Derek stopped when he saw Janet standing in the doorway. Her hand was over her heart and silent tears that matched his own were streaming down her face.
“No” he thought to himself, “she can’t do that”.
He became angry with her again. She had deprived them all of the joy that should be here in this moment and he would not comfort her for it.
He stormed past her through the door, grabbing her arm in the process with the intention of pulling her into the living room for a talk. It was time for her to tell him exactly why she had come here.
When his hand grabbed around her forearm, however, she gasped and hugged her arms to herself as she practically dove into the nursery.
He stared at her in anger and confusion. She had taken a protective stance between him and the baby.
“Jesus.” he whispered. “What did he do to you?”
Janet sank to the floor and began to sob uncontrollably.
Derek swallowed the lump that had suddenly made its way to his throat and walked slowly over to her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gently led her into the living room.
Once they reached the couch, Derek released Janet so she could sit down. He moved back to stand a short distance from her while she regained her composure.
“I’m sorry.” Janet said through tears.
Derek released a heavy sigh. “I would rather hear you tell me what the hell is going on than an apology.”
Janet shook her head. “Joseph has been staying drunk lately and when he drinks, he can become violent. Earlier tonight, he came home drunk and covered in lipstick and perfume from another woman. When he came up to me and tried to get me into his bed, I refused; I was repulsed by him. He…” she trailed off.
“He what?” snapped Derek. He was fairly certain he knew where this story was headed and he was already pissed.
“He hit me then dragged me to his room.” Janet stopped talking and started crying again.
“I will kill that son of a bitch!” he yelled.
“Wait!” Janet pleaded.
“Wait?! Wait for what?!” Derek shouted.
“Please don’t leave.” She answered.
Derek studied her while trying to calm himself so he could come up with a more calculated plan for Janet’s husband. Thinking of her marriage to someone else didn’t help his anger and he ended up growling and pulling at his hair.
Janet continued, “When he passed out I grabbed the baby and diaper bag and ran. I didn’t know where I was going until we were pulling into your driveway.”
Derek knew that meant Joseph would be coming to him as soon as he was awake and sober enough to try to take them back by force. That worked for him.
“I’m so sorry.” She said again.
He rolled his eyes and scoffed. He hadn’t heard her apologize this much since the day she left. He didn’t believe that she was sorry then but he was willing to bet that she was sorry now.
He cut his gaze at her then walked passed her to go to his bedroom. He heard her start to cry again behind him. He told himself, no matter what, he was not going to try to console her. She got them all into this mess and while he would help to clean it up, he would not allow himself to become attached to her again.
He went into his bedroom and opened the closet door. After moving all of his things to the side, he reached in and grabbed the few things that Janet had accidentally left behind. He remembered the day he found them in the laundry room.
He had thought about throwing them in the trash then about burning them. He had thought about taking them to her at her new home and throwing them in her face. Ultimately he ended up leaving them in the laundry room floor until, in a drunken stupor, he found himself crying into them until he passed out.
He leaned his head against the door frame and let out a weary sigh before straightening himself and going back into the living room. He threw the clothes next to her on the couch then looked at them as though they had somehow known this day would come.
He rolled his eyes as his ridiculous thoughts and turned away to head into the kitchen.
“You know how to find the shower.” He stated.
Janet looked at the clothes that Derek had washed and kept all this time. She had left them intentionally, hoping that they might provide her with an excuse to come back one day. She had never found the courage to come back and figured at some point that he would have thrown them out. She chose an outfit and stood to look at him.
His back was to her as she walked around the couch and stopped behind it. She could walk straight to him or she could take a left to go to the shower. She stood there, watching his back as he moved around the kitchen that used to be theirs. He had started the coffee maker and was now wiping down the counters. She knew he was just trying to keep himself busy and distracted from her, it was his way. She smiled a sad little smile before turning to go to the shower.
Derek wondered why she was just standing there staring at his back not talking. He was glad she hadn’t said she was sorry again, he didn’t think his nerves could take another apology.
He shook his head and reached into the cabinet to retrieve two coffee cups. He placed them next to the coffee maker and filled his cup. He debated on making her coffee for her. He still remembered how she took it, but decided that she could make her own damn coffee.
He took his seat at the kitchen table, sat his cup down, put his head in his hands and tried to focus on breathing. He needed to be calm and come up with a plan for her husband. Her husband, he repeated to himself. Not you.
He growled and started focusing on his breathing again. Her husband, he thought again with distain, will be showing up soon to reclaim his wife and baby. Derek knew he couldn’t allow them to go. Joseph was clearly no good and he would definitely retaliate against Janet for coming here. He knew he was in one of those situations that always led to someone’s death.
He had investigated enough murder cases to know that abusive and controlling husbands always either got their way or killed the estranged wife. Sometimes the wife was prepared to defend herself and the husband ended up dead. Other times, a relative or friend or an ex would take them in and someone always died there too; sometimes the “help” and sometimes the husband. Sometimes multiple people died before the situation came to an end.
Derek hit his forehead with his palm. He was tired and his line of thinking was just leaving him more exasperated. He started taking bigger drinks of his coffee, hoping to clear his mind enough to focus on what the hell he was going to do.
When Janet stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She had bruises on her neck, shoulders, stomach, sides, thighs and around the tops of her arms and wrists. She looked like she had been in a terrible accident, at least her torso looked like it had been in an accident. Joseph had become a pro at leaving marks she could hide. Even the ones around her neck were low enough to cover with most of her shirt collars.
She hated her life. Why she had ever thought that he would be good to her, she’ll never know. Hind sight is 20/20 she reminded herself as she dressed. When she caught herself trying to adjust the collar to cover the bruises, she stopped and growled at herself. She didn’t have to do that anymore; what he had done tonight had been the last straw.
If she had thought for one second that everything would lead her back here, she would have just stayed. It may have saved them all the extra misery of the past year. She shook her head to clear it before walking back toward the kitchen.
Derek was sitting at the table with his head in his hands. Her heart sank. He was the person she loved the most in the world and somehow was also the person she has hurt the most. She would never be able to make up for this mess or thank him for his help now.
He raised his head when he heard her coming up behind him. “Coffee’s on the counter.” He said flatly.
Janet walked to the counter and made her coffee then sat down at the table. She was trying to think of something to say besides “I’m sorry” and “thank you” but was failing.
“I’m going to need to see and get pictures of all the marks he left. We will go to the hospital in the morning to get other evidence.” He said.
She shook her head in agreement and looked down at the table. She still couldn’t think of anything to say.
“We’ll get started in a bit, once we’ve had some coffee and a chance to catch our breath.” He continued.
She noticed that he was deliberately looking away from her and keeping the conversation on a non-personal level. He was being a cop, not her friend and she didn’t blame him. The thought made her feel heartbroken and grateful simultaneously.
They were sitting in awkward silence, not knowing what to say to each other when a crash sounded from outside.
*Thank You for reading!*
End of Story 5-Part 3
Copyright©2019 Jennifer Treece