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Enough is Not Enough is an ongoing Story written by the very Talented Becky Barton.
Every Month Becky Submits the next thrilling part to her story and we are very pleased to have it available for others to read here.
Enough is Not Enough
An empty roll of toilet paper. That’s all it took to open Susan Lively’s eyes. She stared at the naked cardboard tube, numb. Such a menial thing should not create feelings of such torment and heaviness in a person. Perhaps, if that were her biggest concern, it would not have.
Yet through the depressing defeat, something else stirred. Her cheeks flushed and her heart pounded. She didn’t recognize the anger for what it was until she felt the sharp sting of her fingernails digging into her palms. She deliberately uncurled her fingers and stormed out of the bathroom, leaving the toilet paper holder untouched.
Six months ago, Susan had reluctantly agreed to move in with her fiancé. Before that, things had been going well for her. She had almost paid off her small, fixer-upper house. Her job had just given her a promotion with a nice raise. And, although her bus commute to work every day was painless, she was looking to buy a car. Not because it was a pressing necessity, but because after struggling to make ends meet for so long, she was finally able. It was the final step she needed to take to make herself fully independent and experience true freedom. She could not have been more thrilled with her life.
Her relationship with Patrick had been a happy, fulfilling one, but she’d rejected his many previous offers to move in with him. She loved him, and she knew he loved her too, but she didn’t want to risk messing up things with such a major change to their amazing relationship. Not so soon, at least.
Then, someone broke into her house. The person didn’t take anything larger than an old laptop she’d had for years, and luckily, they apparently hadn’t been looking to murder the home’s occupant. Susan, being a heavy sleeper, slept through the entire ordeal. However, the police spent hours trying to figure out how the burglar got inside. There were no broken windows, and all the locks on her doors seemed to be intact. It wasn’t until the officers were preparing to leave that one of them noticed small blemishes on the deadbolt. The marks resembled those that a drunk person might make while fumbling to insert their key to unlock the door.
The cop who had detected the scratches eyed Susan suspiciously.
“Who else has a key to your house, ma’am?” he had asked.
“No one,” Susan had said adamantly.
The officer grunted, not bothering to hide the fact that he felt Susan was wasting their time.
Patrick, however, had taken her far more seriously. He insisted on her coming to stay with him for several days. To this, she agreed, at least until the police could get to the bottom of the break in. Once she was there, however, Patrick’s offers to let her move in became gentle demands. He begged her to sell her house and get away from the city.
“They got in once, babe,” he’d said. “They have an inventory of everything valuable you own, and next time, they could come better prepared to rob you blind. Or, worse.”
Susan was touched at Patrick’s apparent concern for her. Nonetheless, she had just shaken her head. Though she hadn’t slept well since the break in, she wasn’t ready to give up everything for which she’d worked so hard, just because of some punk burglar.
“Moving means that whoever the prick was, wins,” she had said. “Then, I lose much more than a busted laptop and a handful of jewelry.” She had taken Patrick’s hand. “Besides, I’m having the locks changed next week, and I’m getting a security system installed. If anyone so much as breathes on the locks, doors or windows, the alarm will wake the entire neighborhood and alert the security company immediately.”
Patrick had been angry, and had slept on his couch that night, but Susan felt that she’d won her case. Yet, she was still caught by surprise when, two nights later, Patrick proposed.
Susan had, of course, accepted his proposal with giddy delirium. Two weeks later, she’d packed up her entire old life in a handful of cardboard boxes, quit her job, put her house up for sale, and moved in with her future husband.
Looking back, the past six months felt more like decades. Susan’s eyes filled with tears as she recalled her old life. She remembered Patrick’s promises to help her get a car, so she could get a job editing for a smaller newspaper located closer to his house. He must have used the term ‘closer’ loosely. The closest thing to Patrick’s house was a small, run-down gas station, which was about ten miles away. The newspaper office was almost twenty miles away, but Susan knew that, once Patrick helped her get a car, the commute wouldn’t be much more than the one to her old job. Plus, she would have her own car, and she would not have to worry about schedule delays or creepy weirdos who frequent public transportation systems.
Days turned into weeks, however, and weeks into months, and Patrick gave every excuse possible to put off car shopping. At first, Susan understood even this.
They had decided to get married in less than six months, and Patrick had already put a down payment on their wedding rings. Plus, since she had quit her job, she was living solely on her savings. In their new, two-people household, money was getting tight quickly, so she did not complain about not having a car.
