"I'm sorry, ma'am." The man behind the desk said, "If you can't pay today, you'll have to leave."
Of course she would. That was how it worked. Everything in life came at a cost. Even the crappy motel they had been staying at for the past month.
Sarah leaned over the desk, her worn hands outstretched to show the man that she was serious. "You don't have any work for me to do?" She asked, "Like washing sheets or cleaning rooms or…"
The man looked down at his paperwork, ignoring her and said, "I'll let you know if we have any men who ask for an escort service…" Then he looked up at her, his face gleaming with his insult. "Your husband asked me that yesterday. Whether I would sleep with you in exchange for another week."
Of course he had. If only Sarah felt that this was new. If only she hadn't expected this from Seth. She stood up and said, "Well, I would be the one who would have to offer that to you." And she turned around and said, "And I'm not offering."
The man said, "That's not what your husband said." Then he added, "Checking out tomorrow?"
She didn't even give him the satisfaction of an answer – other than her finger as she flipped him off as she walked away, down the rows of doors to their room number. 17. The last place had been number 4. And the place before that, 12.
This wasn't abnormal. The feeling of displacement as she felt right now. She leaned against the door before she inserted the key. Amber was sleeping. Or should have been. After running around at the park, both of the kids should have been overtired. Drew, with his little toddler running, probably tired himself out for the rest of the night. He had been sleeping in the playpen, still in his clothes, before Sarah put Amber in beside him after she put the little girl's nightgown on. Even though she was five, she was still so little that it was easier to put the both in there together – especially if Sarah had to leave for a little while. And the floor of the motel's that they were living at - they weren't clean enough for Amber to sleep on the floor, so the playpen was the best that Sarah could do.
The dark sky overhead just seemed to mock Sarah – when the sun came up, she would need to have everything finished and packed and ready to load up in the little car. Going where, she didn't know. Seth was the one who always decided that.
If she could ever find him.
She had called his phone – Greg's phone – any other person in the band's phone trying to get ahold of her husband. But nothing but voicemails. From everyone. She left her generic, "It's an emergency, call me as soon as you can" message on everyone's phones.
As much as she needed to pack, she didn't want to wake the kids up while she did it. So she decided to set the alarm clock for really early and pack in the morning – at least then the kids would be less crabby if she woke them – they would have slept and might be a little jovial. Not that it mattered – she had to pack whether they were happy or not – but getting anything done with a questioning five-year-old and a whining two-year-old would only add to the stress.
She quietly slid the key through the lock – praying that the beeping from the lockpad wouldn't wake the kids. She was just about to shut the door behind her when she heard him.
"Little fingers…" She closed her eyes as he slurred out the song at the top of his lungs as he walked down the doorways. He loved to sing when he was drunk. Normally it was a song the band would sing that night – singing off key and slurring every word. But this song? "Little toes…" He got closer to the door, she could tell from the way his voice was coming that he was stumbling around. This song… "My forehead… your nose." The song they wrote together after Amber had been born. God, what a full circle thing here.
She didn't want him to wake the kids up. So she quickly walked out the door and just about closed it behind her when he was standing right there. His drunken smile on his bloody face. Eyes glazed over with a few too many shots of tequila and, from the way he wasn't shaking or breathing hard – a snort or two of something else too. Probably cocaine. From the way his eyes were staring down her body. When he could afford it, the heroin he could find normally made him so tired he had no desire for anything else. But that was few and far between. The cocaine was more regular – and, Sarah knew from experience that cocaine made a person very sexually needy.
His words were all strung together, and he almost seemed unable to stand up straight and speak at the same time, his body swaying along with his words. "My beautifulwife… It's Sarah!" He exclaimed her name so loudly she jumped, and then immediately worried about the other people staying in the rooms next to them.
Looking to see if anyone was around, she reached for his arm and whispered, "Seth, please… the kids are asleep. And it's eleven at night."
He didn't act like she said anything, just continued talking very loud. "You're sooo pretty." And he stepped so he was standing right up against her. His bloody hand reached for her face and he didn't stop, even when she flinched – he just ran his fingers along her jaw. "All the guys in the band tellme that you're the most pretty woman they've seen."
