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A Woman's Work

A Woman's Work

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Sometime's a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
Sometime's a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

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Published by: Renee Miller-Johnston on Aug 28, 2010
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05/12/2014

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A Woman’s Work… By Renee Miller

The dim hallway, smelling faintly of pot smoke and fish, stretched before her. Diana remained rooted at the top of the dingy stairs. She wanted to do it, had sought him out, followed him here, and spent weeks planning this moment. But now, before the reality and knowing that at the end of the hall apartment 4E held her beginning—or her end—paralyzed her. “Deep breath, Diana. He’s just a man.” Just a man. A man who couldn’t hurt her anymore. She was a big girl, strong, independent and intelligent. He had no power left. Diana stepped forward, her legs trembling in anticipation and just a little fear. What would he say? Would he be happy to see her? Would he think she’d come to beg his forgiveness? Probably. Jack had always been arrogant. Jack was The Man, after all. The Man did whatever he wanted. A baby’s cries in 4A brought Diana’s mind back to the present. Next door, in 4C, a man yelled and dishes crashed. She cringed but continued to place one foot in front of the other, moving toward the last door. In 4D, scratches echoed from behind the door, an animal or something tried to get out. She didn’t want to think about it; she’d scratched, clawed and hammered at a door that wouldn’t open. People like her, trod the hallways, listening but ignoring her desperate pleas for help. Maybe when she finished in 4E she’d knock on 4C and ask the woman inside if she was okay. The woman would lie, as Diana had so many times, and say everything was fine. She wouldn’t believe it.

Music rocked 4E as Diana approached, to the familiar growl of Nine Inch Nails. How she hated that sound. She used to love it, until...it didn’t matter. None of that mattered. She was here, it was time, and Jack hadn’t won. She reached up. Her hand stopped, fingers closed into a fist just an inch away from the brown painted door. The E was crooked, a screw missing, and wood splintered around a newish looking knob. Someone must have broken in—or out. The thought steeled her resolve. Diana knocked. The music blared. She knocked harder, rattling the door on its hinges. The music played on. Diana tried the knob. It turned. Her heart leapt to her throat, icy fingers of fear crept over her back and she pushed them away. She was not afraid. He could not hurt her. Pushing the door, she jumped back when it flung away from her hand. Her mouth dried as her gaze met his. Jack. Her lover. Jack. Her tormentor. Jack. Her killer. “What—no, you’re dead,” he stammered. “Yes, that’s what they think. Isn’t it?” Her courage returned as his face paled, a hand fluttering to his unshaven jaw. Jack always rubbed his jaw when he was agitated. Next he’d run a hand through his brown hair, a bit unkempt now, but still with that boyish curl. His blue eyes were red rimmed, and faded just a little. Did he miss her? Diana’s chest tightened at the thought. No. She didn’t care.

“But I saw you. I saw you...” the hand met his hair and she laughed. Yes, he saw her. He put the bullet in her after all, watched as she pitched over the bridge, and helped her along to make sure she didn’t regain her footing. Then he’d lied when they couldn’t find her body. Lied like the snake he was. Why? Because she tried to run. No one ran from Jack. He smiled then, a familiar light flashed in his eyes. Diana’s hand tightened around the cool metal in her pocket. “I guess I’ll have to do it right this time, won’t I?” Diana pulled his gun, the gun he’d tossed over the bridge after her. He stiffened. “No, Jack. You can’t do it right. You’ll never do it right.” “You won’t shoot. They’ll catch you. They’ll know.” “But I’m dead, honey. You killed me.” She squeezed the trigger. He fell back. Her finger pressed the mechanism twice more, to make sure. Then she turned away, walking back down the hallway, without stopping at 4C. Doors opened a crack, but no one came out. Just like the day she died. No one wanted to get involved.

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