Staring at my reflection in the mirror, I run a brush through my long brown hair. My brown eyes are empty, red-rimmed, and puffy. Setting my brush on the vanity, I take a deep breath and apply makeup to the dark bruises marring my skin. As I dab some concealer on, I clench my eyes shut at the reminder of Graham’s latest episode.
Seven years ago, I was just a college graduate with my entire future ahead of me. But that night I agreed to be his wife, my life changed. We got married three months later, and only a month after that he hit me for the first time. Shocked and devastated, I rushed to the bedroom to pack where he dropped to his knees, pleading with me to forgive him.
And like the coward I am, I took him back.
Every. Single. Time.
I fell in love with Graham in our junior-year business class. I wanted to open my own clothing store, and he wanted to start a real estate company. Tall at six foot two, his blond hair and deep green eyes drew me in. He treated me like gold, taking me out every weekend. I gave him all of me, virginity included, and he set it all up in flames.
I have no idea who I am anymore. The violence has only become worse, and I’m scared every time I see that look in his eyes. The pure hatred. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. Now, instead of owning the business I always dreamed of, I’m stuck in our house, waiting on him hand and foot. Three years ago, Graham opened his own company with his best friend, and it took off like a bat out of hell. It’s thriving, and he makes sure I know every day that every dime is his.
I have to force the memories away, my hands shaking on the granite vanity. Counting to ten, I take a couple of deep breaths, trying hard to gain control of my emotions. We’re supposed to go to my mother’s house tonight for dinner. She’s all I have in this world, and I need to make sure there are no traces of Graham’s earlier actions.
Usually he makes sure to hurt me in ways that don’t show. Twisting my arms, pulling my hair, slaps—they don’t leave marks as often. But he used his fists to take out his frustration this time, and unfortunately my face took a few of the main blows.
When I’m satisfied I look okay, I straighten my shoulders and march out of the bathroom. Grabbing my purse that I left lying on the bed, I sling it over my shoulder and head downstairs to where Graham is waiting, finding him pacing in the foyer. He looks up at me with anger all over his face.
“Take long enough? Let’s get this fucking evening over with. I have a meeting tonight.”
Trying to hide my emotions, I brush past him to slip my feet into the heels I left by the door last night. He likes me dressed in fancy clothes, shoes that hurt my feet. I always have to look the picture-perfect image of his wife. By ‘meeting,’ I’m assuming he’ll be meeting up with one of his many female companions. We’ve been married just over seven years, and he hasn’t touched me sexually in four. Not that I’d want to even if he did.
“I’m sorry, Graham,” I mutter, turning to face him.
“Just shut up, Sadie. I’m not in the mood to hear your shit.”
Grabbing the car keys off the table, he goes to open the door behind me when his cell phone starts ringing. Answering it, he strides right out the front door, leaving me behind. For just a moment, I imagine myself not following him. Instead, I’m running far away, never looking back.
Pulling the front door closed behind me, I head down the walkway to where his Mercedes is parked. I only make it a handful of steps before he’s turning back toward me.
“I’m dropping you off and going to meet Nick.”
“But we’re having dinner with Mom. She’s looking forward to seeing us.”
Narrowing my eyes, I let out a huff. “Forget it. I’ll drive myself,” I say, turning to go back inside. Graham comes up behind me and unlocks the door for me, and then he’s gone, climbing into his car in seconds.
“Asshole,” I grumble, slamming the door shut behind me. Kicking off my heels, I rush upstairs to change into a pair of flats, then grab the keys to our BMW and head out. Climbing in, I crank the engine and back out of our driveway.
The short drive to my mom’s is made quietly. I don’t bother with music, my thoughts too loud in my head. For the first time in my almost twenty-nine years on this earth, I’m tired. Tired of the abuse. The depression. But mostly I’m done with not knowing who I am anymore.
Graham has taken every ounce of my old self and destroyed it. I need to get away from him, need to start over. And I’m fucking terrified. I have no idea what to do.
Pulling into my mom’s driveway, I park next to her older model Ford and climb out, not bothering to lock my doors. Strolling up to the front door, I let myself in with my own key.
“Mom, I’m here.” Dropping my purse on the couch, I go into the kitchen, finding it silent and empty. “Mom?” I take the narrow hallway toward her room, the door half closed. Pushing it open, I step into the room, my world changing forever.