Oh, god. Sarah hated this. He was so drunk. And high. Pushing his hand away, she just shook her head and said, "You should sleep, Seth. Because tomorrow we have to…"
"I'm gonna sleep with my wife." He said, a broad drunken smile on his face as he quickly wrapped his hands around her hips.
Her hands reached down and surrounded his big wrists, trying to push him off, but he held on. She protested, "Not now. You're drunk and the kids…" She tried to sound positive, knowing if he knew she was telling him no that things wouldn't go well for them. "… they're sleeping and I don't want to wake…"
He playfully growled and leaned his face down to hers, like he was going to kiss her. His breath stunk as he said, "The kids should know their parents love each other." And he went of her lips, but she turned her face so his lips hit her ear.
As she felt his grip around her waist tighten, she tried to push him off again. "Do you have the money for the motel?" If she could distract him until the high wore off, maybe he would fall asleep from the liquor. Maybe she could lug him to the bed before he puked on her and prop him on his side so if he did expel the liquor, it would be towards the disgusting floor and she wouldn't wake up next to him covered in vomit.
"Stop talking about money, Sarah." He said, his voice losing his flirty tone. "Unless you want someone to mistake you for a hooker." His hands moved up her sides to her chest, where he cupped his hands underneath her breasts, massaging her through her shirt. "Let's get this off of you."
This couldn't be happening. Not again. God, she should be an expert at this by now. Don't let him get handsy, take him in, pull his shoes off, search his pockets for sharps before laying him down on the bed, and cover him up with his own blanket so she wouldn't accidentally snuggle up with him in the middle of the night. That was what she should do. Why couldn't she?
She just put her hands on his chest and said firmly. "Seth, no. Let's do this in the morning." His breath against her neck as he kissed her – it made her squirm to get him to stop. He didn't move – who was she kidding. Sure, she was 5'9 and not unaccustomed to hard work – but she was skinny, since Drew stopped breastfeeding, most of the food went to the kids – and compared to her 6'5 husband, with his broad shoulders and muscles strong from carrying band equipment everywhere – she knew pushing him away wouldn't do anything to stop what he was trying to start. But she still tried, and said a bit louder, "We can have all the fun in the morning. I need some sleep. We have to move again in the morning."
He just pushed her back, the door that hadn't been latched behind them swung open with a loud crash against the wall. The kids. Seth grabbed her arms that were trying to push him away and pulled her closer to him as he walked towards the bed. She could hear Drew stirring in the playpen, and she just pleaded with Seth, "Drew's awake. Let me go put him back to…"
"Shut up." Seth whispered as he rammed his leg between hers, using it to push her body the rest of the way to the bed. "Let's do this, Sarah."
She didn't want this. God, his lips on her neck made her want to throw up – when he wasn't sober, the thought of having sex with him was repulsive. Only because of what he was capable of when he wasn't in his right mind. As her back hit the unmade bed, she just said, "Seth, the kids. They're awake. I don't want them…." She sat up on her elbows, trying to pull her knees up on the bed so they were closed and blocking him. But his big hands wrapped around her ankles and threw them to the ground. Her voice got more and more panicked, "I don't want this. Seth…" If she kept saying his name, maybe she could get through the drugs. Maybe she could bring enough of sober Seth out that he would realize what he was doing.
But, for as drunk and high as he was, he pulled off his pants and boxers fast, and then reached for the button on her jeans. Sarah rolled onto her stomach, so his hands lost their target. "No." She said loudly, knowing that both of the kids were stirring already. "Stop."
The hand came down so hard, she cried out in pain, the surprise making it absolutely unable to bite her tongue.
"You like that?" He yelled at her as he towered over her. "Roll over or I'll slap that ass of yours harder next time."
God, what was she going to do? He was her husband. Maybe she didn't want to have sex with him, but would it be so bad to just get it over with?
A hand snaked into her brown hair and before she knew it, he yanked her up so she was sitting on the bed with her knees, her back forced up against his chest as he hissed into her ear, "We can do this the hard way or the easy way." Heart pounding. Breathing labored. The hand that wasn't using her hair as leverage found the button on her jeans and fumbled with it until it popped open.
