By: Erin Noelle

EACH AND EVERY DAY, I fear when he comes home from work. Never knowing what to expect, I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, and I have no choice but to take whatever comes. I belong to a man who claims he loves me, but as each day passes, I realize he only loves to control me. He calls me his American Princess, but revels in treating me like his slave. My name is Bryleigh Carter Oliveira, and this is my story.

Sitting at the kitchen table with a high-powered assault rifle in my lap, my legs shake violently at the thought of what I’m about to do. I continue to remind myself there is no other way. Fleeing is not an option; running away would be a suicide mission, with a little added torture thrown in as the prep work. Though I’ve never been on the receiving end of his style of physical persecution, I’ve witnessed it more times than I ever care to think about. No, this is what I must do if I want any chance at all to escape.

The sound of the garage door opening alerts me he’s home. My heart thumps wildly inside my chest, and my palms are slick with sweat. Facing the door he will walk through in mere moments, I lift the oversized weapon—one of many kept in our closet—and point it straight ahead.

The door swings open and he stands there staring at me. Confusion sweeps over his face briefly, but understanding quickly follows. He holds his hands up above his head in surrender, not taking another step towards me.

“Eu sempre te amarei, minha Princesa Americana,” he says in Portuguese, his native tongue, using the softest voice I’ve ever heard come from his mouth. “Mesmo depois de morrer.”

I’d told myself not to let him speak, to shoot at first sight, but instead of making me feel guilty or second-guessing my decision like I’d feared it would, his words—claiming he’ll always love me, even in death—cut through me like the knife he used to stab that poor girl this morning. They slice like a sharp blade straight through my gut, only I’m not carrying his child like she was.

“I’ll always fucking hate you,” I whisper, not even sure he can hear me as I empty thirty muffled rounds of lead into his chest in less than a minute. “Even in death.”

Impassiveness envelops me, and I feel an inscrutable sense of detachment from the situation, as if I’m watching the scene play out in front of me through someone else’s eyes. Completely surreal.

Picking up my cell phone from the table, I dial the number the federal agent had given me months ago—the one I thought I’d never use. He answers on the first ring.

“Hello, Diomassi speaking.”

“This is Bryleigh Oliveira, and I just killed my husband.”

SOMETIMES YOU REACH A POINT where you just can’t take anymore—a breaking point, some call it. The day I watched my husband murder the woman who was pregnant with his child, my point didn’t just break; it exploded like a full magazine’s worth of hollow points firing through the barrel of a fully-automatic AK-47. Literally. I am no longer his American Princess, nor am I his slave. Now, I’m a murderer in hiding. My name was Bryleigh Carter Oliveira, and that was my story.

“Start over. Forget about everyone you care about and everything that’s happened in the past. It’s your only chance to stay alive.”

Marshal Doherty’s words echo in my head as I sit in deafening silence on the unfamiliar black leather couch. Start over. I’m living in a new apartment in a new city; I’ve got a new job, a new appearance, and even a new name. I think I’ve got it covered. Forget about everyone you care about and everything that’s happened in the past. Everyone I care about is dead, and there’s no fucking way I can ever forget the things I’ve seen and heard. No matter how hard I try, those images will haunt my dreams forever. It’s your only chance to stay alive. My heart beats and I breathe air in and out of my lungs, but a bitter cold has frozen my spirit, leaving my soul lifeless, and my will to live depleted. I’m a comatose patient they refuse to pull the plug on, and no matter how loudly I scream ‘Do Not Resuscitate!’, nobody hears me. My voice is drowned out by mountainous stacks of legal papers and the government’s unrealistic hope to bring down the Italian Outfit in Chicago.

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