**Trigger Warning: This piece, though fictional, details an abusive relationship. Read at your discretion**
I wanted to surprise him with a nice, home cooked meal when he got home, so I got off work early and started making his favorite meal, country-fried chicken with potatoes. I was almost done when he got home. I knew that he was in a bad mood by the slam of the door. I saw his beige coat fly across the room, wrinkled from being balled up beforehand. I brace myself for what will come next. His footsteps creep closer and closer.
I close my eyes and say, “Hi honey, how was your day? I’m making your favorite meal.”
I plaster a fake toothy grin on my face, hoping it will change his mood, but it doesn’t. He stands there, silently, staring at the stove. He just walks over to the stove and takes a spoonful of the mashed potatoes.
“They’re cold,” he says finally, then walks away in disgust.
“Oh I’m sorry sweetie, I’ll warm them up in the microwave,” I say while rushing towards the potatoes.
He walks up to me slowly, while watching his feet move. Once he is in front of me, he brings his eyes to mine. He is so close now that I can smell the whiskey on his breath. His bloodshot eyes look my up and down. Every muscle in my body tenses up, my heart is beating as fast as a hummingbird’s wings.
“I don’t want them warmed up, I wanted them to be warm when I got here. It’s your job as a wife to take care of your husband. How incompetent can you be if you can’t even keep my dinner warm?”
He spits on my feet and turns back to the stove. I had just taken the chicken out of the oven when he got home so that was definitely not cold. He unwraps the foil and cuts off a piece. I watch his face as he chews. Obvious disappointment falls across his features.
“You call this chicken? I think if I puked it up it would taste better,” he says in disgust.
He throws his fork in my direction and walks toward me. Suddenly his hand is grasping my face and squeezes it so I look like a fish. I let out a little scream as his grips tighten with his frustration.
“Why can’t you do anything right?” he screams.
“I don’t know…I’m sorry. I am trying,” I say quietly.
“You obviously aren’t trying hard enough. Don’t you love me?”
“Yes, of course I love you,” I say desperately.
“Then start acting like it. Why are you so incapable?”
I feel his rough skin slam into my cheek. The tears start to form in my eyes, but I pull them back because I know they will only encourage him. I try to think happy thoughts. I try to imagine myself in a better place than where I am right now.
“Are you going to answer me? Or are you just gonna stand there like the dumb bitch you are?” He asks as he inches closer towards me. Before I can think of making a getaway, his hands shoot out and grab the back of my neck. I feel his fingers tangle themselves up in my hair.
“Answer me bitch!” he says as pulls my head back. Fear captures my voice. I feel his teeth trace my neck, his breath burning my skin as he makes his way down. I jerk my head away from his toxic exhale and he releases my head, only to bring my whole body to the floor with the force of his fist. I lay on the floor face down, hoping if I don’t make a sound he will leave.
Flames spread across my face as I realize to strength of his blow. It feels like my heart has moved to my cheek as it throbs uncontrollably. It’s all I can do to not grab my face to try to stop the pain. I hear his footsteps coming in my direction. He crouches down and pets my swollen head. I flinch at his touch.
“Why do you make me do this to you? You know this wouldn’t happen if you were better, if you were good enough.”
I can’t control my tears anymore. His words hurt more than his fists. The tears break through my eyelids like a flood breaks through a levy.
I apply the thick concealer to my tender skin. Flawlessness takes the place of the black and blue bruise that was there before. Every time I touch my skin, I feel his forceful shot. I look into the mirror, staring at what I have become. I remember hearing about women like me when I was younger. I remember thinking “How could anyone stay in that kind of relationship?”
I used to look on these women with pity. I thought it was pathetic how they let a barbaric man use them as their own personal punching bag. I never understood how they allowed someone who said they loved them, treat them like scrum on the bottom of a shoe.
Now I’m one of those women, and I still don’t understand. All I know is that the silence is worse than the violence. Every night when his cold words pierce me like icicles, digging into the weakest part of my heart, I’m thankful that he is home and that he is paying attention to me. The bruises he leaves on my face are almost as big as the ones he leaves on my soul when he ignores me. My body aches because of him, but my heart will ache without him. Life can be unbearable with him, but I know life would be unimaginable without him.