Gabrielle sat in spot on the couch, to the right of the corner seat. For someone who loved sitting in the corner at restaurants and mostly anywhere else, Gabrielle hated sitting in the corner of the couch. Even if it hadn’t been his spot, she didn’t think she would enjoy it. Rick pour through the door.
Glancing down at her watch, small and delicate – made of gold older than she was. She had a an hour or so before he would be home from work. Thursdays were his late day. What that really meant was that he would come home, spilling through the door around ten. Mondays through Fridays were after work happy hour days for him and his work crew. Thursdays were their late night. It was a Friday night when the rest of the guys, and Samantha, had to go out with their girlfriends or their wives, and it wasn’t the night before an actual work day. It was the night before the easiest day or the week. The night the bar had shots of whiskey half priced to go with their cheap beer specials. Gabrielle knew Rick would always come home, what he did on his way there and how he made it there were different beasts entirely. The only question Gabrielle had about those nights was how impaired he would return.
Pulling her blanket close around her Gabrielle loaded a show she had recorded the night before. Having used most of the memory himself, space was limited, and Rick didn’t see the purpose in recording competition shows where the contests changed every week. Not that he saw the purpose in recording competition shows where the contestants were the same the whole season and where kicked off week by week, but that made slightly more sense to him than the alternative. Thankfully it worked out well for Gabrielle that the show she liked most was on on Wednesday nights, meaning she could record it and keep it for Thursday when Rick was out. She hit play on her show, eager to start it with the intentions of finishing it and deleting it before ten.
Gabrielle finished her show with fifteen minutes to spare. Walking over to the window there was no sign of Rick’s truck or any movement really. Not that that was surprising, there was a light flurry of snow falling, and it was pretty late for their quiet town. Gabrielle watched the snow floating down from the sky. She half hoped Rick would be careful about driving, knowing the likelihood of that. After a while, Gabrielle felt the calm and peace she loved this time of year. Losing her sense of time she made herself a second cup of hot cocoa and went out to their open, wrap-around porch with heated floors.
Once again, Gabrielle got lost in the movement of the weather. It was the feeling of magic and roasting turkeys in the air. It had the hope of summer and the romance of winter woven through every molecule. At least to her. To her it Winter was the epitome of all the best things in the world. Even without someone to share it with, Gabrielle’s heart was warmed by the falling snow and wintry winds. Growing up her mother had joked that she was the ice queen – cold and reserved like the weather, but warm and inviting like a roaring fire in its place.
Gabrielle used to laugh at this. It used to be a funny joke, or maybe it had never been a joke at all. Rick told her she was cold hearted and a frosty witch, among other things. Some days he treated her like a true queen, other times he treated her like a king toward the peasants. When times were good, the thought never crossed her mind. When things were bad, she refused to think at all. It was when things were sliding from good to bad, from fluffy snow to avalanches, from a contained beautiful fire to the fires of Rome – it was then that she thought most about how it was her fault. The ways she wasn’t considerate enough, the ways she was rude and selfish, the ways she set the coffee table for movie dates. The times she should have called, shouldn’t have called, and all the times in between. She thought about the good gifts arriving too late – the snow was picking up pace and starting to bury the roads.
Maybe tonight things would be different. The magic had picked up with the storm. It was almost palpable in the air. Maybe Gabrielle could really be the Ice Queen after all. She thought of Rick and their good times. The snow slowed its pace. The rumbled of truck caught Gabrielle’s attention. Its sloppy maneuvering and aggressive speed were enough to tell Gabrielle that it was going to be one of those nights. She watched as the truck came barreling down the street. The fear of the unknown mixed with the memories of other nights causing Gabrielle’s chest to tighten. Her throat felt constricted. She closed her eyes as the snow came billowing onto the porch. She tried to chuckle at the thought that it was trying to give her a hug. She couldn’t laugh. She knew too well what was going to happen. Gabrielle opened her eyes and watched as Rick clipped the corner of their driveway. She heard his slurred trail of screamed obscenities from the porch. She watched as his anger transformed his face from drunk and lax to red and harsh.
Gabrielle tried to remain calm as she got up quickly. If she had been paying more attention, if she had more time, she could be upstairs asleep. It wasn’t always a deterrent, but it certainly the most effective way to de-escalate any situation with Drunk and Angry Rick. Gabrielle got up from the porch, looking once more over her shoulder – Rick’s truck was barely visible through the snow now. Maybe she would have enough time to head down the wrap-around porch and get upstairs before Rick made it in the house.
As Gabrielle closed the backdoor behind her, she heard a large crash from the from of the house. She heard the truck attempting to turn the engine over. She was at the top of the stairs heading toward their bedroom when the truck roared to life. Gabrielle ran down the hall making a left into their bedroom. Double-knotting her flannel pants as she tied them a sinch tighter than before, Gabrielle peaked out the window. Rick was fine. He was always fine. She was sure the truck wasn’t. Gabrielle slipped off her bra and climbed into bed.
Based on the sounds she was hearing, Rick had struggled to make it up the front porch, in the door, and had gone right to the kitchen. A glass broke. Something, probably a fist, slammed. A beer popped open. The glass bottle shattered as it hopefully went into the recyclable bin and not onto the floor. Rick’s feet rumbled up the stairs and stumbled down the hall. Gabrielle tried to relax her body, as it fought to tense up with every bounding step. The bedroom door opened.
Gabrielle exhaled as slowly and naturally as she could. Drawers were opening. Clothes were being pulled, dropped, and shuffled. Gabrielle could smell him as he approached her side of the bed. His breath washing over the back of her neck as he rummaged under the bed. Maybe this was it. Maybe he was leaving her. Gabrielle tried to feign sleep as best she could. The sounds of zippers interrupted her thoughts. Silence filled the room. Gabrielle could feel Rick glaring at her. Without knowing what was happening Gabrielle slid toward where Rick had been standing. Pain ran up her body in stages as her hips, then her ribs, her neck, and finally her head dropped onto the wooden trunk they kept at the foot of their bed. She opened her eyes. Looking around the room, then up at Rick, she realized she was sitting on the floor. He was ranting. Flakes of spit and beer were launching from his mouth landing on Gabrielle. Snow, crash, blame, bitch, witch, fucking ice queen, cunt, almost, died… nothing was making sense. Was he blaming her for the snow? For crashing? frigid, trip, lesson, packed… were they going somewhere? It was a Thursday. They had work tomorrow. Glass, clean up, broken, slut… Gabrielle’s head was spinning, as was the room.
She was looking at Rick’s backside and the floor. Her ribs seared with pain as they bounced off his shoulder. She couldn’t see where they were going, but she saw the bag on his other arm. Her head cracked against the wall. Gabrielle swallowed her throw up. The cold embraced her. It should have stung, but somehow it had made her feel safer. Maybe the snow really was her friend. Gabrielle attempted to shield her head with the arms as she was flung down into the cab of the truck. She tried to drag herself to a seated position. She had to get out of the truck. Another wave of nausea came over Gabrielle, once more she choked down her vomit. There was no way she would be able to keep this up, but for now it seemed to be her best strategy. There was a light from her neighbor’s window. Maybe they would help her. She had untangled her arm and was reaching it up when something landed on top of her. The truck was moving backwards. Gabrielle missed her chance. Pushing the travel bag off from on top of her Gabrielle tried to sit up once more. The lights and the trees fading from her vision.
As Rick looked over his shoulder before backing on to the road he saw Gabrielle’s eyes close, a look of confusion and fear spread across her face. Oh she would pay for her wrongdoings. She would pay with her life.