She waited impatiently on the couch. The television played quietly in the background, a show that she'd seen a dozen times. She lifted the remote and lowered the volume again. All she wanted was the comfort of the visuals playing in the background. She needed to be able to hear what was going on outside her door. She glanced down at her cell phone anxiously.
He'd been off of work for an hour and a half now. Where was he?
She called his number again. Ring... ring... ring... Voicemail.
She hung up and carefully made it to her feet. Seven months down. Two to go. Looking down at her continuously growing belly, she rubbed it and sighed. She knew she had to work in the morning, but it was impossible to let herself fall asleep until she knew where he was. Why did he do this to her so much?
Feeling helpless, she texted her sister about his absence. Someone to talk to and comfort her was all she wanted. He was supposed to do that. He was supposed to be running out and getting her watermelon in the middle of the night because of her cravings, rubbing her feet after she worked all day, and talking to the baby that was growing inside her. To her dismay, she only received a text back about how she needed to leave him and move on. It was so much easier said than done.
Where would she go? How would she get there?
She was only nineteen, a part-time worker and a local fast food restaurant, and about to have a baby with a man that didn't love her.
The apartment they lived in was small. The kitchen and living room were smashed into a room just big enough for a fridge, couch, and television set. Against the back corner was a counter with a sink and a stove that was probably older than she. There was a bar on the wall that they could eat at when they had the rare meal together, and in the opposite corner was the doorway into their bedroom.
She started for the bed when she heard footsteps in the hall. Her heart leaped so suddenly into her throat she thought she would choke. Internally she pleaded for it to be him, but there was also a small part of her that hoped it wasn't. Part of her just wanted him to never come back.
A loud thump at the door made her jump. The keys jingled as he searched for the right one on the other side of the door. After what felt like twenty minutes, the door creaked open. Head leaned against the door, he staggered through with his eyes closed. He burped and found his way over to the couch, leaving the door ajar.
She stood in the doorway of their bedroom waiting for him to see her. He didn't. The front door still wide open with the keys hanging from the knob, he flopped down on the couch in his uniform and let out a loud groan.
"Babe?" She eased back toward the living room. "Babe, where have you been?"
He didn't answer.
Her skin felt hot. She was flushed with embarrassment. There was no one around to see or to even know, but she was still ashamed. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. This wasn't how she envisioned her life at all. She was supposed to be in college, studying to become a teacher and experiencing her life.
She removed the keys from the door and closed it with a hard slam. She was growing a human inside her. His human. The least he could do was come home sober. The sadness she had been feeling turned into pure rage. She looked at this man on her couch with disgust. All she wanted was for him to feel the sadness, shame, and loneliness she'd been sitting at home feeling all night.
"Where have you been," she asked more aggressively.
He groaned again.
She couldn't stop herself. She grabbed the sleeve of his shirt, and pulled as hard as she could until he slid off of the couch and his body hit the floor. "Where have you been, asshole?" She was beginning to shout now.
The sudden aggression startled him. He looked up at her from the floor, eyes bloodshot and crazed. "What the fuck is your problem?"
"I asked you three times where you were. Answer me!"
He burped again, rolled his eyes, and climbed to his feet. "Here. There. Everywhere," he muttered. He waved his hand around giving pretend directions to his whereabouts from the night. The disinterest in being honest with her only made her rage boil over. He started for the bedroom. She grabbed his shirt again, attempting to keep him there with her.
He whirled around and pushed her by the shoulders into the door. "Don't fucking touch me!"
The tears began to fall. She tried to stop them because she knew it only would make things worse. The push hadn't physically hurt her, just added to the plethora of overwhelming emotions she was feeling now. "Please just tell me where you were," she begged. Why did she need him to say it? As if hearing him admit that he'd been at the bar would make her feel any better. She knew the where from the night. Just not the who.
