Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fiction Friday - Once a Wink


Domestic violence is a big problem in our country today, but one that is seldom talked about. Often the victim is afraid and unable to leave because of fear - fear of being alone, fear of rejection, feelings of inadequacy and more. Even if they are able to leave an abusive situation, they may enter into a similar situation time and again until the Lord heals the damage done by the abuse.

This story was written several years ago and is dedicated to the women I know who have been victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Once a Wink
by Bonnie Winters

I looked across the bar and there he was, staring at me. When our eyes met, he winked. It seemed so innocent. After all, I didn’t know the man. Perhaps I should have felt flattered that he found me attractive enough to flirt with me. But, I didn't. It made me feel uncomfortable, reminding me of my ex-husband, Jack. He used to wink too, when he wanted something.

The bruises had faded, but the memories of his abuse were still too vivid. Each time, Jack apologized and said it would never happen again. But it did - over and over because I let it happen. I couldn't leave. Even as I sit here now, I wonder if I should have stayed with him. Maybe I could have made a difference...

What am I doing here? I squirmed on the stool at the counter. Humph. Dumb question. I'm here because I can't say no. I stirred the ice in my soft drink and glanced at my co-workers,, Marie and Linda.

"Come with us! It'll be fun. Besides it's Friday night and you can't spend another Friday sitting at home alone." They used every argument in the book until I finally gave in though I knew it was a bad idea.

Though I tried to keep my eyes attentive to my friends, they strayed to the man across from me, almost of their own volition at times. Each time, I found him still staring at me. And each time, he winked.

Boy this is getting annoying, like the buzz of a mosquito around my ears. If only I had a swatter, I’d mash that irritating bug. The picture of the man with his tongue lolling and his eyes bugging out of their sockets made me feel a little better. I smiled to myself, focusing on my soft drink.

Near the man, the waiter dropped a whole tray of glasses. The sudden crash
of glass meeting the tile floor captured my attention and involuntarily, I glanced toward the sound. The man across the bar was still staring in my direction. Once again, he grinned with his lopsided lips and winked.

I shuddered inwardly. That wink was not one of camaraderie. His expression reminded me of a cat that had cornered its dinner. It was the same smirking, pre-dinner ritual that I frequently endured with Jack. I looked away, twiddling my straw between my fingers. I looked at the counter. I looked at the jukebox. I looked at the dim lights overhead.

“Let’s leave,” I said, turning to my friends. But they were having much too good a time flirting with the two men in the corner booth to notice the edge in my voice. I tried to ignore the smirking man across the bar. Who needs this anyway? Maybe, I should just leave without my friends. Let them find their own way home!

I did leave the bar, retreating to the powder room. If I stay in here long enough, maybe he’ll be gone when I come out. I fixed my make up, adjusted the hem of my skirt, fiddled with the buttons on my blouse - anything to kill time.

I looked in the mirror and saw a mouse; a timid creature with fear in her eyes - always running, always hiding and always coming back to the same trap. I watched as the lips of the woman in the mirror tightened into a resolute line. We both straightened and placed our hands on our hips. I nodded and she nodded back "Thanks honey, " I said to my reflection. "You're right. This is ridiculous. Why should some idiot who insists on winking at me across the bar ruin my evening?"

Gathering my purse and my resolve, I returned to my friends. They had moved to the corner booth with those two guys and were lost in a conversation, punctuated occasionally by giggles and guffaws. Feeling like a third wheel, I returned to my soft drink at the bar.

The man was still there across from me. Purposefully, I sat down with my back to him, but it didn’t help. I felt his eyes burn holes through the soft knit fabric of my blouse. The hair on the nape of my neck prickled in spite of my resolve. My muscles stiffened and I felt a slow flush rise up my neck. I pulled a compact from my purse to see how furiously I was blushing. But when I opened the mirror, his face was reflected there, still eating me with his eyes, still winking.

That does it! I will not sit here and cower under that Cheshire grin. Subduing the mouse inside, I rose to my feet, set my lips in a resolute line and walked toward the man. Hadn't I learned anything because of that fiasco of a marriage with Jack? I should give this guy a piece of my mind. Why can’t he just leave me alone? Can’t he see I’m not interested?

Once again he winked as I approached. My anger flared. If you don’t stop that, I’m going to call the police and have you charged with harassment. Or better yet, I ought to punch you in the eye. Maybe that would stop you.

Now I was close enough to really see him. I stopped in my tracks, taken aback. I forgot the harsh rebuke I intended to burn his ears. In the dim lights across the bar, I had not seen how puffy and red his eye was. Obviously, there was something wrong. The eye watered profusely and he winked several times to relieve the wet discomfort, even as I stood there. The swelling around his eye and cheek distorted his smile, so it appeared lopsided.

He looked pathetic, not at all like the conniving cat image I had conjured in my mind. The sight of him up close doused most of the fiery indignation I felt. I inhaled deeply to bring the rest of my runaway emotions under control.

“Have a seat,” he said. “What would you like to drink?”

I grimaced and nodded toward my friends. “I’m the designated driver. How about a cola?”

We sat in silence, staring at the counter until the waiter brought my soft drink. I couldn’t stand it anymore. My curiosity itched and I turned to look at his eye again.

“What happened to your eye?” I asked cautiously, trying to break the uncomfortable silence, yet not wanting to offend him. He really didn’t seem like such a bad fellow after all. Not at all like Jack.

With half a laugh, he looked at me. I thought I could see the Cheshire cat again, though I wasn’t sure. “Oh, some guy belted me for winking at his wife.”

The knuckles of my right hand hurt as I brought them to my lips and blew on them gently. I flexed them slowly to be sure nothing was broken as I deliberately gathered my purse.

“Let’s go,” I said calmly to my friends in the dead silence of the barroom as everyone stared at me standing over the man on the floor.

I leveled my chin and strode toward the exit. "This mouse is leaving!"
(C) 1995 Bonnie Winters


Fiction Fridays are hosted by Patty over at Patterings. If you like to read, jump on over and check out some of the great short stories by the other authors.

If you like to write and want to participate, simply post your story on your blog, then visit Patterings to leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box.

Happy writing and reading!


Scarlet Carter(S.Harricharan) said...

LOL! I'm glad that she did leave. I could feel for and with her, those prickling stares and the wink. Good twist on the end though, I didn't quite see that one coming. ^_^

Joanne Sher said...

I definitely didn't see that twist coming - and I was absolutely engaged in this story from beginning to end. Wonderfully done!

The Surrendered Scribe said...

I long to write action verbs like you do. This was a powerful one, I was rigt there with you!

Patty Wysong said...

What a twist!! You got me twice with that one, Bonnie!! (I'm sooo glad she got out of there!)

Stop by Patterings tomorrow!