It was only a dream, but when I see him in the checkout line, three aisles down, my heart quickens, and I remember his eyes shooting bullets through my chest, two thumbs applying pressure to my throat.
The air in here is stifling. Leaving my groceries on the conveyor belt, I dash for the exit, nearly colliding with a woman steering two shopping carts, one carrying the three children who will devour the food in the other within a week.
The humidity of the late summer afternoon is a surprising relief to my lungs. But the reprieve is brief.
I hear the whisper of sliding doors behind—he’s followed me.
He doesn’t even know how much he should hate me. Suspicion of what I have done is far from his imagination. Yet it haunts me every night while I sleep.
He’s seen the woman with the three kids. “That will be us soon,” he tells me, “with my two and now our one on the way.”
Only, it’s not on the way. At least not his third. And it’s only after he bends to hug my expanding stomach that I notice who is with him.
His companion shakes his head, knowing what I want to say. How long can we keep this secret? Until the baby’s born? How long before family resemblance can no longer hold as an excuse for why his child looks more like his brother than him? And would he ever believe me if I tell him it was rape?
He stands to kiss me, lips dry and rough like the first time I told his brother no.
He says he’ll be working late tonight but will come by after his shift—the ex is watching the kids. As much as I love him, I tell him no. I must sleep. I don’t want the truth of my nightmares to slip out while he holds me.
A friend once offered me sleeping pills to make the nights more bearable. It risks hurting the baby, but I’m desperate to do anything. I’ll bury my head underneath a mountain of pillows because I fear his hatred more than never waking from a dream that kills me.
© Nortina Simmons
Originally published October 6, 2017.