Drama Inspirational Creative Nonfiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I always wanted a man, thought I needed one. I thought all the answers to all life’s problems lied in finding the right man, a real man. A man of my own ideations that fit strict criterion so that they were man enough to tame the wildness in this hot-headed, smart-mouthed mid-west prairie girl.

My daddy didn’t set much of an example of what to look for in a man, only what to avoid. He collected his welfare checks and repaired cars on the side. Momma left him when I was ten. I guess I remind him a lot of her because he took his frustration and anger towards her out on me daily. Like my daddy, I didn’t know how to cope with my problems, so I self-medicated at an early age. I was a heavy drinker, smoked weed, and to say I was promiscuous was an understatement. I got pregnant in my junior year and dropped out to be a mother. Men came and went in my life. They often left tears and heartache in their wake. They were never man enough to stick through the hard times when I wasn’t just a pretty face and my humanity shone through. Eleven years and three kids by three different men later, I met the man of my dreams, Ashton Davis.

Ashton looked like God chiseled him from stone the day he gave Moses the Ten Commandments. He raised his beer to me from the crowded bar where he was sitting with his friends. I had a table across the room with my girls. It was karaoke night and we had just finished our first set. He sent over a strawberry margarita, which was my fourth of the night. I giggled and raised my glass back in appreciation. Ashton swaggered his way through the smoke-filled bar to me in a way that only a man with the bravado to wear tight jeans and cowboy boots swaggers. His chest was barreled and his shoulders broad beneath his tight white t-shirt, biceps bulging. His pale gray eyes smoldered from beneath his heavy brow. Dimples filled the stubble covered cheeks of his square jawline. The only thing sexier would have been him emerging from the shoreline fog, shirtless on horseback. He took my breath away when he leaned in and introduced himself.

What I learned of Ashton over the next few months is that he could glide over a dance floor with you on a Friday night and repair your car on Saturday. He could wrestle a deer out of the woods in the morning and have a horse eating out of his hands in the afternoon. He would stand up to those who disrespected us, never backing down from a fight or a challenge, and then would play tea with my daughter the next day. He was the person everyone turned to when they were in need, and he was always willing to help. Ashton was a provider, a protector, a stabilizer. I had never dated such a handsome man who had his life together. I felt I didn’t deserve such a man.

After six months, he proposed. We were married within the year. We moved into the ranch hands house he lived in on the ranch where he worked. It wasn’t huge but felt like a mansion compared to the two-bedroom trailer where I had been slumming it. Life was great. We met in February. He Proposed in July. We moved in November. We were Married in December. What a year.

We had a huge Super Bowl party that was also a celebration of our first year together as a couple. We had a full house despite very few of my friends showing up. Many felt alienated by all the time I spent with Ashton. I was a family woman doing more family-oriented things. Time flew by that year. I found it more and more difficult to divide my attention between Ashton and the other people in my life. Others tended to resent me, but I was pursuing a dream. I felt sacrifices had to be made. Besides, Ashton’s friends always had girlfriends around. That was something.

The party was a success. We made it through the game, and we were all drunk. Ashton’s boss said something to me that set me off. It was his boss. I should have bitten my tongue, but I had too much to drink. I was ill tempered to begin with, so I started in on the man.

“Davis, you need to get a hold of your woman,” Mr. Dennison said, as the other men sat around laughing with beers in their hands.

Ashton tried to calm me down, but I was having none of it. “No, you should be backing me up,” I shouted in front of everyone.

Ashton backhanded the drunk right out of me. “Apologize! And don’t say another word the rest of the night!”

I was reeling from the pain. Ashton is six-foot-two and a good hundred and ninety pounds. I’m five-three and a hundred-pounds sop and wet. I stammered out an apology to Mr. Dennison but sat there quietly in shock and embarrassed until all our guests left. After everyone left, Ashton went to bed without saying a word.

The next day I woke, and Ashton was already at work. The house was a mess. I was hungover and depressed, overwhelmed. I took to the couch where I napped, watched talk shows, and played on my social media apps. Around two o’clock Mrs. Dennison comes knocking at the door with her daughter in tow.

“Hi, Jenny. Thought we would stop by and see how you were doing. It sounded like you had a rough night last night,” Mrs. Dennison said, with a disgusted face as she viewed the interior of the house.

I’m standing there in sweatpants and a T-shirt. I had not bothered to shower, had no make-up on, and my hair was a disaster. I was embarrassed but at the same time I felt intruded upon. It was like she wanted to catch me and the house in that state.

