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Lying in bed now, Lena looked out the window, staring at the depressing backyard. Hank hadn’t changed a thing in the house since Lena was a child. Her bedroom still had the brown water stain in the corner where a branch had punctured the roof during a storm. The paint peeled off the wall where he’d used the wrong kind of primer and the wallpaper had soaked up enough nicotine to give it all the same sickly jaundiced cast.

Lena had grown up here with Sibyl, her twin sister. Their mother had died in childbirth and Calvin Adams, their father, had been shot on a traffic stop a few months before that. Sibyl had been killed three years ago. Another death, another abandonment. Maybe having her sister around had kept Lena rooted in life. Now she was drifting, making even more bad choices and not bothering to rectify them. She was living with the consequences of her actions. Or maybe barely surviving would be a better way to describe it.

Lena touched her fingers to her stomach, to where the baby had been less than a week ago. Only one person was living with the consequences. Only one person had survived. Would the child have had her dark coloring, the genes of her Mexican-American grandmother surfacing yet again, or would it have inherited the father’s steel gray eyes and pale white skin?

She lifted up, sliding her fingers into her back pocket, pulling out a long pocketknife. Carefully, she pried open the blade. The tip was broken off, and embedded in a semicircle of dried blood was Ethan’s fingerprint.

She looked at her arm, the deep bruise where Ethan had grabbed her, and wondered how the finger that had made the swirling print in the blade, the hand that had held this knife, the fist that had caused so much pain, could be the same one that gently traced its way down her body.

The cop in her knew she should arrest him. The woman in her knew that he was bad. The realist knew that one day he would kill her. Some unnamed place deep inside of Lena resisted these thoughts, and she found herself being the worst kind of coward. She was the woman throwing rocks at the police cruiser. She was the neighbor with the knife. She was the idiot kid clinging to her abuser. She was the one with tears deep inside her throat, choking on what he made her swallow.

There was a knock on the door. “Lee?”

She folded the blade by the edge, sitting up quickly. When Hank opened the door, she was clutching her stomach, feeling like something had torn.

He went to her side, standing there with his fingers reaching out to her shoulder but not quite touching. “You okay?”

“Sat up too fast.”

He dropped his hand, tucking it into his pocket. “You feel like eating anything?”

She nodded, lips slightly parted so she could take a few breaths.

“You need help getting up?”

“It’s been a week,” she said, as if that answered the question. They had told her she would be able to go back to work two days after the procedure, but Lena didn’t know how women managed to do it. She had been on the Grant County force for twelve years and never taken a vacation until now. It’d be funny if this were the sort of thing you could laugh at.

“I got some lunch on the way home,” he said, and Lena guessed from his neatly pressed Hawaiian shirt and white jeans that he had been at church all morning. She glanced at the clock; it was after noon. She had slept for fifteen hours.

Hank stood there, hands still in his pockets, like he was waiting for her to say something.

She said, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

“You need anything?”

“Like what, Hank?”

He pressed together his thin lips, scratching his arms like they itched. The needle tracks scarring his skin were still prominent even after all these years, and she hated the sight of them, hated the way he didn’t seem to care that they reminded her of everything that was wrong between them.

He said, “I’ll fix you a plate.”

“Thanks,” she managed, letting her legs hang over the bed. She pressed her feet firmly to the floor, trying to remind herself that she was here in this room. This last week, she had found herself traveling around in her mind, going to places that felt better, safer. Sibyl was still alive. Ethan Green hadn’t come into her life yet. Things were easier.

A long, hot bath would have been nice, but Lena wasn’t allowed to sit in a tub for at least another week. She wasn’t allowed to have sex for twice as long as that, and every time she tried to come up with a lie, some explanation to give Ethan for not being available, all she could think was that it would be easier just to let him do it. Whatever harm came to her would be her own fault. There had to be a day of reckoning for what she had done. There had to be some sort of punishment for the lie that was her life.

She took a quick shower to wake herself up, making sure not to get her hair wet because the thought of holding a hair dryer for however many minutes it took was too tiring to even think about. She was turning lazy through all this, sitting around and staring out the window as if the dirt-packed backyard with its lonesome tire swing and 1959 Cadillac that had been on blocks since before Lena and Sibyl had been born was the beginning and end of her world. It could be. Hank had said more than a few times that she could move back in with him, and the easiness of the offer had swayed her back and forth like the ocean’s undertow. If she did not leave soon, she would find herself adrift with no hope of land. She would never feel her feet firmly on the ground again.

Hank had been against taking her to the clinic in Atlanta, but to his credit, he had let her decision stand. Through the years, Hank had done a lot of things for Lena that maybe he didn’t believe in- be it for religious reasons or his own damn fool stubbornness- and she was just now realizing what a gift that was. Not that she would ever be able to acknowledge this to his face. As much as Hank Norton had been one of the few constants in her life, Lena was keenly aware that for him, she was the only thing he had left to hold on to. If she were a less selfish person, she’d feel sorry for the old man.

The kitchen was right off the bathroom, and she wrapped herself in her robe before she opened the door. Hank was standing over the sink, tearing the skin off a piece of fried chicken. KFC boxes were scattered on the counter beside a paper plate piled with mashed potatoes, coleslaw and a couple of biscuits.

He said, “I didn’t know what piece you wanted.”

Lena could see the brown gravy congealing on top of the potatoes and the mayonnaise smell from the coleslaw made her stomach clench. Just the thought of food made her want to vomit. Seeing it, smelling it, was enough to push her over the edge.

Hank dropped the chicken leg on the counter, putting his hands out like she might fall, saying, “Sit down.”

For once, she did as she was told, taking a wobbly chair from under the kitchen table. There were tons of pamphlets scattered on the top- AA and NA meetings being Hank’s most abiding addiction- but he had cleared a small space for her to eat. She put her elbows on the table and rested her head in her hand, not feeling dizzy so much as out of place.

He rubbed her back, his callused fingers catching on the material of her robe. She gritted her teeth, wishing he wouldn’t touch her but not wanting to deal with the hurt look on his face if she pulled away.

He cleared his throat. “You want me to call the doctor?”

“I’m okay.”

He pointed out the obvious: “You never had a strong stomach.”

“I’m okay,” she repeated, feeling like he was trying to remind her of their history, of the fact that he had seen her through just about everything in her life.