A mother’s love has no boundaries.
A cold draft crept underneath the door. Joseph shivered, snuggling against his mother. Mary shifted his body where his head rested on the inside of her arm. She ran her fingers through his curls until he calmed.
She sat up. The room was well furnished and opened compared to Mary’s usual living conditions. The bed wasn’t a stained mattress on the floor. She now slept on a full size lifted with oak beams and blanketed with clean bedding.
A one-sided smile rose then quickly faded. How long had it been since she smiled? Three, maybe two weeks. The days were lost along with part of herself several miles away in town. Mary leaned to the side, allowing Joseph to slowly fall into her cup hands.
She placed him beside her then pulled the sheets midway up his body. Joseph curled into acceptance of his placement. His chest falling and rising with ease. Joseph’s eyelashes fluttered. Dreaming, Mary thought with a smile. He was all that matter. The here and the now.
Mary ran her hand up her face and winced. She laughed weakly. “Almost forgot.”
The bathroom was adjacent to the bed. A pearly white that shone with order with a flick of a switch. Mary ran her fingers up her face again, this time passing the large welts that bubble with crusted blood near her eye.
Pushing her hair back, she exposed a stream of clotted blood near her temple. “I look like shit.” She sighed, shaking her head.
Running lukewarm water, Mary ran her hands through, her gaze captivated at the woman in the mirror. Her right eye had swollen completely now and one side of her lip clotted with blood.
She opened her mouth slightly, dabbing water where the blood had dried. Mary gritted her teeth. A single touch had her quivering. It was worth it, she told herself, glancing back over at Joseph. It was worth it.
Taking a deep breath, she cleared her thoughts and went back into the room. She sat on the bed then rubbed Joseph’s back. His skin was soft and smooth expect one area where purple and red wrapped his waist.
Her gripped was too firm. As painful as it was to admit, she rather he had the minor bruise parallel to the “what if” if she’d had let him go. Mary pulled the sheet up to his shoulders. “I’m so sorry, Joseph. Just a little longer and we’ll be okay. I prom—”
There was a buzz vibrating between her breasts. She parted them and grabbed the cell phone lodge between. The screen was cracked, distorting the caller ID to non-recognition.
She took a deep breath, her thumb shaking over the answer button. “It’s not him.” She breathed. Then why did she had a chilling feeling that it was?
The phone went silence; the call missed. She sighed. If it was him, she would never know now. Mary tilted her head, dropping the phone on the bed. “Thank God,” she whispered.
The phone buzzed again, the screen shining through the spider web cracks. Again, she picked it up, this time pressing the button in panic.
Damnit, she thought, Damnit.
Mary hesitated until the voice came across familiar and concerned.
“Hello, Mary? Hello?”
“Hel-lo?” Mary responded with a shaky resolve.
“Mary? Mary is that you?”
“Laney? Laney, how did you get this number?” Mary stood, pacing to the window and peered. The streets were covered in ice and snow. The parking lot empty.
“Mary, what do you mean? Erik gave me the number. He said you ran off with Joseph. Where are you? Is the baby okay?”
Mary pinned the phone between her shoulder and cheek. This can’t be. Why did he call Laney? She went over to the door and latched the lock and then went to the side of the bed where she slept.
Bending, Mary pulled a large blue duffle bag from underneath. “Laney, whatever you do don’t tell Erik you reached me, okay? I’m leaving and I’m taking Joseph.” She glanced over at her son. She had to leave. And she had to leave fast.
“Mary, what the hell is going on? Erik is right here.”
Mary’s eyes widened, she jerked her head nearly dropping the phone. “Laney, no. No. No. Laney. Please tell me you’re lying and this is one of your jokes?”
There were whispering in the background but Mary knew she wasn’t. He was there.
Laney came back to the phone, clearing her throat. “No. I was just kidding sorry about that. I’m just worried.”
There was another pause and then Laney spoke, “Mary. I know this is off topic and all but grandma wanted me to tell you she loved that red rose you bought her and was wondering if it was okay if she can buy you a blue tulip. She said it reminded her of that time in spring where we all picked flowers in the meadow. Remember? She misses you a lot.”
Mary walked to the window, sorrow drawn on her face.
The storm was treacherous. If she went out there was a slim chance of her surviving. Then what was the chances for Joseph? Slowly, Mary drew the curtains down and sat on the bed. “I remember,” she said, aimlessly gazing at the closet next to the bathroom.
