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Please Don't Leave Me with Him

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Alexander had been working in his office when he heard several knocks throughout the quiet empty house. When the knocks came again a few moments later he went to go look. When he peered through the window he found a woman standing outside the freezing cold in nothing but a red dress. The bottom of the dress was completely soaked through with melted snow but the woman didn’t seem to even notice as she stood there patiently. He quickly went to open the door to get her out of the cold.

“Come in, come in.” Alex said as he ushered her into the house. He sat her next to fireplace and went to retrieve a one of the many blankets Eliza had made. As he approached the woman he noticed she was shivering. He went to wrap the blanket around her. It was then when she finally spoke.

“I know you are a man of honor…” She said while looking down at the floor. “I’m so sorry to bother you at home, but I don’t know where to go.” It sounded as if she were on the verge of tears.

“My husband… he isn’t a very nice person. He’s been beating me, he’s cheated on me, he mistreats me, but now suddenly he’s up and gone. I have a daughter and I don’t have the means to go on…” The woman whose name Alex still didn’t know finally looked up at him and wrapped the blanket tighter around herself.

His heart ached for this girl. He couldn’t understand how someone could hurt the person they were supposed to love for the rest of their lives. Not only was she in a horrible situation but it seemed her daughter was as well.

“I’m so sorry. Can I get your name miss…?”

“Miss Reynolds. Maria Reynolds.” She said while fidgeting with the blanket.

“Wait here for a moment Miss Reynolds.” He went upstairs to find the money he kept stashed away in case of emergency. It wasn’t a whole lot but it would be enough to help Maria for a while. Alex went back down stairs and found her sitting closer to fire and watching it as if it would die out at any moment. It was as if warmth wasn’t something she had often.

He took her hand and placed the money in it.

“No, no, I can’t. This is too much. I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have come. I’ll just be going now. Have a good evening, sir.” Maria gave him back the money, placed the blanket on the closest chair and quickly left the house.

Alex stood there for a moment, slightly confused as to what was happening. It wasn’t until he spotted the blanket that he realized she had just run out into the freezing winter air with nothing to keep her warm. He quickly grabbed the discarded blanket and shoved the money into his pocket and went outside to try and find her. He was not about to let her go out in the cold for however long it would take her to get home.

He spotted her a few houses down, her dress dragging through the snow. He jogged slightly to catch up to her, careful not to slip in the slush. Once he was at her side she looked up at him with a wide-eyed expression on her face.

“Let me at least walk you home.” He once again wrapped her in the blanket and looped his arm through hers.

“You really are too kind, sir.” Maria said as she leaned into him. She had only been outside for a few moments before he got there and her skin was already freezing.

They walked in silence for a few blocks before she turned to Alex. “This one’s mine, sir.” They had reached a rather small house that had a few steps leading up to the doorway. She took the key from around her neck and unlocked the door.

As they both entered the house Alex couldn’t help but noticed how… sad the house looked. It looked like there was someone living in the house but the house did not look like those who lived here truly lived here. The walls were empty, no pictures hanging anywhere. While the table had two chairs, it looked as if only one was ever really used.

It wasn’t until Alex was going to say goodbye did he notice Maria wasn’t in the room anymore. He looked into the other room and she wasn’t there either. He quietly went up the stairs and entered the first room he spotted. To say he was shocked at the scene in front of him would be an understatement.

She was on the bed with her corset undone, and her skirts lifted. “Stay?” She looked at him with lust-filled eyes. What happened next was something he would never forgive himself for. He stayed and took her up on her offer. He stayed.

-

Once Maria fell asleep, he carefully got out of the bed. He couldn’t believe what he had done. He quickly redressed and took the money out of his pocket and left it on the night stand on the side of the bed. He then left the house in shame.

The guilt was eating him up inside as he walked home. Not only did he take advantage of a woman who came to him for help, but he had just betrayed his wife. Eliza, his beautiful, loving, trusting wife. How could I do this? He asked himself. While he was not proud of what had happened by any means, he wouldn’t lie to his Betsey.

When Eliza returned from her fathers’ house later that week, he waited until the children were asleep to talk to her. While he knew it would hurt her by telling her, he was not going to keep this from her.