The real trouble began when she started mentioning getting a new job. At first, it seemed like he simply wanted to take care of her. She found it endearing, but annoying. She was preparing for a life WITH him, not one DEPENDENT on him. She told him that on many occasions, but he always countered her with sweet talk and excuses. When he ran out of sugar and excuses, however, is when the hitting began.
The first time was when Susan had suggested that she ride to work with him every day.
“I know you get off two hours after I would, but I could stick around the office and offer an extra hand with closing up until you got—” the sound of flesh-on-flesh interrupted her. She glanced around, looking for the source of the sound, until a strange coppery taste filled her mouth. She wiped at her lips with her sleeve and was shocked to see blood streaking the sleeve. Confused, she held her hand up to Patrick. He ignored her questioning eyes and bleeding face.
“You dumb bitch, I work twelve miles in the opposite direction from that shithole newspaper,” he said, as if he’d explained this to her a thousand times.
Bewildered, she’d stumbled backward into her porcelain vase. Her vase; the one thing of sentimental value the burglar hadn’t taken. The vase crashed to the floor and shattered.
At the sound of the glass breaking, Patrick hit Susan again, hard enough to knock her to the floor.
“Look what your dumb ass did now! Broke my vase! Clean that shit up!” he said, panting with rage.
Susan was paralyzed with shock. Patrick stormed over to where she sat sprawled on the floor and drew back his hand. This time, he did not strike Susan. He grabbed the table on which the vase sat moments before and smashed it on the floor. Splintered wood and metal screws flew in all directions. One piece hit Susan in the head, breaking her frozen trance. She crawled to the doorway of the kitchen and used the doorframe to pull herself off the ground. She didn’t dare to glance over her shoulder to see if Patrick had followed her to continue his rampage until she was on her feet. He hadn’t.
She limped to the pantry, where they kept the broom and mop. She slowly grabbed the broom and, acting on her autopilot function, went back into the den to clean up the broken glass. Patrick was nowhere in sight. While she cleaned, Susan tried in vain to understand everything that happened. Her face ached. Her heart was racing. She and Patrick never fought, let alone got violent with each other. Nothing made any sense.
She swept up the shattered porcelain and disposed of it before her fiancé returned. She didn’t know what to think. Her mind was still reeling and in a state of disbelief. More than anything, she wanted to believe that he wouldn’t hit her again. But then, before that morning, she would have never believed him capable of hitting her at all. None of the past half hour made any sense to her.
She might have believed she was dreaming, but when she touched her hand to her mouth again, there was still the fresh, damp blood. She returned the broom to the pantry, glancing out the kitchen window as she passed. She noticed that Patrick’s car was gone. She hadn’t heard him leave, but she was glad he did. She climbed the stairs to the bedroom she shared with Patrick and collapsed on the bed. Only then did she allow herself to cry.
A gentle hand stroking her hair woke Susan. For a moment, the awful fight slipped her groggy mind. She rolled over and tried to smile at Patrick, but a sharp pain shot through her lips and cheeks. All at once, she remembered what had transpired a few hours earlier. She sat up and scooted away from her fiancé’s touch as the memory returned, instinctively covering her wounded face with her hand.
When she could bring herself to meet his gaze, she noticed that Patrick’s face was wet. Susan resisted the urge to reach out and comfort the man she loved. She continued watching him in wary silence. Patrick offered a sick smile.
“I can’t imagine what you must be thinking right now, and—” he said, his voice breaking. He cleared his throat. “—and I don’t even know where to begin apologizing…” He began sobbing, a terrible, guttural sound that pulled at Susan’s heart. This time, she moved closer to Patrick and placed her trembling hand tentatively over his. She wasn’t angry; she still didn’t understand enough of what had happened to know how she should feel. At present, she only knew that her face throbbed, and her fiancé’s heart seemed to be breaking. These problems, at least, she could comprehend and fix. At last, he looked up from his lap with red, damp eyes.
“I messed up this morning.” he began. Through his tears, it sounded more like ‘I best ub dis bornhing.’ He snorted, swallowing a throatful of mucus before continuing. “Understatement of the century. What I mean is that I messed up by making a drink early this morning. It was strong, but I decided to make another one anyway. That one was stronger still, and… before I knew it, I was hopping mad at nothing and ready to fight. You got caught in that crossfire, and…” another avalanche of tears interrupted him.
