Hours of scrubbing the carpet had passed. She used every bottle of hydrogen peroxide around the house to take out every drop of blood. But no matter what it was, it didn’t seem to come off as hard as she was scrubbing. Somehow more appeared. She got tired and looked around the room. Nothing but darkness, with a light from a hanging ceiling lamp projecting only on the bloodstains in the carpet. “You told me you would be more careful,” she shouted into the void. There wasn’t a single response back, just her voice echoing across the room.
The room started to close in on her. She struggled to grasp the air around her. Her heart started racing. Sweat dripped from her neck down to her chest. Her eyes opened as she awakened from her slumber. She took a couple of deep breaths, her hand placed on her chest before reaching for her phone that she had forgotten to charge before sleeping.
She turned around, placing her hand on the side that her lover would usually lie down. He wasn’t home yet. Where the hell was he?! Whenever he went “out,” he wouldn’t pick up his phone, so it was useless to text or call him. She sat up, leaning against the headboard as she waited for him. Twiddling with her thumbs, she was nervous that tonight was the night he wouldn’t come home.
There had been days when she had grown so tired of cleaning his blood stains out of the living room rug, tears running down her face from frustration and fear. He was the person who defended people, the person that became a vigilante at night.
* * *
During the night, Jayson had been dealing with criminals hurting innocent people. He would get hurt, sometimes severely, because he didn’t have any protective armor. He would end up with cuts on his skin that would get stitched up and bruises around his body that would be compressed with a frozen pea bag.
This night had been tough on Jayson. He was beaten up badly, with a deep cut near his hip bone, minor cuts on his forearms, and he was barely mobile from the hits he received. He wasn’t that far away from the apartment as he held onto his wound to keep it from bleeding out. It took all his energy and strength to deal with tonight.
The thought that Victoria would be upset with him if he didn’t get home kept him walking even though he was in pain. He knew that he needed to go to the hospital, but he knew if he went, they would question him. The authorities would get involved and ask him why he looked so beaten up.
On his way home, he could already imagine all the things Victoria would tell him. From “You need to start being more careful” to “This is something I can’t take care of. We need to take you to the hospital.” Everything that she had ever told him popped into his head. He chuckled periodically despite the pain as he thought about how she would react, stomping her feet, both of her arms crossed together as she scolded him.
* * *
Victoria grew tired of being in bed waiting for him to come home. Negative thoughts overflowed her mind. She was worried something might have happened to him. Getting up, she felt a heavy weight on her chest as something pulled her down towards the bed. That didn’t stop her from walking to the kitchen, but it felt like it was miles away instead of a couple of feet.
On her walk toward the kitchen, her eyes set on the rug in the living room. As much as she didn’t want Jayson to be lying there, she still wished he was there deep down. Pouring herself a glass of water, she kept looking at the carpet, reassuring herself that he wasn’t there as she second-guessed herself again and again. He wasn’t lying on the ground like last time. That could be good or bad. Taking a drink from the cold water, she began to tap her nails on the counter.
The bit of energy that she had from the cold water went away. Her eyes grew heavier as she started to walk back to the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed. Slipping back under the covers, she let her eyes close as the tiredness got the best of her. She grabbed her phone and watched her comfort show, “British Baking Show,” as she didn’t want to go to sleep if he wasn’t there beside her. She was trying her best to distract her mind from any negative thoughts that might have been lurking. Victoria repeated to herself, “He is okay. He is on his way home,” countless times, trying not to imagine that he might be on a roof somewhere unconscious.
* * *
Moments later, Jayson unlocked the door, walked inside, and quietly closed it behind him. He tried his best to tiptoe around the apartment, not wake Victoria up, assuming she was sleeping. He didn’t want her to worry about him, especially in the state he was in.
Walking into the bathroom to get himself cleaned, he tried to close the door quietly, but instead just slammed it, and he groaned in pain as he tried to grab onto the handle to stop it from making a loud noise. “Fuck,” he mumbled to himself as he opened the door, knowing that Victoria probably heard that, that he’d woken her up from her slumber.
* * *
She heard a door close and a muttered sound of anguish. Her eyes shot open, and relief and frustration washed over her. She immediately got up and headed towards the living room, knowing that he would be there. Just to be safe, she grabbed a pair of sharp scissors to protect herself. “Jay?” she said in a small voice as she walked to the living room, looking around, hoping to see him and not someone else.
He was limping down the hallway and into the living room, noticing how dark it was with a very dim light coming from the flickering lamp. The lightbulb needed to be replaced soon. Even though it was hard to see her, he could already tell that Victoria was upset. “Tough night, darling,” he said, placing his hand on his wound. “Ow! Fuck, can you help me?” he said with a strained voice, limping his way to the couch and sitting down.
“Seriously, tough night. Jayson, how many times do I have to tell you-” She stopped herself as she walked towards the couch. Sitting down next to him, she huffed. With the pair of scissors that she held, she started to cut the fabric of his clothes, exposing all the wounds he had. Peeling off the shirt from his scabs, he winced but didn’t mind the pain. He did this to himself, after all. “You told me that you would be more careful, but clearly you were reckless this evening,” She said, looking at the cut near his hip bone. It was as deep as she was frustrated, and she got up to grab the medkit in the kitchen.
