Excerpt of Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
(Page 6 of 9)
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"Then you'll have to stay where you are," she'd replied. "This is the way
it works." My hand had crept to my nose, pressed on the bridge as though testing my
resolve. I felt the pain in my molars, the back of my head, the length of my spine. I felt
the blood still seeping from between my legs, like a memory of something I'd already made
myself forget. "The bleeding will stop in a week or so," they'd said at the
clinic. Pack plenty of clean underpants, I thought to myself. That's what it comes down
to, finally, no matter how terrifying your life has become. A toothbrush. Batteries. Clean
underpants. The small things keep you from thinking about the big ones. Concealer stick.
Tylenol. My face had faded to a faint yellow-green in the time it had taken me to plan my
getaway. Bobby had been working a lot of nights. We'd scarcely seen one another.
"What will happen if you leave and then your husband finds you?" Patty Bancroft
"He'll kill me," I answered.
"He won't find you if you do what we say." And she'd hung up the phone.
The station public-address system bleated and blared. "Mom, can I have a Coke?"
Robert said, in that idle way in which children make requests, as though it's expected of
them. The video game and his hands lay in his lap, and he'd tilted his head back to look
up at the ceiling.
"Not now," I said.
A line of people in business suits had formed at the head of one of the stairways leading
to the tracks. Two of them talked on cellular phones. A woman with a handsome leather
suitcase on a wheeled stand left the line and walked toward the coffee kiosk. Her heels
made a percussive noise on the stone floor. "Café au lait, please," the woman
said to the girl behind the counter. She looked at her watch, then turned and smiled at
me, looked down at the floor, looked up again. "You dropped your tickets," she
said. She handed me an envelope she stooped to pick up from the floor.
"Oh, no, I--"
"You dropped your tickets," she said again, smiling, her voice firm, and I could
feel the corner of the envelope, a sharp point against my wet palm.
"Metroliner!" called a uniformed man at the head of the stairs, and the woman
picked up her coffee and wheeled her suitcase to the stairway without looking back. I sat
down heavily on the bench and opened the envelope.
"God!" groaned Robert, hunched back over his game.
"Nothing," he said.
Inside the envelope were two tickets to Baltimore on the 4:00 p.m. Metroliner. I looked at
the big digital clock and the wall timetable. 3:12, and the next Metroliner was on time.
There were other things in the envelope, too: bus tickets, a driver's license, Social
Security cards. For a moment I was blind with confusion, and then I found the names:
Crenshaw, Elizabeth. Crenshaw, Robert.
I had not liked it when Patty Bancroft gave me orders on the phone, but now I felt a
powerful sense of gratitude. She had let me have my way in at least one thing: Robert had
gotten to keep his own first name. And I was to be Elizabeth. Liz. Beth. Libby. Elizabeth
Crenshaw. Seeing myself reflected in the glass of the coffee kiosk, I could almost believe
it. There she was, Elizabeth Crenshaw. She had short blond hair, a pixie crop that I'd
created with kitchen scissors and hair dye in the bathroom just before sun-up, just after
I heard the door shut behind Bobby as he left for work. She wore a pair of gold-rimmed
glasses bought from a rack at the pharmacy, clear glass with the kind of cheap sheen to
the lenses that turned the eyes behind them into twin slicks of impenetrable glare.
Elizabeth Crenshaw was thin, all long bones and taut muscles, because Fran Benedetto had
been running for more than a decade and because terror had made it hard for her, these
last few years, to eat without feeling the food rise back up into her gorge at a word, a
sound, a look. "Skin and bones," Bobby said sometimes when I was naked, reaching
Use of this excerpt from Black and Blue by Anna
Quindlen may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or
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Copyright© 1998 by Anna Quindlen. All rights reserved.