He nods and helps me back into my shoes. He pulls off his jacket and wraps it around me, then we walk out of the hospital without anyone noticing.
He says nothing to me as we drive. I stare out the window, too exhausted to cry. Too in shock to speak. I feel submerged.
Just keep swimming.
• • •
Atlas doesn’t live in an apartment. He lives in a house. A small suburb outside of Boston called Wellesley, where all the homes are beautiful, sprawling, manicured, and expensive. Before we pull into his driveway, I wonder to myself if he ever married that girl. Cassie. I wonder what she’ll think of her husband bringing home a girl he once loved who has just been attacked by her own husband.
She’ll pity me. She’ll wonder why I never left him. She’ll wonder how I let myself get to this point. She’ll wonder all the same things I used to wonder about my own mother when I saw her in my same situation. People spend so much time wondering why the women don’t leave. Where are all the people who wonder why the men are even abusive? Isn’t that where the only blame should be placed?
Atlas parks in the garage. There’s not another vehicle here. I don’t wait for him to help me out of the car. I open the door and get out on my own, and then I follow him into his house. He punches in a code on an alarm and then flips on a few lights. My eyes roam around the kitchen, the dining room, the living room. Everything is made of rich woods and stainless steel, and his kitchen is painted a calming bluish-green. The color of the ocean. If I wasn’t hurting so much, I would smile.
Atlas kept swimming, and look at him now. He swam all the way to the fucking Caribbean.
He moves to his refrigerator and pulls out a bottle of water, walking it over to me. He takes the lid off and hands it to me. I take a drink and watch as he turns the living room light on, then the hallway.
“Do you live alone?” I ask.
He nods as he walks back into the kitchen. “Are you hungry?”
I shake my head. Even if I was, I wouldn’t be able to eat.
“I’ll show you your room,” he says. “There’s a shower if you need it.”
I do. I want to wash the taste of scotch out of my mouth. I want to wash the sterile smell of the hospital off of me. I want to wash away the last four hours of my life.
I follow him down the hallway and to a spare bedroom where he flips on the light. There are two boxes on a bare bed and more stacked up against the walls. There’s an oversized chair against one wall, facing the door. He moves to the bed and takes off the boxes, setting them against the wall with the others.
“I just moved in a few months ago. Haven’t had much time to decorate yet.” He walks to a dresser and pulls open a drawer. “I’ll make the bed for you.” He takes out sheets and a pillowcase. He begins making the bed as I walk inside the bathroom and close the door.
I remain in the bathroom for thirty minutes. Some of those minutes are spent staring at my reflection in the mirror. Some of those minutes are spent in the shower. The rest are spent over the toilet as I make myself sick with thoughts of the last several hours.
I’m wrapped in a towel when I crack the bathroom door. Atlas is no longer in the bedroom, but there are clothes folded on the freshly made bed. Men’s pajama bottoms that are too big for me and a T-shirt that goes past my knees. I pull the drawstring tight, tie it, and then crawl into bed. I turn the lamp off and pull the covers up and over me.
I cry so hard, I don’t even make a noise.
I smell toast.
I stretch out on my bed and smile, because Ryle knows toast is my favorite.
My eyes flick open and the clarity smashes down on me with the force of a head-on collision. I squeeze my eyes shut when I realize where I am and why I’m here and that the toast I smell is not at all because my sweet and caring husband is making me breakfast in bed.
I immediately want to cry again, so I force myself off the bed. I focus on the hollowness in my stomach as I use the bathroom, and tell myself I can cry after I eat something. I need to eat before I make myself sick again.
When I walk out of the bathroom and back into the bedroom, I notice the chair has been turned so that it’s facing the bed now instead of the door. There’s a blanket thrown over it haphazardly, and it’s obvious Atlas was in here last night while I slept.
He was probably worried I had a concussion.
When I walk into the kitchen, Atlas is moving back and forth between the fridge, the stove, the counter. For the first time in twelve hours, I feel an inkling of something that isn’t agony, because I remember he’s a chef. A good one. And he’s cooking me breakfast.
He glances up at me as I make my way into the kitchen. “Morning,” he says, careful to say it without too much inflection. “I hope you’re hungry.” He slides a glass and a container of orange juice across the counter toward me, then he turns and faces the stove again.
He glances back over his shoulder and gives me a ghost of a smile. I pour myself a glass of orange juice and then walk to the other side of the kitchen where there’s a breakfast nook. There’s a newspaper on the table and I begin to pick it up. When I see the article about the best businesses in Boston printed across the page, my hands immediately begin to shake and I drop the paper back on the table. I close my eyes and take a slow sip of the orange juice.
A few minutes later, Atlas sets a plate down in front of me, then claims the seat across from me at the table. He pulls his own plate of food in front of him and cuts into a crepe with his fork.