Susan left with one hundred dollars in her purse and her six-month-old baby strapped in the car seat of the old pickup truck. In the area behind the seats was everything she needed packed into two little suitcases.

The baby slept, unaware of the danger her mother was leaving behind or where she was going.

Susan had dreamed of living in a New York high-rise before she was married. Everyone knew she wanted to go to New York. Willie had discovered her magazine clippings and promised that one day he would take her there. But now California was her destination.

She couldn’t take the chance anyone might find her. Besides, she wanted to be as far from him as possible, which meant far from the memories, too.

Willie had hit her even before she had the baby, and things got worse after. His coffee wasn’t hot enough. Dinner had not been on the table when he came home from bar-hopping after work. She slept too late or got up too early. She left lights on or didn’t turn them on. There were so many reasons, she couldn’t remember them all.

She hoped the gas wouldn’t run out before she reached Bonnie’s house in the next town. Her friend had told her, “No matter what, you have a safe place here.”

Driving a few miles over the speed limit, she prayed nobody would stop her, that no cop would notice a young woman with fear in her eyes, a fresh blue bruise on her cheek, fiercely protective of her baby, driving an old truck with too many miles on its tires.

After Bonnie’s she couldn’t rely on the old truck. But Bonnie knew how to get rid of things. Susan planned to use her husband’s credit card to rent a car. And she had no intention of returning it. She’d have to steal. She’d have to lie. She had no choice if she wanted to disappear.

She remembered the smack of Willie’s fist on her cheek because she hadn’t ironed his good jeans. Remembered the anger in his brown eyes as she scrambled across the kitchen floor on all fours and saw his rifle next to the back door. Remembered his laughter as she grabbed the rifle and stood up, aiming it at him. Remembered the shock in his eyes as she fired one shot into his chest and the eerie silence after the explosion. Susan wanted to be long gone before anyone discovered Willie. She thought about the life in front of her, the death behind her and drove a little faster.

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Mel Goldberg
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