Annabelle woke up disgusted. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the alarm clock on the raggedy nightstand. The time was five-o-three a.m. She lay back, exasperated. Beaten. She wiped the perspiration from her forehead before closing her eyes again. She looked over at her husband and cringed. Then she started to cry.
Annabelle was sixteen when she married Fred. He was twenty-one. At the time, she thought she loved him. When she found out she was pregnant, her parents decided they had to get married. As time went on, she realized that Fred was not the man she thought he was. He had gained close to a hundred pounds since they had married; he drank like a fish; and had been unemployed since they had married five years earlier. She would have left him, but their son was born with a debilitating disease that left him partially deaf and cripple.
She finally got out of bed and went to check on her son. He opened his eyes when he felt her by his bedside. She changed his clothes and fed him before getting in the shower.
She turned on the radio to hear the morning news events. She stepped into the shower and scrubbed her skin. She didn't know why she scrubbed her skin so hard. She shampooed her thick, brown hair and put it up into a ponytail. Just then a voice came over the radio and announced that the whole area was to prepare for a severe blizzard and it went on to warn people to stay indoors.
She put on her blue apron, grabbed her coat and went on to work.
“What’s wrong?" asked Florine, a waitress who worked with her.
Annabelle just looked at her. Then she started to sob uncontrollably.
“My whole life is just one big sham," she explained through tears.
Florine had worked in the diner for over twenty years. Her reddish colored hair was piled into a neat bun at the nape of her neck. Her make-up was applied much too thick. She was constantly reapplying her ruby red lipstick that made her look about ten years older than she really was.
Florine popped another piece of gum while she listened intently to Annabelle's story.
Annabelle told her about everything. About Fred's drinking, the other women and the verbal and physical abuse.
"There's always room at my trailer if you decide to leave that pig," offered Florine.
“Thank you so much," cried Annabelle.
“Not to be nosy, but what happened to your parents?"
“They don't wanna get involved. Can you believe that? They made us get married and now they don't want to interfere."
Florine moved closer to try to console her friend.
“Have you eaten anything today dear?" she asked as she wiped her sweaty palms against her greasy apron.
Annabelle sat in a booth by the window. She dried her tears and watched the continuous fall of snow while she tried to contemplate things. She wondered how she could leave her husband and her sickly son behind.
Just then, Florine brought her a plate of food.
“Here. You take a break and just relax sugar. It ain't too crowded, I can handle the crowd for a while." said Florine.
“You’re always so sweet to me." said Annabelle.
She picked up her fork and began to mush her food around on her plate. She tried to eat the burned sausage and the over salted eggs. They kind of tasted like cardboard to her. She went to ladies room, removed the flask from her purse and took a swig of vodka. She closed her eyes tightly before rinsing off her face and drying it on a hard paper towel. She then popped a piece of gum and went back to work.
“Well, you're certainly looking better." lamented Florine.
“I feel better. I just needed to get that off my chest. I just need to get away. At least for a little while."
It was snowing even harder when Annabelle got off work. She was looking forward to a hot bath and maybe having a few drinks before going to bed early. She stared out the window of the bus wondering if her life would have been different without Fred and her son Brian.
She could at least go back to school. She had taken a few classes at a junior college before Fred made her stop. She thought about moving to the west coast. She had about two thousand dollars saved up that Fred didn't know about.
She could just leave and he was too lazy to bother looking for her. She decided that at the end of the week, she would leave Brian with Fred and try to start a new life for herself. She would finally be free.
Annabelle walked into her dilapidated apartment. It was freezing. She cringed every time she looked at the dingy green curtains. They were torn, tattered and dirty. They smelled of cigarettes and had burn holes in them.
The walls were tinged brown, and the carpet was old and smelled mildewy.
“Fred!" she called. "Brian, mommy's home."
There was no reply. She found that strange since usually Fred would be on his second six-pack at this time asleep in the chair.
She also noticed that Brian's wheelchair was gone.
For a moment she got excited. She held on to the hope that one day Fred would leave her.
She found a note pinned on the refrigerator. It read: Annabelle, we went to the boiler room to try and fix the heat. Have my food ready when I get back. Fred.
She made herself a steaming cup of cocoa before realizing they had been gone a long time.
" Guess I should go make sure they're not locked in." she said to herself. She grabbed her coat and trudged down to the boiler room. There was no one in the hall. She tried the door, but it appeared to be jammed. She pushed a little harder and the door opened.
She saw her husband and her son. Fred was on the floor and Brian was in his wheelchair. They had both froze to death. Annabelle screamed. She ran upstairs. Panicky.
Should she call the cops? She didn't know what to do.
Then an idea formed in her head.
" I'm finally fuckin' free!" she exclaimed.
She grabbed a suitcase and started tossing clothes and pictures inside. She was laughing and crying at the same time. She couldn't believe her luck.
For a brief moment she felt bad about her son. She sat on his bed and cried. She cried for Brian, she cried for herself, but mostly, she cried for the person she used to be and everything that she had lost. She picked up her son's favorite blanket. She decided she should at least go cover up her son's lifeless body.
She went back down to the boiler room and covered up her son. She leaned over him and kissed him on his forehead. Annabelle stood up to leave and realized that she too was locked inside.
She screamed for help and kicked the door to no avail. She knew she was trapped. She also knew there was no point in trying anymore, so she lay next to her son and died three hours later.
With her family.
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