Headlights shined through blinds at two o’clock in the morning. She sat on the couch trying to make out who it was. Couldn’t tell the make of the car. Was it his old Chevy truck? maybe a complete stranger.
She heard a door slam shut. Thought she heard somebody walking up her gravel driveway. Couldn’t tell. Her porch light was off, causing it to be pitch black. The young woman grabbed her son’s baseball bat over in the corner. Don’t know how many times she asked him to take that to his room. And then the knocking on the door began.
It was a soft knock at first. Light taps on the screen door. She tightened her robe. Then the knocking got louder. The young mother wanted to turn the lights on, but, she was scared of what she might see. A voice on the other side began to whisper, Charlotte, I know you’re awake. Let me in. I wanna talk.
The voice was familiar. She knew it very well. She had listened to that voice for ten years. She heard it say, I love you. And, I do, on a cold spring day years ago.
Donny? Donny, is that you? she asked, gripping the bat tighter. Is that you? What do you want? It’s two o’clock in the morning. What do you got to say for yourself? There was silence. She turned on the porch light. It was Donny. Unkempt, heavy, a mangled beard, he wore a torn leather jacket she had given him back awhile ago. It fit tightly round his gut.
I need to talk, Charlotte. I need to talk.
I don’t know. Us. I spose.
There is no us. Not anymore.
I know that, he said. Just wanted to tell ya I’m sorry, he leaned on the screen. I wasn’t a good husband. Tried. God knows, I tried. Just wasn’t. I’m sorry.
Where you been living?
All around. Everywhere.
Do you need money?
Nope. I’ve gotten used to being broke. It builds character.
Donny. I let you go a long time ago. Things have changed. She heard feet coming down the hallway. Little Donny asked who she was talking to? She told him nobody. Now get back to bed. The child did as he was told.
Part of her wanted to open that door just to get a good look at him. The other part of her was too frightened. Donny, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave, she said, pulling on her long blonde hair.
Fair enough. I just wanted to say I was sorry.
Well, I’m sorry too. I mean that. Maybe I could’ve been a better wife.
You were fine, he said. Just fine.
She watched the outline of a large man get into his truck. She heard music playing. It was Barbara Mandrel. An old song by Barbara Mandrel.
And as the truck took off, she turned off the porch light and put away the bat.
They never spoke again.