There were times where Drew Porter’s three room apartment was something to marvel at, but today, with dishes submerged in murky sink-water and clothes crumpled into the corner of her bedroom, was a day to be ashamed. The morning news spoke to her from the television as she slipped out of bed. Today: breezy with a chance of scattered showers. Tomorrow: thunderstorms. The next day: Drew didn’t even care to know. There was nothing to look forward to anymore. Forty-eight hours was long enough.
Drew slid out of bed, letting the soles of her feet land on the cold wooden floor. As she slipped off her cotton nightgown, she grabbed the uniform hanging from the desk chair that her cat was also resting on.
“You know Fergus,” she said. “When I said I wanted to be a police officer, I didn’t mean a mall cop. I wanted to save people. Be a hero, you know?”
“Yeah I know, same old rant.” Drew put on the uniform, looking in the mirror. She sighed, “Let’s just hope I don’t ruin this job for myself either.”
“Yeah, that’s right. No job means no Fancy Feast for you.” Drew pat his head.
Fergus leapt off the chair. He traveled to the kitchen, sat down on the mat, and meowed.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Drew said, forcing her feet into her shoes. She went to the kitchen, opened a can of food for the cat, and then searched the cabinet for breakfast. Three slices of bread, mustard, honey, and half eaten bag of beef jerky. Drew decided on the toast.
“Bon appetite,” she said, eating the breakfast as she left the apartment complex.
The Grundy Mall was thirty minutes away by car, and while Drew didn’t mind, her used1998 Honda Accord certainly did. As it sputtered down the highway, Drew listened to the radio talk about the youth of America going to the sewage.
“It’s all them video games, all them spoiled rich parents,” the radio said. “Every child thinks they’ll be famous.”
“Let them think that then. They’ll all get thrown into the real world one way or the other,” Drew said, hands both on the steering wheel. She flagged her turn signal, and drove through Exit 27.
A couple of smokers were gathered by the mall entrance, but inside, the building was nearly vacant stores were just beginning to open.
The buzzing came from Drew’s back pocket. She glimpsed around, knowing using her phone was not appropriate on duty. She answered.
“Hello?” she asked.
“May I speak to Mr. Porter?” the gruff, deep voice asked.
“There is no Mister Porter. If it’s Drew you want, you’re speaking with her,” she spoke with a subtle firmness that suggested this was not the first time this mistake had been made.
“Oh, well. You aren’t at work,” the man on the other line added.
“Sir, I am too. I just got in maybe five minutes ago. My shift starts at 10:15,” Drew said,
taking her ear off the phone for a moment to check the time. It was five minutes until the start of her shift. She put her phone back to her ear.
“—Be there, and not a second late,” the voice said, agitated. “Or you’re fired.”
With the beep of the phone, the call ended.
Drew scrolled to the phone’s call history, and put her thumb on call. As she waited, she saw another mall cop in the food court. She cancelled the call, and instead went up the escalator, and walked up to him.
The man was sitting by himself at a table, gorging on a chocolate milkshake and double cheeseburger. His hands were pudgy and round, and his mouth was as wide as the brim of the cup he held. Fat rolls from his stomach hid the front part of his belt. He had not noticed someone was beside him.
“Hey, I’m new. I was wondering if you could tell me where to meet for my first shift,” Drew said, raising her voice slightly.
The man took another bite of his burger before responding.
“You report to the map at the center of the mall,” He said, mouth stuffed with greasy burger.
“Thank you,” she said, as she made her way to the sign.
Drew noticed a man dressed in a collared shirt and dress paints, lingering by the sign. His arms were crossed, his foot tapping, and his eyes locked on her.
“You’re late,” her boss snapped.
“Sir, with all due respect, this is my first day. How was I supposed to know where you’d be?” Drew spoke as if her tongue had been coated with poison.
“If you don’t know your way around the mall, maybe I was wrong about hiring you. Go home, where you can focus on things you were better suited for,” he spoke, glancing at her body, and then, back at her eyes.
Drew clenched her teeth together as her hands balled themselves into fists. Whirling around, she felt her cheeks redden. She took one step forward. She paused. She turned back to face him.
“People like you disgust me, you freaking misogynist—” she retorted.
“You’re fired,” her boss said. “Give me the badge.”
