I had years of practice with holding a public face or at least a public family face. For years I maintained the façade of a woman married to a loving partner. It was painful to see my family embrace him in warm hugs and enjoying his company while I harbored the dark secret of routine beatings, threats, and emotional and verbal torture.
For me it really was a relieving accident when my sister walked in while I was getting out of the shower. I remember feeling thankful for the bad weather that kept us all at my parent’s house for the night. Without the bad weather we never would have stayed the night and she never would have accidentally walked into the bathroom seeing my swollen body.
Everything that followed was a blur that moved faster than a hurricane. In the days that followed a feeling of freedom settled on me. I mistakenly thought my double life was over. In reality a new double life was just starting, slowly moving in to take over the one I thought I had been freed from. The first text showed up on my phone while I was sitting in my sister’s car while she pumped the gas. It said, “I like your hair like that. It looks great. I miss you and I am pretending it was me sitting across from you in the restaurant today. Shh! Don’t tell your sister.”
My mouth instantly felt dry and my airway felt restricted. I looked around frantically; where was he? My phone dinged again. “See you at home.” I barely got the car door opened before the contents of my stomach violently erupted.
I changed my phone number that very day and broke my lease. I spent the week visiting friends and finding reasons to sleep over. Within a few days flowers were delivered to me at work with a note saying, “Sorry I scared you.” I threw them out. The next day chocolates were delivered and the note read, “That wasn’t nice! Let’s try sweets for my sweet instead.”
Two weeks later my phone rang in the night. Sleepily I answered it. His voice was warm and husky like I remembered it. “I wish you wore the sexy pjs tonight Baby, those flannel things don’t do you any justice.” I looked around the darkened room in terror trying to sink into the depths of the mattress. “Shh, shh, shh, don’t be scared. I miss you Baby. I love you, but if you think of calling the police on me again I’ll kill your family and…” I hung-up before he could finish and I threw the phone hard across the room. It started ringing before it hit the floor. I pulled my whole body into a tight ball and cried.
In the morning I dressed and tried to pretend the night didn’t happen, but when I opened the front door there was a small Victoria Secret box with a note attached. The note was typed and said, “I like these ones better.” The hall was quiet and empty. I ran to the elevator and then out of the building throwing my parcel into the trash can on the way by it. I drove to my parent’s house and sat in the driveway trying to compose myself before going in.
* * *
I looked in the mirror noting the tired pale face looking out at me with tired eyes. Three years has passed and no matter how many times I changed my number, moved and changed jobs he always finds me. He enjoys terrorizing me from the shadows. Looking over my shoulder was more then a nervous twitch. He controlled me more now then he did when he was physically beating me, and I felt alone and unable to escape. I went to the police once but they said without proof and documentation there wasn’t much they could do. My sister’s husband was beat-up bad that night by a male he didn’t get a good look at. He almost died. When I came out of the hospital that night there was a condolences card on the driver’s seat of my locked car. It was signed, “Next time won’t end as well.”
By Shari Marshall – 2019