"None of your business! God, why can't you just leave me alone?" He looked her over. His eyes were wide, shooting daggers of hate her way. His chest and shoulders moved quickly with every hastened breath. The adrenaline was pumping fiercely through his polluted blood. Knowing he couldn't take his frustrations out on her physically, he started to roar. It could only be described as the roar of an insane person locked in their padded sell. He raked the items sitting on the bar into the floor. Her water spilled onto the gray carpet. Her notebook, keys, and purse came crashing down behind into the puddle. Then he started for the bedroom again.
She followed him, but not too close, tears still falling. "What are you doing?"
He stood in the middle of the room, hands on his headed, frantically looking back-and-forth for something.
"Sam, stop! Talk to me!" She wished now she'd approached him more calmly in the living room. She couldn't help herself. This was the third time this week. She was just so angry.
He roared again. "I'm better than this!" He pointed at her, finger inches from her nose.
"I know," she murmured. "Let me get you some water."
"No! I don't need water! I need to go back!"
"Go back where?" To the bar? She wondered. To work?
Again she asked, "where?"
He shouted it even louder, as if the volume of his words helped her to understand them more. "I have to go back! Emily, you don't understand." He started to cry. "I'm not supposed to be here! I'm supposed to be there! I'm supposed to die with them! I'm a warrior!"
The realization hit her. The military.
"No, Sam," she said calmly, "you're supposed to be here. With us." She rubbed her belly with one hand and placed the other on his back. "You're done with that now. You're home."
"No!" He swatted her hand away. "My brothers are out there. They're dying! I should be there to help them!" He fell to his knees.
Suddenly her rage evaporated and left only a stain of guilt. This wasn't the first time this had happened. She knew how he felt about leaving the military. Simply put, he hadn't wanted to. Or at least, he thought he wanted to, but civilian life wasn't what he'd remembered and now he wanted to go back.
She felt so much sadness for this man. He loved so hard and with so much passion. She just wanted to help him, but she hadn't a clue how to begin. "I love you, Sam," she said gently, hoping he would find comfort in those words. She got down on her knees with him and cautiously wrapped her arms around him. "I know you want to go back. I'm sorry. I wish I knew what to do."
He turned into her chest. He sobbed. Tears, snot, and saliva soaking her shirt. She didn't mind. She just wanted him to let it all go. She wanted him to understand that it was okay and that she was willing to do whatever it took to help him.
"They killed him. I should've been there, and I wasn't."
She shushed him and rubbed his back. "There's nothing you could've done. You would've been killed if you had been there. It's okay."
He shook his head. "No, I should'be been there. I should've died with him."
She looked up at the ceiling, praying for something, anything, to help her get them through this night. "Please help me," she whispered.
Slowly the rage within him continued to build. The sobbing turned into roars again. He punched the floor beside her a few times. She held him tighter. "Please stop. It's okay."
He forced himself out of her arms and stood again. He was on a mission for something. What was he looking for? He dug through the top drawer of their dresser. It wasn't there. He crouched to look under the bed. Not there either. Finally, he opened the door to the closet, reached on the top shelf, and pulled out a little black box.
"Sam, what are you doing?"
He pulled out a small revolver. She'd forgotten it was there. His dad had given it to them. Something for protection since they lived in a less than ideal area of the city. At that time, she was unsure about it, but eventually came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to have it close. Now she was wishing she'd followed her instincts and given it back.
"Sam, please, put it away." She stood slowly. Her wide eyes darted back-and-forth from the gun to his face. "Sam," she said again, almost a whisper. "Please..."
He looked up at her. His face was contorted with anger and sadness. He opened the chamber and dumped the rounds in his hand. She wanted to feel relieved, but something inside her knew this wasn't over.
He stayed in the closet. Gun in one hand, bullets in the other, he held his head and rocked front-to-back, talking to himself about his past. He started to recite the recon creed. She'd heard it many times in the past from his lips. "Realizing it is my choice, and my choice alone, to be a Reconnaissance Marine. I accept the challenges involved with this profession..." As he continued to recite these sacred words, Emily moved closer, reaching carefully for the gun in his hand. "...never above you, never below you, always beside you. Valhalla," he finished.