Drew yanked it off and dropped it in his open palm. She strutted out the mall, into the parking lot, and cried the moment she locked herself in the car.
“Damn it,” she mumbled, hitting the steering wheel. “I really needed that job.”
She turned the ignition on, and the car rumbled. The radio popped on.
“You know Jim, I’ve found that there’s so many poor people who aren’t even working, just begging. There’s plenty of jobs. Even if they aren’t the job you want. They should stopped taking other people’s money—”
Drew turned the radio off.
By the time Drew made it home, it was well into the afternoon. Fergus was sitting by the front doorstep, and the moment the door was opened, a symphony of meows followed suit. She smiled.
“I know, you’re mad I didn’t say goodbye,” she said, bending over to pet him. Fergus stretched, purring as she stroked his back. He sauntered over to her, and rubbed against her knees. Where he was sitting before, was an eviction notice.
Drew’s eyes grew wide as she grabbed the letter and read it. She had three days until she had to leave. With no job, there was no way to buy more time. Three days was barely enough time to pack. She looked up at the ceiling with misty eyes as she covered her mouth with clasped hands. Her body shook, with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“It’s over, Fergus. I can’t do anything else. I blew it—”
It was then when Fergus arched his body, and hissed, and ran to the leftmost wall. He stared at it, and cried. As Drew walked to see where her cat went, she heard a shattering sound, and several angry bellows from the apartment next to hers.
“Fergus, I’ll be right back,” Drew said, wiping away the water off her face. She left her apartment and knocked on the apartment to her left. Muffled screams could be heard from the door. Drew pounded on the door again.
“Open up!” she shouted. She tried sounding as intimidating as possible.
It grew silent.
A man cracked open the door, “My girlfriend dropped her vase. Everything’s okay.”
“Let me speak with her,” Drew demanded.
“Alright officer,” The man said, hesitating. “Give us a moment.”
As the door closed, Drew realized that she was still wearing her mall cop outfit. Drew shrugged, mumbling, “It must’ve been enough to convince him.”
The women left her apartment wearing a great deal of makeup and a sheepish expression.
“Good afternoon,” she said. “I thought for sure you’d be at work, or out, or…”
“Darby,” Drew said, hushed so only she could hear. “Who is he?”
“He’s my boyfriend, but he….he…” she stammered, but staying quiet.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to go to my apartment, and call the real police,” Drew said, eyes gentle but expression firm. “Alright?”
Darby shook her head, eyes wide. “No, he’s…I love him. I can’t do that.”
Drew looked at her. “But Darby, does he love you?”
There was a long pause. The wind was blowing, turning tree leaves backwards as dark clouds rolled on, hiding the once bright sky.
“I’m sure he does…I mean…he just gets angry,” Darby said, looking over at the road, away from the situation she was in.
“Darby. People who love others don’t act controlling, don’t hurt their other halves,” Drew stated.
It had begun to rain.
“Come on, let’s get out of the rain. We can figure out what to do in my apartment,” Drew said. After another pause, Darby agreed.
Drew ushered her neighbor inside the room, pushing all the junk she could into the closet.
“Sorry about the mess. Here, wait on the couch,” Drew said, pointing to the living room.
Darby nodded. Fergus followed Darby, curling up beside her.
Drew went to the door as she turned the lever. The lock clicked in place. She went into the living room, sat next to Darby, and then took out her phone.
“We have to call, Darby,” Drew said. “He’s just going to keep hurting you. Is this what you want?”
“And what if he figures out I did?” Darby looked at her, eyes watering. She shook her head. “He’ll take even more away from me.”
“No he won’t,” Drew assured her. “Because he’ll be in jail.”
The raindrops pelted the outside of the apartment, the wind screamed around them. Darby jumped. Fergus meowed and leaned against her.
“You call. I…I can’t.” Darby said, gazing at the floor.
Drew dialed the number.
“Hello. 9-1-1. This is Drew Porter, living in the Davis Apartment Complex, Room 145. I suspect my neighbor, Darby Winter, who lives in Room 146, was being beaten by a man, about 6’2, dark hair, blue eyes. Yes, she’s with me,” she said, glancing at Darby.
Darby took the phone from Drew, hands shaking. She glanced at Drew.
“Just breathe. Tell the truth,” Drew mouthed. Darby took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and spoke.
