Tucked away on English Street is a small apartment complex of twelve units. It doesn’t look like an apartment complex from the cobblestone roads, which is what makes it so perfect. Maybe not, though. It doesn’t look like an apartment complex so the police might pass it by, lights flashing, sirens wailing, before, finally, the cop in the passenger’s seat says, “Pull over, for fuck’s sake, it’s supposed to be right here!”
The apartment is two bedroom, two baths—a total of twelve hundred square feet of walloping room. The good news is that both the carpet and walls are white, sure to show stains of all kinds for the lease’s duration. There’s also a bonus space: the garage! There’s enough room for one car and a door for solitude if you wish to cry a little before going upstairs.
It’s a Tudor-style complex: there are high ceilings in the apartment and exposed timbers. Henry the Eighth is the most recognizable of the Tudors; Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Henry in the HBO series. It attempts to make violence against women sexy, and it succeeds. Henry the Eighth murdered six women: Elizabeth Barton, Anne Boleyn, Margaret Pole, Catherine Howard, Jane Boleyn, and Anne Askew. This is where you’ll be living with your boyfriend.
In the living room there is a fireplace, a built-in bookshelf, and a wet bar. The fireplace has two decorative iron pillars next to its cheap marble. During a fight, your lover could shove you backwards and smash your spine against it, resulting in a crumpling of the body, and a fetal position on the floor. Note to self: remove iron pillars. The wet bar has a mirror above it, so you may look really closely at your own face, examining eye puffs, bruises, and choices, before pouring another drink.
There is a kitchen, which is where you’ll relax yourself. You could keep a knife block on the counter, but you decide to safely put knives in the drawers instead—this is a nervous tic. You’ll relax yourself by baking cakes and making sausage and apples. You’ll think about being back home with your roommates, and miss their company. You and your roommate, Rebbecca, would make banana pudding and elaborate meals for each other. Every now and again you would break out the crock-pot for fun times. Kitchens tend to be happy places. You wouldn’t want to be fucked in the kitchen—bad memories.
Your first time living on your own, your dad had your brother-in-law cut a piece of wood to wedge between the doorknob and the carpeted stairs. This was to keep anyone from breaking in while you were sleeping. You did this for a few weeks, just because you knew it would make him feel better. Really, though, you know the outside isn’t a danger. After failed and abusive relationships there’s a joke you like to tell your girlfriends: “I’d like to tell guys that I don’t like if I chose to date them, I’m upping my chance of being murdered by a lot, so no thanks.” Oddly enough, you also say the same things to men that you do like, like your current boyfriend. You sit them on the free couch against the bannister of your current place and explain to them how most women are killed by men they know, or raped by men they know, and often in their own house; that the most dangerous place for yourself to be with a man is exactly where you are. You think you’re subconsciously challenging them to try and hurt you, daring them. You’re almost like a rhino.
It can be difficult to not see your new bathroom in terms of Drowning Tub and Smashing Sinks. You once tried to shock your ex-boyfriend out of anger by locking yourself in the bathroom, climbing into the tub, and turning on a cold shower while still clothed. After, you shivered and laughed and laughed as he stared at you. Now, though, you try and focus on the positives: a removable shower head for masturbation and lots and lots of counter space! But really, if anything bad happened, you might try and squeeze yourself into a linen closet, or underneath the sink by the pipes.
Though nothing bad will happen. Your boyfriend is a good man and you love him, and he loves you, so when you’re thinking of these things you aren’t thinking of him. You’re thinking of an ex from years ago and how he would capitalize on all this space. He never physically hit you when dating, but all the stalking later, you’re pretty sure he would have, eventually, if you’d stayed. When laying in the Smothering Bed, for instance, he may breathe on your neck at night. You may fall asleep with that neck-breathing, neck-tingling sensation, and you might wake up to a prodding outside your underwear, fingers wanting under hems. You might have parted a bit, and let him get it over with because you had work in the morning and really needed to teach and couldn’t deal with him threatening to cut himself while crying on the white carpet if you didn’t let him. This is where you sleep.
Moving on: there’s also a spare bedroom with a locked door where you may hide yourself if things get too much, or if you would like to rake at your face and pull strands of hair out. It’s basically the purpose of the room. There’s also a large walk-in closet if darkness and spare winter-clothes calm you down, like a child hiding under a clothing rack. To be honest, the spare bathroom will probably never be used.
This is how you think, riding in your boyfriend’s car after a local woman, Tanya, was murdered in her own home by a man insisting he was her boyfriend. This is still how you think, weeks later, reading about punched face, tied limbs, and body being drug down the stairs into her basement, left there. This is how you’re still thinking, four days after and eating soup at Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, the restaurant she owned and is no longer present in. This is how you think.
Kayla Haas is currently a a fiction candidate at Wichita State University. She is the current head editor of mojo and serves as fiction editor at Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared in Gigantic Sequins and NANO Fiction, among others. Feel free to shout things at her on Twitter at @writerofoctopi.