Start to Finish

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic


Elizabeth never signed up for a marriage of feeling trapped. She never knew the wicked love of her husband. Will she ever know freedom?

Submitted: August 12, 2018

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Submitted: August 12, 2018

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It was quiet. I could hear the rustle of animals outside. Birds, rabbits, squirrels… I could feel their life force. Their energy.

Wind rustled amongst the leaves. The branches shook and quivered. They too were alive and bright.

My eyes peer through the glass pane. Trapped in my own home. A prisoner. No one would know it. Fake smiles come easy.

Of course, not all smiles are fake. I have friends who honestly care. I believe, anyway. Yet I can’t tell them the truth either. No one can know. Ever.

“Still staring out there?”

I turn to face my captor. He smiles at me and leans in for a kiss. Our lips meet and I hold my breath. He steps away and picks up his briefcase.

“I’ll be back at six-thirty,” he heads for the front door. “We won’t be dining alone. I’ll have two guests.”

“I see,” I nod slowly.

“Be good now,” he leaves.

I watch him pull out the driveway. He drives a sleek mustang. He’s so very proud of it. He always shows it off.

Once he’s out of sight I move to the kitchen. It’s eight in the morning. He’s back at…six thirty… that gives me eight and a half hours to prepare a meal. No. That’s wrong.

I have ten and a half. It will need to be perfect.

  • Clean the fine China
  • Find the best recipe
  • Cook food to perfection
  • Clean the entire house so it’s spotless
  • Do the laundry
  • Mend his clothing
  • Shower
  • Dress accordingly
  • Stay happy

It isn’t such a terrible list. If all goes well it’ll be a decent evening as well.

By the time I’m dressed for company it is quarter after six. Just the table needs to be set. I’m mid-place setting when the door opens. Fear rolls through the blood in my veins.

“You’re home early,” I try not to sound accusatory.

“Good traffic,” he glances at the table as the door shuts. “Didn’t have enough time?”

“I’m sorry,” I try to hurry. “I wanted it to be perfect. I know how you like it.”

“Mm,” he nods and strides over. “I’m even more impatient than I am a perfectionist. It had better be a very delicious meal.”

His hand, rough and large, grabs my chin. He pushes me toward the bedroom. He stops in the hallway as the doorbell chimes.

“We’ll discuss this later,” He whispers and turns on his heels.

I move quickly and finish the table. The oven timer beeps and I quickly shut it off. He glances at me before I open the oven door. Two strikes already. So, I open the over and pull out the roast.

Once everything is on serving trays I deliver it to the table. He’s entertaining his work friend in the living room. The man’s wife smiles at me.

“It looks amazing,” she offers me a glass of wine. “You must have spent all day on it.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” I smile for her. Another fake moment of happiness. I wonder if he’s slept with her yet.

“This is a beautiful home,” she goes on. “And Steven is a great guy, or so my husband says.”

“I’m very lucky,” I nod. “He’s a good provider.”

“Is the food done?” He comes over.

“Yes, just the way you like it,” I smile.

“Excellent,” he pulls a chair out. “Tina.”

His co-workers wife sits. He comes around to me and pulls a chair.

“Elizabeth,” he smiles, I know it isn’t sincere.

“Thank you,” I sit nervously.

Always so charming.

It proves to be a long night. They leave close to ten at night and I feel exhausted. Once the door is shut I begin places the dry dishes in their cabinet.

“It was a dry meal," he says gruffly.

“I added an extra portion of liquid,” I say.

“Excuses? Really?” He pulls open his tie. “Can’t you just accept your miserable failure gracefully?”

“I’m so sorry,” I close the cabinet with a wince.

“You should be sorry,” he takes a hold of my hair and yanks. “That was at least five tonight.”

“I-“

“Let’s get this over with,” he pulls.

I bite my tongue to hold back a squeak. He drags me all the way to the bedroom and shuts the door. I sit on the floor by the bed. I know the routine.

“I’d rather not destroy that dress – I paid good money for it,” he opens the closet.

I unzip the dress, hands trembling. I slip it over my shoulders. Once I place it on the edge of the bed he pushes me forward. My hands slap the hardwood floor.

“You know I don’t enjoy this,” he says.

Those words he speaks every time. If it were true; why would he still do this?

The buckle hits my back. I unintentionally recoil and he clicks his tongue. My body flinches and shivers.

“Stay still,” he warns.

He strikes again. And again. Until I’ve been struck five times. Body falling, I try to look through the window to the stars. How I’d love to be one of them.

“Perhaps a shower and then bed, I expect you’ll have shaved?”

“Of course,” I say robotically.

“Good,” he pulls off his shirt quickly.

It’s nearly eleven by the time the lights are dimmed. He’s satisfied and I’m sore. He wraps me up as if nothing bad had happened. As if what’s happened is normal. As if I should think good of him.

In fact, I hate him. This man, if he could be called that, has stolen life from me. I could leave the house, but I could never escape. He would find me.

Even if I had a place to go I couldn’t stay for long. They would give me back to him. They all know I’m his property. Not his wife.

