My body was bruised and sore. The water was running in the bath, and I could smell the vanilla candles burning sweetly through the air. It had been 3 days since I left my family home and came to the hotel room with him. When I had gone home over a week ago, I told them all I was just home for a surprise holiday. How could I be honest? They loved Dave, almost as much as I did. When he arrived at the house, he was angry. I could see the fire in his eyes, but he played it so relaxed and cool in front of everyone that I almost thought it might be ok.
When the door closed to the room on Monday he asked if I was hungry and said he was going to order room service. He was quiet, but the anger seemed to have dissipated and before long the trolly had been delivered. He sat on the edge of the bed moving the food around the plate as I sat in silence staring out at the starry sky. The bonus of being in the country, you could see the stars in all their beauty. I was enjoying the peace.
“Did you really think you would get away with never coming back.” It wasn’t a question, and I knew better than to answer it, but the slap knocked me from the chair faster than I could process what he had said. “There's nothing here for you. If there was you never would have left in the first place.”
He pulled me up by the hair and I could feel the strands pulling from my scalp. As I reached for his hands, he picked up a fork and stabbed it in my left side. I cried in pain, something I never did because it would only make it worse. He would hit me until I was silent.
I was tossed like a rag doll back on the bed and the bowl of piping hot soup tossed at my crotch. He raged, face first into the bed to muffle the noise while I slid to the floor. I kept thinking if I could make the door I could run away again. Back home, back to my family, this time for good. He dragged me down the side of the bed by the ankles before climbing on top of me. The slaps became harder and then he closed his fists. Left, right, left, right. I could taste the metal in my mouth and my flailing arms became trapped beneath his legs
“Look what you made me do,” He spat. “You always make me be the bad guy.” His grip tightened around my throat and I looked out the window at the stars. They calmed me. They were always the same, the constant in my ordeal was knowing they'd shine for me. Everything went black.
I don’t know how long I was unconscious for but when I came to, I was sitting in the shower leaned up against the door while he stood with his arms folded leaning against the vanity.
“Clean yourself up.” He closed the door and walked away as I scrambled to my feet. I could see bruises forming around my neck already, fingerprints on my right cheek with a black eye on the left side. There was blood along my hair line from where he had dragged me up and holes in my top and side where the fork had gone in. This had been worse than the last, but that was becoming the pattern each time more brutal than the last time.
I slowly removed my clothes where I found red marks across my torso, obviously where he had pinned me down and I knew it was a matter of time before they became bruises too. I had to stop after every item of clothing to catch my breath back before moving on to the next piece.
When I had cleaned myself up and gone back to the bedroom, he took one look at me and sobbed. "I'm so sorry. It just happened; I’ll get the help I need. I promise."
All things I'd heard before, but all things that I wanted so badly to be true. We had been together for 14 years. My childhood sweetheart. He was there for me through everything and I could always count on him. When we were teenagers, it only happened one time and of course I blamed myself for making him jealous. I was at a party where we had all been drinking and I had been talking to a group of boys I knew through my brother. In the car on the way home he called me all sorts of names before I felt the clatter of the back of his hand. I was shocked to my core. He pulled over the car and told me how sorry he was, that he was flailing his arms when he caught me. I starred out the window at the night sky and told him it was fine. That I believed him.
It was a couple of years later at the end of college before it had happened again and honestly, I had almost forgotten about the first time completely believing it was an accident. That time I had gone to a friend’s play and afterwards for a drink. I told him I’d be home by 10.30pm and when I was an hour late, he was sitting at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me. "Who were you with?" he was calm in his words, and I simply replied, "with the girls." He stood up, placed one hand on the banister and the other on the wall. Again, I was so blindsided by his kick to my chest I didn't know what had happened until I lay coughing on the floor. Struggling for air. He picked my phone up and stormed upstairs. By the time he had returned I still hadn't managed to pick myself up. I lay there confused. What had just happened? He cried that night; told me he was going through a hard time with exams, and I believed it. Afterall I still hadn't recognized the first hit 3 years earlier for what it was.
Years passed and while still cautious that I always stuck to my word, I wasn't hit again. He was loving, attentive, caring and funny. He did everything to provide a good life for me. I was showered with flowers, a new outfit or jewellery. He liked to show me he loved me. He looked after all the finances, and we were happy to live the simple life just the two of us.
“Your bath is ready,” He announced as he walked back in. “Let me help you with that.” He pulled my hair down from the bun and took my robe off for me before giving me his hand to help me climb in with. “I was thinking we should go for dinner with your family tomorrow night, you know before we head back.” My face clearly said he was mad. “I figured dinner, later and colder so you can wear something fashionable and cover up.” He stared at the ground. “The bruises on your face have gone down.”
We never discussed the bruises before. He always ignored it because it didn’t need to be addressed. At home I could make excuses to be out of the office – on site meetings, working from home, cancel plans and hide away. But here, with my family and friends just down the road, we couldn’t do that.
He spoke softly and it almost sounded like he cared. “I'm going to change this time. I promise. I’ll get whatever help you want me to get.” I was shocked by his outburst. Over the last couple of years, he would slap me and there was no apology. It would start after he had been drinking, he would blame me for showing him up in front of someone or making him feel ‘less of a man’. The slaps became black eyes for a while, until he learned that people could see a bruise on the face, and you had to explain them. Then it was body blows. I had never left because I didn't know how. I had never told anybody and why would anyone believe me?
I tried to be calm and understanding in my response “I know you love me, but sometimes you hurt me.”
“Well, that’s your fault for doing stupid shit.” It was in this moment that I knew I had to get out. I needed to be free. I knew that he was saying things because he heard or read or knew they were what you were meant to say and not what he meant.
I finished my bath and dressed in my nightwear before climbing into bed. Once his breathing turned to light snoring, I gently slid from beneath the covers. Searching his bag to for anything to help me, I found a blade. A simple blade that he would have used to cut wire or twine around the house, but not something you ever needed to bring with you.
I watched the stars through the window while he slept soundly. I begged for them to guide me. If I call someone, will it ever end or will he come back for me. Will they believe me? If I do to him, what he will eventually do for me, will I survive what comes with that. I was so engrossed in the beauty of the sky; I hadn’t realised the snoring had ceased. He came at me, and we struggled before I threw the blade at him, nipping his neck. I watched him fall to the ground and try to get the words out, but I just sat back in the chair again. That night the stars made the decision for me. They chose for me to live.