All she could whisper through her frightened mouth was, "Seth, the kids. Please. I don't want them to see this. Please…"
His voice wasn't so terrifying as he softened his voice and his hands, letting go of her hair. "I didn't mean to hurt you." Almost apologetic. But his fingers reached down underneath her jeans, his fingers pushing up against her panties, rubbing the material between her legs. "I just love you so much, I… I want to have sex with you."
His voice was that of a little boy. The alcohol really was doing wonders tonight on his emotions. She just said, "I love you too, Seth." And she reached for the hand between her legs, pulling it up and encasing his hand with her small one – holding him so he knew how much she cared for him. Gently, her words chosen carefully, she said, "But we love the kids too." She gestured with her head over to the playpen, where little Drew was standing, sucking on his thumb while he watched his parents. "And we need to let them sleep." She could feel his hand relax in hers.
Maybe it was working. She needed to see him. She turned around, so she was facing him, willing her heart to stop pounding as she began to see the husband she recognized. The man she married – staring down at her. Still wasted, she knew he was under the influence. But there wasn't that fire in his eyes. Maybe his coke high was coming down. He would want to sleep when that happened. She always used to. Running her fingers gently along his bruised jaw, she whispered, "Do you want to go to bed?" His eyes went to the pillow at the top of the bed. She needed to encourage him. "I'll tuck you in?" Like she was talking to Amber. Her five-year-old. He was her husband.
He brought his lips up into a pout and asked, "If we have sex then the kids won't sleep good?"
Sarah shook her head, and stood to her feet next to the bed, buttoning her pants while she assured him, "Yeah, we can't have sex when the kids are trying to sleep." Then she added, "How about you climb into bed and I'll go get you some aspirin and water?"
She patted the bed, and, like an oversized teddy bear, he sat down and just looked at her with his green eyes clouded with alcohol. As she sank down to her knees to take off his shoes, he touched her hair like it was expensive china. "I am so happy you're my wife." She just smiled up at him and pulled the first shoe off. He was so drunk. "And we have these kids. They're so perfect." He whipped around to look at them, and then turned around as she pulled the other shoe off. As she stood to her feet, her back froze up for a second before she stood all the way up. God, she had to have that checked.
"Lay down, honey," She said sweetly, fluffing the pillow as he laid his dirty head down, holding her hand gently while the other pulled the blanket up around him, tucking it in around his shoulders. He put her hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly, his eyes drooping even more as she leaned down and touched her lips to his forehead. "Just rest, ok?"
She watched his eyes close, waiting for him to breathe a few times before she pulled her hand out of his, and then, and only then, did she herself take a deep breath. The drop in adrenaline made her hands shake, and she realized just how close that had been. How close she had been to the horrible situation that happened more than she wanted to remember. She started to sit down in the little chair by the miniscule table by the window, but she jumped up when Drew started whimpering.
She quickly walked over, whispering as she picked up her little boy, "Shhh… Drew, baby. Daddy's sleeping." He was tired. She could tell as he laid his little head on her shoulder, his thumb still in his mouth. She rubbed his back as she snuggled her head on his. "It's time for bed." She could tell by the way he was holding her that he had just been scared. Sarah thought back to how Seth had thrown the door open, threw her on the bed, and proceeded to yell at her and smack her. And how she had yelled at him to stop. No wonder this kid was still awake. Looking down at her little Amber, snuggled up with all the blankets, Sarah was thankful that at least one kid wouldn't be traumatized for life from tonight. She prayed that Drew, who was now breathing deeply and sound asleep, would not remember anything from tonight. He was only barely two. God, what kind of mother hopes her children forget their childhood? Laying him back down, she reached for her side of the bed and grabbed the sheet, and draped it over Drew, making sure he was all nice and warm before she walked over to the bed.
Too tired to even change into her pajamas, Sarah crawled into bed and pulled the blanket up around her. Her head fell back against the motel pillow that had been hers for the last month. In this trashed place, it cost money to get the sheets changed and fresh linens brought in. But that was fine with Sarah – it meant that the pillow she laid her head on at night was something familiar. What had her life come to? That a pillow she slept on for a month was familiar to her? But it wasn't even hers. She had no house. No bed of her own. Her children slept in a playpen. Because the floor wasn't an option. It made her sad that she found some comfort in a pillow that wasn't even hers.