Diana: D minus 126h : 05m : 13s and counting

pg-13 | referenced domestic violence



She had been awake for twenty-seven minutes, staring at the alarm clock and watching time tick away.

The walls were a bright, happy yellow, with blue birds and white flowers near the ceiling. The crib, rocking chair, and the rest of the nursery's furniture were moved to one side to make room for a $90 fold-up bed and Diana's luggage. Everything she owned was either here or tucked away in a storage locker. The lawyer for the divorce had exhausted her savings, and the whole situation had exhausted her spirit. So even though she could have fought Mr. Wheeler for evicting her because of damage her ex-husband did when he broke in to her apartment, she couldn't afford it, in any sense of the word.

The room she was in properly belonged to Kira Milgram, who would be arriving in a little over two months.

It was three months and a half months after a judge officially ended her miserable 13-month marriage, and Diana was essentially homeless. The hospital where she worked was under new management, and decisions were being made which negatively impacted patient care. Nurses had been officially on strike protesting it for thirty-six hours. As much as she needed her paycheck, she wasn't going to betray her coworkers and cross the picket line. Rebecca was out there, almost seven months pregnant, with large handwritten signs Diana had helped her make the night before.

Her new cell phone - with her new number - was sitting on the pile of books she was using as a nightstand, right next to her alarm clock. She hadn't bothered to program any numbers in yet, or customize the ringtones or pictures.

She had nowhere to go, but she got up anyway. There were two pill bottles in her purse - alprazolam and a new one, an antidepressant. It was tempting to take a few pills and sleep through the rest of the day, but instead, she washed down one of the antidepressants with the flat diet soda from the night before.

She showered and dressed, eschewing her normal style for jeans and a t-shirt. With her wig - light brown, chin-length - and fake glasses, she no longer looked like herself.

Most days, she no longer felt like herself.

She grabbed a baggy hooded sweatshirt and her purse, still not entirely sure where she was planning to go.

As far as she knew, Marcus was unaware of the fact that she was living with Rebecca. Even if he was, he had never bothered to learn Rebecca's last name, and he didn't know she lived in Oakland. Diana had traded cars with Rebecca's wife, so Natalia was driving around town in a tiny green Prius with flower decals on the back windshield, a small stuffed rhinovirus hanging from the rearview mirror, and numerous ASPCA stickers on the bumper. Meanwhile, Diana had Natalia's SUV, which felt like a tank. Whenever she went to work - or anywhere, for that matter - she took circuitous routes, constantly looking in her mirrors to make sure nobody was following her. The satellite radio presets in Natalia's car were set to oldies stations, and Diana was starting to have an appreciation for Depeche Mode.

It felt ridiculous, most of the time. But it was better than the alternative.

She rubbed her forearm. The wound had healed so well that the scar was barely visible, and thankfully, there had been no nerve or muscle damage. If he had been charged with assault with a deadly weapon as a felony, he would still be in prison. Since he pled down to a misdemeanor, he got five years on probation and six months in jail. He only served two and a half. Good behavior.

They confiscated the knife. As if that was any comfort.

Breaking into her apartment should have been a violation of his probation, but the police said there was no conclusive proof that he committed the crime. Who else would spray paint 'slut' and 'whore' all over her walls? Rebecca had asked her wife to see if there was anything she could do, but generally one city's police department doesn't appreciate another city's officers butting into their cases.

She sat on the edge of the bed. Going out no longer seemed appealing, but neither did staying inside and watching daytime TV.

Diana could smell that Natalia was cooking bacon, which meant she was probably making waffles, too. She got up and made her way to the kitchen; she wasn't particularly hungry, but she had skipped dinner last night and her blood sugar couldn't be in a great place. Natalia must have anticipated her arrival, because there was already a plate of waffles covered in syrup sitting in the spot at the table that had become Diana's.

"Are you going somewhere? Becca'll be home in a few hours. Maybe you should wait until she gets back. Today is going to suck. I'm not sure when I'll get home."

Natalia worried about her even more than Rebecca did. They meant well, but anytime they went anywhere with her, she felt like she was being followed by the Secret Service. A woman at the perfume counter at a department store had approached her last week; Diana had been genuinely concerned that Rebecca was going to break the poor woman's wrist.

"I'll be fine. Is it true you guys caught the Heart Ripper?"

Natalia stopped with the last piece of her waffle halfway to her mouth, then tossed her fork on the table in disgust. "Did fucking Martinez talk to KTVU again?!"

"N-No!" Diana held up her hands in a 'calm down' gesture. "I'm sorry. I heard you and Rebecca talking about it last night."

"Whew, thank fucking god. Fucking feds want this kept quiet until they're sure. Don't want egg on their face when it turns out they're wrong."

"You don't think they caught the right guy?"

"Honestly? No. Feds think they're right. Said he matches their special profile. My uncle in Ukraine fits their profile. Profiles are crap. I don't even think the guy's in California anymore. The last two murders were in Kansas, for fuck's sake."

"Oh."

She tossed her plate in the sink and filled her travel mug with coffee. "I'm sorry, but I really gotta go. Whatever you need to do, wait for Becca, okay? Set the alarm behind me."

Diana followed her to the door, carefully securing the three locks before moving to the alarm panel. But her fingers hesitated over the buttons. After a moment, she pulled off her sweatshirt, dropped her wig and glasses to the floor. She unlocked the door and stepped outside.

It was raining lightly. She supposed it wouldn't be raining at all in Nevada when she got there. The five hundred thousand dollars would be more than enough for her to move somewhere safe. She was looking forward to being able to be around people without her disguise, without fear of him being around every corner. She could be herself. It might even be fun. Rebecca had joked that maybe she'd meet a guy there, but that was really the last thing she wanted.

Diana closed her eyes and stepped into the drizzle.

In less than two weeks, it would be a brand new year, and she'd be one step closer to being free.

She smiled, and for a moment, she felt like herself again.

(fin.)