached around her, fumbling for the door handle. She was sure he’d push her out. She slammed down the lock and blocked the handle with her arm.

“What did I do?” she sobbed.

“Looking at that guy the way you did. I saw you. You think I didn’t see you?”

“You’re completely crazy. There’s a red light! Rico!!!!! OH MY GOD!” she closed her eyes, tight together. If they were doomed, they were doomed. Rico slammed his foot on the brake just in time to avoid colliding with a red pickup.”This is it,” she thought, and opened her door. Before he could reach across the seat to grab her arm she was out and running across the street to the fast-food noodle joint that had opened a week before where the taco shop had been after the Denny’s closed. The light turned green. Horns honked at Rico. He drove off. Megan knew it was five blocks before Rico would have a chance to turn around. “Good,” she thought. “I’m going to do what I should’ve done a long time ago.” She went to the payphone in front of the noodle shop and called the police, gave them Rico’s license plate number and told them he was harassing her, threatening her with physical harm.

“Not much we can do, lady, unless we’re there when it happens. Do you have somewhere to go? Do you live with this guy?”

“No, no, I have a place of my own, but I’m afraid to go there.”

“Any friends you can stay with? A motel?”

She looked around. All there was in the area was La Petit Rouge and everyone knew what THAT was. “I don’t want to stay around here. He’ll be back. He’ll be back any minute and I’m scared.”

“Tell you what, I’m sending a squad car over to your location. They’ll take you somewhere. Will that work?”

“Oh. Thank you, thank you.”

“They should be there now.”

“I see them.”

“Stay safe. If you’re afraid of that guy, stay away from him. Don’t go back to him like most women do. Make tomorrow a new day, OK?”

“OK,” she had started to cry. Kindness at this moment was so sweet, so surprising, it hurt.

“Ma’am?” said the young, Hispanic policeman. “Are you all right?”

“I am. I’m OK.”

“Get in. He’ll be back, you said?”

“If I know him. Any minute.” She looked up and saw his black Honda coming slowly down the street. He was looking for her. “That’s him,” she said, pointing up the street, half a block away.

“All right. Hurry.” She got in back of the squad car. The policeman drove a circuitous route ending up behind the Honda. He was checking to see if the driver had seen the girl. “He didn’t see you,” said the cop. “Good. C’mon. I’m taking you to the station. You can spend the night there. You’ll be safe, but it isn’t plush.”

“That’s OK. I don’t know where to go and I only have $3.00.”

“Tomorrow you go to family court — it’s in the same building — and you get a restraining order, OK? Then someone will drive you home.”

All the things she had known she should do but had not wanted to do. “All he had to do was trust me,” she said, under her breath.

“Some guys can’t do that, miss.”

“I guess not.”

Megan spent the night on a bench in the police station. The sun was just up when she was awakened by Doris, a female police officer, saying, “You want some coffee, honey?” Megan shook sleep from her mind and nodded.”It’s a beautiful day,” said the police officer. “ The rain is gone. It’s a little chilly, one of those crisp bright mornings that makes you glad to be alive. You want sugar in that?”

“Yeah, please.”

“Officer Lamont will be back soon with doughnuts. See? We really do eat donuts.” The officer grinned. “I’m supposed to take you down to family court as soon as they open. That’ll be in about 20 minutes. You want to wash up after you have your coffee?”Megan nodded. “I’ll lend you my gym bag. I have everything in there, soap, face cream.”

Megan began to cry.

“Oh honey. You don’t have anything to cry about now. You’re safe.”

“It isn’t that. You’re so nice to me. What did I do to deserve that?”

“What didn’t you do? You ain’t in jail. We didn’t pick you up for shop lifting or worse. You just got a bad boyfriend. That’s no crime. Go back to him? That’s a crime.”

“What do I do in family court?”

“You get yourself a restraining order. Ah, here’s officer Lamont. Did you get me a jelly doughnut ?”

“As always, Sweet Cheeks,” said Officer Lamont, opening the box. “Help yourself. So you’re our roommate,” he said to Megan. “Have a doughnut.” Megan reached for one of the glazed doughnuts in front. “Take two,” said officer Lamont.

