A rapid knock at the door and Bethany pops inside. Juniper left the door unlocked anticipating her friend’s arrival for their regularly scheduled movie night.
“Nip, I’m here!” She shuts the door behind her and makes her way through the living room.
“I’m in the kitchen!” Juniper is preparing one of their appetizers of queso dip and chips for the evening.
Bethany finds her way around the kitchen island and pecks her bestie on the cheek before removing her sunglasses. “Surprised you could find some time away from you-know-who to spend with me!”
“Likewise.” Juniper smiles at her friend and pours the queso into a serving bowl. “Pour those tortillas on that plate for me, would you.” She takes the pan and begins to wash it out in the kitchen sink.
Bethany obliges and eyes the drummettes on the corner of the kitchen island beautifully adorned with celery and varieties of dippings. “Ooo, la la. You’re getting fancy with the food now. That makes a beautiful presentation.”
“Compliments of a neighbor downstairs. She’s going to culinary arts school. She’s the one who did that cake everyone was raving about for Thanksgiving last year.”
“Ooo, that was delish.” Bethany swirls around with the plate of queso as Juniper places the clean pan on the dish rack and grabs the plate of drummettes. They retreat to the living room and set the food on the table where a bottle of chardonnay and glasses are already waiting.
Juniper plops down on the couch and tucks her feet underneath her body. “Work has been crazy this week! I swear I almost called in today, but I –“ Juniper’s statement is abruptly interrupted at the sight of the latest of black and blue masterpieces painted across the canvas of Bethany’s olive-complexioned face.
Bethany eases down onto the couch, what isn’t being spoken clearly understood. Juniper smoothes the hair that Bethany has tried to use to hide the bruises away from her face.
“What was it this time? You criticized another of those kindergarten scribbles her calls art? Or he needed a realistic point of reference to paint?” Her questions are somber and sharply pierce the original lighthearted tone of their gathering.
Bethany tries to replace the hair to cover the bruises. “I kinda wanted to not have to talk about it tonight, Nip. Let’s just enjoy the evening –“
“And pretend you aren’t a battered woman? What? Pretend that you won’t have to fake being tired and needing to rush home so you won’t be beaten tonight, Beth?” Tears begin to glaze Juniper’s eyes. “How long are you going to allow him do this to you?”
“Look, things just really got out of control this time. I mean, he hasn’t hit me in almost a month. We just –“
“Did you hear yourself, Beth? Your idea of improvement is that it’s been almost a month. I must be the one that needs to get help because I’m literally terrified here that one day I’m gonna get a call my best friend is in the hospital, or worse.”
“He’s tryin’, Nip. He told me he was gonna-“
“Beth, if he’s not getting in the car and driving somewhere to get some help I don’t care what’s coming out of his mouth. What? Do you expect him to tell you he’s gonna continue to beat you whenever he feels so inclined? Are you awaiting a confession, Beth? I’ll tell you this much, his actions are pretty consistent here.”
Beth tries to lighten the mood. “Anyway, what are we watching, tonight?”
“Uh, The Burning Bed and a couple others, Beth. Appropriate for the occasion I think.”
“Maybe I should just go.” Beth’s tone is full of quiet embarrassment as she stands up and walks toward the door.
“I’m not the one you should be leaving.” Juniper’s words cause her to pause for a second. “You don’t have to stay with him, Beth. I can help you. There are people who can help you.”
Bethany continues toward the door. “Some other time, Nip.” She walks out and eases the door closed.
Juniper releases the cry that was reserved inside for all that her friend has allowed herself to endure at the hands of a man who says he loves her.