I draw the curtains as the sky turns black, outside the street lights glow a bright orange, throwing pools against the ground, little sanctuaries of light in the growing darkness.
Taking one last look at the world outside I finish closing the curtains and continue cleaning the house. I check my watch, then quicken my pace, he’ll be home soon.
The fire cheerfully crackles in the grate, he likes to sit in the fires warmth as he sips his scotch. I sit momentarily on the couch, sinking into its comfortable embrace. Although I am tired I do not fall asleep. I had made that mistake once and once was enough. After spending the day cooking and cleaning I settled into the couch to briefly rest, but the warmth and lull of sleep proved too strong and soon I dozed off, I never heard him come in.
I was woken by the harsh sound of skin against skin, the pain which glowed brightly in my face. My cheek burned and turned a mottled red. He stood over me, glaring. I expected him to strike me again, but he refrained. My parents were visiting the next day, one bruise could be explained away, more would be suspicious. He very rarely hit my face, at least, not hard enough to leave a mark.
I got off lightly that day. I know that if I am caught doing it again my punishment will be much worse. He has thousands of ways to punish me.
Sighing, I disentangled myself from the couches desperate grasp. I smooth over the wrinkles I had left behind and hurried into the kitchen. The dinner was cooked but sat in the oven so as not to lose its warmth. Dinner must never be served cold. Quickly glancing around the room I searched for anything wrong, anything that needed straightening but everything seemed clean, nothing was out of place.
I grabbed a glass out of the cabinet and placed it on the counter the glass was soon joined by the bottle of scotch. Ice need not be added until I came back to pour it.
Turning around once more to leave for my final check through of the house, my hand struck something cold and hard, I cried out in surprise as it yielded to the force of my hand and slid of the counter, still turning, I spun in a full circle in the hopes of catching the falling glass. The sound exploded in my ears seeming to rebound off every surface of the empty house, shards of glass flew outwards as the glass broke.
I dropped to my knees not worrying about cutting myself, this must be cleaned before he arrived home. He could not know I broke a glass. I must dispose of the evidence. As I scooped up the shards I felt a sharp pain in my finger, looking down I could see blood flowing from the wound, not caring I continued, I had suffered far worse at his hands. I grabbed the sweeping pan and brush and swept up the remaining shards. I opened the back door and walked out into the cool evening, I would deposit the glass fragments under one of the bushes. The back garden was a pristine paradise. Everything had its place. It was beautiful while in bloom but he never ventured outside. Knowing this I did not fear my crime would be discovered. I replaced the dustpan and brush and grabbed the plant cutters, moving quickly I snipped six or seven roses from the bush and headed back inside with them, placing them in a vase in the hallway. As the cold water washed away the blood I thought back over my actions, making sure I had not done anything that would cause him to notice something wrong. I knew my chances of being punished were slim. While I had deviated from what I was doing today, I hoped he would think it was a loving touch done by the doting housewife. I turned off the cold tap and dried my hands before placing another glass on the table, careful this time that it did not break.
Outside I could hear the crunch of tires against the gravel, I hurried into the hall, glancing in the mirror I checked my hair and makeup, I opened the door, I felt a smile tugging at the corners of my lips. One of his rules. I must always be pleasant and smile, no matter how I actually feel.
He approached the door, the lights banishing the darkness and illuminating his features. There was a slight smile on his lips, my smile went a little brighter, he was in a good mood, he walked passed me, then he went into the living room, stripping off his work jacket and loosening his tie he reached the couch and sat down. I trailed after him, picking up his jacket along the way “hello honey, how was your day?” “Good” I bent down and started to remove his shoes. Finishing the unpleasant task I picked up his shoes and walked out of the room with his jacket draped over my arm. I placed his shoes in the hallway and put the jacket on the banister.
I poured out his scotch and quickly brought it to him. He looked at me and asked, “Dinner ready yet?” “Yes, it is, do you want it now?” he nodded the affirmative and I quickly set about putting everything onto the plates.
The evening past quickly, I was not allowed to choose programmes on the television, most of the time I focused on my knitting or mending while he relaxed. Soon it was time for bed. As I lay in the dark I thought of how I ended up living with the man who was currently snoring beside me.
I thought of how lucky I was, it was rare to have a good day like this, today I would sleep without worrying about how I was to hide the bruise on my arm or face when venturing outside to the shops, the only place I as really allowed go by myself, or how I wouldn’t have to check my urine for blood the next day because of a kick to the stomach. I remembered how I used to be, I was never like this. Scared to speak my mind. Scared to defend myself.
