Survival tactics

by Alison Ogilvie-Holme

TW: mentions of domestic violence

Bloodshot eyes and trembling hands. Jenna attempts to light her last cigarette and drops it down the gutter. Damn it. Now vibrating, she hits speed dial and prays for Lillian. Please pick-up.

“Friendship House. Beth speaking.”


No use in talking anymore. She already knows about the Cycle of Abuse, can practically recite it in her sleep. But somehow knowing it and living it are two separate things – worlds apart in reality. Lillian understands that, has fought in the trenches herself and come out the other side, no longer ‘Victim’ but ‘Survivor’. Even ‘Advocate’.

Eventually, a cold rain begins to pound the pavement. Jenna hesitates, checks the time on her cell phone. 11:07 PM. Should she return home and hope that Luke has finally passed out? Or go back inside the café to drink her fifth Espresso of the night, ignoring hungry eyes and loose lips?

“Jenna? Is that you?”


“It’s me, Louise. Remember…from the library. Book Club? How are you?”

She is trapped. Busted. Nothing left to do except look up and meet Louise squarely in the eyes. So she does.

“Oh, my God! Are you okay? What happened?”

For once, just once, she wants to wipe that smug, sympathetic look off Louise’s all-knowing face. Scream at the top of her lungs. I got the shit kicked out of me again. What the hell do you think happened, Einstein? But of course, that would be suicide.

“I was in a car accident earlier tonight. Don’t worry. If you think I look bad you should see the tree.” She laughs.

Louise scans the parked cars and zeroes in on a red Honda Civic.

 “But isn’t that your car over there?”

“You know, Louise, I’d love to chat but I have to be going. Luke is expecting me. I’ll see you later.”

She hastens towards the crosswalk, ready to sacrifice comfort and ride the ankle express all the way home. She can always pick-up her car in the morning.

“Wait, Jenna!”

Against her better judgment, she turns around: “Yes?!”

“At least get yourself checked out to make sure that nothing is broken. I can give you a ride to the hospital if you like.”

“I’m okay, thanks.”

“I don’t mind. You really should see a doctor.”

“I’m fine, honestly.”

“Please, you’re not alone. There are people out there who can help…”

“Don’t need any help. Goodnight!”

“You don’t deserve to be treated like this, especially by someone you love. Violence is never acceptable under any circumstances.” Louise calls out, raising her voice to be heard above the downpour.

Despite the rain, there are still a few people scattered throughout the parking lot and out in the streets.

Now Jenna is truly frightened, unable to quell the tears that flow down her freshly bruised cheeks, mingling with the rain. She’ll catch hell if Luke gets wind of this. Feeling powerless to silence Louise, she prepares to bluff, the only hand she has left to play in this game of chicken.

“Look lady, I don’t know who you are or what you’re talking about! I told you that I was in an accident. I’m not even married for Christ’s sake! So skip the public service announcement before I call the police and have you charged with harassment. Just stay the fuck away from me.” 


Jenna charges forward without looking back, tries to steady her hand while tapping the screen. Be there. Be there. Be there.

“Friendship House. Lillian speaking.”

Thank you, God.

Author Bio

Alison is drawn to exploring characters who are perfectly flawed, much like herself. Her words can be found on Chronicle, Detritus, Down in the Dirt, Ink Pantry, and Writers’ Cafe, among others. She lives in Canada with her husband, identical twin daughters, and three pets (including a very fat cat named Tang).