“Elizabeth?” He called out to her softly. She was sitting on the bed running a brush through her hair.

“Yes, my love?” Whatever it was he wanted to ask her must have been serious. She set her brush down. He rarely ever used her full name.

“What I’m going to tell you won’t be easy to hear, but you need to know.” He sat down next to her; close enough to make it easier but far enough to give her space after he said what he needed to say. He started at the beginning. Alexander told her about Maria showing up at the house shivering in the cold. He told her how he gave her money when she told him about her situation. He told her that he walked her home to make sure she got there safely. And after a pause, he told her how he slept with her when he followed her into the house.

“It was just the one time, and I need you know how sorry I am.” When he saw how she looked at him he could see the amount of hurt and betrayal in her eyes, he felt even worse. He looked away unable to see how much he hurt her. I deserve that. He thought to himself.

“If you want a divorce, I understand. I won’t fight you on it. Whatever you want, I’ll give it. I am so sorry about the whole thing, Eliza.” When he looked back at her, he saw the expressionless look on her face with both hands resting on her swollen stomach almost protectively. He didn’t think it would be possible to feel worse but to see Eliza completely emotionless hurt more than seeing her looking completely heartbroken.

“Eliza? Say something please?” He called out to her after a while of the both of them just sitting in silence.

“Sleep in your office, Alexander.” She still wouldn’t look at him. He got off the bed and walked towards the door feeling completely defeated. As he was about to walk out of the room he heard her voice, still strained, but softer.

“I need time. We’ll speak tomorrow while the kids are away.” With that Eliza got up and closed the door, shutting him out of their room.

The next day while the kids were at school, she talked. Well, it was less talking and more of Eliza shouting and throwing things at him. The entire time he stood there and let he do what she needed to do. “Why couldn’t I just be enough for you?” She cried while she threw a book that missed his head by a few inches.

She collapsed onto the couch, her face buried in her hands as she cried. He cautiously approached her and sat down next to her. He placed a hand on her back and she didn’t shove it off, he took it as a good sign. As sobs racked through her body, he pulled her into his lap in an attempt to comfort her. He held her as she cried into his chest, giving him an occasional shove when she cried harder. Once she had calmed down he slowly pulled away.

“Betsey? What do you want? Do you want me to leave?” He asked her but she only buried her face in his chest again. He was about to ask her again when he felt her shake her head.

“Can we get through this?”  He asked her even though he was scared of what the answer would be. He felt her nod her head and he let out a sigh of relief he didn’t know he was holding in. They sat there for what felt like hours, just holding onto each other.

It took them a week to get back into their same routine. At first they would barely talk, but as the days went on things got better. By the end of the week they were finally able to joke around with each other again. That’s when the letter came.

James, Maria’s husband, had found out about what happened. He was apparently okay with them continuing what happened as long as he got what he wanted out of it. He was threatening to tell Eliza if Alex wouldn’t pay him to keep quiet. He gave the letter to Eliza and let her read it before he grabbed it again and left the house to confront Maria.

He barged into the house and when he didn’t find her in the small living area, he ran up the stairs and into the room he was in last time.

“How could you?” He angrily shoved the letter in her face. He watched as she skimmed through the words. He ripped the letter from her hands.

“No, sir!” She stood up, in a bad attempt to make herself look bigger. He stomped towards the door when he heard her plead, “Please, don’t go, sir!”

“So was your whole story a set up?” Enraged he turned back to her and gestured to her half-dressed state. Her corset was only done up about half way. Her skirts looked rumpled and a mess. Her eyes were swollen, as if she had been crying for a long time recently.

“I didn’t know about any letter!” She threw herself on the floor near his feet, desperate for him to believe her. She was sobbing at this point.

“Stop crying! Goddamnit! Get up!” Alex was beyond angry at this point. Maria had the nerve to pretend not to know about anything after she set him up and now she was pretending to be the victim here.

“I didn’t know any better!” She cried out in a last attempt to fix things. While she was younger than him, she knew right from wrong. Even my youngest child knows better. He thought bitterly as she got up from the floor. It was then that James had returned to the house and had made his way up stairs.

