When the heart breaks

"Mommy?" A young girl asked, her voice full of uncertainty. She stood at the foot of a queen sized bed, clutching a stuffed turtle. "Time to wake up, mommy."

The frail woman lying on her side in the bed didn't say anything. Her blue eyes stared at the dresser in front of her. The young girl, no older than six, walked over to stand in front of the woman. She held the turtle out to her, as if offering the toy to the woman.

"Mister Turtle says that being up is more fun than lying down." The girl said, a small smile on her face. The woman still did not say anything. Her solar plexus rose in rhythm with her breathing, indicating she was still alive. The girl lowered her arms and bit her lower lip. "Mister Turtle and I want you to get up, mommy. You didn't get up yesterday, and we miss you."

The woman blinked slowly but still said nothing. The child studied the woman's face, her brown eyes full of concern. The woman licked her lips, her tongue dry.

"I guess you don't want to get up today. It's okay." The little girl said, her voice full of defeat. She headed back over to the foot of the bed and sat down, placing the stuffed turtle on the floor in front of her. "Mommy doesn't want to play with us, Mister Turtle. What should you and I do?"

The woman blinked again, her stomach churning with regret. She wanted to get up. She wanted to play with her daughter. It was just too much, however. The getting out of the bed. Making her daughter breakfast. Doing anything, really. The woman knew it would wear her out, and that she would just wind up back in the bed, listening to her daughter ask if she was going to get up.

"Mister Turtle and I are going to go eat." The girl said, dragging the woman out of her thoughts. The girl stood in front of her mother again, clutching the stuffed turtle. "You should eat too, Mommy. Mister Turtle says you'll be sick if you don't."

The woman said nothing. The little girl turned and walked out of the room, looking back as she passed through the doorway. Still no movement from the woman.

"Mommy will get up, Mister Turtle. She still loves us. She's just really sad right now." The little girl said. A small tear slipped out of the woman's eye and landed on the pillow.

"Why are you doing this to her, Charisse?" A male voice asked. The sunlight that had been streaming through the windows in the room was gone. The woman blinked. A man stood in front of her, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Doing what?" She asked.

"Ignoring her. Staying in bed instead of acting like her mother. Shae needs you." He said. "I can't come over here every day and make sure that she's fed and bathed. That's your job."

"I can't get up, Derek. I've tried." Charisse whispered.

"I see how you've tried. Shae says she's been eating cereal for the past week. Everything else is rotten. The milk spoiled yesterday, the bread is moldy. If I didn't pay the bills, you'd both be living in the dark. Do you need me to take her away from you? It seems like she'd be raised better if she were living with me."

"You work two jobs. You can't raise her."

"It's clear that you can't either! Charisse. You're her mother. Get over yourself and start acting like it." A dry sob escaped the woman's lips. The man threw his hands up into the air and sat down on the chair next to the dresser. "I know. It's hard to hear that you're being a terrible parent, but maybe it'll get through to you that Shae needs you."

"She won't want me as a mother if she knew the truth."

"Is this what it's all about? You're still not over it? Jesus, Charisse. Go get help, then. Laying in bed all day isn't going to fix anything."

"If the situation were reversed, and you knew exactly how it felt, you wouldn't be over it either, you son of a bitch."

"No, but I would make sure that my child didn't have to worry about me every day. I would make sure that my child was properly taken care of…"

"I am trying!" She shouted. "You don't know what it's like, Derek. I have tried for a full straight week to get out of bed. To go and see someone so I can make sure I'm there for Shae. Every time I try, I'm reminded of it. Every fucking detail comes back, making me experience it over and over again."

"I understand what happened isn't the greatest thing in the world, but you have to move on."

"Get out." She said. The man didn't move. She reached behind her and grabbed a pillow. Raising her arm, she tossed it at him. The pillow dropped to the ground, not touching him.

"If you're not up tomorrow, I'm taking Shae with me. For good. I'm sick of this, Charisse. I'll find some way to make my two jobs work around raising her. Maybe with her gone, you can get over your incompetence as a parent and a human being."

