“Chin up,” she would say to her reflection, fighting the tremors that wracked through her body and the tears that threatened to spill. Her children would peek from behind the door and noticing them she would steady herself, put on a cheery facade and together they would set about their day.
The promise “Till death do us part” is what chained her down. Getting married, settling down, being a good housewife; no one warned her of the horrors that were to follow and of the monsters that hid in his closet. Her children’s bodies too small, they could only look on helplessly as every day their mother’s walls cracked and crumbled beneath his blows.
He was an adult who knew to communicate only through fists. Even though the next day he would claim that he was out of his senses, his blows would hit with precision, in places that didn’t show: the stomach, the legs, the back. After all, he was a working man. No “respectable” man would resort to violence.
When morning came, the sound of apologies would drown out the singing of birds. Ashamed at his creations, “Surely,” he would think, “I could not have done that.” The night already an afterthought, he would put his jacket on and go to the office. With his shadow gone, they would let out sighs of relief.
When the sunset, time slowed again and they would wait in fear. The stench of alcohol and cigarette smoke would waft through the house and they knew the demons were not far behind. They learnt that nightmares did not come only when they slept and the bogeyman wasn’t the scariest phantom of the night. The sun would rise and the shadows would fade away. The working man would put on his mask and get a brand-new start to a brand-new day. Come night, and another game of Russian roulette would follow— any word or sentence could be the trigger that set him off.
As the men worked, the women would gather. Her family and friends, averting their eyes, would become experts on the weather. They would offer their advice, like meaningless mantras, hoping it would lessen their guilt. “It will get better”, “He’s going through something”, “Have patience”, “We’re here if you need us”. Yet no one stayed after sunset.
Gradually, even the days stopped bringing escape. Scared to stay but too scared to leave, she was stuck between a nightmare and the unknown. He convinced her that she would die on the streets without him. Was that really what she wanted for their children?
Every night she would crawl into bed broken and curl up around her children to remind herself God still existed. Each day she would put on her mask and set about her duties, but you can only stretch something so thin until it finally snaps back. Maybe it was flash of courage or maybe it was desperation that finally pushed her to the edge. On a day that was no different from any other, she put on her shoes worn with wear, took her children and ran.
They never looked back.
At that moment they knew that they didn’t have to wait for a hero to come to save them since there was one all along. Together, they have made it farther than they dared to dream, crossed skies and oceans to find their silver lining.
They’re still a long way off from a happy ending.
Dealing with the aftermath of abuse, their emotions can sometimes engulf them and when it does, they look at their scars to remind themselves that every nightmare ends as long as they dare to wake up.
Written by Nicole Mary Swer for MTTN
Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN
Featured image by The Daily Californian
Artwork by Freepik