Susan patted his hand and let him cry for a few minutes.
“Patrick, you don’t need to explain—” she said, marveling at the words as they came out. He damned sure does, said a muffled voice in the back of her mind. As if he heard it, too, Patrick held up his free hand.
“Yes, baby, I really do,” he said. “Not that there is ever any excuse good enough for what I did, you at least deserve to know that it was not your fault. I mean, you know I’ve never been much of a drinker, so I dunno what the hell possessed me to drink that much. I don’t even know why I thought drinking at 8 a.m. was a good idea.” He shook his head slowly, as though he hadn’t realized the insanity of his actions and behavior until he said it all out loud.
Susan nodded, remaining quiet. Part of her wanted him to get it all off his chest so he’d feel better. Another foreign, bitter part waited, hungry for his imminent apology. She smiled as warmly as her sore face allowed to encourage Patrick to continue talking. He saw her pained attempt and his lip trembled.
“Christ… look what I did to you,” he said, gasping. He bolted to the connected bathroom. Susan heard cabinet doors opening and closing, then the sound of water running. He sat back down on the bed, right next to Susan now. With slow, deliberate movements, he lifted a damp white washcloth and gently dabbed at the corner of Susan’s mouth. She recoiled, and Patrick bit his lip to control a fresh flood of tears. He took a deep breath and continued caressing her face with the cloth. The cold water dripping off the washcloth felt like heaven. Susan relaxed.
As he worked, Patrick continued his speech, his voice steadier than before.
“Like I said, there is nothing at all that offers a viable excuse or explanation for what I did to you, but I really am sorry. Baby, I love you more than anything in this world, and I would never do anything to hurt you, especially not on purpose.” He chuckled. “But then, isn’t that what every wifebeater in the world says?” He paused to brush a strand of hair from Susan’s forehead. He examined her clean wounds and frowned.
“If you want, I’ll go to a hotel and stay as long as you need me to. Hell, I’ll even help you get a new place. I’ll give you this house, if that would be easier on you. First, though, come back downstairs with me and let me put some ice on these. Please?” His mouth quivered again, and Susan’s heart melted.
“I don’t want either of us to go anywhere,” she said. She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “You made a mistake—”
“A huge mistake…”
“—and you apologized for that mistake—”
“Not nearly enough, but I’ll try like hell.”
“—and that’s what matters. I love you, Patrick, and I know it’ll never happen again.”
Patrick shook his head so hard Susan thought it might snap off and roll down into his lap.
“I swear to you, sweetheart, it most certainly will never happen again. I’ll even toss out all the alcohol to make sure,” he said.
It was almost two months before Susan ended up in the hospital.
Looking back, Susan supposed she should have waited to bring up the car issue to Patrick that day, for the thousandth time.
He came home from work in a foul mood, toting a fresh bottle of Scotch. He had stormed in the door and blew past her, without so much as a “fuck you” greeting. A knot formed in her stomach as she replayed the last time he drank. She tiptoed into the kitchen, where he was banging cabinet doors and tossing around whiskey tumblers. She reached for one of the glasses and silently offered to pour Patrick a drink. He looked at her and took a deep breath.
“I got it,” he said and continued slamming things. Susan’s hands began trembling. She opened the door to the fridge and pretended to look intently for something, so he wouldn’t notice. Behind her, she registered a brief moment of silence, followed by ice tinkling against glass liquid being poured. She grabbed a bottle of water she didn’t want and closed the fridge door. She turned to head back into the living room, but Patrick touched her arm, causing her to jump. She turned to face him. He was holding a glass of Scotch out to her. She didn’t drink much, but she took the drink and gave him a weak smile.
“Thanks, babe,” she said.
Patrick grunted and raised his glass in a half-hearted toast. Then, he downed the drink. She took a sip of hers and winced at the burn not yet tamed by the ice. Patrick chuckled.
“Got a little extra hair now, do ya?” he said. She smiled.
“I think I just sprouted some tiny balls, too,” she said. He laughed again.
“I’ll have to examine you later to find out,” he said, eyebrow raised. Susan breathed a soft sigh and relaxed. Thank goodness I didn’t make a big deal out of his mood, she thought.
She finished her drink and rinsed her glass in the sink. Behind her, Patrick poured another. She paused, remembering that she needed to go to the store. She decided she better mention it before Patrick got too tipsy. Without looking at him, she spoke.
