When the door slammed, an involuntary lurch caused Leigh to rock back as if jolted with electricity.  In the span of time it took for her heart to skip a beat, she thought she was back at the reservation again, caught in that moment of her husband’s bowling night arrival.  Every Thursday for three and a half years he went out in his best suit and bowling bag, swaggering like some cowpoke about to get laid by the pin girl.  Eventually he would flounder in with a slam of the door and scream out her name, spitting degradation with every word as he went through his list of insults like a roll call.  She had learned early on not to accuse him of adultery – that brought the worst beatings and took extra time at the hospital.  It had taken her almost two years – ninety-eight Thursdays, to be exact – to make it to the point where she could live without any bruises, mechanizing the words and acts he demanded as she pretended to enjoy his barbaric and brutal assault upon her body and soul.  His slobbering screams of Whore! Bitch! and Slut! still bounced around the stucco walls the day she finally left, taking his wallet and truck with her as payment due while he snored away his drunken licentiousness. That was two states, six months and a thousand memories away now as she barked out a surprised laugh when Josh ambled into the kitchen.

     Had it not been for the fact that her husband’s rusted out old Ford pickup had proved to be as worthless as he, she might not have ever met Josh.  She had hailed his vintage Checker cab, as warm and inviting as it was cold and imposing outside.  Everything about him, from his dark, swarthy looks to his sharp, intelligent humor, had impressed the hell out of her that short ten minute ride to her girlfriend's driveway.  So much, in fact, that she had given him a huge tip and her hastily scrawled number on a scrap of paper.  Leigh was so glad he had called her back.  He had proven to be the most considerate, gentle, caring man she had ever known.  As she opened her arms to Josh, she almost wept from gratitude.
      Josh still kept her number in his wallet, folded between arcade pictures of the two of them goofing off.  When it was slow, he’d sometimes pull it out and gaze at her name below the number, and at the wistful smiley face to the side.  When he happened across Leigh and her steaming truck that night, he had just returned from a long weekend in St. Louis, the halfway point between Baltimore and Eugene, Oregon.  His soon-to-be ex wife had suggested a rendezvous spot convenient to them both in order to finalize their divorce, and he suspected she didn’t want to return to her debts on the east coast or let him close to her new stomping rounds. Since she had arranged for the cost of flights and room, he had gone, thinking it to be a deal best done quickly. Had his ex realized he was on the cusp of having his first novel published, she would have held on for half. Instead, he allowed her to use him one last time in a final frenzy of shopping, sightseeing and fucking.  He had feigned remorse as she gave him the papers to sign in hopes she would feel a small measure of guilt or shame.  She hadn’t.  Even though the divorce wouldn’t be final for a month, the flight home felt like freedom, nevertheless.  It had been a hard life living under the Bitch-Goddess’ thumb, but it would soon be over.  These things were not on his mind, though, as he dropped his tote-bag and rushed into Leigh’s embrace.
      She melted into his arms with familiarity, although they had only been together a couple of weeks, and for a moment passion washed over them like a blast furnace.  Josh leaned into her kiss eagerly, feeling her tongue invite his to come out and play. Her belly and breasts pressed hard against him, making him want to make their clothes disappear instantly so he could feel her silky skin against his woolen chest.  The bubble of a memory drifted past his mind as Leigh ground her hips against him, one particular afterward moment as they joked and tickled each other all around the waterbed.  She sat on his chest naked, her brown legs pinning his arms down as she deliberately brushed her long, black hair across his face.  As her face sparkled with laughter, her breasts bobbing with her every movement, he had realized with a jolt that she was without doubt the most fantastic lover he had ever known.  This sudden revelation had caused Josh to weep without wanting to, and he almost did again remembering that moment.  His lips left hers and roamed over her face lightly, savoring the taste of her skin as she giggled and undid his ponytail holder at the same time, letting his bangs fall over her upturned face.
      “Gotcha,” Leigh whispered playfully as she stuffed a handful of Josh’s hair in his mouth.
      “Ack!”  Josh hacked like a cat bringing up fur, burrowing his face into her cleavage like a blind man looking for air.  He then drug his tongue up her neck in a quick, wet lick while she squealed. Before he could move away, though, Leigh drove her tongue into his eye and held his head with surprising strength as she pretended to give him a loud hickey.

