This is a short story that I completed a few years ago, back in September of 2013 actually. I am trying to put it as hidden, click to see, because it has a potentially sensitive subject matter and a few people who I've asked to read it said that it struck too close to home with how abusive relationships really are. Anyhow, I hope that anyone who wants to give it a go enjoys it, and if people would like, feedback is always welcome in the form of constructive criticism or discussion.
I don’t know if he ever truly loved me. I did love him once, in the beginning. It seemed like we were made for each other, that’s how well we got along. We were married by our early twenties when I was twenty-one and he twenty-three. It wasn’t much of a ceremony, but it was what we could afford at the time and that seemed good enough for us. Our wedding presents were nice. His best man got him a set of golf clubs in an attempt to get him to start playing, my mother got me large sewing kit for me to take up my old hobby. The honeymoon was sweet but short. We both worked decent jobs and managed to buy an older house to fix up. I guess we were living the American dream then.
But dreams don’t last forever.
It did not go to hell all at once. The change was gradual like the sun crawling across the sky. If you don’t expect it, the light is gone before you know it and everything seems different. I can’t tell when it went bad or why it did. It could have been stress from work. Maybe it was because I was laid off and the only job I could find was part time. I don’t know if not being able to have children was a good thing or bad to him. He progressively became harder and harder to read and would talk about his problems, our problems, less and less.
Then he started drinking.
We had never been against alcohol, but we never got drunk as a rule. He started going out to the bars after work. I thought he was drinking with his friends at first, but he never talked about meeting anybody and he always seemed to drive alone. At first he’d come home and he wouldn’t seem like anything. He didn’t seem happy, angry or sad… he just seemed like an emotionless husk. I’d get some conversation out of him, but it was like watching those videos of soldiers after they returned from war when they seem to space out and not know what they are talking about. After a while I tried to get him to come with me to see a counselor, but he would never show up. He even called the counselor to cancel the appointment when I wasn’t home. When I found out I was furious, I didn’t think it could get any worse.
But it did get worse, much worse.
When I got home I yelled at him, my blood was boiling beneath my skin. I was trying to save our marriage, save us! Didn’t he care about what was happening to our relationship? I did not notice how smashed he was until it was too late. That was the first time I had ever seen an emotional response from him when he was drunk. What I saw was the most frightening and pure wrath that I had ever seen face to face. I only saw it for a moment before I saw nothing at all. Well, that’s not quite correct. I saw an open hand before it went black for the first time. Apparently he caught me right below the eye with his right hand open and I went down like a ninepin.
Oh, he was sorry.
I came to after a couple of minutes and it took me a moment to realize the number of the bus that had hit me. At first I was confused because he looked at me with this expression of drunken horror like he’d accidentally murdered a kitten. When what had happened hit me, not literally that time, my voice caught in my throat with so much force that it felt like I was being strangled. I had never known such fear or betrayal before that, and all I could do was cry and try to squirm away to the farthest corner of the room. The whole time he looked at me, his eyes filling with more tears than mine could produce, and he kept repeating the same words over and over with a drunken slur.
He sobered up… slowly. And as he did the realization of what he did seemed to become more and more visceral for him. He would not approach me. It was like he saw a dangerous and wounded animal that he wanted to console but couldn’t without risk to his own safety. I just sat there in the corner, eyes steadily watering and hand held up to, what I am sure was bright red, check. I don’t remember how we got past that, to the point where he could feel like he could touch me, or I could let him touch me. He swore he would never do it again, and eventually I believed him.
Fool me once…
It would be a lie to say that things got better. Things just seemed to get better. Once doesn’t make a pattern, but does twice? Thrice? It certainly was a while before he started drinking again. And he wasn’t obvious about it either. It snuck up on me gradually, like it had before, but this time there was no yelling to set him off. He slapped me again, with the other hand this time, and went off into a rant about how I was wasting money. I don’t know why I was shocked, but it was probably that shock that prevented me from recognizing the whisky on his breath. I don’t know why I didn’t leave. Maybe I just wasn’t as scared because he didn’t ring my bell like the first time.
I let him have his rant.
He berated me for almost thirty minutes. Yelling about how hard times were and how we couldn’t afford some of the nice things that I had spent money on. I did not know that fresh ingredients for dinner were nice things we could not afford… but I guess he thought differently. Over the following months he would give me drunken lectures. Sometimes they would start with a slap. Sometimes they would not. If I tried to avert my gaze he would violently grab my chin and force my face to meet his and tell me to look him in the eye when he was talking to me. It made me feel like a child being scolded.
It was humiliating.
After a couple of years the lectures began to evolve. Communication took place less and less often in the form of a lecture and more often in the form of hitting. Covering up my black eyes was actually pretty easy because my eyes never managed to swell that much. Compared to the occasional cut on my face or fat lip it was a cakewalk. I thought of going to the police a couple of times, but a few of the people on the force were friends from high school. Both his, and mine. It wasn’t just that I thought that they wouldn’t believe me. It was that I couldn’t bear to face them with what was happening. I couldn’t face being the victim.
Gradually, I started seeing a pattern.
There were little signs that I could read that would tell me a beating was ahead, and if I was careful I could avoid those nights of violence. When the screen door was propped open, it was like he was inviting me in for a… talk. When all the lights were out, it meant that he was either passed out or he had an unpleasant surprise. If he’d started a fire in the fireplace then he had come to a revelation about our lives, usually about how I was not respectful enough to him. But tonight, I’d never seen him park his car in the middle of the driveway like that. I guess it should have been a clue. It seemed so odd the way he had cornered it in there, almost like he had parked it sideways. But I had never seen that from him before. I guess I just didn’t know how to process this new sign.
