There I Stood

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This story is a creative non-fiction recreation of events which a friend lived through many years ago. It does contain some imagery of domestic violence which may be disturbing to some people. Please read at your discretion, and share to spread awareness.

“Where did daddy go? Why didn’t he tuck me in?” His whiney little voice belied his usually kind and curious nature. He pulled at his bed sheets as he climbed up and under the covers.

Straining to keep my voice from shaking, “He had to go back out for a little bit.”

“Could you read me a story?”

I got up to hide my face pretending to sort odds and ends on the dresser.

“It’s very late already, let me check on your little sister and I’ll try to come back and read to you. What story would you like?”

Moving back to the bedside, there is a stack of books on the side table which I start shuffling through.

“Here, how about this one. I’ll put it right here,” placing it next to the pillow.

“Was daddy mad? I heard him yelling?”

I froze, having dreaded the possibility of the question. “Is that what woke you up?” I looked over his face, his sleep filled eyes already closing.

“No, he was just excited. Don’t worry about that.”

My insides shuddered at the thoughts of what my little ones may have overheard. Pushing it aside in my head for a moment I moved for the door.

“Okay now, eyes shut.” Walking out of the room, I flipped the light switch and pulled the door just short of shut.

Managing down the hall, I peeked into the other room. She was still fast asleep in her bed. Returning the door back to it’s nearly closed position again.

Looking down the darkened hallway, I slowly made my way towards the bedroom. Before I could get to the doorway, the creeping pain in my side finally overcame me.

My back hit the wall as I collapsed where I stood. Like reservoirs bursting, a torrent of what felt like hot lead streamed down my cheeks. My left hand moved to my right side. Every breath sent tendrils of pain further into my head.

Without thinking, my body forced me to my left and soon I was curled on the floor of the barely lit hallway. Hollow attempts to calm myself just created more dreaded thoughts dancing in my mind.

My hands made futile attempts to soothe the bruises I knew were there. Slowly, I moved my fingers along the ribs to see where it hurt. The sudden sharp knife of pain pierced from under my fingers straight to my spine. My whole body winced in pain as I muffled the yelp escaping my lips.

Flattening my right palm against the ribs, I pushed myself back up to sitting with my left hand. Through the tears, I took in the blurry view of the hall.

Had I awoken the kids again? I listened for, I’m not certain how long, while I built my strength to stand up again.

Pushing my weight down on my feet, my left hand rested against the wall as I rose back up. Struggling, I limped my way to the bedroom. The other pains started becoming stronger and pushing their way into my senses.

As I saw the pillows on the floor and the blanket pulled half off the bed, I remembered his voice booming through the room as I opened my eyes from sleep. He was pulling the blanket off me as I opened my eyes.

I looked around as my eyes adjusted from my sleep. “What? You’re home? What time is it?”

“Come here, I need some of that.” His hands were pulling at my sleeping gown.

“Need what? What’s going on?” Still half asleep, I hadn’t realized what he was talking about. Without thinking, my hands moved to push his hands off my hips.

“You’re going to say ‘No’ me? Who do you think you are saying ‘No’ to your husband? I can if I want, you’re MY wife!”

It happened so quick. Before I could realize it, he had grabbed my arm and practically lifted me out of the bed. Barely 100 pounds, it wasn’t hard for him to pull me out of bed and then swing me around the room.

It had been building again recently, getting worse again. He was coming home later more often, saying he had some meetings or other business more often lately.

When he was home, the kids seemed to be too loud or not paying attention to him. Nothing I could do was right anymore. I hadn’t even realized it at first, it happened slowly. Thinking I had just missed a few things he must have asked for. After our daughter was born, things had gotten so much better than before, I think I wanted to believe we weren’t going back to where we were so many years ago.

I looked around the room. Taking easy, measured steps across the room, I picked up the pillows from the floor. I carefully put them back along the headboard, then moved to pick up the blanket. My right arm couldn’t lift it. Using my left hand I pulled it onto the bed and left it in a heap.

Time never seems to make any sense when you are in pain. I sat next to the piled up blanket staring at the floor. He could walk back in any time. What would he be expecting me to be doing? Flashes of what had occurred burst in front of my eyes.