     This led to a brief but furious wrestling match which ended when Leigh thunked her head on the wall trying to keep her legs clamped around Josh’s neck while he popped her toes.  Josh immediately became the nurse, parting her thick hair to get a better look at the bump.  She sat on the floor Indian-style as he kneeled behind her, leaning into her gently as he examined the injury.
      Josh had never seen a head wound before, and in the dim light of the kitchen the red bump didn’t look so big.  “You really shouldn’t be playing rough with someone twice your age, you know.”
      “Like shit,” Leigh replied, squinching her eyes.  “You trying to say I’m fourteen or something?  Guess more like eight, ouch!”  A lightening strike of pain cut like a scalpel into her brain, and for just a moment she saw tiny stars bouncing off each other in trailing jumbles of atomized light.  They disappeared into the air when she blinked.
      “You’ve got the manners of an eight year old, that’s for sure.”  Josh’s southern bass voice vibrated her hair and scalp.   “Don’t you know better than to wrassle with a pro?”  Her hands found his kneecaps and began teasing them despite her discomfort. “Hey, hey, kiddo!”  He groped for her ribs, her armpits, anything to tickle her back.  They rolled onto the floor together, laughing and sighing.
      As they lay facing each other slightly out of breath, Leigh reached up and gingerly felt the knot, now warm and swollen like a hard boiled egg. “Jeez, man, this is a wicked bump! Hurt’s like a bitch, too!”
      “Oh, hush, little baby,” Josh said, pouting his lips toward her distortedly in mock pity.  “In a hundred years you’ll have forgotten all about it.” He lifted one eyebrow and glared madly, reminding her of George Carlin. “If it grows to the size of Texas I promise to take you to the ER, ok girly girl?”
     Leigh frowned and slapped his arm enough to sting.  “Lea’me alone, bully!  If you had this you’d be crying and begging me to take you for X-rays!” She heard something click in her head, sending another bolt of searing pain this time like a wave of sick terror. Everything began to turn white with a sudden blizzard of tadpole lights.  

      Just as Josh’s face faded, she heard her husband’s rough voice.  “I told you not to do that again, bitch!”  Then the brilliance engulfed her and she disappeared screaming amongst crushing stars of pain.
      Josh went pale as he saw Leigh’s eyes roll up, revealing their pearly  underbellies.  “Leigh?  Leigh!”  She suddenly went  limp, as if all the life had just been sucked out of her, causing Josh to sit up frightened and shaking.  911, he thought instantly, scrambling for the phone.  As his trembling fingers found the numbers, Josh looked over at Leigh just as her bladder emptied, spreading out in a dark pool through her jeans and into the carpet.  “O God, ogod, c’mon, godamnit, c’m-“
      “911, what’s your emergency?”  The female voice on the other end sounded metallic and stale.
      “I need an ambulance!  713  Garden Street!  My girlfriend hit her head and passed out!”  Josh suddenly felt his throat tighten up with emotion and helplessness. Everything seemed so sharp and still.
      “Is she breathing?”
      Josh watched Leigh’s flat belly rise and fall shallowly.  “Yeah, yeah.”
      The voice took on a slightly more bored tone.  “Is your girlfriend bleeding from her wound, sir?”
      “No, she’s just got a bump.”  Josh spoke closer to the receiver.  “Are you gonna send the ambulance, or what?  She’s unconscious and just pissed all over herself!  I’m not a – “
      “Relax, sir, a unit’s on the way now.”
      Josh hung up the phone just as the 911 operator said in a fading monotone, “Sir, could I have your –“  He sat cradling Leigh’s head in his lap, stroking her hair and waiting, listening for the sound of approaching sirens.
      He knew all about her husband, and what that bastard had done to her.  It had come out their first night together. The evening had been magical up to their lovemaking, when she had broken down in tears beneath his soft caresses hoping he wouldn’t discover the wide scars and burns like a quilt over her thin body.  Josh did find them eventually and, without asking a single question, kissed each place as she wept out the story.  He heard things that night he would never had imagined, and at times had to fight the urge to show his rage and horror.   He had silently vowed to bring her more pleasure than the pain she had endured, more love than the hate she had lived with.  Now she lay crumpled, unresponsive to his touch, a victim of play.  The warped satire of this turn in fate pierced Josh’s heart like a spear, and he choked out her name like a mantra as he continued to smooth the hair from her brow.  He bent down to kiss her as faint sirens wafted through the night air. “They’re almost here,” Josh whispered as his lips touched hers.
      She felt him on top of her, his hands kneading her breasts viciously as his full weight threatened to push her through the floor.  It was always like this at the end with his hurried, grunting thrusts.  She had to pretend this was the best fuck of all, had to moan and shout out just the right words or he’d punch her in the abdomen, twisting his heavy diamond ring into her flesh upon impact.  She’d learned what to do and when to do it to avoid his outbursts.  If all went well, it would be over in just a few minutes.  Soon he’d make a more guttural sound as he came, roll off her in a sweaty heap and be asleep within minutes, leaving her with a wetspot and a chorus of snores.  This time, though, he seemed more aggressive, calling her name out over and over as his fat belly made slapping noises in a way that assaulting her ears.  “Ah’m goin’ where no man’s gone before,” he snorted suddenly, pulling out.  His drunken hand slipped between them for a brief second and then she felt him trying to enter her anus.
      “No!”she screamed, unable to squirm out from under his weight.  He grabbed the top of her head with both his hands and pushed, crushing her screams with his mouth.  The agony of this new pain, searing through her lower half like boiling oil, was nothing like the torture he was inflicting on her head with his fingers digging into her brain.  The pressure in her skull was building up so fast she had to do something or die. Everything was going black except for her husband’s twisted grimace bearing down on her, forcing his bloated tongue down her throat as he croaked,“I’m almost there!”  She bit.