“Yes, this is Darby Winter. Yes. Samuel Reeves. Yes….he was hitting me. He threw a vase at my side. Yes. Please come quickly.”
There was banging on Drew’s apartment door. Darby jolted. A clash of thunder roared. The rain pelted the apartment so fiercely, it sounded like a warzone.
“Samuel,” she said, gripping the phone tight to her chest.
Drew pat her back. “Help’s coming. Don’t worry.”
“Darby, I know you’re in here. Come on baby, let’s just talk!” Samuel yelled.
Drew turned on the television, and turned up the volume. It still couldn’t compete with
the storm outside.
“Darby! If you’re with that cop lying again—” Samuel shouted, distraught.
Drew took the phone from Darby. “He’s outside my door. He’s getting angry. He’s
pounding on it.”
Lighting lit up the apartment room, casting a shadow of the man staring through the window by the door. Thunder bellowed once more. Rain beat down as hard as Samuel hit the door.
“Darby! If you tell them, I’ll make you never talk again!” He shouted. There was a large thud against the door, and then another. Drew crept closer to the apartment door, and looked through the peep hole. Samuel’s eyebrows were furrowed, eyes gleaming with rage. He ran up against the door, forcing his body against the door. The whole doorframe shook as the hinges squealed against the pressure. Drew jumped backwards.
“That’s it,” Samuel yelled. There was a click from out the door.
Fergus hissed from the other room.
Drew’s eyes widened she rushed into the living room. “Darby, take cover. I think he has a gun.”
“A what?” Darby squeaked and placed herself behind the soft sofa.
“Shh, it’ll be okay,” Drew said, as she plopped next to her.
There were three shots fired, a splintering sound emerged as one bullet lodged itself in the door. Another shot fired, shattering the small square window. Shards of glass scattered across the entrance way.
“I’m going to kill you!” Samuel howled just as the police sirens blared in the background.
“Police! Put your hands up,” the police officer called out.
Samuel punched the apartment door. “That woman impersonated a police officer and stole my girl from me!”
“Put your hands up.”
“She’s holding my girl captive! You don’t even care. You biased swines,” Samuel bellowed.
“Thank you for putting the gun down. You have the right to remain silent—” he said, but once a thud was heard, Samuel roared in pain. “Get off me! Get off me!” he howled.
Drew peeked one more time through the door’s peep hole. Samuel was on the pavement. He threw punches and kicked as if he was a three year old crying over losing their Halloween candy.
“Pathetic,” she spat out. “Darby, the police are fighting with him. The police almost have him under control. It’s alright.”
“Really?” Darby asked and peeked in the hole as well. “Oh my god, they’re forcing him into the police car.”
Drew glanced again. Samuel, with blood trailing down his leg and a flushed face, was shoved into the cop car. One police officer slammed the door, while the other walked closer to her apartment door.
“Drew and Darby, he’s arrested. It’s clear; you can come out,” the police officer stated.
Drew picked up Fergus, and opened the door.
“Thank you officer,” Drew said. “You got here just in time.”
“No problem. You ladies alright?” he asked.
“Yeah, we are,” Darby said.
“Would you mind answering some questions for us?” the policeman asked.
“Of course not,” Darby said. “Where do we begin?”
The police took their statements and testimony, and eventually left, taking Samuel to the station.
The rain subsided, as the pattering on the rooftop eased into silence. The light came in through the window shades, and the clouds were forced away by the wind. Drew looked back at Darby, to find she was holding a letter in her hand.
“Drew, if you need a place to stay, there’s room in my apartment,” she offered.
Drew snatched the letter. “I-I’m fine.”
“Drew, come on. Your cat can come too. At least until you find a job,” Darby insisted. “You’re a hero to me. It’s the least I could do.”
Drew paused, glanced at the letter, then back at Darby. “Only until I get a job.”
“Alright,” Darby said, guiding her back to her apartment. Drew helped Darby scoop up the glass shards from the floor, but the room was otherwise spotless.
“Nice house,” Drew said.
“Thanks,” Darby replied, and with a pause, mentioned. “You know, I think things will get better pretty soon, after all the mess is finally past us.”
Darby flipped on the television. Today: a chance of scattered showers. The next day: Thunderstorms. The next days after that: Sunny, with a subtle breeze.
Drew smiled, “I think you’re right.”