A loud pounding pulled Betty Myers from a dreamless sleep into a groggy semi-consciousness. She sat up in bed, trying to make sense of the banging sound coming from the front of the house.
It was Wes. Her grogginess vanished.
Andrea, her six-year-old, stirred in the bed.
The pounding started again. "Come on," Wes called. "Open up!"
Betty kicked her feet free of the warm blankets. There was no time to search for slippers. Bare-footed, she stumbled toward the door, grabbing her coat from the dining room chair as she passed by, her mind reeling in panic.
She reached the door and made sure the chain lock was on before cracking it open just enough to speak to her husband in a loud whisper.
"What is it?" she hissed, hoping the children were still asleep.
"Wanna talk." Wes shoved the door. The chain raked across the wood, jerked taut, and held.
Betty pressed her weight against the front door, praying the chain lock would continue to hold. On the other side, Wes pushed back, then hit the wooden barrier between them hard, sending out vibrations that spread through her body and balled in the pit of her stomach.
"Wanna see my girls," Wes demanded.
His slurred speech told her he'd had a lot more than a couple of beers.
He hit the door again. "Wanna see 'em now!"
"It's almost midnight," Betty said, trying to keep her voice low when she wanted to yell at him to go away. "They're asleep. Come back tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" His tone was questioning, as though she had given him a brand new idea. "Tomorrow," he repeated.
"Mama!" Andrea called from the bedroom.
Betty hoped that Wes hadn't heard Andrea, that he would leave before the child came looking for her.
Wes mumbled something.
"What?" Betty asked, fearing the question would take their argument into a new round of the same old thing.
"Said okay. But no money. You got that? Not until my girls are raised right."
"Tomorrow." She shoved the door shut and pressed her ear against it. The screen door banged and Wes's heavy work boots thudded across the porch and down the steps.
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