She took a good shot right to the head and wished, for a second, that she couldn't feel pain.

It would be nice, if the things that hurt her body couldn't. It would be nice to be numb sometimes. Though, she was once going to be a nurse, so she knew some blows caused damage even if they didn't leave a mark.

This was her own fault, after all. She'd stayed out too long when getting groceries. She knew Eric worried about her, her safety and all that. If she took longer than she said he started to worry. He always got mad when he worried. She did her best not to make him worry. She always checked in, timed her outings perfectly, and never did anything out of the ordinary.

So yeah, this was her fault. They were going to go out tonight, but Eric was too worried now, too stressed.

When he finally calmed down and left the room to go have a beer in the kitchen, Marvalyn sighed.

To make him happy, she gathered up the laundry, told him how long she would be, and tiptoed out.

In that little laundry room, her whole world shifted.

She tiptoed back into their apartment. As she expected, he was waiting for her, almost vibrating with rage.

"Eric, I'm sorry I took longer than I thought. It's just, there was someone else down there, and the good machines were already in use and I didn't want to ruin your clothes so I decided to take longer, do things right-"

He cut her off, even though everything she said was true.

Marvalyn was starting to wonder if anything had ever really been her fault.

But she did not let her thoughts show, not as Eric threw on his coat, saying something about beers with Paul to calm down. She did look lightly forlorn as he walked out the door, and knew he took it a sign she missed him, that things would be better when he got back.

Things would be better.

A while after her boyfriend, who she once had loved very much, left the boarding house, Marvalyn was knocking on the door right below hers.

A smile greeted her.

After that second blow, after the first true cry of pain, it had taken so long to convince him that leaving the laundry room did not mean she was leaving him forever. Less time, in fact, than it had taken to convince not to talk to his brother about her.

Steve seemed to think everything was his fault, too.

This time, all they did was chat. Quietly and calmly in his doorway. But wheels were turning, and her resolve was hardening. When she looked back later, she had always planned this escape, deep down. It just took another hurt soul for her to try.

Before even an hour had passed, Marvalyn excused herself, with promises to return and his promise not to speak of her.

Halfway to the main floor, she wondered what would happen if he accidentally injured himself in front of his brother. Would Paul care? Of course he would, he was a good older brother, very protective. She hoped Paul would be happy. Now his little brother knew what it was like to be fully alive. But she couldn't help but fear he wouldn't be. Who would Paul protect now?

"Ma Dudley?"

"Yes dear?"

"I need a place to get my feet back on the ground. Alone."