“Remember how grandma always wanted us to be alert when we played by the bank?” Laney reminded her. “‘You never know what might be hiding in the stream’, she’d say. Remember when I found that old can with that snake inside?” Laney let out feeble chuckle. “Scared me to death.”
Mary raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, and grandma told us to always watch our surroundings.” She didn’t realized the opened closet until now. Maybe because it was a thin slit in the wall that barely fitted anything in it. Or because she didn’t think she needed to hide any longer.
Laney voice’s trailed when Mary sat the phone beside her. She was faint but Mary could make out bits and pieces of what was said. She was stalling. Why? Mary pulse quickened.
Inside the closet; three shelves stacked the top, the rest was wall and flooring. She reached and searched for anything that can be used for defense and found nothing but nicely folded liens and towels on top.
Mary scoffed, flopping to the floor. She picked up the phone and placed it back in its original place. “Laney—”
“Mary, come home. Please…”
Laney’s voice trailed once more as Mary’s attention caught a displaced wall. Mary focused on removing the wall, squeezing her fingers through the gap. She inhaled between pulls. The sectioned she pried, snapped, revealing a hidden compartment. Mary heaved up then grabbed the linens and towels off the shelves.
“MARY!” Laney called.
Mary stopped, her hand hovering a shelf. “I’m sorry. Yes. Please tell grandma I would like that.” She made a nice bedding out of the linens and towels inside the opened space.
“Mary,” Laney was crying now. “Mary, he’s gone. He’s gone and I’m afraid for you. You have to run. You have to run now.”
Mary’s breathing was heavy now, tears streaming her face but she smiled. “I know. He was never patient. Remember when my mom caught him in my room with his pants down?” She laughed weakly.
Laney shuddered a sigh. “I remember, you told me all she did was send him away.”
Mary nodded, knowing Laney couldn’t see her. “Yup.”
Laney finished the story. “And you got a beaten for seducing him.” She let out a sarcastic laugh. “You, seducing him? Funny. When he had you tied up and given you a black eye. His penis was basically in you by the time your mother came.”
Mary ran her fingers through her hair. “Good ol’ parenting for you. When do you think, I can get that flower?”
Mary heard Laney’s voice cracked. “Ten minutes?”
Mary whispered into the phone. “I’ll pin it in the closet on that nice dress. You know the one? The black one with the nice floral design? It’ll be next to the large discolored stain on the wall.”
“Yeah, I know the one.” Laney let out a frail sigh.
She cleared her voice. “Tell grandma thank you.”
“You tell her. I’m sure you’ll see her before I will.”
The thought made Mary grimaced. “Yeah. I think so too,” she said before ending the call.
Mary bustled around the room, shoving furniture in front of the windows and door. Then she snuggled Joseph in her arms and kissed him lightly on the forehead.
In the closet, she placed a pocket light, Laney bought her before their summer trip as a bargain above the bedding and then placed him in. She nestled a towel around her him then clicked the wall back in place with ease.
After a few minutes of pacing she slumped against the wall across from the front door, her head in her hands. He was coming. Laney stayed less than a few miles away from where she stayed.
Even if she wanted to run she couldn’t. She was surrounded by ice and woods. Taking a baby in that kind of weather would be murder. Plus, running and hiding was futile. Each time made him more violent. Yet, she hoped this would be the last.
Maybe she was partial to blame, listening to her mother pleads to not turn him in, “He’s sick,” she would say, “There’s something wrong with him mentally.”
She shook her head. Now look what listening got her, alone in the middle of nowhere with a psycho chasing her. There was no use saving herself, but she could at least protect the only person that mattered. Joseph.
As long as he was safe and able to live a normal life then all the pain she encountered from here on was worth it.
More minutes passed and Mary’s head started to drift to the side, her eyes shutting of exhaustion and worry. When she opened them again she was surrounded in a field of flowers. Red and blue, their petals dancing around her. An amber glow in a meadow of colors. Joseph was there and her grandmother and Laney too.
Laney twirled amongst the flowers while their grandmother knitted. Joseph was turned on his back in a bed of posies. He little hands raised, waving in the air as butterflies fluttered above him.
His giggled and their smiles made Mary’s thin line rise into an enormous grin. It was the spring following her son’s birth. He was only five months but Laney begged her to come. Now she was glad to have experienced such warmth.
That memory alone made her have no regrets. She had been the best mom she could possibly be and Joseph would always have the feeling of her even after the memory faded. Her eyes swelled at the corners and tears made their way down her sleeping face.
