I’ve been double-checking my files to ensure that I have them all copied to the external hard drive, as I’m finally reformatting today. I started reading some of my short stories, and in a fit of madness, I have decided to post one here. I almost never share my writing, and never with the world at large, and I’m not sure what is possessing me to do so now. Oh, and this is a work of fiction – it is not autobiographical.
Past and Present
They were arguing again, although he wouldn’t call it that. “Discussing” was the word he most frequently used. He never showed his anger to her, instead remaining calm and reasonable. It drove her crazy.
“Fuck you!” she yelled and turned away, knowing his reaction before the words had left her mouth.
“What was that?” His voice was quiet but enough to stop her in her tracks. “What do we do when you say that?” She turned, growling her frustration at not being allowed that outlet for her emotions. She couldn’t look at him though, keeping her eyes on the ground. “No, we don’t growl. What do we do?” he repeated.
She remembered the first time she swore at him, and the last for a long time. He had looked at her with disbelief that she would dare, and then hauled her over his lap and blistered her behind until she hadn’t sat at all for four days. The bruises had been almost black in the centers when he finally put her on her feet, although she had collapsed immediately, too hysterical to stop crying, let alone move away. He had lifted her face and slapped her, shocking her into silence in a way that the spanking hadn’t done. “I don’t even want to look at you,” he informed her before he walked away. That day she had learned what fear meant, when ‘no’ means nothing and one is powerless before another person. That day her spirit had started to break.
“We … back up,” she said finally, still not meeting his eyes.
“Exactly. So. We’ve backed up to before you said that. Where were we?”
It wasn’t fair, how he could see inside her, see exactly where she was and where she was headed with this, and yet she couldn’t read him at all. He was so careful with his body language, keeping his expression neutral or with a faint smile at the corner of his mouth, letting it tug upwards, just to push her buttons. And the wink he threw her! Just when she thought she was at the end of her rope, he would wink and she would realize that it was possible to get even more frustrated.
She stood with her arms crossed, the hidden hand balled into a fist. He knew, although how she didn’t know. “What’s with the crossed arms? What are you hiding?” Their arguments were always punctuated by her laughter, no matter how angry she was, since he knew the buttons and pushed them all. She was still giggling when she pulled out her fist and then hid it again.
His eyebrow went up. “Is that a threat? Are you threatening me?”
“I want to punch you so bad! I know how much of a bad idea that would be, but I have to trap it under here because I want to so much!” He was smiling, which for him was the equivalent of belly laughing in this type of situation.
“So you are threatening me?”
She had punched him once, driven to the end of her tether by him. She had turned and straight out punched him in the face, not quite breaking his nose but coming close. He returned the favour but ensuring the break for her, as well as numerous bruises that had only ended when she was huddled on the floor, her arms protecting her head as much as possible but leaving the rest of her body open to his fists and feet. The door slamming when he left didn’t penetrate the daze she was in; it was only when the wind started driving the rain into the house that she lifted her head from her arms, aware that she some how had to get help.
It was times like these that she was so thankful for her best friend. Emma had said her piece already, knew that it had fallen on deaf ears, but knew also that she couldn’t be allowed to go through this alone. So that dark and stormy night she had dragged herself to the phone and Emma had come to drive her to the hospital, where she got medical treatment for the assortment of traumas he had left behind.
Walking back in the house took all her courage. He was watching tv and didn’t even glance up as she crept past. It was only when he realized that she wasn’t in their bed that he came looking for her, finding her huddled in the spare bedroom. “Get in our room. NOW!” he yelled. She scurried past him, no defiance left in the face of his anger. That night she discovered what rape was, when ‘no’ means nothing and one is powerless before another person. And her spirit broke a little more.
“No,” she exclaimed, lifting her hand again and consciously uncurling her fingers until her hand lay flat. “No, I wouldn’t dare!”
He knew what he did to her, and did it methodically, breaking through the barricades that she tried to throw in his path. Breaking down the walls that had been in place for longer than he had known her, longer that what was right. He made her see herself from outside, not content for her to languish in her comfort zone but forgo the rest of the world while there. She was the butterfly not yet out of her cocoon.