Lying in the center of the bed, she looks like she’s asleep. I gently try waking her up with a hand on her shoulder. When she doesn’t move, I lay my hand flat on her chest, but before I can jostle her, I realize her chest isn’t rising.
“Mom!” Frantically I shake her, my pulse racing. I run out to the living room, finding my cell phone in my purse. My finger’s shake as I dial 911, tears spilling down my cheeks.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“My mom, she’s not breathing. I don’t know what happened!” Stumbling back to the bedroom, I do as the operator tells me, performing CPR on the woman who gave me life, the only person in this world who loves me. My entire life.
I have no idea how long I try to save my mother before the sirens sound in the driveway. I don’t stop until I’m being pulled off my mom, told to step aside so they can help her. I watch in horror as they do everything they can for her. Walking backward, I hit the wall and slide down it, teeth chattering as I cry. A police car pulls in, lights flashing wildly.
I’m broken from my daze by one of the paramedics crouching in front of me, their eyes sad. “I’m so sorry, but she’s gone.”
“No, you have to save her. Please.”
“We tried everything, but she was already gone.”
Shaking my head, I force myself to stand up, taking the few steps over to the bed. Bending over, I rest my head on her chest and cry, gripping one of her hands in mine.
“Please, you can’t leave me, Mom. I need you too much. I love you, please.”
Gentle hands pull me back and I fight against them, not wanting to let her go. The officer holding on to me guides me out to the living room, helping me sit on the couch. I’m asked questions I don’t want to answer. I ask questions they can’t answer.
My mother is gone. Nothing can make this okay.
Hours later, I arrive back home, eyes swollen and hurting, but not nearly as bad as my heart. Words like ‘autopsy’ and ‘funeral arrangements’ aren’t ones I ever thoughts I’d hear.
The house is empty, Graham not home yet from his evening plans. Silently, I walk up the stairs to the bedroom, unable to feel or think. Stripping down to my underwear, I pull a tank on and climb into bed, pulling the blankets over my head. Burying my face in my pillow, I cry, soaking the pillowcase with my heartache.
I never heard Graham come home, unable to sleep all night. When the sun rises, I head into the bathroom, splashing my face with cold water. The bruises from yesterday stand out against my pale skin. Pulling on my robe, I head down to the kitchen to make some coffee.
I’m just taking the canister out of the cabinet when the sound of the front door opening breaks the silence. A moment later, Graham comes walking in the kitchen, still dressed in his clothes from the night before. He tosses his jacket onto the kitchen island and trains his eyes on me, disgust laced through his features.
“What the hell is your problem?”
“Nothing,” I whisper, going about loading the coffeepot.
He maneuvers around me to grab the orange juice from the fridge.
“Why are there dirty dishes in here?” he asks, motioning toward the sink.
“I didn’t have a chance to do them,” I say, placing the coffee back in the cabinet.
“Didn’t have a chance? What, while you were sitting around on your lazy ass doing nothing?”
“Fucking clean this mess up, then. For God’s sake, you’re as useless as a fucking wet towel.”
Tears brim in my eyes as I go over to the sink. They spill over when I see what he’s so pissed off at—three glasses and a couple plates.
Quickly I get them clean, and I’m placing the final glass in the strainer when he painfully grabs my arm, spinning me around until he’s in my face.
“Christ, what is it gonna take for you to get that I’m the one in charge here? You do what I say, when I say it. Got it, bitch?”
“Got it,” I repeat, brushing away the tears on my cheeks.
“You disgust me.”
Roughly shoving me back, he places his empty glass in the sink, and I force myself to say the words that cause me more pain than his hands just did.
“My mom died.”
Looking over his shoulder, he trains his eyes on me. I somehow hope he’ll show me sympathy. Maybe an ounce of love. The twenty-year-old Graham I fell in love with would have, but this man in front of me is a stranger. And his answer only wounds me further.
“So fucking what?”
My eyes close at his words, the pain searing through my heart. His footsteps echo through the house as he moves upstairs, leaving me alone with my grief.
Dropping to my knees in the middle of the kitchen floor, I sob loudly, never feeling more alone or broken.
My life will never be the same. And I have no idea how I’m going to continue on.