…into the fire.
That was what came to Asla’s mind for at least the hundreth time today. She and her three kids were standing on a sidewalk in front of a small grocery store in a city they had never seen before. She had to pull a bus ticket out of her pocket to remind herself of how that place was even called.
She stuck the ticket back in and wondered if it was really a good idea to get themselves stranded in a strange city with barely 500 simoleons left and no clue what to do next.
It all started when her husband got into trouble with law like many times before. Becca was just a little toddler back then and Asla was working part time in a bar not far away from their home. Jay had always been like that. He was a member of some gang and they were constantly causing troubles in the neighbourhood. She didn’t know what exactly were their activities – and in fact, she didn’t want to know. That day, though, they must have done something worse than usual, because he eventually ended up in prison for two months.
It was a hard time for Asla, but it passed quickly between all the work and other responsibilities. Unfortunately, it changed everything. When Jay was finally released, he quickly grew obsessed with an idea that Asla had been cheating on him while he was in jail. He started to interrogate her, he kept checking her phone, he followed her on a street. He was also fired from his job and struggled to find a new one, so he started drinking way more than usual. And then the beating started.
Their arguments were always wild, but since he returned from prison, he always ended up beating Asla and humiliating her with extremely nasty words. He eventually calmed down a little after finding a new job, but his shifts were long and the money was pitiful so he soon returned to drinking and beating his wife to let off steam.
Poor Asla tried to speak up once and threatened to leave him, but it didn’t end well. Dark brown bruises on her neck from his fingers were a good enough reminder for her not to ever bring that subject up again.
“You will try that, you bitch, and I will kill you,” Jay hissed into her ear while she was helplessly gasping for air under his strong hands.
Despite his threats, she never stopped thinking about running away. The problem was she had nowhere to go and she couldn’t leave her children behind. She couldn’t turn him to police because those goons from his gang would surely make her pay for it.
Eight years later, after another bad beating, Jay headed to work and Asla was crying in their bedroom. She could hear her oldest daughter, Edna, shouting at her dad as he was passing around her, calling him “sick bastard” and “disgusting son of a bitch”. Edna was a stubborn, fearless girl, who always went ahead to tell her father what she thought about his ways. Needless to say it usually resulted in her being beaten as well, though it never stopped her from doing it again next time. A loud sound of slamming door told Asla that Jay was probably finally out and soon the bedroom door opened and Edna walked in, angrily rubbing her cheek and hateful sparks in her eyes.
“Mom, can’t we just leave already?”
“But where should we go?” asked Asla, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Anywhere. I don’t care. As long as it’s far away from here.” Edna’s hazel eyes were fixed on her mother’s face.
“I am… not sure, honey,” Asla mumbled, unable to look in her daughter’s eyes.
“Look, mom, I can’t take this anymore. You will either get us out of this hell or I’m leaving alone. I’m done with this life. And you should be too.”
Asla finally got a hold of herself and looked at her daughter. She was nearly seventeen and her eyes were burning with determination. Asla knew she was right. They shouldn’t be living like this. Her kids deserved more. She deserved more. But she was so scared to make a leap of faith and run away into the unknown.
“Okay,” she finally decided. “Go pack your stuff. We’re leaving.”
Edna nodded silently and went to her room. Asla didn’t waste any time. She grabbed her old hiking backpack and stuffed some clothes in it. She proceeded to the bathroom to gather some more necessities and then gently knocked on children’s bedroom. Edna was nearly done with packing her belongings. Becca, her younger daughter, was sitting on her bed in her pajamas, staring on her older sister in confusion. Oddly enough, Simon, the youngest of Asla’s children, was still soundly asleep.
“We… are leaving dad, aren’t we?” Becca asked quietly after seeing her mother with a large backpack. She slowly began to realize what was going on.
“Yes, we are,” Asla admitted. “Please, get dressed. I will help you pack your things.”
Becca didn’t say anything, but did what her mother told her. In less that thirty minutes they were all ready in their living room, waiting for a cab. Asla grabbed all money she could find. She even cleaned out Jay’s secret stash. She didn’t have any regrets. The bastard owed her for all the ill treatment he had been giving her and their children. Edna had a little money, too, and even Becca had some in her piggy bank. It was not much, but it will have to do.
The cab driver honked his horn. Asla carefully checked both sides of the street, worried someone from her husband’s gang could see them, but it was still very early in the morning and the street was empty. They quickly got into the cab and headed for a bus station.
“Excuse me, where does this bus go?” Asla asked a driver of the first bus that stopped by the platform they were passing.
“Bridgeport,” the driver replied.
“Uh, right. Thank you. And how far is it?” she asked nervously. The driver gave her a strange look.
“Very far. All the way to the west. Is that all, ma’am? People are waiting.”
“Oh, sure, sorry. Can I have four tickets, please?”
The ride was long and uncomfortable. It took nearly five hours and they were all hungry and stiff from sitting too long. Simon slept through the first half of it, but he was very unhappy for the last hour and other passengers must have hated them for his constant crying. Then finally they reached their destination and found themselves on a sunlit street of a really big city. Skyscrapers were tall, the traffic was thick and the streets were busy. There must have been thousands of sims living in that jungle of concrete. Everyone always rushing, minding their own business. People didn’t know each other. It was, in a way, a perfect place. There was no way Jay could find them here.
Edna sighed and looked at her mother. Simon was fussy in her arms and she was all sweaty from standing in the sun for too long.
“So, what now?” she asked. Asla sighed, too, and snapped out of her thoughts. The deed was done, there was no turning back.
“Let’s buy something to eat. And I will ask around for a job and a place to stay.”
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