He pushed her. Gently he pushed her to the thoughts he wanted her to see, asking her to explain where she was in her mind so that he could follow her and bring her back safely. He always did, she trusted him to do so. It was only when she got stubborn and refused to examine an idea from him for truth that he was forced to use more influence.
“Why?” he queried her all the time. “Explain that to me.” And slowly, halting, she would try to show him her truth, where she was coming from. She was full of contradictions that she sometimes giggled over, hearing what she was saying. But he encouraged her to look at those contradictions and explain why on both sides. If she could do so, then both were valid. But if one side was just because she’d always thought that but had nothing to back it up, then it was thrown aside and no longer was it allowed to be used to stop his steady, stealthy, invasion into her mind.
“I can’t!” she cried.
“You can,” he ordered.
“I won’t!” she whispered.
“You will,” he responded.
“I have no power here! What can I possibly say that will change that?” She was pacing now, anger and frustration emanating from her. Her face was red and her arms were crossed again, this time with no fist.
“Why don’t you have power?”
She lived her life aware of his moods and adjusting to them. Doing this had allowed her to go weeks without a beating. And most days he was loving and gentle and funny to be around. They would make dinner and then walk in the park down the block from them. They talked about having a baby and buying a bigger house. And at night they would make love together, sweet sweet love that left her shaking and breathless. She discovered that love can bind even closer than chains and that hate is powerless before it, when ‘no’ means nothing and one is powerless before another person, or another heart. And her spirit broke a little more.
“You control you.” He tapped her chest with his finger, allowed by both of them to point for once, a habit that they both disliked in the other. “I don’t control you. Why don’t you have any power?”
“I don’t control me! You get in here and mess things up and turn it all upside down and then walk out again and leave me to sort through everything! How am I in control of that? I could walk away from you, I guess. I could say, enough is enough but I’m not strong enough! I’M NOT STRONG ENOUGH!” She turned away, hoping he hadn’t seen the tears that suddenly filled her eyes. She hoped in vain. He turned her around and tilted her chin up until she looked him in the eyes.
“You are strong. You are very strong. Don’t you ever say that to me again.” Those words caused the tears trembling on her lashes to roll down her cheeks. His thumb gently wiped them away.
The day she left had started like any other day. He had left for work, promising to be home for dinner. When six o’clock, seven o’clock, eight, nine, ten, eleven o’clock passed with no word from him, she got angry. Dinner was thrown in the garbage, the house cleaned up, and she sat to wait for him in the living room. It had been months since the last outburst and she had almost forgotten what he could be like.
When he walked in the door at midnight, she had worked herself up into a fury. How dare he treat her with such disrespect! How dare he stay out all evening with his buddies without even calling to let her know he was all right! He stepped in the door and she started yelling. He didn’t miss a step, just walked over to her and punched her in the jaw. She fell backwards, only missing falling unconscious by the fact that he was so drunk he didn’t land the punch with his whole strength.
“No,” she yelled, trying to get back to her feet. “I’m in the right! I’m in the right!”
“You have no rights, bitch,” he slurred. The only advantage she had was his drunkenness so she used it, slipping under his arm and out the front door. She was running down the street in her bare feet with only the clothes on her back, running for freedom, running away from his oppression that he had tried to justify as just his way of loving her too much. As she ran, she felt her heart break. But she refused to stay and be abused any longer. It had taken her three years to understand that ‘no’ means ‘no’ and one is only powerless before another person if they choose to be. And her spirit started to heal.
“Did you leave him?” he asked. She nodded, unable to speak, awash with emotions. “Did you break free?” Again, a nod. “Do you believe in yourself?” Her eyes lifted to his and held them in a look of such utter misery that he couldn’t help but wrap his arms around her and hold her close.
“We’ll get there. Just remember for now, I believe in you.” He rocked her while she cried, content with the journey made that day. One day, he had faith, she would heal and be the wonderful, loving woman that she was supposed to be. One day, when he had guided her through her memories, self-hatred, and recriminations, she would be whole. One day she would be able to look at the world and declare that she was worthy of love, and one day she would believe in herself with a whole heart and a strong spirit.
* No part may be reproduced without the writer’s consent. That’s me, and I say no. Please feel free to link to this entry. *