I cowered in the corner where the pre-fabricated cabinets met near the sink, with my arms raised to protect my head. But the gesture was in vain; for when his booted foot connected with my slightly rounded abdomen, my head banged against the cabinets, making me see stars. That kick knocked the breath out of me in a whoosh as I tumbled sideways on the tiled floor of the kitchen, moaning in pain. His kicks became more vicious on seeing me slump with obvious defeat. I caught one particularly nasty kick in the ribs, making me moan again in excruciating pain.
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Then, blessed darkness.
When I came to after however many hours of being unconscious, I was lying in a pool of my own drying blood and urine. I hadn’t even known I had lost control of my bladder when the kicks had rained on me. The combined stench almost made me gag. I slowly took stock of my body. My head pounded, my jaw throbbed from his first blow, my ribs hurt to even breathe, and finally, my belly ached from all the kicks it had received. At this point, even thinking hurt.
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Before I added my puke to the already unbearable stench of blood and urine, I tried to get vertical. With one arm bracing my bruised and probably broken ribs, I got into a half-sitting position with the other arm braced on the floor. A wave of dizziness threatened, but I staved it off by breathing through my mouth. Somehow, I made it to the bathroom without encountering my husband.
Stripping off the soiled business suit I’d put on that morning, I took a hot shower to ease some of the aches and bruises. As the water scalded my skin, my mind inevitably alighted on the trigger for today’s disaster.
I had just come home from a long but productive day at work – I work as an HR consultant by the way – to my husband sprawled on the couch, watching an inane reality show on TV. Almost half a dozen beer bottles were strewn across the coffee table in front of him. It seemed that that’s all he did these days. Since he’d been laid off work two months ago, this was pretty much the same scene I walked in from work almost every day.
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Greeting him perfunctorily, I made my way into the kitchen to start dinner. Since he had seemed like he was in a good mood, I turned on some music on my iPhone and began to assemble all the fixings for some spaghetti. I was still riding the high of my success at poaching a senior director from a rival company, and this made me sway as I started cooking. Humming under my breath, I stirred the spaghetti sauce and twirled around in my apron with my arms spread wide, spatula and all.
I stopped mid-twirl when I saw him standing in the doorway with a thunderous expression on his face. Immediately, my hackles rose at what he would do.
Setting the spatula down on the counter, I stammered, “D-do you want any- anything?”
Glaring at me from head to toe, he muttered something nasty and made his way over to the refrigerator to pull out a beer, as if I hadn’t spoken to him. Bowing my head, I focused all of my attention on stirring the spaghetti sauce. I saw him lean against the counter opposite me with one arm crossed across his chest and the other holding on to the beer.
“Why were you dancing?” he asked softly, but I wasn’t fooled by it.
I merely shrugged, and continued with my task.
“I asked you a question,” he said in that same deceptively soft voice.
Without raising my head, I mumbled, “I had a good day today.”
“What? Someone noticed what a whore you are?” he sneered, making me flinch.
As I heard the soft thud of the beer bottle being put down on the counter, my body instantly went on high alert. I felt him behind me, too close for comfort. My hands went clammy as they clutched the spatula as though it could help me keep the fear at bay, and I could feel beads of sweat trickle down my back. My reaction was instantaneous to his proximity. I never knew when his mercurial mood would turn, with mostly dire consequences for me.
Silkily, he whispered, “Did you have a good day because I can’t find a fricking job?” in my ear, with his beer breath wafting over my skin.
“No! I just meant…,” my voice trailed off as his hand yanked my hair back so viciously that his move almost dislocated my neck, but I stifled the yelp that wanted to be let out. But I dared not make a sound for that only riled him up that much more.
Now enraged beyond reason, “You whore! How many bloody times do I have to tell you NOT to dress this way to work? You want every man’s eyes on you, don’t you? Answer me, you bitch!” he spat.
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He backhanded me and I fell hard against the cabinets. And then, it just went downhill from there.
As the water began to cool, I shut off the jet and winced in pain as I struggled out of the shower. Wiping the steam off the mirror, I assessed the damage this time. My left cheek was purplish and it would be almost black by the time tomorrow morning rolled around. My ribs hurt and I couldn’t draw a breath without wincing in pain. This was nothing compared to the last few times. I had to call up work tomorrow and make up an excuse to work from home for a few days – again. I shuddered to even think what he might do the next time I crossed him.
But what choice did I have? I loved him, despite what he’d done.
Sighing, I put on my pajamas as I chastised myself for being happy when he was so out of it. I shouldn’t have rubbed my happiness in his face. Of course he was upset. He’d lost his job after all. And he was finding it difficult to get another one too. Downing a couple of Tylenol, I gingerly laid down beside him on the bed, mindful of my various aches and pains. He was fast asleep, or so I thought. I didn’t even have the energy to pull the quilt over me, as I struggled to get into a comfortable position, mindful of my injuries. As my breathing slowly evened out, I felt his arms pull me close, making me moan in pain.
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“I’m so sorry, baby. I shouldn’t have hit you. But seeing you happy made something in me snap,” he whispered his apology in my ear and followed it up with tender kisses on the back of my neck. “Will you forgive me, sweetheart?”
As his kisses turned frantic, I turned back toward him, and whispered, “It’s okay. I shouldn’t have rubbed it in your face. It’s my fault,” and stroked his cheek and summoned up a wobbly smile.
His face broke out in the most dazzling smile and he bent his head to kiss me.
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