Beware: This story contains substance abuse and phyical abuse.
The Two Faces of Nick.
It was terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark when I got out of the cab at my hotel. I looked up at the mountain, shrouded in a thick white veil like the one I wore on my wedding day. A gust of wind caused thick snowflakes to stick to my face. But I did not heed their stinging touch for they hid the tears glistening unchecked on my lashes. Oh, how had I been so blind?
One day a few weeks ago Nick said, " Jenny, I will be gone for a week on work trip to London next month."
So, I decided to go away too. I flew to Switzerland where I felt compelled to ski again. I had to find out whether the beauty I recalled was natural or an illusion created in a haze of passion. My hotel room overlooked the mountain the peak now shrouded in darkness when I unpacked my suitcase and hung up my skis. Supper was a delight of schnitzel and red cabbage, followed by apple strudel. I slept well that night and woke the following day, to a scene of dazzling white, whiter than his double-cuffed work shirts I took for dry-cleaning.
From my bedroom window, I watched awed as the sun rose over the snow-packed mountain peak, giving it alluring pink and gold hues. I gazed from the hotel’s dining room window at the majestic sight over a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and poached eggs on toast. The March sun was melting the snow on the lowest slopes where children sledged. Higher up, beyond the gondola, all looked perfect for skiing. Pristine snow and the bluest of skies. Awesome. It was no illusion.
The sun sparkled on the mounds of snow beside the path like the gem on my third finger when I began my climb to the gondola station. I drank in the clean air, so unlike New York, where the air was filled with climate-changing fumes. The gondola took me to the top where the snow was deep, as deep as the pain in my heart. But the pain flew away as I skied down the slopes again and again, stopping for lunch at a cafe when my stomach grumbled. I ate without company, my soul at peace in the solitude.
We spent a week skiing here three years ago. Alone in the gondola on the first day of our vacation, Nick asked me to marry him. He took a small box from his jacket pocket and slipped a one-carat solitaire diamond on my finger. Ecstatic, I shouted out to the mountain, which echoed, "I will, I will."
We ate a celebratory dinner that night. Then drunk on love and desire we climbed the stairs to our capacious bed with its feather duvet. There we made love, and I reached great heights of passion - exploding kaleidoscopes of sensations and colours. By morning my desire for my future husband had deepened into an abiding hunger that penetrated my core. I couldn’t let him go until we skied down the snowy slopes. We climbed a different mountain each night, our limbs entwined, emotions embedded in mutual desire.
The trouble began after our wedding in the Virgin Isles. Nick spent our wedding night in the hotel bar. I felt him climb into bed in the small hours and smelt whisky on this breath as he snored beside me.
"What happened to you last night?" I said as I dressed for breakfast, the Caribbean sea inviting me to swim.
"Shurrup." His language left little doubt.
"But it was our wedding night. Where did you go?"
He did not reply, and I breakfasted alone. It should have been such a happy day, yet I cried hot tears in the ladies’ bathroom. What had happened to my husband? He drank most nights, but full of apologies he managed to have sex with me on the last. I forgave him, but there were no kaleidesopes in Barbados.
Two years later, I am a practised sleuth and can identify the signs. I read them in Nick’s ice-cold eyes, his mouth set and scornful voice. I forgot his dry cleaning one day, hurrying home from my work in an advertising agency in a ice storm. "I’ll get it on my way home tonight honey," I said the following morning, watching his face and fists.
He scowled, his ice eyes staring and scaring. "You frigging better or you'll be in deep shite." He banged his fist on the breakfast table, making the plates jump and spilling his coffee. He got up unsteadily and threw on his suit jacket, hanging on the back of his chair. I heard him call a cab on his cell phone from the hall. He was not fit to drive the new Porsche in the garage. The front door banged shut, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Nick came home that night, as on so many nights, with a bunch of red roses, a rueful smile splitting his still handsome face as he apologised. I told him it was nothing and put the blooms in the Waterford cut-glass crystal vase, a wedding present from my Godmother. But we ate our Moroccan tagine supper in silence. We had scant matters of meaning to discuss. I went to bed at ten-thirty, alone, to read. Around midnight I saw him slumped on the den sofa, legs wide apart and eyes closed with a cut glass tumbler and bottle of Jack Daniels to hand. I returned to our bed and feigned sleep, as I do most nights until I heard him snore beside me and smelt the whisky on his breath.
Nick’s boyish, attractive looks of blonde hair, blue eyes and gleaming teeth belie his true self. Those eyes once beguiled me. Now, their bloodshot whites are scary. Yet he had seemed so full of fun when we met at that rock concert with his muscular body clad in a white tee and skin tight jeans. Over supper on our first date, he regaled me with his stories of his year in Oz: sheep-shearing, cow-roping, swimming on the Great Barrier reef. That night Nick wore designer clothing and a Cartier watch. A sophisticated man and I was smitten.
But I made a love-hazed mistake. The sophistication was an illusion and the mountain of kaleidoscope colours is a distant memory. I fight my corner daily trying to avoid his alcohol fueled fists. I cover up the bruises with make up and long sleeves and force a smile for the world. However I see it does not reach my eyes when I practice in the bathroom mirror.
By day Nick is a hot-shot lawyer, exalted by his peers. By night he is a beast whose once caressing hands I hate with every fibre of my being. By the end of my holiday I am resolute. I will file for a 'take the beast to the cleaners' divorce.
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On the positive side, the story was well-written and paced well. I liked the descriptive elements. On the less than positive side, it is a story that has been written many, many times. When doing that, the writer should make the story their own. For example, turning the tables on her abusive husband. She does something that makes him dependent on her. There are many unique storylines that could be written from that point. Make your story different than all that have come before and I think you have a real shot at winning a contest.