Derek stood up and walked out of the room, leaving her in her bed. She let out another sob. She couldn't let him take her away. Shae was the only reason she would wake up in the morning.

"Maybe I should go with daddy, mommy." A voice from the doorway said. Shae stood there, the stuffed turtle in her arms. She walked over to the bed and got up on it. She knelt down next to Charisse. "Maybe you won't be so sad."

"I'll be even more sad if you leave." She said.

"Why are you so sad now, mommy? Mister Turtle and I love you. Why doesn't that make you happy?"

"It's complicated, Shae."

"Can you tell me?"

"No. It'll make you very sad. I don't want you to be very sad."

"But I don't want you to be very sad, mommy! I want you to be happy! I want you to get out of bed and come and play with Mister Turtle and me! I don't want to go with daddy. But, if you won't get up, maybe Mister Turtle and me with have someone to play with at daddy's house!"

"I will, Shae. I'll get up tomorrow. I just need to rest now. It's been a long day, and mommy is tired."

"You're always tired, mommy." Shae crawled over to the edge of the bed and got down. Charisse said nothing as Shae left the room.

She had to get up tomorrow. For her daughter's sake. She just wished there was some way she could turn the constant video off in her head. The one that kept replaying the incident.

"I'm going to come pick Shae up in a bit, Derek. I just have to grab a couple of things." She said, her phone pressed to her ear. She paused for a moment. "Halyn needs the pictures so they can run them. I can drop them off after I pick up Shae."

Her eyes flickered to the door in front of her. It was slightly ajar. "I've got to go, Derek. I'll see you in a bit." She closed the phone and slipped it into her pocket. Her fingers found the door and with a slight push, it opened fully, exposing her apartment. Nothing seemed to be out of place or missing, from just a glance.

She walked into the apartment, her heart pounding. As she passed the open door, she felt a body slam into hers, the weight of the additional body causing her to fall to the ground. The person got up and closed the door. She looked to see who the person was; she didn't recognize him. Opening her mouth to scream, she found herself looking at a knife.

"Scream and I'll cut your vocal cords out." He said, his deep voice filling the apartment.

"Who are you?" She choked out. "What do you want with me?"

"I'm hurt that you don't know who I am, Charisse." He said, breathing heavily. He paused. "I know all about you. How you have a daughter and an estranged husband. How you're a photographer for an indie music magazine. How your blue eyes light up when your daughter draws you pictures or makes you little projects that she learned in school."

Her heart pounded, vibrating throughout her entire body. She tried to crawl backwards, do something. The fear she felt rooted her to the spot. "How do you...how do you know?"

"I've been watching you, Charisse. I wanted to know about you before I came to visit you. Before I got to know you in a more intimate way."

"Wh…what?" She asked, her voice cracking. His hand went to his belt as he quickly undid it. Charisse shook her head violently. "No. No. No. I don't. No. I don't want you."

He squatted down and brandished the knife into her face. Her breath caught in her throat. "No, see. You don't decide here. I've been waiting, Charisse. I've been watching you for so long. Waiting to see when I knew enough about you. And, I do! I now do know enough about you! I think that this is a perfect time to consummate what I have with you."

"But you don't have anything with me! I don't even know you! I don't want you to do this." She said, becoming hysterical. White hot pain ripped through her cheek as he sliced the skin. Blood dripped from the wound.

"I know you well enough for the both of us." He said. He unbuttoned his pants and shimmied out of them. He then crawled on top of her, lowering himself down on her. "You'll enjoy it, Charisse. Remember. If you scream or try to fight me off, I'll kill you."

"No! No! No!" She said, tears pouring out of her eyes. His fist slammed into her jawbone, his ring catching on her skin.

"Just shut up. Shut up. I want you. I need you." He said, his words coming out as if he were growling. He took the knife and split open her skirt. She cried even harder, knowing she couldn't stop him from doing what he was planning on doing.

She woke with a start, sweat covering her body. The bright sunshine filled her eyes as it peeked through the window. Her heart pounded as she let out one shaky breath after another. His stubble still burned her face as he forced his kisses on her. His blonde hair covered his eyes, but she could almost sense that they were full of lust. Full of hunger.