Watching her leave, Jayson noticed how severe the cut near his hip bone was and traced it with his fingertips. “I’m still here, aren’t I?” he said as he softly chuckled, wincing as he felt the wound open a bit more. “I was sure you’d be more excited than this,” he said, wrapping the cut shirt around his hand and applying pressure on the wound. Looking over to where she was, he noticed the upset expression on her face. “Sorry, bad timing,” he said softly, not looking in her direction, looking at the ceiling instead.
She stayed silent as she walked over to turn on the lamp on the side table. She pointed it in his direction and sat down next to him. Opening the med kit, she grabbed what she needed to stitch him up: a needle, thread, gauze, and alcohol wipes. “There are only so many scars a single man can have before their body gives up,” she said, mumbling to herself but knowing well that he heard her loud and clear. As she traced her fingertip against his cut, she held back tears. She wanted to cry and let out all the frustration she felt toward him. She hated seeing him hurt, hated knowing that most nights by three am she would have to wake up and clean his wounds. But who was she to stop him from doing what he believed in?
“It’s Chicago. There is a need-”
She interrupted him, loudly ripping the top off a packet of single-use antiseptic wipes with her teeth. She slowly dabbed and rubbed at the cuts that were less severe. It took several wipes, each contributing to a slowly growing pile. Jayson hissed in pain. “A need for a good person to defend those that can’t. I know that speech from left to right, Jayson.” Her voice was shaking as she continued cleaning him up.
Jayson looked away. He could tell that she was on the verge of letting out a sob. “Then you already know why I can’t stop-hey!” he said in pain as she put pressure on his wound.
She took a deep breath as she fetched the bottle of alcohol and poured it into the cotton pad. “This’ll need stitches, so be ready to take a couple of deep breathes.” She dabbed the alcohol on the wound, wiping up the leaking blood, and Jayson cried out, flinching away from her touch. “Well, I don’t like it any more than you do, so try to stay quiet.” She prepared the thread and began to sew, trying to soothe his jolts of pain with soft coos and shushes. His breathing was shaky as he tried to pull deep breaths in through his nose and push breaths out of his mouth, wincing with each breath as the wound on his side gaped and oozed.
As soon as she finished patching and wrapping him up, she kissed his temple. “Are you okay? I know I was rough, especially with your wounds,” she said softly with a small feeling of guilt.
Jayson tried to relax on the couch, listening to her speak. He never truly understood why she was always so kind to him, even after he blatantly ignored her request for him to be more careful. “I’m better than ever. Thanks to you.” He slowly sat up and tried to get comfortable, sinking into the couch. “I know you don’t like playing nurse. But you’re amazing at it, and I appreciate you so much for being here to stitch me up.” He tilted his head toward her and softly smiled.
For the three years that they had been dating, Victoria had known him to be the person that went above and beyond for a city that would not do the same for him. She was always there, taking care of his wounds–at least the visible ones–but she hated that he would come home hurt. She never hesitated to help him, but she knew she should have walked away countless times. But she stayed. Maybe it was because she was afraid that he would end up on the news if she wasn’t there, or maybe it was because she truly loved him for how gentle he was with her.
“Not knowing where you are most of the time… The fact that one night you might not come home–.” She sniffed back her tears, shaking her head as she moved away and sat on the edge of the couch. Her shoulders were tense and she knew with how straight she was sitting that it was noticeable. “It scares me, Jayson, that you might be hurt, and I wouldn’t be there to stitch you up. Or that I might see on the news that ‘Jayson Lopez is found dead’ one day.” She wanted to explode with all the words she felt she couldn’t say, but she didn’t, afraid that if she continued she wouldn’t be able to stop.
Sitting up straight and grasping her hand, Jayson spoke. “I’m sorry that I worry you, that I make you stay up at night thinking about where I am. But one thing I promise you is that I’m always going to come home to you,” he said in a soft voice, kissing her forehead and trying to reassure her the best he could. He knew this day would come eventually, the day Victoria revealed just how scared she truly was. “I promise to try to be more careful whenever I leave the house and do these… activities.” Just looking at her, eyes filled with tears and a frown on her face, not looking at him but out into the void without saying a word, he knew deep down that he needed to change for the better. At that moment, he realized that while he had been taking care of his city, he wasn’t taking care of the person right in front of him.
Biography: I came to Aims because I wanted to stay close to home; as a first-generation student, I wanted to stay close to my parents as I finished my degree. Also, hearing about the amazing programs offered here drew me closer to attending Aims. My writing means a lot to me, and it is a form of escapism. Sometimes there is a need to take a break from writing research papers and being able to write down a story. These stories can be short or contain many chapters. One of the main goals when it comes to my writing is for people to not only have an interest in the story being told and want to crave more out of it but also be able to relate in some form. Anything from a laugh or even a heartache, I want a small message to be shown. Even though “Beautiful Crime” has a vigilante and his partner, a message is told. I’m not going to say what the message is as that is something that needs to be read. If there is a chance that others are reading my piece, I appreciate you so much. Thank you for reading it.