Withering Flower

** August 2001 **

It has been exactly one year since Hannah Morales and Austin Jenkins tied the knot. She'd kept her promise to Austin and given him a chance, and the young man on his part proved his worth to her. He showed her love and treated her like a princess. At some point, Hannah's friends became envious of her because of how well Austin treated her.

When Hannah lost her dad, she fell into a deep pit. It was a hard pill to swallow as one minute they were celebrating Easter together, the next minute he was coughing and he dropped to the ground. He was rushed over to the hospital and that was when the doctors informed them that he'd kicked the bucket. 

Hannah Morales could barely process the news. Her father was more healthy than a nineteen-year-old football athlete, so how on earth was he dead?

Hannah had to step in and be there for her mom who was having a hard time coping with the loss of her husband and her personal ATM. 

If anything, Hannah needed her mom to deal with the pain more than she needed Austin, but he showed up for her more times than her mom did.

Her father left her mother with nothing except for the thousand dollars in his checking account and left everything to Hannah to manage. Someone, this loss of wealth was more heartbreaking to Hannah's mom than the loss of her husband. So, when Hannah decided to channel her hurt into the business her father left for her, her mother slipped and turned to alcohol.

Shortly after, Austin’s parents died. Now, Hannah was dealing with her father's business, her alcoholic mother and her grieving husband. 

Austin Jenkins couldn't digest the loss of his parents, especially when he was struggling his best to clear their names after rumours of their embezzlement spread throughout the town. Austin found himself losing everything he ever owned and just like Hannah's mom, turned to alcohol.

Their family which was once respected became the laughingstock of the town. Austin couldn't handle it. 

He'd returned home drunk and more times, high on whatever shit he could lay his hands on. The fact that he was now dependent on Hannah bruised his ego, so he became aggressive.

Of course, it wasn't like that at first. It started with verbal. Austin would throw hurtful words and Hannah to try and bring her down. It worked at first, and then it didn't. Hannah became immune to his words. So he switched to psychical abuse. A slap at first, then she became his punching bag. At some point, beating her became some sort of drug he couldn't live without. And what brought him even greater joy, was treating her like his personal sex toy. Taking her anywhere, whenever he wanted.

Hannah didn't dare to leave him. At first, she was merely trying to be there for him. But then she opened up to her mom about Austin’s abuse and just when she thought things couldn't get worse, her mom proved her wrong. She played on her emotions, manipulating her into staying with him. After all, Austin was the sweetest in the first months of their marriage. He made sure she was happy. Just like he promised on their wedding day.

Her eyes which were once emerald now looked dull. How did she end up here? How did something that started beautifully and gave her hope for a happily ever after end up here? 

"Hannah! Where the fuck are you? Austin staggered into the room, hitting his shoulder on the door jam. "Shit!"

“I was…”

“Shut up!”

Fantastic. Nights like these were the worst. Austin would come home completely wasted and Hannah would take the brunt of her wrath. The only good thing was there were times he was too wasted to do anything sexual. Words and insults were bad, but they were far better than the psychical pain.

"Would you like me to run you a bath?"

“No, I don’t want a fucking bath.” Austin threw his small bag on the bed, hitting Hannah’s chin. “I want you naked.” He unzippered the bag revealing needles, a tourniquet, and vials of black tar heroin.

In a ritual Hannah Morales saw many times before, Austin took out the tourniquet and wrapped it around his upper arm. Hannah remained silent as she watched him fill the syringe with a precise dose. With the state Austin was in already, Hannah Morales could only hope that another shot would incapacitate him enough that she would get the night off.

“Did you hear me? Undress.” With great care, Austin stuck the needle in a plump vein and closed his eyes. 

"Austin maybe we could just relax tonight. It sounds like you had a rough day..."

"I don't need your goddam opinion. You do what I saw when I say" he yelled and stumbled on his feet, making his way to the bathroom 

"You better be naked when I get out" 

Every inch of Hannah's body still ached from the night before. If only she could find it within herself and beg her mother to convince her that she deserved more.


Hannah Morales heard a crash coming from the bathroom and braced herself. She had no idea what had happened today to make Austin so angry, so she had no idea how to fix it. 

Hannah scoffed silently. Like she could fix anything. Her mere presence pisses him off.