“Sorry about the house,” I tell her. “I’m waiting for Ashton to get home and help me out. I’m a bit overwhelmed.”

“I see. Don’t you think Ashton would like a nice clean home to come home to after working all day,” the daughter, Rose, who is my age, contributes.

“Well, it was his idea to have the damn party and I was the one who did all the preparing, so I think he can contribute to the cleanup,” I told them, rather snidely.

“I understand that, Jenny,” Mrs. Dennison starts, “but we do own this home and we don’t want any pests infesting it,” she says sweetly, “please see to it that it gets cleaned up as soon as possible,” and they turned and left.

With them left the depression and self-loathing. Ashton was going to get an earful from me when he got home. An earful about their intrusion, their opinions, his never helping around the house, and most certainly his hitting me.

I met Ashton at the door when he got home. “We need to talk!”

He grabbed me by the hair and slammed me to the floor. He dragged me to the kitchen, slammed me into the counter under the sink and kicked me in the ribs.

“Get it straight. I work. You take care of the house, and you sure as shit don’t even suggest otherwise to anyone else. What the fuck did you do all day?”

The kids were standing in the doorway to the kitchen crying, feeling helpless. “Kids, go to your room. Mommy is okay,” a manage to wheeze. “Mommy and Ashton just need to talk.”

The kids disappear and I look at him with ferocity, “Don’t you ever…”

He lifts me back to my feet and gives me another backhand, busting my lip this time. “Don’t you ever tell me what to do or not to do! I’m not like the boys you dated in the past. You’re not going to scare me with that hot-headed attitude of yours. You’re not going to act like you used to. You’re a grown-up now, living in a grown-up relationship with grown-up responsibilities. I did my part, where were you? I got up hung over and went to work, why didn’t you? Get up, clean this kitchen, and make your family some dinner!”

At the time I felt he was right. I always wanted a man who was man enough to stand up to me and set me straight. I even explained it to the kids that way that night. That things might look scary, but mommy gets out of control sometimes and Ashton has to stop her. Even that night in bed Ashton apologized.

“I don’t like being that way with you, sweetie, but I don’t feel like I have a choice. I feel like I have to be that way to make you listen so you can gain control of yourself. I love the way you are, but you cannot go through life embarrassing us and insulting the people who provide for us. I love you and I’m just trying to help you bring out your best self.”

We made love that night. I stepped up my efforts to be a more pleasing wife throughout the week. He rewarded me by taking me and the kids out to have family portraits professionally done. The sheer happiness I felt when I saw the picture of him standing behind me seated with the kids all around me warmed my heart. I never felt so proud. I couldn’t wait to post them online, especially for all those people who always said I would amount to nothing more than trailer trash, that I was such a bitch I didn’t deserve love.

As the years went by, there were times when Ashton had to "remind me of my place." The friendships I had with people I knew before Ashton came into my life slowly faded away. They all said I needed to leave him. They didn’t understand. It was tough love I thought. Maybe tougher than it needed to be, but I was a tougher girl than the average woman. Ashton always apologized and what were cuts and bruises compared to a stable life for me and my kids. After all, I never loved a man as much as I loved Ashton. I thought I'd never find another man like him.

After four years of marriage, I thought we were doing pretty good. I mean, I had visited the hospital a few times for stitches and once for a concussion when he hit me over the head with a beer bottle, but it wasn’t a nightly thing, and it was usually my fault, or so I thought. However, one summer afternoon, a package was delivered by a former high school boyfriend, Guy Webster. I invited him in out of kindness and we talked for a couple hours, just catching up. A lot had happened over the course of fifteen years. I was excited to show him that I had risen above the expectations of all who knew me way back then. Well, news from one of Ashton’s co-workers got back to him that I had a man in the house for hours. Ashton greeted me at the front door with a punch to the nose, another to the eye. I fell to the floor. He kicked me continuously in the ribs, calling me a slut. My twelve-year-old son called the police while my fifteen-year-old daughter shielded me with her own body, pleading with Ashton to stop, afraid he was going to kill me. The cops came and arrested Ashton. They held him hoping I would press charges. The younger two kids stayed home alone, but my oldest, Carmela, rode in the ambulance with me to the hospital.

I told the people at the hospital that I wrecked the four-wheeler. They seemed to accept that as a reason for the messed-up face and punctured lung. I think Carmela was through with the lies, the excuses, and Ashton all together. Later that night a social worker and a volunteer from the battered women’s shelter paid me a visit. At first, I was insulted. I wasn’t one of those weak little girls. I was a woman that most people feared. They just didn’t understand. But as they talked to me and Carmela, they described my life perfectly; the walking on eggshells worrying about what might upset him, changing who I am to accommodate him, accepting blame, pushing away everyone who was in my life before him, the manipulation, the isolation. I broke down into tears and tried to rationalize it, explain it away and make excuses, but they wouldn’t let me. It eventually came down to one thing.

