1. The Last Straw

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Sally stepped out of a car full of giggling ladies.

"I'll see you all tomorrow!" she shouted as she waved goodbye to the moving car. She and the girls all went to the movies to watch a musical. It was the most fun Sally had in weeks. A little break from the everyday stresses. She was still singing the catchy finale song as she walked down the drive towards her house. As she reached the front door the carefree bliss slowly left her, replaced with the empty feeling of a broken marriage. No doubt Michael also had fun that night. And, assuming he hasn't passed out drunk, he'll want more fun when she got back. Sally knew that inside Michael was a good man; the man she married and signed her freedom off to. She still remembered how he dazzled her when they first met, the courteous, perfect boy every girl dreamed of dating.  But, his drink got in the way. And now the memory of an affectionate husband was exactly this- a simple heartbreaking memory. When exactly did she realise their marriage went so wrong? Everything happened so quickly, a marriage proposal on a 3rd date was hardly common nowadays. Yet Sally was as keen to get hitched as he was. She wanted something to call her own. That was it.

Sally released the last pent up breath of the chilly evening air and opened the door. At once, she knew that something bad happened by the lack of a slurred greeting. This alone wouldn't have surprised her, it was common for Michael to be in bed by evening. In bed, on the floor, on the couch, in the bathtub, wherever.  But Sally also heard a quiet whimpering coming from the living room and it was this that made her race across the hall, her heels clattering on the marble floor. She could have recognised that gentle sound of her 7 year old daughter anywhere. She gasped in horror. Michael lied on his back, passed out on the floor, this was no news. Neither was the stench of liquor and sweat, nor the upset furniture and piles of junk and bottles on the floor. Sally simply stepped over him to the small heap on the floor behind an armchair. Tears washed across her face as she looked at another, this one crumpled with pain, with blood spread across her childish features.

"Amy, I'm so sorry," Sally cried as she picked up the girl carefully, unsure of the damage. She felt a little comfort when her daughter buried her little bloodstained face in her mother’s neck and wrapped her arms around her.

Sally’s despair quickly turned to rage. He promised to look after her.

“Get up you fat shit!” she screamed in hysteria, kicking Michael violently. Her motherly nature instantly kicked in and made her feel awful about swearing in front of Amy. She whispered her apologies to the confounded girl, stroking her hair in quick erratic motions, tripping over empty bottles. Michael moaned in response, but Sally was already rummaging through the drawers for her Cadillac keys, with Amy on her hip, crying quietly. She didn't want an ambulance. She didn’t know the damage and didn’t want to cause a scene either. The last thing she needed right now was to wake up the neighbours. Mrs Jackson from next door was already suspicious over the amount of glass waste the household was producing. Before leaving she opened up a window to let in fresh air. There is always time for good housekeeping she thought. Sally swiftly closed the door behind her and rushed to the car. She placed Amy in the seat next to her and drove.

“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping tears from her face to clear her vision. “I’m so sorry. It won’t happen again I promise”.

Sally tried to collect herself together and look civil for the few bored people in the waiting room. She still didn’t know what happened to Amy, only that she wasn’t in a critical condition. She blinked her eyes numerous times to stop tears from falling. She covered the bloodstains Amy left on her dress with her cardigan. She neatly placed her hands on her knees to stop her legs from twitching. She fought a personal battle to keep her nails bite-free. She smoothed her long skirt, re-arranged her hair, and refused to nervously fiddle with her gloves.

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