      Just as Josh’s lips touched Leigh’s upside down, her head lurched forward as a seizure rocketed through her brain, smashing the bridge of her nose against his chin as she chomped on his entire bottom lip.  For a second Josh knew nothing but the essence of pain as Leigh bit down with all her might.  A primal scream erupted from his throat, and he clawed frantically at her bloodied face. “Ahhhr!  Aaahhr!”  A corner of his lip tore loose and he shrieked an octave higher, stuck staring at her quivering neck.  The small hollow at the base of her neck was his favorite place to nestle, but now it filled with blood from his mouth.  He didn’t know what was happening to him, or why she would do such a thing, but the absolute terror of losing his bottom lip caused him to instinctually wrap his hands around Leigh’s neck and squeeze while moaning out in tormented agony.
      He never heard the cop, never heard him say “Get you hands off her neck or I’ll shoot,” never heard the same warning as a paramedic tried to get into the room behind the cop.  The cop, startled by the sight before him, then suddenly jabbed from behind by the paramedic’s kit, lurched forward and fired directly into Josh’s skull, sending bits of bone and brain against the couch as the bullet tore through and lodged into a far wall.  
      “Shit, Pete,” the cop gagged, “she was biting his freakin’ lip off!  No wonder he was chokin’ her!”  He whipped a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face with it before laying it over the dead man’s vacant, ravaged face staring blankly at the ceiling.
      “Get away from her!” the paramedic ordered, shoving the cop to the side. “This chick’s still alive, but it looks like she’s having a grand mal seizure.  Hold her down and keep her from thrashing into anything while I give her an injection and start an IV.  NOW, godamnit!”  The cop looked as if he wanted to throw up, but held the woman down as he was told. Another paramedic burst in, and soon they were racing to the ER. 
      Josh’s lip was never found, assumed to be ingested by his lover.  When his wife came to claim the body she was given his possessions by Leigh’s parents, who had temporarily moved into her apartment while she recuperated in the hospital.  As soon as Josh’s wife discovered the novel and contract, she phoned her lawyer to cancel the divorce, then followed up with a weepy call to his editor to give the news while offering permission to publish.  The editor seemed interested in hearing the bizarre circumstances surrounding Josh’s death, and was careful to hide his excitement from the author’s widow.  How would Josh have known that his steamy, dark, psychological thriller would be imitated so closely in life?  That the heroine feasted unsuspectingly on her lover at the novel’s climax was just too much of an irony for the marketing department to pass by, and the publisher went all out to pitch A Woman’s Revenge posthumously.  Josh’s wife had him cremated and sold his ashes on Ebay for half a million dollars.
      Leigh returned to her husband where she died six months later on a Thursday night of an overdose of sleeping pills while laying next to her snoring, drunken husband.  She’s buried next to the grave of her only child, a son she named Lee, born dead in her eighth month of pregnancy as the result of repeated blows to her abdomen.
Had the truck radiator hose waited two minutes to burst, Josh would have
passed Leigh unnoticed, and who knows where they would be now? 
Fate is as fickle and unpredictable as a tornado. 
Touching down at random, it leaves behind the most unusual

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