The door’s handle jiggle woke Mary. She stood, approaching it with caution.
“Mary. Mary.” He pounded on the door until the wood split. Mary saw the butt of the gun and ran to the bathroom locking herself inside. Outside, she heard the door being forced opened and the sound of furniture being toppled to the side. He came to the bathroom door with the same process.
“Mary! Mary, I know you hear me got damnit.”
Mary covered her ears with her hands, rocking back and forth on the toilet’s lid.
“Open the got damn door, you stupid bitch.” Another bang on the door sent her jumping to a stance.
She clenched her fists. “Go away. Go away, Erik. I don’t want you like that. Why do you keep trying to force me?” Mary stepped back towards the tub.
There was an eerie silence that made the hairs stand on her arms. Did he find Joseph? Her heart pounded. The thought of Erik touching her son made every inch of her crumble. The same instance as she reached for the handle the door shook.
“You stupid whore. What do you mean, ‘You don’t want me like that’?”
Mary kept stepping back, shaking her head in disbelief. This can’t be happening. The possibilities… the chances… this could not be happening.
“You hear me?” Erik’s voice boomed in her ears. “You hear me? It’s not what you want. It’s what I want. You think I wasn’t going to find out you slept with someone else and got pregnant? You think, I’m that stupid? I told you. You’re mine. And will always be mine.”
Mary couldn’t speak. She couldn’t think. The beating of her heart pounded too loud for her to grasp anything.
The door shuddered repeatedly. Mary screamed. “Stop it, Erik. Stop it.”
“Stop it? I’m just getting started.”
Mary’s last step backwards sent her sprawling in the tub as the door laid on the floor split.
Erik stomped on the frame with a gun aimed between her eyes. “Stand up.” Mary stood, her hands raised, trembling. Erik stepped to the side and gestured Mary to go ahead of him. As she walked over the door, Erik pressed the gun to the middle of her back. “Don’t try anything stupid.”
The nicely made room was now ransacked. The bed flipped and the duffle bag contents splayed across the carpet.
Erik poked the middle of her back hard with the gun. Pressing his mouth to her ear he said, “Over there.” When they reached the turned mattress, he flipped it over. “Sit. Reminds you of home, huh?”
Mary sat, her hands in her lap. Erik stood in front of her with the barrel still pointed. “Erik, I–”
“Don’t speak. I don’t want to hear anything that comes out your mouth.” He looked her up and down. “Take off your shirt?”
“What?” Mary leaned back.
“I said, take off your got damn shirt.” He pulled at her blouse but Mary pushed him back. Erik jeered, wrapping his hands around her neck, pushing her on her back. He yanked off her shirt and grabbed her breast.
Mary turned her face, biting on her quivering lip.
“Look at me. Mary! I said look at me got damnit. Why want you look at me?”
Mary kept her gaze averted. “Because you’re my brother.”
Erik clenched his fist. “Why do everyone keep saying that?” He punched his Mary in the face. “Why? I am not your brother. It was a mistake. God made a mistake. Mother told me. You’re lying. You’re lying!”
Mary managed to lift her hand to his face. She yanked and scratched and pushed but she couldn’t get him off her. By the fourth or fifth blow she of his face blurred. She turned her head to the side, using her arms as shield.
For a moment, she saw the scarce pearly white of the moon framed in iced but then the flowers of red and blue danced before her. She smiled, unknowingly.
“You think this shit is funny?” Erik continued to batter Mary until her blood was all she saw. Even his grunts and heaves grew soft in tone.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
A sound so powerful that even Mary heard it. Then came a loud scream; a baby’s cry. Mary sucked in air, gasping. “Jo…seph.” She had to get to him. She had to make sure he was safe but her body was no longer in her control.
Mary laid there, her hand out reached toward the closet. “Jo…seph.”
She lifted her head, blood draining from her ears. Sound exploded to life; feet rushing across the floor, bodies scuffling and a woman sniffling. Mary turned to the person who now held her upper half with a half-opened eye she said, “Lan…ey.”
“Mary…” Laney’s voice choked.
Mary forced a smile, lifting a bloody finger to Laney’s cheek. “I saw… her… before you.”
“Mary, stop talking, honey. Someone help!” Laney shouted.
“I’m going to…thank her…” Blood spewed from the corners of her mouth. “It was more than… ten min…”
Laney’s panic shook in her voice. “Someone, please! Mary, hang in there. Mary.”