There’s something about that little pink house with the white shutters. No lights on; no smoke from the small chimney; no mower to cut the long, weedy grass. The blue truck in the driveway disappears one morning and reappears at night, but never a face. Never a body coming out of the truck, never a body going in.
Sitting in my tall room, I look out and down at the pink shack. It doesn’t resonate with me that someone lives and breathes in that house.
The tall tree in the front yard hovers. Its long, thick stump projecting out into sideways branches, with baby twigs jutting in all directions. It watch over the telephone poles; the long, winding road; me.
It’s a Thursday night when I first see her. The sun is setting, a dim light fading away from the sky. She stands inside, behind her window, and a small lamp’s glow lights up her silhouette. It is small and frail and unmoving, standing still behind the thin, cream curtains. I have never seen a light shining from that house, no matter how dim. I wonder if there is a room in the middle of the tiny house that she really lives in. No windows, far away from the walls. But the house is too small to fit more than an arm’s length kitchen, a living room big enough for a love seat a small couch, maybe a side table, and maybe a bedroom big enough for a full sized bed.
I watch the figure, waiting for it to move, hoping for a better image of what she looks like, but I stop myself. Why do I care? She doesn’t have anything to do with me. Nosy. That’s what I am. Nosy.
But then it happens. Another figure moves into the lamp light and its long arm rises up and strikes down, her body collapsing. I gasp, taking in a sharp, shocking breath. He stands over what must be her body on the floor.
I stand still.
He crouches down and his fists pummel down on the woman. Up and down. Up and down. Slowly, my legs move in front of me, my arms follow and my mind slips out of the sudden coma, swirling back to life. I trip down the staircase, fumble out the door, and run across the two acre lawn. I don’t know how fast I’m moving or why I run into this magnetic field of danger, but my legs betray me as curiosity and fear fuel my steps.
Even behind the thin curtain, I can see and feel it. The man locks eyes with me, and I imagine his mouth forming profanity.
He waves his hands at me, pushing the curtain out of the way, his thick voice barely reaching me, booming behind the wall yelling no! I stop in my tracks as he disappears from the room, running out the front door, yelling no, no, no! I backpedal, afraid and trembling. A nervous spark ignites in my stomach, and flames to my cheeks. He’s going to kill me, I think. I feel my phone, bulging against my thigh. I backpedal faster, slipping it out of my pocket and pressing in the numbers, hitting send.
“It’s not what you think,” he yells, running towards me, “If you’re on the phone with the police, please hang up, it’s not what you think!”
I hold my voice as steady as I can, pressing the ringing phone tighter to my ear, and say, “Don’t take another step!”
He curses, out of breath, a few feet away from me. He puts one hand on his knee and says, between breaths, “We’re filming. It’s for a movie. I’m not abusing that, you know, “he takes a deep breath, “lady.”
My eyebrow shoots up and in my ear, the woman’s voice answers, “911. Where is your emergency?” I quickly say, “Sorry, wrong number,” hanging up.
My attention focuses back on the man, “What?”
“Good God,” he says, “You know, they said this wouldn’t happen here.”
“What wouldn’t happen here?”
“They said if we went to a house, you know, in the country, that no one would do this. You know,” he gasps for air, “call the police on us.”
My face wrinkles up, my big eyes staring into his, my soft voice feeling weak, “What are you talking about?”
“It’s for a movie, “he continues, “It’s a man that abuses his wife all the time, and it’s just a huge tragedy and every one cries, you know, just sobs at the theater Well, if we make it to the theater you know.”
My heart’s racing tempo lets up and I purse my lips into a foolish frown.
“Wow. I’m sorry. I guess that’s kind of cool that you’re filming a movie next door to my house,” I say.
“Yeah, it’s cool until the actor, you know, me,” he points to his heaving chest, “is fifty pounds overweight and has to run across a lawn to stop yet another woman from calling the police on him.”
“How many times has this happened to you?”
He finally takes his hand off his knee and stands up straight, “And who gave you the right to ask personal questions?”
“Oh, sorry,” I say, “I didn’t mean to pry. Just curious, is all.”
He rests his hand on his beer belly and takes a step backwards, “Well, I’ve got a movie to film, so I’ve gotta, you know, be on my way.”
“Of course,” I step backwards, “Good luck.”