“Hey baby? No big rush or anything, but can we go to the store later? I need to pick up something for dinner tonight, and I also need tampons.”
For a moment, Patrick said nothing. Susan turned to see if he’d heard her. He was scowling.
“God damn it,” he said. “I just got home, and the last thing I feel like doing after the shit day I had is playing chauffeur for you.”
The icy knot returned in Susan’s bowels.
“I-I’m sorry babe. I said there’s no rush. T-take your time and unwind first… Just wanted to mention it before it got too late.”
“Why couldn’t you text me while I was at work so I could pick up what you needed on the way home?”
“The last time I texted you at work, you got angry. I just didn’t want to upset you by doing it again.”
“Bad lapse in judgment, eh Sue? Cause now I’m pretty severely pissed off.”
Susan swallowed a sudden urge to vomit. He hasn’t even had that much to drink yet. Why is he acting like this? She took a deep breath.
“This wouldn’t be a problem at all if I could get to the store myself while you’re at work.” She said.
Patrick looked at her.
“What are you sayin?”
“If I had a car, I could handle all the errands during the day while you’re at work—”
“Fuck’s sake, not this again. I’m sick of hearing about you wanting a car. Do I look like a fuckin money mint?” He punctuated his question by slamming his tumbler onto the counter. It didn’t shatter, but Susan was sure she’d find a big crack in it when she went to wash it. Her fear turned to anger.
“It was YOUR idea to help me get a car when I moved in here, so I could get a new job! I never ASKED you to do it, remember? I could have bought one myself if I’d kept my old job, but I moved out here instead. Also, not my idea.” She said.
This time, she saw Patrick draw back his hand, but she couldn’t move fast enough to dodge the blow. It wasn’t an open-handed slap this, either. He balled up his fist and punched her across her jaw. She flew backward, missing the counter with her head by a narrow margin. Pain exploded through her face and head. She glared at him but said nothing.
He stomped across the room, closing the distance between them in two giant steps. His face was red, and he was panting.
“You talk to me like that again and I’ll pound your face into a bloody pulp, you bitch!” He paused, studying her expression. “And get that goddamn look off your face, or I’ll knock it off.”
Susan ignored the pain in her face. She narrowed her eyes, remaining silent.
True to his promise, Patrick leaned down and punched her twice more in the face. Black spots danced in her vision and she knew another hit would knock her out. She grabbed a drawer handle and tried to pull herself off the ground. Patrick did it for her, yanking her to her feet.
“The fuck you think you’re going?” he hissed. She jerked her arm away from him. Dizzy, she fell to the floor again.
“That’s what you get,” he said. “Now, you sit there and take your ass beating like a good little cunt.”
The last thing Susan felt before passing out was a sharp pain in her ribs. He was wearing his steel-toed boots.
Susan awoke alone in a cold hospital room. She had no idea how long she’d been there, but the sun was shining in through her window. She tried to sit up in her bed, but her entire body screamed, and she felt a soft whoosh in her chest. She sat back, wondering what possessed Patrick to bring her to a hospital after delivering such a severe beating. The doctors must have had questions he couldn’t explain away. Maybe they arrested him, she thought. Maybe that’s why he’s not here.
She considered calling him, then thought better of it. Her body resonated with pain, so she pushed the call button on her bed instead. When the nurse answered, she asked for some Tylenol and a cup of water. The nurse responded to Susan right away, except he didn’t bring Tylenol. Instead, he brought her two Vicodin and some kind of gray capsule. A muscle relaxer, he told her. She nodded, grateful, and swallowed the pills and a sip of water.
The nurse turned to leave the room, but Susan stopped him.
“Where is my fiancé?” she asked. The nurse, puzzled, looked through some papers he held in his hand. Printouts of Susan’s chart and doctor’s orders, she presumed.
“He must have left a note at the desk. It says he should be back at around 5 p.m., that he was going to take care of the details and loose ends after the car accident.” The nurse smirked. “Seems that he really cares about you. You’re very lucky.” Susan choked back a bitter scoff as the nurse reached the door.
“Just call if you need anything else, ok? Oh, and now that you’re awake, the doctor will be in shortly to talk to you.” He smiled and left the room.