“No, no, this is fine.” The two officers went about their routines of starting their morning. Megan ate her doughnut and drank her coffee. “Here I am, spent the night in the police station and now? I’m going to clean up and go to court and get a restraining order. Wow. How did it ever come to this?” 

“Here you go, Megan,” said the female police officer. “ The Ladies is just down the hall.”

Megan took the officer’s little duffle bag. Once in the ladies’ room she was overcome by everything that had happened over the past few months. It had started out as a great love, or she thought. They seemed to share everything. Every idea, belief, dreams, everything. She’d never felt so close to another person. And their sex! It seemed their souls melted together in those moments. “Stop it. If it had been that great, you wouldn’t be here now. This isn’t where relationships are supposed to end up. You JUST slept on a bench in a police station!” She shook her head to resist illusion, to accept the moment in which she was living.

“Are you ready? They’re open for business over there.” Megan nodded.”I have the report from last night. Here we go. Hi Sharon. This young lady is Megan. We brought her in last night for her safety. She’s got a bad boyfriend and wants a restraining order. Here’s our report.”

“Hi Megan. Sorry to hear that.”

“I’m going back over,” said the police woman. “ Don’t you worry, Megan honey, Sharon will see you’re set, and when you’re ready to go home, she’ll call us. One of us will take you home and make sure everything is OK.”

“OK, Megan. First I need to know. Has he ever hit you?”

Megan wondered about that. Why is physical violence the determiner for abuse? There are other ways to hurt people. “No. He’s never hit me.”

“Do you think he could?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you afraid of him?”

“Yes.” Megan began to cry.

“OK, then. A restraining order will not keep him away from you, but it does make it a crime for him to come within 20 feet or 50 feet or 100 feet of you — you decide that. You don’t work with him, do you?”

“No.”

“So there’s no reason for any proximity, right? You’re not stuck in a situation where he has to be near you.”

“No.”

“100 feet, then. What this means is if you see him near your house or anywhere you are known to be — work, school — you call the police immediately. If they catch him, and he’s within 100 feet, he’s arrested. But you must call. Otherwise, it’s just another piece of paper. Lots of women never call. I don’t know why — they’re too afraid of the guy or they don’t want him to get in trouble. Love is madness, I swear. Anyway, now that you’ve filled this out, I’ll got get the judge to sign it. Why don’t you look at these pictures until I get back?” Sharon handed Megan a notebook in which there were large glossy photos of women who’d been beaten to death by their husbands and boyfriends. There were even pictures of men who’d been hurt by their wives and girlfriends. After four or five pictures, Megan couldn’t look at any more.”This is to scare me,” she thought to herself. “It worked.”

“OK. All done. Here’s your copy. Here’s a copy for the guys next door in the cop shop and one for our files. It’s a court order. The sheriff will serve it on this guy at the address you gave us. That doesn’t mean the guy will take it or the sheriff will find him, but that doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the order. It’s just to inform — and warn — your EX-boyfriend that coming near you is a crime, OK? It doesn’t mean you won’t see him again. Remember. It’s up to you now to make the call if he comes around. Keep your phone on you — you have one, right?”

“Oh my god,” she said, “I left it in Rico’s car. That’s why I had to use the pay phone last night.”

“Use the phone on that desk over there and call your cell phone company and tell them you lost your phone. You don’t want anything going to it, OK? Then get a new one. You have a land line at home?”

“No.”

“Trish? Could you set Megan here up with a cell phone?” The office assistant nodded and went to a locked cabinet and brought out a box of pay-as-you go phones. When Megan finished her call, Sharon brought a phone over to her. “This will take care of you until you get a replacement. Are you set? You know what to do?”

“I do.” Megan’s voice was shaky, but inside she felt like she might just make it.

“You have our number and now you know how to call us.”

Megan nodded. 

“Your ride is waiting,” Sharon nodded at the front window of the family court where Doris sat behind the wheel. A young officer sat beside her.

Megan went out to the car. The young officer hopped out and held the door for her. 

“This is soon-to-be-officer Howard. He’s riding with me today,” said Doris. 

They drove to the address Megan had given them. 

“You want us to come up with you?” Doris looked at the 1950’s three story apartment building not far from the community college.

“Yes.” Megan’s stomach flip-flopped. Rico could be waiting in the hallway, on the stairs, even in her apartment.