She wrapped her arms around her body. She felt dirty. Disgusting. She had to wash it off. But, getting out of bed? It seemed so tiring.

No. She had to do it. Not only to get clean, but for Shae. She pushed her blanket of her body and slid her legs off the bed. Her feet touched the cool carpet. He was still in her mind, laughing as she stood, her knees shaking. She grabbed onto the table next to her bed as she took a step. She did it. She got out of bed. She took another step, her heart racing. She could do this. The bathroom was next to her room.

As she slowly made her way across the room, her confidence began to build. She fought the tired sensations and pushed away his image.

"You did it, mommy!" Shae said. She was standing in the doorway, holding her stuffed turtle. She ran over to Charisse and threw her arms around her legs. Charisse gripped the dresser she had been holding onto, hoping she wouldn't fall over.

"Yes. Mommy needs a shower. And, you need a bath. And breakfast."

"We don't have food, mommy." Shae said, looking up at the woman.

"Don't worry about that, Shae. Go play in your room for a bit, okay?" Charisse said. Shae nodded and let go of her. She ran out of the room and headed to her own. Charisse took a breath and continued to walk.

As she reached the bathroom, a cheer escaped her lips. She never thought she would be so happy about reaching the bathroom, but she was. She walked into the bathroom and turned to close and lock the door. Turning back around, she almost screamed. He was there. In front of her. How did he get in? He wasn't supposed to be out of jail. She blinked. He was gone.

She slumped down onto the toilet, her heart slamming into her rib cage, her breath erratic. She needed to make him go away. She couldn't live with him constantly in her mind. Constantly haunting her.

Charisse sat at the table, a steaming cup of coffee in front of her. She was exhausted. Every bone in her body screamed that she needed to rest. To go back into her bed.

"Are you going to eat too, Mommy?" Shae asked. A bowl of oatmeal sat in front of both of them. Shae had eaten most of hers while Charisse's remained untouched. She'd barely eaten this past week. Bits of cereal that Shae had brought her. Sips of water that Derek brought when he came to yell at her.

"I will. Mommy needs her coffee right now." She said. She glanced at the stack of mail sitting next to her. She reached over and picked off the top envelope. It was from a person and an address she didn't recognize. She slipped her finger under the back flap and ripped through the paper. Shae watched in interest as Charisse pulled a folded piece of paper from the envelope. She unfolded it gently and began to read.

Dear Charisse,

I know you don't know me, but I'm writing to you today about my son. You have pressed charges against him, stating that he raped you. I know my son, Charisse. He wouldn't rape someone. He's very kind and loving. Perhaps you mistook his affection for rape? Or you were drunk and cheating on your husband? Whatever the case may be, I urge you to drop the charges. He does not deserve your selfish hatred of him.

God bless,

Nadine Fisher.

Charisse dropped the letter, a lump forming in her throat. He flashed into her head again, his face contorted into a wicked grin.

"Mommy? What's wrong?" Shae asked. Charisse buried her face into her hands and began to sob. She felt Shae's arms around her waist a moment later.

"Are you going to keep pressing charges?" A voice asked. Charisse blinked. Derek stood in front of her, sympathy on his face. He held the letter in his hand.

"Yeah." Charisse said. Her full coffee cup and oatmeal bowl stood in front of her. She looked out the window. It was still sunny. "Why aren't you at your job?"

"Shae called me. She said it was an emergency. Why didn't you tell me that it was rape? You just said someone broke in. Not that it was rape too."

"Would it have mattered?"

"Of course it would have, Charisse." He leaned over and wrapped his arms around her. She didn't move. "I still love you, even though we have our issues at the moment."

"I know." She said. She paused. "I'm just really tired right now. I'm going to go lay down."

He let go and looked at her. "No. No more of this. We have to get you to see someone. Someone that can help you."

"Can it wait until after I sleep for a bit?" She asked. He reached over and grasped her wrist in his hand.

"Shae needs you to get better." He said. She nodded.

"Okay. Just because she needs me."