He was about to walk out the door for work when I told him his tie was crooked. I thought I was doing him a favor. He took it the wrong way. That’s when he slapped me.
Mandy hid the journal on her side of the closet, high on the shelf in an old box where she kept childhood mementos. Rick didn’t care about her childhood. She knew he wouldn’t look there for any reason.
Her mind drifts to the wedding ceremony when Rick gently slipped the diamond-studded band on her ring finger – the adoring look in his eyes as they exchanged vows: to love, to cherish, to respect, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, ‘till death do us part…the last phrase brings chills to her skin. She didn’t notice any signs before their wedding day. How was this possible?
She wonders how she let herself be pulled into this marriage. In the beginning, love was what her heart and mind felt. She knew she had found the perfect partner as they planned their California May wedding. Rick helped choose the venue and the whimsical invitations as they perused numerous websites. He spoke with several florists on the phone about a spring selection that would meet her color choices of pink, lilac, and ivory. They skimmed through their music collection, searching for the song that would be perfect for their first dance. His actions portrayed the love she thought he felt for her.
Mandy had dreamed of a tropical honeymoon, so when they strolled hand in hand, feet sinking into the warm sand outside their Maui hotel room, she was living her dream. Candlelight across a table was the only thing that separated the two of them as they dined out each evening. And when they wanted privacy instead of sitting in a crowded restaurant, room service was delivered. The aqua water invited them in for snorkeling and swimming each day. Rick was perfect. They were perfect.
But after a couple of months of Mr. and Mrs., she no longer knew this man she lived with. It’s as though body snatchers transformed him into a completely different male specimen – not the man she fell in love with or who indulged in chocolate covered strawberries in bed.
The insults and criticisms began slowly with comments about her cooking and her weight. Then the hitting followed with a push of her shoulder, a slap across her face, to punches in her stomach. She iced the bruises. Took Advil for the pain. Rick wasn’t a drinker; alcohol wouldn’t be found in the house, so she couldn’t even indulge to numb the mental and physical agony. Long sleeves covered the effects of his violence on her arms and long pants did the same for her legs. No one would see her back and stomach since wearing a bathing suit in public was not in the foreseeable future. Then the physical abuse turned into control. He typed up her resignation letter for her teaching job because she was to stay home where a wife belongs. He restrained her like one would a dangerous animal. When he left for work each morning, Mandy was resigned to existing within the walls of their condo. When Rick voiced these demands, she could’ve spit nails but held her tongue.
As though being confined to her home wasn’t humiliating enough, Rick ensured Mandy had no contact with the outer world by disconnecting the home phone. She was only permitted to use her cell to answer his calls, but she was not to trouble him at work. As an upstanding police officer for the city, Rick’s schedule stayed busy trying to keep law and order in the bedroom community. He had little time for nonsense. Mandy was fully aware that if she called anyone or if someone contacted her, the cell phone bill would be her worst enemy. She wished she had her old iPhone with internet and texting capabilities. But no, he replaced it with an elementary phone for calls only. He was too damn smart, but she wouldn’t expect anything less being the police officer he was.
Sitting on her bed one morning, hearing the door lock click in place, Mandy is left alone to stare at the sun’s rays as they push through her window. Normally, she’d welcome their warmth and ability to lift spirits. Not today. She’s cold and clammy to the touch and she gives the tears permission to fall. Rick’s fatal threats hold her back from leaving him, along with that damn fear of wondering if he’d catch her once she bolts out the door. What scares her most of all is that her abusive husband is a cop. The irony. Her story doesn’t stand a chance. She didn’t invent this scenario; it’s as old as time.
She gets on with the day, walking into the kitchen to empty the trash – one of the chores Rick reminded her to do. Stepping out front to deposit the bag into their bin on the side of the house, she begins to sweat. Mississippi’s temperature rockets close to ninety degrees and ninety percent humidity, so she burns up in the long-sleeved tee. But she doesn’t dare get caught in short sleeves by Helen, the nice old lady next door. It happened once when Helen noticed the bruises on her arm and asked Mandy about them. She scrambled for a viable excuse: I was silly enough to try to move our TV and it fell on my arm! Helen bought it, or so she responded like she had.
Maybe it’s the long-sleeve on a ninety-degree day – a signal that indicated enough is enough. To see those blues and purples show up on her body have proven to be more painful than the pain itself. Shame takes up real estate in her mind, and yet, she knows she’s not to blame. She can’t put on the brakes to the bruising, but she does have choices. Choices that seem clearer than ever before. She won’t let him strip her of all dignity. Her escape would stamp an exclamation mark on the separation from him and his flood of invectives and physical abuse. She wants nothing more than to know he’s locked up in a cell. But how can she get away without him finding her? Blowing her nose and wiping her wet eyes, and even with the company of uncertainty, she asserts, I will not-die-on-his-watch!
Lauren Scott (c) 2021
Story photo and Feature image: Google