“Through the Fire and Flames” A Short Story

There she is again. For the past three weeks this woman has been sitting in the same train car as me. There are only so many stations she could have boarded from and as I took my seat a few feet away, still within eye distance, I wondered what part of The Bronx she called home. Was it Parkchester? Castle Hill? How about Pelham Bay Park? Did it really matter? No. There was something different about her this time, and not in a good way. Her eyes were weary. The light in them seemed distant. Her rosy cheeks were bland. She did not appear to be happy at all. A corner seat opened up as the six train came to a complete stop at Elder Avenue. I quickly got up and took it, narrowly bumping into a Mexican man probably on his way to a construction site. No matter; the woman was now right in front of me, and could see why she looked different. Her eyes were not weary but looked far away. The scarf she normally wore over her head was darker today, and she had on more make-up than necessary with it heavily accented on her cheeks which may explain the bland appearance. A terribly attractive woman, she is. Maybe in her early thirties? Her eyes were telling me a different number though. So were the black spots imbedded on her cheeks, right under her eyes; the concealer not doing its job. They weren’t bags; I knew what those looked like, having them myself this morning. No. My heart sunk when I realized someone had taken a fist or two across her face. This woman, didn’t matter if she was smart, dumb, beautiful or ugly; she had been violated by someone she frequently said “I love you” to. It was all right there in her eyes. This was unacceptable. But what could I do? Is it my place to speak up? I don’t even know her. Don’t know of her life. Maybe it was an accident. Oh, yea, sure. Now you sound like them. Them who? The victims of abuse who walk around in denial. Take a look at her face. I have no problem doing that. Does that sadness look like suffering caused by misgivings of themselves? No…? But I ask you again, what do I do? I feel like if I asked her something she might get jumpy. Besides it’s too early to bother people. It’s never too early for change. Two Weeks Later… The train thundered into the station, the wheels sending up sparks as it slowed to a stop, hugging the cold metal tracks. Some familiar faces of the Saturday morning train ride gazed in my direction as I took a seat in one of the blue folding handicap chairs. There she was again. After not seeing her for two weeks she sat in her usual seat (how, I have no idea) nonchalantly while staring into nothingness. My eyes were immediately drawn to her face. The bruises were gone but something else replaced it as I scanned her from head to toe; her right arm was in a sling, and the left index finger was in a brace. She must have felt me watching her because she suddenly looked my way. I tried to smile but my face would not allow it. She deserved the smile; they were in limited numbers on her end lately. I could tell. Without realizing it I noticed both hands were balled into fists, my nerves were tightening too. I loosened myself up but my heart remained constrained. I didn’t know who her significant other was but the desire to take both fists to his face was burning ever so brightly. What compels a man to raise his hands to a woman? Even if it’s accepted in certain religions it’s not welcomed in this country. The law is the law, and I wanna take it to him like he’s been giving it to her. She glanced my way again. A weary smile stretched across her face. My heart wept. In her smile I could see she knew I was no threat to her, but an ally. It’s as if the smile said, “thank you for your concern. But I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. Please.” I wanted to be optimistic but cases like these never end well. I just hope I don’t see her on the 11 ‘o’ clock news as a murder victim. Please don’t let that happen to this woman. The train entered the tunnel at Hunts Point and the lights in it seemed to dim for this woman. Another Two Weeks Later… My mom changed the channel from Two to Seven for the news, much like she’s always done my entire life. The headlining story stopped me in my tracks as I got up to get a glass of water, Bill Ritter shocking me into submission. “Tonight a Bronx woman is under arrest for the brutal murder of her husband. Thirty-three year old Safia Bugti is facing charges of murder in the second degree. Ms. Bugti’s husband had been abusing her for the last three years and according to what she’s told police, the last beating was the last straw.” The feed cut to an interview previously recorded. It was of an older woman with the same last name as Safia; the woman on the train. The woman I have not seen in the last two weeks. The woman whose reassuring smile now made so much sense. “Safia told me her husband has been hitting her. She showed me the bruises on her back and stomach. She was-.” The woman paused as she choked back some tears. “My daughter was three months pregnant when I saw the bruises, and I knew it in my heart that the baby was lost.” The feed then cut to Safia being dragged away in handcuffs and led into an awaiting police car, lights and all. “Good for her.” My mother said as I sat on the edge of my seat. I turned to her. “Her husband got what he deserved. That dick.” She then thrust a fist in the air and cheered. I laughed. “The fuck? Ma, you okay?” When she stopped twirling in place she said, “It sucks that she has to go to jail but good for her for killing that asshole. I hope she chopped his dick off too.” We both laughed and as my mother got up to use the bathroom, yet again, I sat there looking at the screen as the feed cut back to the newsroom and sexy Liz Cho was now the main focus. I’m proud of you. I only wish I could smile at you this Saturday morning.

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