It was a bit of something old and something new.
He sat in the recliner in the living room, smelling of stale beer, whisky, and vomit. To his credit I didn’t see a speck of puke on the floor. He faced away from me when he started talking. His speech seemed coherent and calm, much more so than he normally was when he smelled that much of booze. I wasn’t sure where he was going with what he was saying. I still don’t get it. He didn’t ramble about money, respect, or anything that he normally ranted to me about. If I had to summarize what he said I guess it would be our lives were crap.
Then it happened.
I’d never seen him move so surely or so quickly, sober or drunk. One moment he was in the chair halfway across the room, the next he was next to me with his fist in my stomach as I doubled over. I didn’t even have a chance to look up before his fist swung around to catch me in the jaw. I saw such horribly beautiful stars each time one of the blows he rained upon me struck my head. Before it was over I had the familiar taste of blood in my mouth, but much stronger than I had ever felt before. And as quickly as it had started, it stopped. No rhyme, no reason, just violence and then none at all.
I should have been terrified.
Maybe I was concussed. Wait… there is no maybe about it. I was definitely concussed. I did not even notice that he was not hitting me anymore until he had left the room and fell on the bed to pass out. I sat there on the floor, my mind working through the confusion. Confusion can block pain, but only for so long. I definitely had a cracked rib or two on my left; I actually think it could be broken. Something felt odd in my mouth and I poked at it with my tongue. I should have been more, I don’t know, astonished… when one of my back teeth came out. I spit it onto the floor and noticed that it was only half of a tooth. I sat there, awake and oozing blood, for some hours before my thought process and emotions caught up to the physical sensation and I came to the realization that I was not happy.
I was not happy at all.
My movements were limited at first. Being so thoroughly beaten and then sitting still in an uncomfortable position for some hours can do that. The more I moved the easier it became, but it never did become easy that night. I shuffled into the bedroom and saw him there on the bed. There he lay, passed out from a drunken stupor. The sheets were normally clean and crisp were stained with blood from his knuckles and a bit of urine from his pants. I knew that he would be dead to the world for hours, and idea after idea kept running through my head. Finally, one thought stood out. He would be awake for it.
And he would suffer as much as I could make him suffer.
We had a room that we had planned to make into a hobbies room, but over the years it had become just another storage space. What I needed was there, and I knew exactly where. I grabbed my old sewing kit and headed back to the bedroom to start the slow and meticulous work. I threw the sheets around the bastard and started to sew them together. It took me three hours to thread them together with enough of the stitching that he would not be able to pop them out. During the whole time he did not even stir. I was exhausted when I was done, but I had to stay awake long enough to see this through. I went to the kitchen and brewed the strongest coffee I could make.
It was such a wonderful smell.
I never had liked coffee before. It always tasted bitter, chalky and disgusting. But for some reason it had become the nectar of life itself that morning before dawn. I bathed in the smell and sensation of it. Maybe it was the repeated blows to the head, but I felt at peace with my life for the first time since I could remember. I yielded to that coffee as though it was a wave gently caressing my soul. I was quite satisfied with what I was going to do by the time I was done and I heard his first signs of stirring.
Time to go to work.
I went back to the storage room and rooted through the closet until I found what I was looking for. There they sat, never used and covered in dust, golf clubs. With my right hand I grabbed the entire bag and hoisted it out. I should have let out a scream as my ribs protested the movement, but the euphoria of what was about to occur only allowed a gentle squeak to escape my throat. I took the clubs and walked to the bedroom where he lay, entrapped in a net of six hundred thread count cotton sheets. He was slow to rise, he always was when he had been sloshed, and it took him several minutes to discover that something was wrong. When he did he let out a cry of fear. It was reminiscent of a terrified child.
I almost couldn’t do it.
His fear gave way to anger and his voice bellowed like an enraged dog as he began to thrash. That made it much easier. I pulled out a golf club with my right hand, never looking at what one I had selected, and swung down. Hard. He kept thrashing angrily for a few swings. It was like he could not understand through his own rage that he was being beaten. The change, though delayed, was instantaneous. There was no gradual decline from anger to desperation. It was like a switch had been flipped from one position to the other. Screams of fear an agony tore through the sheets and echoed off of the bedroom walls.
They only fed the flames.
Again and again I swung the club until it was bent out of shape and almost worthless. I grabbed another club. Sideways, rightways, leftways, upways, I beat him from every angle I could think of as he thrashed about on the bed, helpless and trapped betwixt those sheets. Each time a club became so bent that it was nearly worthless, I would grab another and continue swinging. The sheets that had only been lightly stained with my blood on his mitts and the urine in his jeans slowly changed from their fair lavender to a deep red as I swung. In retrospect I was not doing my ribs any favors, but I was so elated that I could not have felt them if they were on fire.
And then I was on the final club.
It was both a spectacular climax and a feeling of loss as I drew that club. It represented both a job well done and the end of this wonderful feeling. I handled it like an intimate friend as I drew it from the bag. The whisper it made against the bag’s leather as I withdrew it accented the succulent nasally whimpers that escaped his lungs. I raised the club high above my head and paused. It was the final salvo to an orchestra of painful karma and once it was played it would be over. I did not want it to be over.
I lowered the club slowly and looked at his enmeshed blood soaked form. I had no idea how badly I had beaten him, but I am certain he did not survive. Rather than ending it with a last merciful blow I let the club fall by my side and floated out of the bedroom in a haze of joy. The sun was rising as I left the house and got into the car.
I did love him once. I don’t know if he ever truly loved me, but now it doesn’t matter.
It hasn’t mattered for a long time.