Hannah knocked timidly on the bathroom door.

"Austin? Are you okay?”

The door swung open violently. “What the fuck is this!”

He threw a toothbrush at Hammah’s face, narrowly missing her eye.

Hannah frowned in confusion. “It’s my toothbrush.” She did all she could to stay calm as she was confronted with Austin’s unfounded wrath. 

“Is something wrong with it?” She wracked her brain, trying to remember if she had left the toothbrush out, or failed to put it back in its “rightful spot.”

“Bullshit! Your toothbrush is not this colour. Who the fuck has been here?”

Hannah shook her head. “No one. I swear. I bought new brushes for us both the other day. Remember?”

Another backhand caught Hannah off-guard.

“Don’t fucking lie to me! Where is the bastard, you fucking whore!”

This time it was a punch that made contact with Hannah’s jaw, causing the young girl to crumple to the floor in pain. 

She curled her naked body up as Austin continued to wail at her. Each kick, each punch, was like being branded with a hot iron. She wanted to argue, wanted to beg Austin to stop, but she couldn’t catch her breath and was pretty sure her jaw was broken. 

Temporary relief only came when Austin turned his attention to destroying the room looking for the “bastard” Hannah was cheating on him with.

Hannah Morales did her best to protect her stomach with her arm she could still move. The other arm lay limp at her side. It was tough to determine what was hurting worse. Her ribs ached so much she could barely breathe. There was a pain in her stomach that made her wonder if Austin had caused internal bleeding with the multiple kicks to the area. Her left eye was swollen shut and the right had blood dripping into it.

'This is it. He is finally going to kill me' Hannah thought to herself.

Who is it, huh?” Austin grabbed Hannah by the hair, yanking her head back. “One of the vendors? Maybe an investor? Is that how you get things done? By spreading your legs?” he wrapped a hand around Hannah’s throat and squeezed. 

“What? Nothing to say? You always had something to say. You know, the only reason I let myself be with you is that I wanted to punish you for thinking you're better than me” Austin let out an evil laugh when a blood-stained tear rolled down Hannah’s bruised cheek. 

“Did you think I really wanted you? That I could love someone as pathetic as you? Fuck no. I wanted all the wealth and popularity that came with your name. You're worthless to me. You're filth. Trash"

Regardless of what Austin thought, Hannah wasn’t crying because of the words he was spitting out at her. No, what was causing the tears was the inability to breathe. Austin’s large hand squeezed against her throat, cutting off her air supply.

“Please,” Hannah managed. She grabbed onto Austin’s wrist but didn’t have the strength to fight off the bigger man.

Austin raised his free hand, poised to strike again. “That’s right, beg me, bitch. Beg me to…”

All of a sudden, Austin’s grip loosened, and he stumbled backwards. His glassy eyes widened as he clutched at his chest. The exertion he had displayed by trashing the place already had her breathing hard, but this was different. This, to Hannah, was more like the inability to catch her breath.

Hannah scooted herself back as far and as fast as she could. Before she knew what was happening, Austin began retching. It seemed as endless as the beating did. When he started vomiting blood and convulsing, Hannah instinctively reached for the phone. 

Adrenaline must have dulled the pain as she pulled herself up off the floor, and with her fingers poised to dial, Hannah met Austin’s wild gaze.

“Help me,” the older man wheezed in between heaves. 

Every hit, every whip, every kick, every slap, every bite, every harsh word that Austin did to Hannah came back with a vengeance. It was like reliving it all over again. Not to mention, Hannah stood there bleeding and broken, contemplating helping the man who did it to her. 

Why should she?


For the first time in months, hearing her name come from Austin’s mouth didn’t sound like a demand, but a plea. Hannah held Austin’s frightened gaze as she lowered the phone.

“No!” Austin gasped and doubled over, his hand beating weakly at his chest. “Please!”

Unable to stay standing, Hannah sank onto the bed. There was an abundance of things going through her head that she wanted to say to Austin. How saying please never helped her. How he deserved what he was going through right now. How ironic it was that Hannah was the one with unanswered pleas just moments before. 

Yet, she said none of those things. She simply sat there and watched as Austin’s eyes rolled back into his head. 

Hannah exhaled softly as Austin’s last breath left his body.


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