Eve wiped the tears from her flushed cheek. Her hand was shaky, her pulse racing, her eye throbbing with pain from the recent blow. She reached out to grip the doorknob. The door was locked. Of course it was. He meant to punish her, restrain her, cage her, keep her under control. She was once a free bird, soaring in the wind, full of life, love, excitement, joy. Now, her wings were broken, smashed against the cold metal of her metaphorical cage.
She sank to the floor by the bed, the soft carpet cushioning her bruised thigh. She could still feel the sting of the golf clubs metal stem as it ricocheted off her femur. The pain was all too familiar now, it was part of her, melting into her like a second skin. But the pain in her body could not compare to the agony in her heart. Her heart that once beat passionately and boldly for the one that held it close to his own. The one she’d freely and willingly given it to when she believed his love was pure. Now, her heart beat slower, like the repetitive tick of a broken clock. Darkness invaded all the spaces, wrapping its tentacles around her soul.
Once upon a time, he had been so kind, so loving and thoughtful. They seemed to have so much in common and they were happy, or so she thought. The changes came gradually over time, a harsh word here or there, a put down followed by a heart-felt apology. Then things started to get broken, fists and boots went through walls and doors, threats were thrown that it would be her face next time, followed by promises to never do it again.
Things settled down for a few years when Eve was pregnant and caring for two little ones. She’d learnt to keep her thoughts and opinions to herself, becoming withdrawn and silent, meticulously choosing actions and words that served to keep the storms at bay. She found compensation for her loneliness by focusing her love and energy on her children.
They brought her joy for a time, but the hollowness of feeling alone, abandoned and used, made that joy fleeting. She loved her daughters with all her heart, but her heart was broken. Her mind was filled with despair, she despised her own being, for she could no longer force herself to submit for the sake of peace, to cower in the corner, to be a stepping stone beneath his feet.
His temper had returned with gale force 3 months back when she conveyed to him her intentions to leave. He’d refused to accommodate her request to take the girls and go quietly, installing a lock on the bedroom door. He took charge of the girl’s bedtimes, so Eve could no longer be alone with them, lest she turn them against him. He had his matron of a Mother come to stay and watch over Eve during the day while he worked. Her dark sullen eyes monitored her every move, squinting with suspicion whenever Eve would speak quietly to her own children.
The anger Eve held so tightly inside, for so many years, had caused her head to be forever spinning, her emotions on the edge of bursting forth, like the crashing of the waves on the rocky coastline. She looked down at the carpet beneath her palms, her blonde curls brushing against her tear-stained face, soaking up the wetness. She tasted the saltiness on her lips and after wiping her runny nose on the back of her sleeve, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
The anger she felt toward her situation, coupled with the frustration of her bridled assertiveness, tugged constantly at the fibres of her frayed heart. She felt numb, like nothing she cared about was important anymore. She just wanted to run, to disappear, to feel freedom in her spirit once again, to escape the torture in her mind that threatened to send her insane.
“Life is so short” she told herself “and I’ll be damned if I let him control my happiness for one more moment”. She launched herself onto her feet, ignoring the agony of each step, pushing through the pain to execute her brash plan. She took a roll of 20dollar notes from the top drawer of her dresser where she’d concealed them amongst her sanitary pads, knowing he’d never look there. She grabbed her coat from the wardrobe, pushed open the window and climbed out.
The pavement felt solid beneath her sandaled feet, each step further away felt lighter some how until she was almost floating. She boarded the bus and 20 minutes later was handing over the money to the Ferry’s ticket office salesman. He handed her the cardboard ticket, she clutched it tightly to her chest, now shrouded in the denim jacket she’d not worn since before they’d met. It had been her favourite, bought on her whirlwind trip around the U.S. with her best friend, accompanied only by there backpacks and adventurous spirits. She remembered the feeling of unreserved excitement at being away from home for the first time. Eighteen and ignorant to the world and its encumbrances, blissfully ignorant one would say.
Eve longed to reclaim that innocence, to wind back the clock and return to that moment and live there, forever unhindered. But reality slapped her in the face in the guise of a chilly ocean breeze as she stepped onto the ferry and made her way to the back deck. She grabbed hold of the cold rusty railing and fixed her eyes on the horizon where the sun was starting to kiss the waters edge. Golden hues faded into the pink strokes of the creator’s brush that filled the sky with glorious art work.
