Jack pulled the comforter over his head and clamped his hands over his ears, but it did
little to block out his parents’ screaming. If it got any worse, he would hide in his closet.
“I told you I wanted shrimp for dinner,” Amit, Jack’s father, scowled and leaned his fat
belly against the back of the kitchen chair while he swung his almost empty beer bottle in his
“Yes, but they...they didn’t have any at the supermarket.”
“Are you kidding me, Lucy? They never run out of shrimp. I almost gagged eating the
slop you made for me tonight. It was absolutely disgusting.” Amit’s spat on the plate.
“You love fried chicken. You raved about it last time I cooked it. Was it overdone this
time?” Lucy said in a small voice digging her long nails into the palms of her hands.
“It just tasted like ass.”
“Well, I’ll use a different recipe next time. Let me go check on Jack.”
“Hey! I’m not done talking to you! Do you know what it’s like to come home from a hard
day at work...to...to...to chicken sitting in a puddle of oil?”
“No, Amit. But I do know what it’s like to work all day and take care of an eight-year-
“Now I know what you’re getting at you little witch. You think I do nothing for our son.
You know that’s not true. I take him to all his baseball games and play catch with him every
Sunday. Hell, I even drive him to see his friends!”
“I...I never said that.”
“Yes you did. Look at me when I talk to you, you worthless piece of trash!”
Lucy peered up at Amit’s red face. She tried to run out of the kitchen, but he blocked the
“Let me out!”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“I don’t want to be near you now.”
“And why is that, Lucy? Don’t you love me?” Amit, breathing heavily, grabbed Lucy’s
chin and jerked it up.
Jack heard the first slap and Lucy’s piecing cry. He made a run for the dark closet and
started counting, “One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi...” He
curled himself up into a little ball. He hated himself for being such a coward and wished he were
big enough to protect his mother.
“I’m done with you witch! Get out of my face before I lay into you more!”
Lucy ran into the bedroom with tears streaking her face. After a few minutes, she peeked
her head through the door and saw Amit passed out on the couch. She got to work cleaning
herself up, the usual routine of washing out the wounds, applying Neosporin and Band-Aids.
Amit was usually careful about not hitting her face since he didn’t want anyone to know about
the abuse— but not tonight. There were several open wounds that Lucy had to disinfect.
She was out of adult Band-Aids, so she had to settle for Jack's Superman ones. She felt
nothing like Superman. She stared at her battered face and didn’t recognize the scared and
scarred woman in the mirror. She washed away the streaks of blood in the sink. She had to leave
—now—or else the woman in the mirror would not survive, even with all the Band Aids in the
She started to pack her things, wondering what she would do for money until she
remembered the diamonds Amit hid in the attic in case of an emergency.
But before she could find them, she had to check on Jack.
She opened the door to his room.
“Sweetie, it’s OK, Mommy is OK.” The little boy ran out of the closet to give her a big
hug. “Don’t cry Jack. We’re going to get out of here. Daddy is never going to hurt Mommy
again. I just need you to pack a few things.”
“But I don’t want to leave. I love Daddy.”
“I know you do, but it’s not safe for either of us here. I’m not leaving you.” Lucy ruffled
Jack’s hair then pulled his suitcase out of his closet. She packed his things.
“Are we really leaving?”
“Yes, stay put and I’ll come by in a bit to get you.”
She gently closed the door to Jack’s room and tip-toed back to the living room. Her
husband was still sleeping on the couch. She gazed at the stubbly cheeks she once enjoyed
kissing and the muscular arms with soft hair she used to sleep on.
Amit tossed and turned.
Lucy clenched her teeth and squeezed her fists. She breathed a sigh of relief once her
husband stopped moving. That was a close call. She grabbed Jack’s baseball bat resting against
the wall and made her way up the attic stairs to get the diamonds. She looked for them in the old
broken vase and under the loose floorboard. Shit, shit double shit! The bastard had moved them.
But it didn’t take her long to spot a beer can in the dark corner next to the vase. She grabbed it
and smiled at the rattle. “You’re so predictable, Amit.”
Lucy gently knocked on her son’s door and whispered, “Ready Jack?”
“Let’s go. We have to be quiet. We can’t wake Daddy.”
“Why are you carrying my bat?”
“So you can play baseball of course.”
As they crossed the living room to get to the front door, the suitcase Jack was nervously
swinging in his hand knocked over the vase that was on the coffee table. The shattering noise
woke up Amit. He raised his eyebrows in confusion at the two shadowy figures facing him.
“Run!” yelled Lucy.
Mother and son bolted for the front door as Amit chased them in a stupor.
“Get back here now Lucy! You can’t leave me!“
He grabbed his wife’s sweater.
With her teeth gritted and eyes bulging, Lucy turned around and swung the bat as hard as
Amit howled in pain. “You witch!”
“Daddy!” Jack screamed. He reached to comfort his father.
“We have to go.” Lucy pulled Jack away.
“We’re coming back, right?”
“Yes,” said Lucy knowing they never could.
Lucy strapped Jack in the back seat and climbed in the driver seat. Her hands shook as
she reached to turn on the headlights. She thought of the future as the road lit up ahead. It didn’t
seem gloomy at all. As they passed houses with picket fences, their windows aglow with light,
she imagined the new life they would create for themselves. Perhaps they would get a dog and
live in a small house where all the neighborhood kids played together. She pictured herself
coming home from work, calling Jack into the house for dinner through an open window where
the breeze fluttered purple curtains, her favorite color. In the evening, she would fall asleep while
peacefully reading a book. There would be no insults, slaps, punches, or Band-Aids bought in
bulk. Tears welled in her eyes as old Lucy twitched a small smile.
BIO: Miriam Manglani lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and three children. She works full-time as a Technical Training Manager. Her poetry has been published in Village Square, Poetry Quarterly, Rushing Thru the Dark, Prospectus, and Canyon Voices.