Waking abruptly, drenched in sweat, she rolled off of the couch and stumbled to the window.
He's still gone. She glared at the apartment across the alleyway. He's still gone.
Closing the blinds, she wiped the sweat off of her face. It was just another nightmare. She walked over to the counter. There was a bar that wrapped around the kitchen and stopped at the door. She glanced at the hammer and screwdriver; they hadn't been put away since installing new locks a few weeks back.
The woman grabbed them and slowly made her way to the closet. She opened the door, turned the light on, and stared blankly at the rope. After a minute, she sighed out, moved it to the right, and placed the tools behind it. She turned off the light and closed the door.
As she headed back to the kitchen, she turned on the ceiling fan in the living room. The girl poured herself some water, and gulped it down. From the corner of her eye, she noticed the locks and bolts on the front door. Frantically, she unhinged all of them, then slowly began to re-lock every individual lock, making sure they were tight and secure.
Her head rested against the door, and her lungs let out a dry cough. She felt unsafe, and uneasy, even though there were numerous new precautions in place.
Her body jumped to the sound of someone knocking at the door. Peeking into the hole, she realized it was her mother. Quietly, she unlocked everything once again. The woman halted before releasing the final chain. Do I really want to let anyone in? She was cautious; the anxiety overwhelming her. She snapped out of it, and opened the door.
"Hey, sweetie," her mom said, inviting herself into the apartment. "I hope you're well."
The girl nodded.
With her head down, the mom walked to the counter. She placed some flowers and chocolates alongside the bar.
"I brought these for you." Her mom smiled.
The daughter looked at the gifts, then at her mom. She tried to smile, but any attempt to do so quickly faded back into a blank expression.
The mother looked into her daughter's eyes; it hurt her to see that she's in so much pain. "I know, honey." She put her hand near hers, trying to be hopeful. "It hasn't been easy for you. Since it happened, and since court. But things will work out, they have to."
The girl looked up at her mom, then pulled her hand back. She nodded, but isn't as optimistic.
"I guess I should get going." The mom started to head towards the door. "I love you, sweetie. Please text me when you're ready to talk."
Nodding her head, she motioned to her mom goodbye. Her mother walked out and shut the door behind her.
She quickly stepped to the door and tightly secured all of the locks. Turning around towards the bar, she grabbed the dark coconut chocolate and the bright red roses, then tossed them into the trash. Gifts won't make me feel better. I want him gone, I want to forget. She fell to the ground in tears. Will I ever be okay?
Tiredly, she made her way to the couch and passed out in an instant. She slept a lot since it happened. She didn't feel safe in her bedroom, so the couch was her go-to place.
She jumped up scared, panting. Stop, no, she thought, then realized it was just the nightmare again. Putting her hands to her chest, she let out a loud cry. Please, just stop.
Someone knocked at the door.
Her eyes still full of tears, she stepped from the couch and made her way to the repetitive sound of the knocking. I just want to be alone. Why can't everyone just leave me alone?
She looked through the hole; it was her brother. She unlocked the door, and let him in.
"Hey sis," he said as he entered, still wearing his army uniform. He shut the door and noticed the locks. "I tried to come as soon as I coul-" She jumped into his arms, gripping him tightly.
"Sis?" He asked. But he let it go, and held her. She cried onto his shoulder. His whole body is filled with anger and disbelief as he looked into her apartment.
"This is how you're living now?" He asked. The couch was made into a bed, and all of her clothing was on the floor. "You're no longer comfortable in your own room, in your own house?"
She shook her head, still crying.
His face bright red and his fists clenched, "I ought to kill the fucker." She cried harder. "That fucking piece of shit rapist deserves to die. Look at what he's done to you. He's destroyed you." He paused, hugged her tighter, and started to cry. "I'm so sorry, sis. I should have been here for you. I should have stopped it. I could have done somethi-"
"Stop," she said.
Her brother's eyes opened wide, and he took a step back from his sister. "You-You can talk?" He stuttered. "I don't understand. You're mute, how are you talking?"
She wiped the tears off of her face, and grabbed the notebook and pen. She wrote something down and handed it to him.
I can't talk. I'm still mute. I don't know why, but as it was happening, I was able to speak.
He looked up at her, then continued.
As it happened, I was able to say 'stop' and 'no'. But that's all I have been able to say since then.
He crumbled the page up, and threw it to the side. He looked back at her, both of them crying. "If he doesn't get sentenced tomorrow, I am going to kill him," he said sternly.
Their hug seemed endless, but it was over in a minute. He kissed her cheek goodbye, and left. After locking the door, she fell to the floor and dozed off until the next morning.
She lifted her head as someone softly knocked on the door. "Honey..." her mom called out. "Please open your door. I really need to see you,"
With her hands covering her ears, she tried to ignore her mom. I wish everything and everyone would just go away. I know what this is about, I know why you're here. I just don't think I am ready to hear it.
She heard her mom sigh through the door. "I will call you later," she said. When the sound of her footsteps faded away, the girl started to cry. I can't take this anymore. She tried to stand and walk away but fell to the floor, in the middle of the living room. With tears streaming down the sides of her cheeks, she stared at the ceiling fan, watching it go around and around, for hours.
She snapped out of her gaze to the excruciating sound of the phone's annoying ringer. She had been expecting her mom to call but can't muster the will to stand up.
The phone continued to ring, and then clicked. After the beep, her mom left a message:
"Hey, honey. I would have preferred to tell you this in person, but you didn't answer your door earlier, and now you aren't answering the phone. I guess you know it's the day, and you were afraid to hear the news. I'm sorry baby, but the court found him innocent-"
Her heart dropped.
"-and they let him go this morning. Without any outstanding evidence, or a witness, they can't corroborate your testimony. I'm sorry. Come here if you need to. Please reach out to me or your brother, we are here for you. We'll be stopping by later tonight. I love you. Talk to you soon."
She climbed up from the ground and ran to the window; her heart beating erratically. She stared at the apartment across the alley again. This time, it isn't empty. The man stared right back at her, smiling. She took a deep breath, calmed herself down, then closed the blinds.
She grabbed a chair from the bar and dragged it to the living room, right underneath the ceiling fan where she was lying down. She headed into the closet, opened the door, turned the light on, and stared at the rope again. After a minute, she grabbed it and walked back into the living room. She climbed the chair, and tied the rope onto the fan.
This was the first time in weeks that she hasn't felt the need to cry. This was the first time in weeks that she's smiled. For her, the nightmare was finally over.
She tied the rope around her neck, let out her final breath, and stepped off of the chair.