Flash Fiction: Damsel in Distress

They needed milk. And coffee. And might as well make it a full grocery run. Martha closed the fridge door and went to the doorway, leaning on its frame and sighed.

Ryan didn’t look up from where he sat at the table, books laid out in front of him, one on top of another, his brow furrowed with concentration.

“We need supplies, do you want to take a break from that and go to the store with me?” Martha asked.

Ryan glanced up at her face, then his eyes flicked down her body and back up again. “Like that?”

Confused, Marth looked down at herself and then back at Ryan. “What?”

He shook his head and shuffled the books so a new one was on top. Without looking up again he said, “I don’t understand why you never dress up when we are out together. I need to study, you go.”

“Dress up? For the grocery store?”

“Just go.”

“I told the Waldens we’d bring a bottle of wine tonight; do you have one here you want to bring or should we stop and get one?” Martha called to Ryan from the bathroom where she was applying mascara.

Ryan stepped into the room behind her, his gaze finding hers in the mirror. His hands slid around her stomach and he rested his chin on her shoulder.

“You look lovely.” They both smiled. Ryan reached up to touch the earrings in her lobes. “You should wear that pair I got for you last month.”

“Oh, but those don’t go with this dress.” Martha had selected a green dress for tonight and the earrings had red stones in them.

“I didn’t get you that dress either, so change it to match the earrings. I like when you wear what I bought for you.” Ryan smiled at her again in the mirror. Marth didn’t match it this time.

“Darling, that dress is nice, but I’m ready to walk out the door, I’ll wear it next time.” She turned in his arms to kiss him but Ryan’s face had stormed over and he pulled away.



On Martha’s day off, she went to the gym and cleaned the house. She read a book and watched Tv, enjoying just lounging around the apartment.

When Ryan came home from work that night she got up to greet him but he scowled.

“You couldn’t make yourself look decent for when I come home? You’ve been here all day and you’re going to welcome me in sweats and a ponytail?” He stormed off to their room, leaving Martha standing with goosebumps covering her arms from the anger in his voice. She told herself he must have had a bad day at the office and retreated to the kitchen to finish making dinner.

“Ryan, I’m not in the mood.” She pushed his hand away from her thigh and rolled over in bed.

He pulled at her shoulder till she rolled back and looked at him. “I’ve had a horrible week, I need this.”

“I’m not in the mood.” Martha said more firmly, again trying to push his hand from her thigh. But Ryan moved on top of her anyway, caressing her face with his other hand.

“Then just lie there, I’ll be quick.”

Martha flinched as the nurse finished adhering the bandage to her nose. “The pain killers should kick in soon, I know this is painful. We need to get some ice packs on that eye too before it swells shut.”

Martha stared off in the corner as the nurse shuffled around her, applying something cool to her swollen cheek. “You going to tell me you ran into a door or fell down the stairs? I hear those a lot, but that guy you came in with, tell me it was his fist and I’ll have security get him out of the waiting room.”

She continued to stare off into space. The nurse waited in silence. Finally, Marth turned to her, “He’s never hit me before.” She whispered. “I’m sure it was just, um, he must have just had a really bad day at work and then I wasn’t doing things at home the way he likes them to be done. I shouldn’t have been wearing that dress when he came home, I know he doesn’t like that dress. And-” The nurse laid a hand on her shoulder and Martha took a breath, tears stung her eyes and rolled down her swollen cheek.

“It’s okay. It will be okay.”

“I don’t know how this happened.” Martha sobbed.

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