“No one else will love me, if not him,” I said through a storm of tears.

“Your children already do, and they depend on you,” the woman from the shelter spoke up. “Most of all, you need to love yourself. We will help you, show you how. We have a support group. You will make friends and they will love you too. Once you learn to love yourself and fill your life with people who love you unconditionally, you might, someday, find a man who will love you for who you are. But you won’t feel like you desperately need him to define yourself through him or revolve your world around him. Never give another human being that kind of power over you.”

With encouragement from Carmela, the social worker, and the volunteer, I pressed charges against Ashton. He got four years in prison for domestic assault. That gave us plenty of time to move and start over. I joined the support group the volunteer suggested. There, I made friends. We go out dancing, singing Karaoke, bowling, out to movies, we celebrate birthdays together, and quite often get together for dinners and game nights. One of the girls from our group is a lawyer. She set me up with a job as a receptionist. For the first time I am part of the working world and proud of myself. I enrolled at the junior college to become a paralegal. My kids look at me like I’m some kind of superhero now.

Speaking of the kids, they had to start over at a whole new school but are doing wonderfully. Carmella has a boyfriend, which gives me anxiety given my history, but he seems like a nice boy. The other two adjusted nicely. They are involved in extracurricular activities and have made a lot of friends. I had a parent teacher conference with my youngest’s English teacher tonight. He was nervous around me. It was adorable. I found myself flirting with him. He asked me out for coffee and gave me his number. I love who I am now and the life I live. I think I am ready. This time I'm not looking for a man, I'm just looking to have fun with someone new.

January 15, 2024 04:03

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Mary Bendickson
07:01 Jan 15, 2024

What a journey to find herself!


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Michelle Oliver
05:25 Jan 15, 2024

The story is so very true for some women unfortunately. You have captured the character so well. The voice is completely believable and honest. The beginning and ending tie together so well to complete this journey and demonstrate the clarity that she has found through this journey. Well done and thanks for sharing.


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Jeremy Stevens
00:23 Jan 26, 2024

Well told. I like the repetition of "man" in the first stages of your plot, resonating the narrator's focal point of what is important. The powers of a support group are limitless, regardless of your "disease." Great voice as well


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Jaymi McClusky
18:40 Jan 23, 2024

A very sad and moving story. Good take on the prompt!


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Rabab Zaidi
11:51 Jan 21, 2024

What a journey!!


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Michał Przywara
21:37 Jan 18, 2024

Excellent take on the prompt, and a very uncomfortable read - which is good, as it's not meant to be pleasant. The ending however is a welcome one, full of hope, and feels like it was earned. “changing who I am to accommodate him, accepting blame, pushing away everyone who was in my life before him, the manipulation, the isolation” - you know, I'm reading this, and it strikes me how similar it is to descriptions of people joining cults. I think the rationalizing she does is great. For us reading, we can see the problem clearly, and this ...


Ty Warmbrodt
22:09 Jan 18, 2024

Thanks, Michal, for the feedback. Glad you liked it.


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Christy Morgan
18:13 Jan 17, 2024

Great story in how you captured the abusive relationship and all of its lows. I especially felt for Jenny during the Super Bowl party, knowing it was the first of many egregious things to come. Well written, Ty - thanks for sharing and tackling such an important topic.


Ty Warmbrodt
22:10 Jan 18, 2024

Thanks for the feedback, Christy. It means a lot.


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Trudy Jas
16:42 Jan 17, 2024

You really let me see Jenny, her rationalizations, her lack of self esteem (that Ashton preyed on) and her growth. A heart rendering journey. Thanl you.


Ty Warmbrodt
22:11 Jan 18, 2024

Thanks, Trudy, I'm glad you liked it.


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20:58 Jan 15, 2024

Holy crap Ty. A tough read but an important one. You painted a very real and believable picture of real life and abuse. Heartbreaking but with hope for the future shining through. Bravo


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Alexis Araneta
15:35 Jan 15, 2024

Oh my goodness gracious ! I teared up for Jenny throughout this. I'm so happy she found herself amidst all this. I also love the descriptions. As usual, you have a way with imagery. A bit of a correction on this sentence, though: "I’m not like the boy’s you dated in the past.". No apostrophes on that. Very-well written!


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