She responded turning around and walking to the back room. She pulled her jacket out of her locker and shrugged it on. She sat down on the bench with her purse held on her lap, silently waiting for Jane to finish up so they could go home. She knew she would get into trouble for leaving those jerks unattended, but that would be child’s play compared to what Ricky would do if he walked in and found her with them.
Maria took a deep breath and fought the urge to search for Ricky, fearing he might at any second attack her for the idiot’s remark. The thought of another beating sent a cold chill down her back, and it angered her that she lived in constant fear. She hated men. If she could, she would take them all out, starting with Ricky, then the assholes at her table and then maybe find her dad and kill him too. If he bothered to visit once in a while, he would have taken care of Ricky like a father should and she would finally breathe easy.
She hated men.
Every single one of them.
They were like roaches infesting the world, never dying. And if one did, another one was born to replace him and pick up the trend of objectifying, hurting and using women like toilet paper.
Michael was a child, so he didn’t count.
Maria stood on the porch and watched Jane drive away before she went into her home. Edna was wonderful enough to take care of both their kids while they were at work, but Maria always felt like she was taking advantage of her mother, all things considered. She went into her son’s room to watch him sleep. She loved doing that. It gave her the peace that she so badly needed. She sat down next to him gently stroking his long hair. Edna always said he looked like Miguel, but Maria could see some traces of Ricky and she hated that. He had his brown eyes, his chin and a stare that scared her when he got mad because she could see more of Ricky in it than her beautiful son. But the rest he got from her or Miguel.
She reached down and kissed his forehead. He stirred awake and turned to face her, his fists rubbing his sleepy eyes, “Mama.” he whispered.
“Hi honey, go back to sleep.” She pulled the covers higher under his arms. He stretched his arms out for a hug. Maria bent down and held her son tightly against her. She loved him so much, she was sure it was what kept her alive.
“Sleep here with me please?”
Prompted by the worry in his voice, Maria pulled him back and stared at him. The only time he asked her to sleep in his bed was when Ricky was drunk or he was scared, and there was only one thing that frightened him—Ricky.
How long was she going to let her family suffer in the hands of that drunken mad man?
She nodded, getting into bed and holding him tight against her. But for some reason, it felt like he was holding onto her. She held back a sob and wiped her flowing tears away. She couldn’t let this go on much longer. She needed to find a way out.
It felt like she’d barely fallen asleep when all hell broke loose. Michael shook her awake up, screaming in fear.
It only took the sound of his voice for her to know there was trouble. She scrambled out of bed and stood by her son’s locked door. She whimpered in fear watching Edna lean against it fighting to keep Ricky from knocking it down. He was screaming for Maria, threatening to burn down the house if she didn’t open the door. Maria looked at her scared mother and her crying son. It took all she had to keep from breaking down. She didn’t doubt Ricky would carry out his threat. She needed to get them out of the house. With trembling legs, she ran to the window and opened it wide. It was just a few feet to the ground. Michael could reach it.
“Baby come here,” she held her hands out for him, but he shook his head. “Michael please!” she begged desperately, very close to crying.
“Grandma first!” he insisted.
Maria looked at her mother and then at her son. He wasn’t going to budge unless she went first. Maria picked up his chair and wedged it against the doorknob.
“Open up you bitch! If I get my hands on you I’ll kill you!” Ricky’s hoarse voice rang from behind the door.
The banging got harder, and Ricky got madder, scaring Maria even more, turning her whimper into a muffled cry. She wanted to curl up in a foetal position and just weep, but she pushed the thought away. She needed to protect her son. If Ricky got his hands on any one-off them he would kill them for sure.
“Mama, go and take Michael with you!” Maria pinned her weight against the door just in case the chair slides out of place. Edna went through the window first, and then helped Michael out. When they were both a distance from the house, Maria ran for the window, jumped out and ran for the car.
Ricky appeared out of nowhere. He chased after them screaming and yelling. Maria ran faster, her energy fuelled by intense fear, catching up to Michael and her mother easily. She scooped up her son and held him against her like a football as she ran.
“Mama run faster!” she called out to Edna. She ran faster, reaching the car the same time as Maria. She got into the car and took Michael from Maria and cradling him on her lap while Maria started the car and drove away like a mad woman.
Maria watched Ricky through the rear-view mirror as he chased after the car for a while before giving up. They drove for a few minutes, and Maria checked behind them again. She wanted to make sure Ricky wasn’t following them anymore. When she couldn’t see him, she pulled over and started crying. All the frustration, anguish and fear she had been holding inside finally made its way out. God she was tired. She was so tired. She felt Michael quietly wrap his tiny arms around her neck and hug her head against his. This only made Maria cry harder. She heard the passenger door open then close, and then her door opened.
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