The man at the door.

Here’s a little something from chapter six.  Or, conversely, from ALT:

Donna is restless.  She can’t remember the conversation she had with Donovan that morning, but she’s certain they had one.  Everything else is a spotted mosaic in her head.  One moment he’s there, the next he isn’t, and her inability to reconcile these tacit differences in her own mind troubles her.

What she does remember is the huge argument they had earlier that week.  It was over money, and a vacation, and about the job which she knows is sucking the life out of her husband.  It is not what he is meant to do, but it puts food on their table and keeps a roof over their heads.  She is sad because of the rut in which he’s placed himself, and she is maddened by the way it makes him.  She considers divorce, but that isn’t right.  She loves him too much.

It breaks her heart to know he’s mad at her.  When she tries to talk to him, he ignores her, and sometimes it is as though he isn’t even there.  When she does engage him in conversation, a loud, humming drone shoots through her head, blocking out some of the words.  Sometimes she hears his voice, saying things that don’t make sense in context; and sometimes he seems to disappear from the room altogether, leaving her without recollection of seeing him leave.  It is, in her mind, like a movie with vital frames cut from the film.

So she decides to bake a cake.  She gets up, she walks to the kitchen, and she begins pulling the ingredients from the cupboard.  This will be her peace offering, she thinks, and sets about preparing a chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.  It is his favorite.  Maybe, just maybe, when he sees the trouble she went through to bake it, he’ll lighten up and talk to her.  She keeps this hope in her mind while she breaks the eggs.

It is a cake she will never get to finish.

There is a knock at the door.  She pauses, waits, listens.  A second knock follows.  Donna wipes the flour from her hands and approaches the door.  There is a man standing there.  He is grizzled and dirty.  The look in his eyes tells her something is wrong, but she scolds herself for judging him.  Still, she has to be cautious, and when she opens the door, she braces the side of her foot against it.  Just in case.

“Afternoon, miss.”

“Can I help you?” she asks, and smiles despite the stench rising off him.  It is acrid to the point of bringing tears to her eyes, but she is ever the polite one and resistant to the desire to retch.

“Are you Donna Candle?”

“Yes,” she says.  His eyes shift back and forth, as if he sees something behind her, and she feels her fingers tighten around the door knob.  She clears her throat and repeats her question, “Can I help you, mister?”

The man smiles and quickly shoves his weight against the door.  It catches against her foot with such force that she loses her balance.  The world spins, and for a moment she is falling.  The floor catches her.  Dazed, her head filled with sparkles of light, Donna turns back around to find the dirty man standing over her.  She sees him reach into his pockets and pull free two items.  One is a black cloth.  The other is a handgun.

She panics at sight of the weapon.  Her heart begins to race, and she reacts on instinct.  First, she spins onto her back.  She lifts one leg and kicks the intruder in the groin.  He yelps in pain and lurches over in agony.  She scrambles away from the door and back into the kitchen as he falls to his knees.

Donna’s next impulse is to get a weapon.  She thinks of taking his, but realizes she hasn’t the slightest idea of how to use a gun, and going for it would put her within his reach.  He could easily grab her, wrestle her to the ground, and choke her to death.  Instead she crawls to the kitchen.  Her foot screams when she tries to put her weight on it, and she thinks she may have twisted it when he pushed against the door.

Donna crawls to the cabinetry.  She reaches up, pulls open a drawer, and digs for a knife.  She doesn’t care what kind, so long as it has a blade, but before she can find one—

“You sneaky bitch.”

The man is behind her.  There is pain in his voice, but worse, there is anger.  She feels his hands on her legs, and she cries out when he squeezes her bad ankle.  Desperate, she clings to the drawer, and it gives way as he pulls her from the counter.  Its contents spill to the floor.  She spots a steak knife and strains to reach it, but the man is ahead of the game.  He kicks it away and forces her onto her back.

He’s going to rape me, she thinks. Then he’s going to kill me.  A dozen things flash before her in light of this epiphany.  They are dreams of things she always wanted to do.  She sees a baby she wants to have but never will.  She sees Donovan’s smiling face, and regrets that she will die with him angry at her.

The man pins her to the floor.  She continues to thrash and free herself, but he plants his knees on her arms.  His entire weight immobilizes her.  She watches his arm block out the light on the ceiling.  She sees his hand balled into a fist, and watches it come down in a swift arc.  She feels it connect with her temple, but there is no pain.  There are only stars, and lots of darkness.

More soon.