Eve breathed it in, the sights, the sounds, the smells of freedom. The world held beauty for her once again and there was excitement in the unknown, in the possibilities. Where would the wind take her, now that she was alone and free of responsibility and oppression? Her heart soared for the first time in years, but it couldn’t fly too high for there was a heaviness that pulled it back toward the earth.
She shut her eyelids and was met with 4 dazzling blue iris’s. Those of her daughters, lucky enough to inherit both her eyes and hair colour. Chloe’s hair was straighter though than Eve’s, and Mira’s grew in length faster than both of them combined. Eve smiled at the thought of their chubby little faces which reflected her own in small ways but held such individuality of their own. Her heart began to swell with love and affection as she remembered all they shared. The snuggles and kisses and warm embraces, the innocent little conversations and silly moments when they’d all lower their inhibitions and just enjoy the moment. When they were alone, they were in their own little world, a world without fear and apprehension
Eve realised that not only where they her whole world, but she was theirs. She imagined what life would be like for them if she was not there. There would be no rays of light to pierce the darkness, no branches of hope to hang on to, no place of refuge to weather the storm. They would slowly lose heart, their little lights would go out, their wings broken and bent against the cold metal of their captor’s cage. Their hearts would fill with bitterness and resentment toward her, toward the world and toward themselves. They’d be just like her. She felt sick at the realisation her choice would free one but enslave two. How could she choose such a thing? Her mission was clear, her life for theirs.
She opened her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the carpet beneath her palms. Thank God for her organised mindset. The one that always planned ahead, imagined the possible consequences and adjusted her path accordingly. If only she’d harnessed this part of herself when she was young, she may not have made the same mistakes. But maybe she would have! Love, or what we think love is, maybe it’s not love at all but infatuation, can make us abandon those useful parts of ourselves, to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Real love, the kind Eve had for her children, was the kind of love that rekindled her strength to think practically, reasonably and ultimately to choose between what is easiest and what is right.
She raised her face toward the locked door, a new resolve taking charge as she called upon another of her strengths, Perseverance. She raised herself up from the floor, taking up a perch on the edge of the bed. She wiped away the remains of her victim-hood, with a tissue from the box on the night stand and blew her nose, then sat patiently, waiting, thinking, planning carefully what she would say when he finally released her. She would apologise as usual, the well-rehearsed lines never seemed to get old with him, he would insist that he never wanted to hurt her, but she made him do it. She would promise to try harder not to push him, not to make him angry, not to go against him. She knew it would all only serve to pacify him for a few days, but a few days was better than nothing.
This time she would also say, it was all her fault, she knew she hadn’t been a good wife and she’d realised now how truly lucky she was to have him. She’d been a fool to even consider leaving. He’d break down in tears, swear to never hit her again and profess to love her till the day he died. She’d smile her fake smile, perfected from years of practice, never revealing the secret loathing she felt under the mask she wore. She’d go through the motions to reach temporary safety, to put peace back into their lives, however briefly.
Her plan worked perfectly and the next day he sent his mother home, promising to call immediately if he ever needed her again. Eve cringed as he bent over to kiss his Mother on the cheek, her black eyes staring right through her. Her dark hair, streaked with grey was done up so tightly in a bun atop her small head that it tugged at the corner of her eyes, giving an unnatural almond shape to them. She gripped her sons’ muscular arm tightly beneath her chubby wrinkled hand and whispered something in his ear that made him nod in agreement, then waved goodbye as she disappeared in the white taxi.
That night after Eve had tucked her girls into bed and covered them with butterfly kisses, she shut their bedroom door quietly and tip-toed into the loungeroom. She peered over the back of the couch at her husband, passed out drunk from his night out with the boys, his saliva drooling from his lower lip onto the faux leather surface, his snores, indication of the depth of his sleep. She carefully removed his wallet from the pocket of his jacket, thrown lazily on the floor in front of the couch, and removed a 20 dollar note.
She replaced the wallet in his jacket, gently lowered the throw rug from the nearby arm chair onto his long torso and retreated down the hall, stopping momentarily to check on the girls one more time. She smiled sincerely at the site of their sweet little faces, little angels with wings still intact, the light in their spirits still shining, the hope in their hearts still enabling joy. “Just a little longer” she whispered as though saying it out loud made it real.
She turned, entered her room and quietly opened the dresser drawer. Keeping her ears and eyes on the doorway, she quickly added the 20dollar note to the roll before returning it to its hiding place. She quietly shut the drawer and climbed into the large bed to spend another night alone. She slept well that night, peace comforting her heart for she truly believed that everything would be alright in the end.
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