She touched the cold metal of the barrel and eased it down toward the floor. "Let me have the gun, Sam." She felt his grip tighten. So did hers. "Sam, let me put this away."
He finally looked at her again. "You have no idea." He pulled her hand from the gun, placed one bullet in the chamber, and spun it closed. "I'm not supposed to be here."
"Sam..." The tears flowed heavily as she tried to take the gun again.
He brought the barrel to the side of his head.
He began reciting again. His finger wrapped around the trigger, squeezing slowly.
"Sam, listen to me! Put it down!'
He wasn't listening to a word she said. He just continued reciting. He pulled the trigger.
"No!" She fell to her knees in front of him, grabbing frantically at his shirt, trying to pull him back to the real world.
Only a click.
"Thank god," she gasped. "Put it down, Sam! It's obviously not your time to go." She looked up at him, still clinging to his hips like a child.
He continued to recite, removed the gun from his head, and pointed it at the ceiling. "...to quit, to give up, to surrender, is to fail..." He pulled the trigger again. Click. Two empty shots.
Emily tried running the odds through her head. How many rounds were in a revolver? Would he really go through them all until...
He returned it to his temple once more. "...honor, perseverance, spirit, and heart..."
She knew she couldn't get it away from him. He was too strong. She couldn't talk him down. He wasn't listening. But still she tried. She to her feet again again, pulling frantically at the hand holding the gun. She begged for him to listen to her.
"Sam, stop! No!"
The hammer pulled back. He effortlessly pushed her out of the closet with his free hand. She stumbled back onto her bottom, but she didn't care. All that mattered at that moment in time was getting that gun away from him. She lunged. He released the hammer.
He didn't move it from his head this time. He pulled the trigger quickly for the fourth time as she pushed the gun up away from his head. Click.
Emily took the gun by the barrel and managed to twist it until it released from his hands. She'd learned that in a self-defense class last year.
She stumbled out of the closet away from him. One thing they didn't taught her in that self-defense class was how the darn thing worked. How was she supposed to get the bullet out? Hands shaking, she fumbled with it only for a few seconds before she was pushed forward onto the bed. The gun flew onto the pile of pillows bunched in the corner. She was able to catch herself with one hand so she didn't land on her protruding stomach.
He followed her onto the bed, grabbing for the gun. She rotated her hips and kicked him in the stomach with her bare foot, knocking him back to the floor. From there, she was able to lean forward and grab it herself, but before she could climb off the bed, his weight was on top of her. He was so much faster than she was. He pressed his knee down into her thigh, the weight of his body resting on her stomach. She cried out, unable to form coherent words.
Again, he tried to grab the gun. She wouldn't let go. She couldn't let him He tried the same twisting method that was successful for her just moments ago. She was careful to keep her finger away from the trigger, but he twisted the barrel toward her now until it was pointed directly at her belly. Coming to this realization quickly, she let go and kicked him backward again.
He stood, put the gun to his head again, and screamed. Click. Back at the ceiling and with no hesitation, he pulled it once more.
Her hands covered her ears, but it was too late. There was only ringing. She could see him shouting things again, but she couldn't hear a thing he was saying. He tossed the gun away and sank to the floor in defeat. In a fetal position, he lay there and continued to cry.
Slowly, Emily's hearing began to come back. Eyes fixated on the man in front of her, she cautiously worked her way over to the gun and hid it away in the bottom of the clothing hamper next to the closet. From there she leaned against the wall for support and slid to the floor. No more tears fell. She watched him from her seat next to the clothing hamper on the floor for what felt like hours, rubbing her large belly and humming a soothing song. At the while, she could only feel guilt and sorrow for this man that had almost killed himself.
Eventually, his sobs faded into snores, her humming stopped, and she too fell asleep.