It was close to 4am when the lights were flipped on and my bedroom was filled with harsh incandescent light from above.
“You ruined my life,” my husband of almost ten years spat at my prone form as I blinked away all vestiges of a sweet dream and looked down the barrel of a 9mm nightmare.
In the decade spent with him, I had known random periods of fear but no amounts of spending a night in our closet hiding under a pile of dirty clothes had prepared me for staring into the black tube of my mortality.
His face had never looked more demonic and my inner being called out for Jesus even though I hadn’t stepped foot in a church since my childhood.
I kept silent as he paced back and forth over the worn carpet in our tiny room. I had seen the gun a few times before and remembered the story of how he had stolen it from a police officer’s home in the crime-riddled heyday of his teenage years.
Two minutes or twenty, I couldn’t tell you how long he kept the weapon trained on me. What I can remember is that after his tirade was over and he had completed the condemnation of my achievements as a wife, he left the room and I began to shake.
I burrowed under the thin cotton blanket and realized there was absolutely no way to escape the house without walking through the single front door. Our cheap country home was situated in a flood plane and had been built on ten foot pilings far above the ground and I was trapped in the back room.
My ears strained to piece together what he was doing beyond our door and I could hear drawers from the bedroom adjacent to the master being opened and closed. I knew he had to be at the airport in a few hours to catch a morning flight to Kansas and I started praying that he would pack a quick bag and leave the house without coming back into our room.
My stomach plummeted to the depths of my insides when I heard shuffling from our closet and realized he was back. I laid there, unmoving, cursing myself for being a frightened little girl. With a bit of consternation I came to the conclusion that I was neither a fight or flight reactor to emergency situations. I hid in the face of adversity.
I felt the house sway slightly as he stomped to the front room and the jingle of keys gave me a spark of hope that he would leave without accosting me again.
I drew the blanket down when the front door gave a squeak and I felt the movement of the house once more as he clomped down the exterior steps to the driveway below.
Directly underneath where I lay, I heard the roar of his truck and the subsequent rock music that followed. I huddled under the covers until the telltale sounds of rubber driving over loose gravel signaled that he had left the property.
I rolled over and fumbled for my cell phone perched upon the single nightstand. It was five o’clock when I called my best friend and it was six o’clock when she showed up at my house with an army.
We packed up everything I owned as the sun came up and loaded it in the numerous cars, trucks, and trailers currently littering my front yard. With a little help from my friends and a few of their children, I had cleaned out the entire house and left it as bare as a poor man’s bachelor pad.
It wasn’t until I was about to leave that I found the gun laying on a high shelf in the laundry alcove. It was loaded.
Throughout the morning I had been repeating to myself that there was no way the man I loved would point a loaded weapon at me.
With angry tears falling down my cheeks, I removed the clip from the gun and drew out the bullet in the chamber. It all went in my favorite beach bag decorated with whimsical dancing lobsters while my friends looked on.
“You’re going to report this,” my best friend said, her eyes burning with the fervor of a thousand avenging angels.
I looked at the crowd gathered around me, their faces showing a sea of anger, sadness and pity. My memories swam as I remembered all the times I’d chalked up my husband’s drug and drink fueled antics as harmless.
“Let’s go,” I said and we all barreled down the steps to the furniture-packed convoy below.
When I emerged from the police station, I gave an animated play-by-play of the officer’s reaction to the stolen gun. In the parking lot of the substation, my gathered friends radiated joy when I told them that my husband was going to be charged with a handful of domestic abuse crimes and looked into for years of unlawful activity. Once I’d finally opened up to the Sergeant on-duty, I couldn’t seem to stop talking and I had relayed every single piece of information I had on my terrorist of a husband.
It was a lot of intel.
With utter relief and a youthful feeling that I hadn’t experienced in quite some time, I headed up the line of vehicles as we made a beeline to an apartment complex located less than a mile away from my best friend’s home.
In the blink of an eye, the contract was signed, the down payment was made and we were moving all that I owned in the world into a newly renovated, two-bedroom town home. I had never lived in a place that I’d been particularly proud of and the wide crown molding decorating the entire structure was definitely doing something for my sense of pride.
In less than twelve hours from the beginning of the end of my marriage, my friends and I were sprawled across the plush living room carpet and draped across my couch sharing a few bottles of wine. We were opening up the third bottle when the text from my husband came in, asking me how my day was.
We couldn’t stop laughing.