She slams the door behind her and wedges the laundry basket under the handle. An absurd barricade, but comforting. The noise of her breath hissing through gritted teeth is deafening. She forces herself to breathe through her nose: in-out, in out, in… out.
Her hands are shaking. She puts them up to her face and only then realises she’s crying, her cheeks slippery with tears. It’s not sadness she feels, or even hurt. Just rage. She’s never known fury like it. Not even that time he borrowed her car without asking and wrapped it round a bollard at the precinct. Six hundred quid it cost to panel-beat the door. She was steaming, but he’d been so apologetic and promised to pay her back. That was still in the early days when she believed him.
Her nose is running. She reaches for the loo paper and glimpses herself in the shaving mirror. Bloody hell. Her neck is a patchwork map of the world, hot red shapes in the white sea of her skin. Under smeared mascara a neat cut dribbles a tiny ooze of blood. She fingers her cheekbone gingerly. Not broken, but she’ll have a shiner tomorrow.
Anger gives way to pain. Her wrist throbs and the skin prickles where she twisted her arm, trying to get out of his grip. She flexes her fingers. There’s a whiff of something… a peppery, acidic smell that seems out of place in a bathroom. Gravy. She looks down. Her shirt is stained brown and a squashed pea clings to her trousers. Her hipbone aches where the plate hit her.
She stands in the shower fully clothed. Water eddies at her feet, brown, red and black… then clear. Hot pins sting her face but she feels stronger. This is the last time.
She leaves her wet clothes in the bathtub and wraps herself in a warm towel. The laundry basket creaks as she moves it and steps out into the hall. There’s no other sound. Her bare feet slip slightly on the floorboards as she pads to the bedroom. His familiar barbershop smell is strong and it catapults her into a memory of laughter. For a second she thinks he’s in the room, but it’s empty, and the laughter is long gone.
She dresses quickly – yesterday’s jeans, her favourite faded hoodie, trainers – and squashes a few pairs of knickers and a clean t-shirt into her bag. Standing on the end of the bed she can reach the old tea-caddy on the top shelf. She fishes out her passport and two thick rolls of fifty pound notes. They smell faintly of Earl Grey.
At the top of the stairs she takes a deep breath, then goes down. At the bottom, she steps over him, carefully avoiding the blood pooling around his head. She takes her coat off the hook in the porch, puts on her sunglasses as the glare of the afternoon touches her face, and slams the door behind her.
Hannah Hoare is a writer and natural history television producer based in Bristol, UK. Her flash fiction has been short-listed in Retreat West competitions and published by Molotov Cocktail. She tweets as @hannahvisiontv.