We say our goodbyes and I walk back into my house, feeling more stupid than I ever have in my life, a small sinking feeling swirling around in the back of my mind. I wonder if any of the neighbors have dealt with this guy. Why didn’t the woman come out, too?
The night continues on. I make myself dinner, sitting alone in the big, quiet house. I hate house sitting for my parents when they’re gone. I finish and clear my plate.
I turn on the TV and make myself some coffee. I lay down, bundling up in the coziest blankets I own, and watch the screen as my eyes become heavy.
I know I’m going to fall asleep, so I head upstairs to my bedroom. I throw my blankets on my bed, and feel eyes digging into me. I turn my head towards my window and she stands on my roof, blood dripping from her wet, soaking hair, sliding down her shoulders and pooling at her feet. Her eyes are crying blood and her lips tremble. She whispers, help me, and tumbles backwards off the roof. My mouth opens and I take a deep breath, preparing to scream.
My eyes open as I feel my hand brushing against the cold, hardwood floor. I sit up and see that it’s still dark outside and the TV is still on. My hands tremble.
I turn off the TV, and gather up my blankets, heading back upstairs to my bed.
I throw the blankets on my bed, glancing toward my window, a secret fear rising up into my throat. She isn’t on my roof, thank God, but something catches my eye. I walked to my window and see the soft, harsh candlelight of the little pink house. The figures fight and wrestle until the man picks up the woman and slams her down to the ground. He stands over her, picking up his leg and dropping it back down, crushing whatever part of her swollen body happened to be there. My heart races.
I glance at the alarm clock in the corner of my room. 3:41.
How long are they going to film for? Certainly, he must need a break at some point. Maybe he took a break while I was eating dinner or watching TV. I look back at the faint circle of light and see the man bend down, picking the woman back up. He carries her out of the candlelit room, and they’re gone.
“Honey, I’m home!” my mother opens the garage door, clomping her heels across the hallway.
“Mom!” I run and hug her.
“How’ve you been honey? You eat okay while we were gone?” she pats my back and pulls away, looking at me with worried, down turned eyes.
“Yes, mom, I’m not five anymore,” I tell her.
She hands me one of her bags and I follow her up the stairs.
“So, something really strange happened this weekend,” I say.
She sets down her bags on her bed and turns to me, “What?”
“Well, there’s this couple next door—“
“You mean the couple that never shows their faces?”
“Yeah, in the little pink house over there, and I saw him punching her, so I—“
“Punching her? Good God, Mel!” she puts her hand on her heart.
“Hold on,” I say, “I’m not done. I saw that, so I ran over there—“
“You saw a man beating up a woman, and you ran over there?” she shrieks.
“I don’t know… I guess I wanted to make sure I wasn’t seeing things before I called the police, but I had my phone, so I called 911. But then he ran out of his house and stopped me and told me he was filming for a movie,” I say.
She stands patiently as I tell her the rest of the story, and she puts her hands on her hips.
“That seems really sketchy, Mel.”
“I mean, he seemed like he was telling the truth. Besides, I don’t think that’s any of our business.”
A huge clutter bustles through the house, and we hear a faint shout. It becomes loud and clear after a clang. “I said, can I have a little help down here?”
We laugh at my father, and run downstairs to help him carry in the luggage.
I sit at my desk, opening my laptop. And a flash catches my eye. It’s the house again. The fuzzy light is on, and I see him drag in the woman, propping her up against some piece of furniture. He moves his hand behind what appears to be her head, and slaps her. When you film for a movie, you don’t actually hurt the other person, right? I don’t understand how he could be filming for a movie, when it looks like he really is hurting her. He slaps her again, and I cringe. The sinking feeling that has been swerving around in the back of my head since Thursday pushes its way to the front, and I give in to what it’s been wanting me to see all along.
This definitely isn’t for a film.
I envision the bleeding woman on my roof and goosebumps crawl up my spine. He slaps her again, or maybe punches her, I can’t tell. Whatever he’s doing is making harsh contact with her head. Is he going to kill her? My heart pumps blood through my hands faster than ever before, and I pick up my phone. I flip it open and dial the numbers, 9-1-1, and stare at the screen, the big black numbers looking up at me. I see her mouth whisper help me, the blood pooling around her feet as she splashes off the roof. And I look at the numbers on my phone. I look at it.
And close it.