sparsenicjade
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Written for 14 valentines challenge, theme "Domestic Violence"


Amanda has gotten used to words appearing in the dictionary, the public conscience, that were never there before, but always meant something. Just because someone hasn't thought of a way to say something, doesn't mean it isn't happening, doesn't exist.

The first time she reads of a man being arrested for beating his wife, she has to read the article three times. Even then, she somewhat wonders if the reporter's facts are faulty. He calls the case a "domestic violence" one, and Amanda knows what both words mean, but she's never seen them paired together.

She keeps the article, not even sure why she does. She's never contemplated marriage, never been seduced by the idea of belonging to another individual, but the concept that property, that chattel might have human worth sticks with her, and she's not quite able to throw the words away.

*


At some point, it becomes unspoken that one shouldn't hit one's spouse. Amanda knows better, though. After all, she lives her life doing things she's not supposed to do--morally or legally.

She also knows that there are a million ways to slip past the authorities, go right on with the "shouldn'ts" in one's life. And she pays attention--it's easier for asshole husbands and fathers than it is for most. Still, there's something to the fact that someone's paying attention. At least, it feels different than it did before, even if she can't say why.

*


Amanda is not a giver. There was a time when Rebecca could coax out the better side of her nature, and occasionally, when he's around, Duncan will just force it to the surface with his fucking earnestness, but it isn't something that comes naturally to her. The money she takes has been earned by way of ingenuity and willingness to risk the consequence, so it is only fair that she should be able to keep it.

There are times, though, when she abandons that philosophy, when, for one reason or another, it seems fun or soothing to give her money to others, like the couple of years during the Depression when she found ways to secretly keep the carnival she traveled with running, or the time a family of kittens had started living on her front lawn and she had forked over a pretty serious amount of cash to the no-kill shelter she'd found for them. She just picked and chose her causes, really, the essential component being that they had something directly to do with her welfare.

For the most part, her welfare and other people's were two distinctly different things.

*


Amanda meets Suze in a park. Really, Suze crashes right into her as Amanda's scoping out the security on the western side of a museum she's planning a heist for, but the end result is the same. Amanda whips around--just barely still on her feet--and looks into the eye (one is swollen shut) of a very panicked woman, and for whatever reason, doesn't even think before saying, "C'mon."

Later, Amanda will realize just how panicked Suze must have been to actually follow her--Suze trusts even fewer people than Amanda--but she does, and Amanda's got plenty of hidey holes scoped out around the park. She might need them, after all. They're cramped in one of them for nearly two hours before Amanda asks, "Who's following you?"

Suze's eyes are brittle and she contemplates Amanda for a long time, but in the end she must figure it's the least she owes, given that Amanda has shown her the spot and stayed. She says, "My husband."

Amanda says, "Let's give it another couple of hours."

For the first time, Suze looks at her like she might have some clue.

*


When they finally come out, Amanda asks, "Where're you gonna go?" She can't say why she asks, it's not as if she should care, but she's just spent nearly five hours with this woman, who breathes like it hurts. The sounds reminds Amanda too much of the women who would show up at the Abbey when she was young, just to stay for a few days. It reminds her of other women, the same women, just different eras, different countries, but all the same. So she asks.

Suze tells her, "Don't know. I think there's a shelter a few miles outside city limits. I'll figure out the bus route."

Amanda opens her mouth, then shuts it. She opens it again, "You got fare?"

Suze doesn't look at her. Amanda says, "I've got a car," and doesn't offer anything else.

Suze admits, "I know the number by heart, if you've got a quarter."

Amanda has three.

*


Amanda should just drop Suze off and get the fuck out of dodge, but she stays to make sure they accept Suze, and the next day she finds herself driving back with a few outfits and some toiletries that she picked up at a department store. She doesn't know why, exactly, just that she'd want something that was hers--even if it was new--if she was in a place that wasn't hers, not at all.

Suze takes one look at the stuff and says, "I'm not a charity case."

Amanda says, "And I don't give to charity."

After that, it's surprising how well they get along.

*


Suze won't press charges. The woman at the shelter keep at her, talk about how it "sets examples" and "if he can do this to you, he can do it to other women," but Suze just tells Amanda, "Been there, done that."

It turns out Suze has done that twice, and both times the charges have been dismissed for reasons that include her husband's best friend testifying that she drinks, and she probably just imagined it. Suze says, "That was the time I had a concussion, but there was nobody to drive me to the hospital, so no records, y'know?"

Amanda doesn't, but she's been around long enough to trust the woman that if she thinks the law isn't going to protect her, it isn't. She asks, "What're you going to do?"

There's a long moment where Suze doesn't answer. Then she asks, "What would you do?"

Amanda knows that one, it's the same answer she has for most things. "Start over. Somewhere new. New name. New job. Whatever."

Suze laughs, but after a while she says, "I could choose any name I wanted."

*


Two weeks later, when Amanda comes to say hi, Suze is gone. There's no note or anything.

Amanda puts the newspaper article--nearly thirty years old--into an envelope and writes on it, "For Suze, or whatever you go by. Hope you never come back for this."


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile