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Chapter 1: A Necessary Compromise
I pushed my leg into the carpet and dredged up all my strength to propel myself forward at him. His towering form had turned, so I landed on his back, and I held my breath from crying out while we both clambered to the floor.
I forced my palms into his back, anxiously clawing to gain the upper-hand as his elbow whacked me in the forehead. He lurched forward in an attempt to flip me off, and I used the momentum to finally knock the back of his neck, just below his head. I heard the satisfying noise of a gag and coughing.
Exhausted, I rolled off his back, and landed on my side—closer to the floor than I had realized, and dragged myself to a squat. I looked down as he coughed again, and began to breathe normally. I nodded to myself, convinced, and forced him up.
"If you leave," he wheezed, "I will swallow the rest of what's in that bottle."
"I can't stay. I can't be here anymore, John. I will leave this place, and you will let me," I slouched into myself trying to steady my breath.
"You can't! I'll kill myself!"
Tears ran down my face and I moved my hands to quickly wipe them away, a sign that this—this entire day—had bested my endurance. This entire year had taken my heart away.
"Look, John," I responded, the tears shaking my voice, "I can't keep doing this. I'm exhausted. I can't keep myself here, knowing that tomorrow I will be going to work, to work my ass off, to come home, to this place. I'm angry. I shouldn't have to take care of you. I didn't marry you to..." I trailed off, my words catching in my throat, and I looked up, my eyes searching his for understanding.
He shook his head back and forth.
"I will be leaving," I said, shakily. His hand reached for me and I backed up quickly, refusing to have his touch be one of the last things I remembered. "It'll be okay. It'll be better for you and me this way."
"Who'll take care of Eva?" he cried. "Don't you care about our dog?"
I sighed and looked away. This wasn't the first time I had heard this argument—or rather manipulation to get me to stay. I tried to remember a time in our relationship when he had not manipulated me.
"And what about me?" he questioned, wiping away some of his tears. "I'll be left on the street. No one will take care of me."
I shook my head, a statement echoing in my head before I said it, the last time, "It is not my job to take care of you. It never was. I did not marry you to become your caretaker."
I turned and walked quickly into the bedroom and began packing my clothes into my duffel, mechanically, tears falling down my face. The silence in my head thickened like a fog, and I could no longer hear him yelling at me, screaming for me to stop. I kept moving, until I felt my neck hair stand up and goosebumps traveled down my spine, his shouting on my neck from standing behind me.
"If you try to leave, I'll slash your tires!" he shouted, his face red from screaming, his eyes wild. I looked down, and felt my hair stand up on my neck as I saw the knife in his hand.
I quickly dropped everything and held my hands up. "Easy, John..." I trailed off as he cut me off, getting louder and closer.
"Easy? You want me to take it easy when you're threatening to leave? Fuck you, Jen. You're able to leave! But what about me?" He creeped closer as his voice was getting louder, and the back of my legs touched the bed. He began waving the knife while he yelled.
"John, just relax," I said, calmly, trying to keep my eye on the knife. I shuddered inside, and then I realized there was no way out safely. I’d have to say the words, words that I never wanted to say again, words that he was desperate to hear so desperate, he was waving a knife in my face.
"John, it's okay. I was just mad. I'm sorry." I held my hands up further, my voice cracking, and his face began to waiver. "I promise I love you; I'll stay."
He gasped and hugged me to his chest, and I felt the knife drop and scrape the back of my leg. His tears showered on me, as he sobbed. We cried, his tears of relief and my tears of pain flowing together. I steadied our footing.
"Look, I just need to take a walk. I need some time to decompress," I said, my voice shaking.
He nodded and let go. "You promise you won't leave?"
"I promise," I tell him. I smile slightly, and hope he doesn't notice how the smile doesn't reach my eyes.
"Mind if I take Eva with me?" I asked as I walked towards the door and slipped on my sandals.
"It's fine," he said, sinking into the couch. I saw him sigh, as I put the leash on Eva and began to walk out the door.
"I'll make the shopping list while I'm out," I shouted behind me as I walked down the stairs, my legs still shaking with nerves. I walked fast towards the dog park, and pulled out my phone, quickly dialing the numbers I had memorized weeks earlier, and brought the phone to my ear.
I let Eva off the leash in the dog gate, shaking as I thought of everything that had happened to me this year. John's threats and manipulations, my concern with doing what was right, and the threats to my job and personal goals. I tried to stop the flashbacks of every fight, every argument, every manipulation, and the promise I was about to break. The phone kept ringing, and I wondered momentarily if I'd actually dialed the wrong number. Then, finally, the ringing stopped.
"Sherronwood County Police Department, how may I help you?" the voice said.
"Please, my husband. I'm trying to leave, and he won't let me go. He threatened to slash my tires, he pulled a knife on me, and I'm afraid he might hurt himself, please!" I sobbed into the phone, my knees almost buckling from the weight lifting.
“We’ll send dispatch right out, ma’am. Your location?”
I shuddered and breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’m at the dog park. I left as soon as I could."