If Alex hadn’t been so angry maybe he would have noticed the look of absolute fear on her face when James appeared in the room. Maybe he would have also noticed the bruise on her face and bruises on her arms. Maybe he would have noticed the toddler screaming from another room within the house.

“Please! Don’t leave me with him! Just give him what he wants and you can have me!” She pleaded with him as she threw herself at him, her hands grasping his coat.

“I don’t want you!” He roughly shoved her off of him, harder than he intended, which caused her to stumble back and fall to the ground. He was so angry he didn’t even feel remotely sorry at the time. He had helped her and this is how he was repaid. He was repaid with threats of blackmail from a man he didn’t even know all because he had believed this woman when she claimed she was being abused. He turned and was met face to face with James Reynolds.

“I made you an offer. So?” James asked smugly while leaning against the doorway.

“No deal.” Alex said as he shoved past James and left the house. He didn’t notice the anger on James face as he turned back towards Maria. He didn’t notice how she seemed to make herself as small as possible. Alex slammed the door behind him and leaned against the side of the house to calm himself down before he went back home. Alex could hear James yelling from inside the house.

“What the hell did you mean, ‘Don’t leave me with him?’ Are you that ungrateful for everything I give you! You had one job, Maria! You mean to tell me you aren’t that good of a whore to keep them coming back!” Alex peered into the window and saw James dragging Maria down the stairs by her hair. He watched in horror as James threw her down the last couple of stairs causing her to hit her head on the last step. He watched as James angrily grabbed her by the arm and dragged her to what he remembers she told him was the basement.

“No, sir! Please!” James angrily opened the door and from where he was standing he could see how completely scared Maria looked. She began fighting back even harder but it wasn’t enough because it was then that he through her into the basement, not seeming to care she must have fallen down those stairs. Alex watched in shock as James shut the door and placed a latch on the door and went back upstairs and came back down with a baby wrapped in a blanket in his arms.

While Alexander couldn’t hear what James said as he talked into the basement door, he wasn’t sure he would have wanted to hear what he said that got Maria not try to fight and get out of the basement when he opened the door. He handed the child over to Maria whose arms could barely be seen from the basement door and once she was in, he slammed the door once again and replaced the latch, locking them both of them in.

Alex tried to get back into the house but the door seemed to be jammed with something. He couldn’t believe that in his anger he didn’t notice how scared and injured Maria really was. Maybe if I had just paid James she wouldn’t be locked down there right now. After a while of trying to get back into the house he gave up. He walked back home in shame. Shame of not being able to help. Shame of calling her a liar when she really had come to him for help. Shame for shoving Maria down when she pleaded with him to not leave her.

He got home and went straight to sleep, completely ignoring Eliza’s concerning glances. When she got into bed and tried to talk to him, he told her he would tell her in the morning.

-

The next morning Alexander woke up to an empty bed. Usually it was him who woke up first. He loved getting the watch Eliza as she slept because she seemed so free of her worries and stress. He went down stairs and found Eliza standing in the doorway not seeming to notice she was letting cold air into the house while she was holding something with one hand and a letter in the other hand.

“Betsey? Who was at the door?” Alex asked from the stairs, not wanting to be closer to the cold air.

Eliza turned and closed the door. When she turned to face him, Alex was completely confused. Where did she get a child from?

“Eliza… whose child is that and why do you have them?” Alex took a few steps towards her. She walked towards him and handed him the letter. She then placed one hand on her swollen stomach. It was then that Alex recognized the blanket the baby was wrapped in. It was the same one he left at Maria’s house that day. In his rush to leave he had completely forgotten it. He quickly skimmed through the letter.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton,

            Please forgive me, but I can’t give her the life she deserves. You two seem like such lovely people, and I am so sorry for what I did. I understand what I did was wrong, but please understand I was only trying to keep my daughter safe. By leaving her with you I am continuing to try and do that. You both have raised three children so far (I hope your next child comes safe and healthy, Mrs. Hamilton) and I hope you can give Susan a better life than the one she would have had with me. As much as it pains me to give her up, she doesn’t deserve to grow up in a house such as my own. I hope one day I will get to see what kind of lovely woman she grows up to be.

                                                                                                -Maria Reynolds