“Does he have a key, Megan?” asked Officer-To-Be Howard.

“Yes,” she whispered. 

“Oh honey,” sighed Doris. “Which apartment. We’ll go up. You stay in the car.”

Suddenly Megan understood just how serious the situation was. She didn’t want Officer Doris or Soon-To-Be-Officer Howard going up there. She realized that she had no idea what Rico would do. She realized she didn’t know Rico at all. 

“No,” she said. “I’ll go.”

“We’ll go with you,” said Doris. 

“You know how many officers are killed in domestic things like this?” asked Soon-to-be-Officer Howard.

“That’s not something we talk about in front of a victim,” said Doris sharply. “She didn’t ask to be in this situation.”

Megan began to cry. 

“Don’t cry, honey. Just take out your phone and be ready to use it. Rookie Howard here and I will be ready to use what we have. 

Soon-to-be-Officer Howard opened the door. Doris went in first, then Megan and he came in behind. Megan held her phone with her thumb ready to hit 911 if she had to. Doris had her gun drawn. They climbed the stairs. The smells of last night’s dinner filled the hallway. Someone had had friend onions. 

“That takes me back,” said Doris. “Third floor, honey?”

“Yes.” Megan held her breath as they went up the last flight of stairs only to find Rico sleeping in front of her door. 

“I thought you said he had a key,” whispered Doris.

“He does.”

“Why didn’t he let himself in?”

“Maybe he did,” said Soon-to-Be Officer Howard. “Maybe when he didn’t find Megan inside he decided to wait out here.”

“Makes sense,” nodded Doris. “You go wake him up, cuff him and take him out to the squad car. We’ll see how things are in Megan’s apartment.”

They walked quietly and purposefully over the the sleeping man. 

“Get up, buddy. I have to take you into the station for violating a restraining order and vagrancy.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Rico woke suddenly, confused, angry and then scared seeing the police.

“Your girlfriend came into the station last night and filed a report saying you harrassed and frightened her.”

“That little, lying, cheating bitch.” Rico was ready to fight. He smelled of cheep booze.

“You have the right to remain silent, etc.” said Doris as Soon-to-be Officer Howard cuffed Rico.

“Fuck you,” said Rico. 

“C’mon honey. Let’s see if he did any damage. Unlock your door.” Megan did. 

There were holes in the drywall, the closet doors where Rico had bashed them in with his fist. He’d kicked in the gas wall heater, creating a hazard. Megan’s dishes lay broken all over the kitchen floor. 

“Megan, honey, get a locksmith over here to change that lock. Changing the lock will give you a little security. Here’s a card.” Doris handed Megan the card of a locksmith and Megan immediately called.

“OK, if we saw him do this damage, it would be a felony, but we didn’t see him. It could have been anyone for all we really know. You understand? Now you see how serious this is, right?”

Megan nodded, tears streamed down her face.

“Do you have a lease?”

“Yes.”

“When’s it up?”

“Next year.”

“OK. Well, is there anyone who can stay with you?”

“No, I don’t know. Since I met Rico I haven’t seen my friends much.”

“Get in touch with them. Let them know what happened. Do you have any family, Megan?”

Megan thought of her mom. “It’s your bed, you lay in it.”

“Not really,” she said.

“Well call your friends then. We can hold Rico for 24 hours for vagrancy, sleeping in the hall way, but not after that. Just get yourself as squared away as you can as quickly as you can. Try not to be alone. Stay on public streets. Keep your phone handy. OK? I’ll call you tonight and see how you’re doing. OK?”

The thought of being alone suddenly terrified Megan. Reading her mind, Doris said, “He’ll be in jail until tomorrow morning. Sleep well tonight. Get your locks changed. Talk to your landlord about that heater. Be sure the gas is off. You can do that, right?”

Megan nodded. 

“You go to the college?”

Megan nodded.

“Tell your professors. Tell campus security. Show them your restraining order. Get all the help you can, honey.”

“Doris?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you learn all this when you became a police officer? You know everything I should do.”

Doris looked intently at the young girl in front of her. Her brown eyes slowly filled with tears. “No, honey.” She opened the collar of her police uniform and turned it down as far as she could. There Megan saw scars cut into Doris’ neck.

“Piano wire,” said Doris. “He nearly killed me.”