3. The Fall

CW: This content may be upsetting to some readers. Contains inference to r–e.

He is at her door again—knocking, banging, shaking the handle, whispering her name, yelling her name, demanding she let him in.

The girl is sitting in bed, smoking. She has smoked through her first pack and now desperately watches the second one dwindle. She curls her legs more tightly against herself, the fingers of her left hand strangling her left patella. She has been on a diet of cigarettes for the past two weeks, and her new edges cry to her each day.

The lights are off and she breathes as softly as she can. Steady. In and out, then inhale nicotine. Exhale slowly and repeat. Every time she lights a fresh cigarette, the click of her lighter is deafening. Only the silence and the darkness create a semblance of safety.

She knows that he knows she is here. He followed her here for Christ’s sake. But she pretends, anyway.

Once her last cigarette burns too near her fingers, she presses it firmly against the windowsill near her bed. Leaning back, the girl slips her fingers under her pillow to touch what she knows is there. The smoothness of her weapon comforts her. She runs her fingers up the gentle curve of the handle until she touches the head of the hammer and presses her thumb so firmly into edge of the claw that a deep valley forms at her fingertip.

He is quieter now, but most certainly still there. Her name comes from his lips like a moan. Like he’s in pain. Like he’s having sex. And she feels sick once again.

She has seen how this story could go. She’s heard the doorknob finally snap or break. He comes in. She will yell and scream and curse and he will laugh and then be serious and say he will not make her cry again. Not like the first or second or third time—no, he can do better. He will want to show her what he can do. To make it up to her. Of course, he will enjoy himself.

But she will not let it happen again.

She knows how the hammer will feel in her hand, how she will swing it directly at his temple, how it will sink into the soft joint between his parietal and temporal bones, how he will grunt and stare at her–startled, how he will fall from the force of the blow. She can smell his blood spreading over her once-spotless tiles, pungent and sharp and no longer in his body. It will be a large puddle of blood, she knows. Head wounds are like that.

While smoking her tenth cigarette, she considers trying to hide his body. She has bleach and tools to clean.

By her twelfth, though, she realizes this is just postponing the inevitable moment of conviction. No, she will not touch his body, but rather go straight to the police and confess. Maybe they will deport her immediately. Maybe they will keep her to be tried in China. She’s not sure how that works. She realizes she doesn’t care.

She does not yet know that he will break her doorknob partially but that the deadbolt stays secure. That when she finds the handle broken, she will carry it down to the guard who continues to let the man in because he has seen them both together before and why doesn’t she make up with him because he’s not a bad person. That she will throw the handle down at the guard’s feet and yell Who will fix this? Who will fucking fix this? That there will be a young Chinese woman in the same lobby with a small child with curious eyes clinging to her leg. The woman will be listening, frowning, killing the guard with her stare. Then the guard will be speechless for once and have no well-meaning advice, but will wait until the girl’s hysterics have dissipated to mutter I’m sorry.

No, the girl isn’t hysterical. She’s just tired of not being heard.

That won’t be the end of her troubles, but it will be the beginning of the end.

But that’s not right now.

Right now, she is curled up in bed with her comforter bunched around her, facing the door to the apartment. The hammer lies inconspicuous under her pillow.

Right now, the only thing she knows is that, if he comes in, she will kill him.

The girl fell a long time ago.

Right now, she is clinging to the edge of the cliff. Will someone reach down to her, or will she find the strength to climb back up herself?

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