He told them there was a car accident, Susan thought. She allowed the sour laugh to escape her lips once she was alone again. Tears filled her eyes as she recalled the nurse’s words. Seems he really cares about you. She laughed again, a dry, grating sound. Yeah, he cares so much that he used the car he never got me to cover his own sorry ass. He was obviously so worried about her wellbeing that he had to go on in to work that day to distract him from his grief. Bile rose in Susan’s throat, and she grabbed a plastic bucket off the table attached to the bed. She wretched but produced only a mouthful of filmy fluid. She kept the bucket in her lap until the gagging ceased. She was wiping her mouth clean and placing the tub back on the table when the doctor walked in.
“Miss Lively?” he asked. Susan liked him right away; his kind eyes filled with immediate concern as he watched her clean her face over her puke bucket.
She offered a weak, warm smile. “Yes, that’s me.”
The doctor nodded.
“I’m Dr. Weiss,” he said. “I see you’re having some nausea. That’s not unusual, given the extent of your injuries, especially the concussion. It concerns me, though, because your right lung is in bad shape. Two of your ribs were broken, and they’re both pressing into your lung at a precarious angle. The x-rays didn’t show that they had penetrated your lung, but added stress, such as vomiting, increases the possibility of that happening.” Dr. Weiss sighed and studied Susan for a moment. His gaze made Susan uncomfortable. She squirmed, wincing at the burning pain her movements shot through her body.
Dr. Weiss scribbled something onto a paper attached to his clipboard. He looked back at Susan. He opened his mouth, then closed it again, pausing to sit in the chair beside the bed.
“How are you feeling, besides the nausea and pain?” he asked finally. “Any confusion? Memory loss? Trouble breathing?”
Susan shook her head slowly. The motion made her dizzy. She closed her eyes until the vertigo passed. When she opened them, the doctor was staring at her, pen poised over the papers in his lap. She gave him an apologetic smile.
“I only woke up a short while ago, doctor,” she said. “I don’t know exactly how I feel just yet, except that I feel like all-around, generic brand dog shit.” She blushed at her blunt, vulgar response. Dr. Weiss laughed.
“I understand, and I’m sorry for hounding you so soon. I’m just very concerned about some of your injuries,” he said, repeating his earlier statement. He looked at her with wary eyes and took a deep breath.
“Miss Lively, are you sure you were in a car accident?” he said at last. Susan blinked, surprised and frightened. She knew what Patrick would do to her if she tried to tell anyone the truth. Yet, the doctor was so kind and gentle, and seemed genuinely worried for her condition and safety. She wanted more than anything to trust someone with her secret, but there was no scenario in her mind in which doing so would end well for her. Perhaps not for whomever she chose to tell, either. Her eyes filled with fresh tears as she deliberated on her situation. She looked down at her hands, now balled up in her lap, to avoid eye contact with the doctor. She knew that if she hesitated too long, the doctor wouldn’t believe anything she said. After a brief moment, she shook her head and pasted a look of thoughtful confusion on her face.
“I… I can’t remember anything. Just a lot of pain, a lot of noise, and then… waking up here.” She waited until she finished speaking to meet the doctor’s scrutinizing gaze.
As she suspected, Dr. Weiss was watching her intently, looking for any signs of deception or fear. She shrugged and allowed her lip to quiver a little.
“I’m sorry, Doctor. I can’t remember much else. I’m sure my fiancé could tell you much more.” She said. She hoped she hadn’t made a mistake saying that much, but she figured that Patrick would want her to say anything, so long as it wasn’t the truth.
Dr. Weiss finally nodded, but he did not look convinced.
“Memory loss could be a result of the concussion. That’s to be expected.” He wrote down something else in his papers, then rose.
“I’ve ordered that morphine be added to your pain medication regimen, to be alternated with your Norco’s. I’ve taken you off the muscle relaxers, since sometimes those can cause nausea, especially if you’re not used to taking them. If you need them again later, however, we can discuss trying a different one. I’ve also ordered an anti-nausea medicine. That should help a little until I can get a better look at your lung situation and assess whether surgery is necessary.” He stopped to glance back down at his papers. Surgery. Susan blanched.
She realized that the doctor was watching her from the corner of his eye, but she didn’t even try to conceal any facial expression. Part of her hoped that the doctor would manage to read the entire story of what really happened. The idea of surgery horrified Susan, and the knowledge that Patrick was the one who put her in this position sickened and infuriated her. The last thing she wanted was for him to get away with what he’d done, but she knew he would. Unless she did something.