NO WAY OUT by Herschel Cozine

Julie put the pen down and sat back in the chair. She buried her head in her hands and sighed softly. She had passed the stage where she could cry. It no longer helped. The feeling of hopelessness that she had felt for years was stronger than ever, and she knew what she was about to do was her only way out. She picked up the paper and started to read.

“I’m sorry it has come to this,” it read. “To all of you who care about me, I know this will be painful for you. Forgive me, and take solace in the fact that I am doing this willingly and am in a better place.”

She didn’t sign it.

She dropped the note on the table. With another sigh she thought back over the past six years. She was caught in a loveless marriage to a man who beat her, made impossible demands on her, and refused to divorce her. He would not allow her to work, so she had no money of her own. She wasn’t allowed to have friends over, and she was not permitted to visit them. He would often come home drunk, demand sex, something she had come to loathe, and fall into a drunken stupor.

She glared at the table by the window, loaded with liquor bottles. Jack’s favorite entertainment. Vodka, bourbon, gin.

She couldn’t take it anymore. Anything, even death, would be better than this. With no other recourse, she had come to this desperate conclusion.

No other way out. No other way out. It had become a mantra. Now she was ready to carry it out.

She took the bottle of pills from her purse, turned it slowly in her hand and set it on the table.

How many? The label said three would be fatal. She shook her head. No matter. She’d take them all.

She twisted the cap. Childproof. Ironic. They had no children.

She twisted again, squeezing the top to release it. It came off and clattered to the floor.

She took a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water. She set it on the table next to the pills, sat down and put her head in her hands.

Sunday was the final straw. Jack woke late that day, staggered out to the kitchen and glared at the table.

“Where’s my breakfast?”

“I didn’t know when you were getting up,” Julie said.

Jack, hung over from a night of heavy drinking even for him, whirled and struck her hard in the face. She cried out and fell to the floor.

“Bitch,” he said. “Fix it. Now! Unless you want more of this.” He held up a fist.

It would never end. In fact, it would only get worse, if that were possible. She had reached the end of her rope.

Only one way out. She held the pills in one hand and the glass of water in the other.

She dropped a pill in and watched as it fizzed and slowly dissolved.

As she started to drop the rest of the pills in the water, the sun reflecting off the liquor bottles caught her eye. She crossed over to the table and picked up the bottle of bourbon. Jack’s favorite. She looked at it with contempt, started to set it back down, hesitated. Maybe she should pour it down the drain, along with the vodka and gin. It would be her final act of defiance. What a delicious thought! She regretted that she wouldn’t be there to see his reaction. She was certain he would be more upset over the loss of his precious liquor than he would over her death.

She twisted the cap off the bottle and started for the kitchen. Halfway there, she stopped, turned back to the table. A fleeting smile crossed her face as she set the bottle back down.

Only one way out?

Humming softly to herself, she took the pills and dropped them into the bottle one by one.

“Two ways,” she said. For the first time in weeks, she laughed out loud.

Herschel Cozine has published extensively in the children’s field. His stories and poems have appeared in many of the national children’s magazines. His mystery stories have appeared in print magazines AHMMEQMMGreat Mystery and Suspense and Woman’s World. Wolfmont Press has used his work for several of the Toys for Tots Christmas anthologies, as well as The Killer Wore Cranberry anthologies published by Untreed Reads. Other of his stories  appear in Orchard Press Mysteries, Page Of Stories, Mysterical E and others. His story, The Phone Call, was the winner of the 2017 Derringer Award.

Copyright © 2018 Herschel Cozine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.