At first, he thought the pounding was coming from inside his own brain and was just the usual consequence of an evening spent draining half a bottle of vodka, but the faint female voice calling his name was not in his head. He kicked off the green army blanket that had settled around his ankles and stumbled out of the bedroom. He leaned his ear into the door, his eyes half-closed.
“Yeah, who is it?”
“Josh, it’s me.” Lila’s voice was weak and plaintive and the battered face and huddled form that greeted him when he opened the door chilled him to the marrow.
He pulled her inside and supported her around the waist as he helped her over to the couch. She sat down hunched over and he could see her struggling to maintain control. Then the effort overwhelmed her, and she covered her face with her hands and began to cry. Josh took her in his arms and felt the uncontrollable sobs wrack her entire body. Finally, he had to ask. “Who did this to you, Lila?” She shook her head and clung harder to him, quivering like a wounded bird. He could feel the sharp outline of her shoulder blades protruding like broken wings.
“Who was it, Lila?”
She dug a tissue out of her jacket pocket and blew her nose. “It was Stan.” She kept the tissue by her face and avoided looking at him.
Josh sat upright, stunned.
She sat quietly for a moment then turned her face to Josh. There was only defeat in her voice. “What am I going to do?”
He couldn’t hide his agitation any longer. He stood up and began to pace. “Is he still at home?”
Lila leaped to her feet and almost lunged at him. “No!” There was fear and panic in her voice. “You can’t go over there!”
Her vehement outburst startled him.
“It’s the cocaine. That’s what makes him like that!” She hung on to his arm as she pleaded with him. “Don’t go over there. You’ll only make it worse!”
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