Head hurts. Thirsty. Tired. Want to go back to sleep. It’s bright out, too bright. Light through the window hurts. Blanket is nice. How did I get here? Can’t remember last night. More sleep. But so thirsty. Need to get up, get water. Beer. Both.

Get up slowly. Bathroom door is closed, light underneath. Sue. I Miss Sue. Feels like forever since seen her. Will pee later. Water first. Stub toes on suitcase in doorway. Why put them in the doorway. Messy. 

Stairs. Don’t want to do stairs. Go slowly, use banister. Hand hurts. Bruised. Living room window is open. Birds sound nice. Remember its lock is broken, that I was supposed to fix. Hasn’t locked in a long time. Might fix it one day. Told Sue I did. But what if I lose the house key? What if she locks me out? Window is fine, doesn’t need fixing.

I look away, realize Sue is standing in the kitchen. My Sue. My kitchen. One hand holding a phone to her ear, the other clumsily chopping an onion. Large knife, butcher’s knife. 

“Thanks again for letting me stay at your place, Alice.”

Alice. I’ve told Sue not to hang out with Alice, not to speak to her, not to see her. She’s bad for her, for us. I call out to Alice, but my voice is hoarse, barely comes out. Uncomfortable. She doesn’t hear me.

“Yeah, yeah, he just got back, just after I did actually. He’s upstairs. I’m good now, thank you.”

She laughs. It’s a good laugh. Sad, but good. I like hearing it.

“All right, Alice. I’ll call you again later. Thanks again. Bye.”

She puts the phone down. My hand cups her hip, and I start to spin her around, say hi to my Sue. She jumps in surprise. She sees me. She screams. I scream.

Sue is older than I remember. She’s got a new mole on the bottom of her left cheek, near her chin. Wrinkle on her forehead. Bags under her eyes. Wide, terrified eyes. Pretty eyes.

I hang up the phone, set it down next to the cutting board. It’s good to talk to Alice, she’s a wonderful friend, helped me through a lot of bad times and continues to, but she likes to talk. I focus again on making breakfast for Tom. He just got home from a business trip, went upstairs after saying hi.

I jumped when Tom touched my hip; I didn’t think he’d be back down so soon.

I screamed when I realized it was Jack. Oh god, it’s Jack.

How long has Jack been here? What is he doing here? Never mind. I know. He’s here for me. How did he get here? The window. The goddamn window. I grab the knife and hold it out, hold him off. I scream at him to get out.

He looks confused, yells something back, hoarse and rough. He was just saying hi.

I tell him to get out again, jabbing the knife in his direction. I don’t want him saying hi.

He glances at the knife, and his eyes narrow. How dare I tell him to get out, it’s his house too. Maybe I should be the one to get out.

What the hell is he talking about? He hasn’t lived in this house for two years, not since I kicked him out for good. He’s not even allowed within 100 yards of the place. But of course that doesn’t matter to him. Restraining orders mean nothing, law means nothing. He calls, no matter how many times I change my number. He emails, no matter how many times I block his accounts. He even showed up at my office a week ago, scaring me so much I stayed at Alice’s while Tom was out of town. But Tom returned this morning and we came back to the house, and now, barely even settled in, barely having started breakfast, there was Jack. Jack had been waiting, waiting for me to be alone, waiting to corner me.

“Jack, get the hell out of our house!”

And there on the stairs, finally, was Tom. Thank god for Tom.

Holy shit it’s Jack. Susan’s holding a knife, threatening him with it. She’s so brave. But how the hell did Jack get in our house? Why is he in our house? Never mind, dumb question. Jesus, I shouldn’t have left her alone, even for a second. 

I yell, order Jack to get out of the house. I sound pretty confident, I think. Susan must too, she looks up at me in relief. But Jack’s not intimidated. He jumps her, grabs the knife from her. Shit, shit, shit, I made things worse. I run back up the stairs, gun, gun, gun. Shotgun is propped up in the corner. I grab it, so glad I’ve started keeping it loaded, and rush back out to the stairs. 

Jack has the knife, and he’s cornered Susan in the kitchen. She’s backing up on the countertop, practically sitting on it, and he’s still coming towards her. Shit, he’s going to kill her. He’s actually finally going to do it. Susan yells, Jack shouts back and lifts the knife into the air, and my finger depresses the shotgun’s trigger. For a devastating moment I imagine Susan is hurt, but she isn’t. It’s Jack who screams, Jack who drops the knife that clatters across the tile floor, Jack who drops like a sack of shit to the floor, who curls and clutches at his gut.

what the fuck

this is my own god damn house and that’s my god damn woman and who the fuck does he think is and why did he shoot me

god damn it it hurts

why did she try to knife me and what the hell is going on

why won’t she just stop screaming, shut the fuck up my head hurts

and i still didn’t get any damn water i’m so thirsty

it hurts