I found myself slipping back into my memories, it seemed be happening more often lately.
We had met in high school and married early. While we were dating he was the perfect gentleman. Always opening doors for me, insisting that he pay for the meal, even though I was perfectly happy to pay for my own food. He was my first and only boyfriend.
I grew up in a very strict catholic town, one where abstinence was preached instead of birth control and so I became pregnant. Although we were going out for two years and everything indicated marriage, it was a scandal. My mother cried and my father shouted about how I was going to hell. At the time I believed him but after a year of marriage I lost belief in god. Our marriage was quick so as to make it seem I became pregnant on the honeymoon.
There was no specific event that signalled the start of abuse, it was something very gradual. There was always some reason behind it, I tried to rationalize it. Once every now and then he would hit me, then apologises immediately. He would act so upset, sometimes he seemed as though he was on the verge of tears, promising it would never happen again, buying me gifts, trying to seek my forgiveness. This had been going on for three or four months before he stopped apologizing.
I was five months pregnant the first and last time I confronted him. We had an argument about what to watch on the television. Something which seemed so inconsequentional at the time, led to me obeying his every word.
During the argument he strode across the room and punched me in the nose, as the blood started gushing from my nostrils I fell to my knees, trying desperately not to pass out. I can only remember the first few kicks to my stomach. I could feel my belly sinking deeper each time as I fought for breath, trying to scream as darkness closed in. the next thing I remember is lying at the bottom of the stairs, blood stained my pyjamas and paramedics were trying to move me onto a stretcher. It seems that while I was passed out, he dragged me up the stairs, then let my limp body fall, then he told the paramedics I had fallen down the stairs. I had to be medicated when I was told I miscarried. I was nearly catatonic. I never told them what really happened.
As these thoughts swirled through my mind I knew that what chance I had of sleeping was gone.
I carefully stood and made my way downstairs. The cold tiles of the kitchen felt soothing against my feet. I filled a glass of water and stood at the window, looking out at the garden. It looked almost ethereal at night. The moonlight caused the plants to take on a silvery sheen and the shadows to become distorted. I felt a strange, but strong urge to venture out into the night time realm. The grass was damp and soft beneath my feet, I looked about the garden, taking in the beauty, breathing in the scent.
I was so captured by the sights and smells I never noticed the shadow that fell upon me, the sound of shallow, ragged breathing behind me. “What the hell are you doing out here?” I whirled around, stunned to see him standing there. “I…” “Shut the hell up, I never said you could talk you stupid bitch” I doubled over as his fist hit my stomach, I looked up at him, my long hair draped around my face as he pulled back his fist for another punch.
I gasped as his fist connected with my nose, blood gushed and droplets flew as my head was flung to the right. I fell to my knees, hoping seeing me in such a vulnerable position would calm his anger, if not he might regain his senses and remember that the neighbours could look out and see us. I could feel his eyes on me, “please” he muttered something under his breath then he turned and walked into the house. I knew that in the morning he would do something much worse, so far I had gotten off lightly. Tears streamed down my face as I stood I wiped them from my cheeks.
I glanced over as I stood and I caught sight of something that changed me. Upon a single white rose lay droplets of my blood, staining the petals. the moonlight turning those drops black. I felt something in my mind open. I felt the anger flooding out. All the years of repressed resentment rushed forwards.
The feeling of pain vanished, replaced instead with a desire. I walked back into the kitchen and picked up a knife. As I walked forward there was a part of me which wondered what I was about to do. I couldn’t take a life, I couldn’t take his life. He was eternal, he could never die, he would always be there, watching, judging, punishing.
So lost in the turmoil of my mind I had not realized I was standing above his slumbering body. Although I am unsure of how much time has passed it surely cannot be longer than a few minutes, but then, he slumbers so deeply.
I watch in horror and slight exhilaration as my arm rises, part of me wants to cry out, to warn him but before it can betray me my arm swings in a vicious arc, slitting his throat. As warm blood sprays across my pyjamas and face, his eyes open, he tries to speak but is unable as his throat and lungs were filled with blood.
The blood flow began to slow, dribbling now instead of gushing. As I watched him finally die I feel something inside tear, opening my mouth I begin to laugh.
I am free.