The floor at my feet is where I had hit the ground. My left elbow throbbed at the reminder. I was awake when he pulled my out of the bed, but my mind finally comprehended what was going on when I crashed here. The stun brought my mind out of sleep but knocked me somewhere beyond reality. What happened after felt surreal, even as I thought back sitting there I couldn’t understand how.

I was on the ground, I remember the tip of his polished leather shoe shine in the lamp light. It was all I saw as it hit me in the side. Reflexively, I curled up, trying to block his foot. He managed his foot into my ribs a few more times before my hands managed to protect myself.

Remembering his leg hitting my hand made my finger throb again. My finger jammed against his shin.

“You scratched me! How dare you lay a finger on me! That’s assault!” He bellowed out as he jerked his leg back from me.

“I could call the cops! I’ll take the kids!” He growled out as he pulled up his slacks to look at the scratch on his shin.

Rolling in pain, I heard the door slam shut. My heart jumped into my throat. My kids! Seconds later a second door slammed downstairs. That was too fast, he couldn’t have taken the kids.

Fingers clawing on the blanket, I struggled to stand. Most of it came down as I pulled myself up. This is why I found the blanket on the floor. The pieces were fitting in. I remember making it out the bedroom door before my son stumbled into the hallway.

“Mommy, what’s happening.” The blurry-eyed eight-year-old rubbed his eyes.

My kids. He could take them. What do I do?

Still sitting on the bed I reached for the phone.

“Mom? I know I’m sorry it’s late.”

“I need help mom. Please come get me and the kids. He’s going to take them away from me. I can’t stay here.”

“He’s not home right now.” My voice remained steadier than I thought. The thoughts of what I needed to do next helped me stay deliberate in my actions.

“I don’t know when he’ll be back. I’m getting ready. Please hurry.”

Putting the phone back next to the lamp. Unsure of my footing, I stood back up. What do I need?

Finding the suitcase in the closet I drag it to the bed. Soon it’s filled with whatever clothes I can find. I’m not even sure what gets put in there, just a pile of clothes.

What if he comes back? The thought crosses my mind. He’ll see the suitcase. A few deep breathes, I grab the handle of the suitcase and drag it off the bed onto the floor. On my knees, I push it along the carpet back to the closet.

Shuffling down the hall to the first room, I stop and fill her backpack with as many clothes and toys as I could manage. I kissed my daughter and make my way down to my son’s room. Doing the same here, I make sure I pick up the books from the side table and make certain to pick up the book, which is now under his pillow. In each room, I tuck the backpacks back into the closets.

He really has been a good father and a caring husband. The past five years had been wonderful. He regularly brought me flowers and took me and the kids out. The three of us were never wanting for anything. He used to spend time with us when he wasn’t busy working. Seeming sorry about the last time he pushed me on the stairs, what this morning seems so long ago, but now felt like yesterday.

We were happy, the three of us. He didn’t want any more children. When I told him I was pregnant again, he got angry. He talked to me about an abortion, but I couldn’t even think of doing something like that. The conversation was short, and he became frustrated with every refusal from me. As I walked away from him, I felt pressure on my back. My balance quickly vanished and I found myself on laying on the landing of the staircase.

Since then he seemed to become kinder again. Thinking back now, it had been a good few years. He really tried. I thought he tried. Recently things seemed to be changing back again.

Walking back to the bedroom, lights shined through the window. Slowly then passed along the wall until they disappeared. It was a passing car. I was realizing slowly how anxious I was becoming from my decision.

Some time later my phone rang again.

“I’ll be right down to open the door.”

A few minutes later, my mother and her husband were carrying out my babies. One must’ve stayed in the car with them. I’m not certain who, but the other asked about the bags and I pointed out where I hid that I had packed. I was focused on collecting a few things from my room. Making sure I did my best with one good arm, I made the beds. I picked up any toys that were left out.

I heard a voice from behind. “I think that’s everything. We should leave.”

Following my mother down, I turned off the lights along the way out. She walked out the door. I turned around and looked back through the house. He had not come back yet.

I stepped out the door, then turned to lock it. Hearing the click, there I stood.

This was my choice.

For my children.

For me.

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Originally published at munirm6.wordpress.com on August 31, 2016.