My few close friends, those who care, would attempt to save me. But in the struggle to protect me they would be hurt. So, I would return to spare them. And I would suffer wrath like nothing before.

So, I curl up closer and try to forget. Because, sometimes the monsters we appease are better than the ghosts we’d turn into.

Life goes on. I watch the sun rise and set. It’s the same routine every day. Shower, breakfast, clean, shower, dress, cook dinner, clean the dishes, wait for him to call me for whatever he needs. The same thing. Over and over and over again.

One spill. A lash from a belt.

One incorrect word. A stomp from his boot.

Wrong shade of lipstick. A slap across the face.

Every day I walk on eggshells trying to appease him. Trying to calm him. Trying to make him happy. I feel weaker and weaker with each passing moment. He’ll kill me one day. Whether I do it or he does.

Finally, as the sun peaks into the room I crawl out of bed and move to the bathroom. The mirror shows me the bruises. I don’t think I’ve ever not had a bruise. Belt buckle. Whip marks. Shoe treads.

A deep breath, move along. Quick shower, dress quietly, make breakfast.

“Smells like bacon,” he comes around the corner into the kitchen. “What about my cholesterol?”

“Are you…” I look at him, he’s grinning. “Did you just make a joke?”

His eyes glitter, a speck of the man I knew before I signed a marriage certificate. The sweet nothings. The small jokes. The genuine smile.

“Would you like to go out for supper?”

We haven’t gone out in over a year. Together, I mean. He has plenty of nights out on his own. I could never dream of such a chance.

“Yes,” I say, my hopes rising.

“Good,” he takes his plate. “Better decide where you want to go.”

He sits at the table. I sit across from him. I quietly eye him as he eats. There’s a pep in his actions. A small grin.

I haven’t seen this in such a long time.

“How has work been going?” I dare ask.

“Good,” he nods. “You know, we haven’t talked in a long time.”

“No,” I agree. “I wish things were how they were at the beginning.”

His eyes turn to upward. No rage, instead, sadness has taken its place.

“So do I.”

His time passes quickly and soon he’s out the door. I watch him leave the driveway. Just like always. But today feels different. It’s how it should be. It was sweet, it was gentle.

I clean the house and shower and wait. I feel excited for the first time since we married. I feel giddy. Like that girl who waited anxiously for his call. Who stayed up until midnight just to say hello to him.

Finally, he comes home. He is still in a decent mood. I breathe in relief.

“Do you still want to go out?” I ask hopefully.

“Sure,” he nods. “Let’s go.”

I put my coat on, grab my purse and exit the house. He steps out and locks the door. I breathe in the fresh air. I feel almost free.

“Was work okay?” I take in his tired stance.

“It was fine,” he opens the car door. “Come on, I’m hungry.”

“Sorry,” I hurry to get in.

It seems his good mood was short-lived. Did he mean what he said this morning?

The restaurant is packed and he’s upset I didn’t think to get reservations. After a two hour night we’re home and he sighs.

The car is still running; lights hit the front of the house.

“How do we fix us?” I ask.

“You think I have a problem?”

“I think we have a problem,” this boldness is unlike me. Maybe the me before the present me.

“After everything I’ve given you…”

He grips the wheel until his knuckles, fingers, hands are white.

“And you want to do what? See a therapist?”

“Yes, or a councilor, or someone, we both should.”

“You want to spend my hard-earned money on that hocus-pocus hewey?”

“It’s a respected profession for a reason.”

“So are mediums.”

“I don’t know if I’d call it respected necessarily.”

“You just don’t get it – I do everything for you. I provide, I care for you, I clothe you… I teach you…all I ask for is… that you try. Good meals after a long day, good sex life, look nice for me, keep this home clean. All of these I give to you, all I want is for it to be maintained well.”

“I do, but,” I pause, trying not to raise my voice. “Nothing is good enough. You aren’t who I married anymore.”

“Elizabeth, this was always me,” he turns the ignition off. “You chose not to see it. Or you did and knew it was what you needed.”

“You have provided beautiful objects; but not a beautiful life,” I feel tears well up in my eyes as the person I once was begins to emerge.

He opens the car door and slides out. He slams it shut and heads for the house.

Fear paralyzes me. I don’t want to go inside. If I allow him – that means I’ve lost this battle and maybe that he was right.

If I fight back then he’ll make it worse. It’s going to be more brutal. He’ll drown me and bring me back to the living. He’ll leave marks on me again. From his belt and his shoes and maybe his fists.

I feel tears roll down my cheeks. They gather at the chin before falling off. My heart bleeds agony. What lies have I told myself to get me here?

What a disaster. My marriage was over long before tonight. I’m not sure it was a marriage. But now it feels really gone. Why did I let this become my life?

My eyes turn to a cat creeping along the front lawn. It’s hunting. It’s hiding. It’s giant, button eyes see me looking at it. It pauses mid-step, paw frozen in the air.

It’s stealthy. At the ready to pounce or run, as needed. It’s ready for anything. It’s cautious, but it knows when to strike. It knows how to strike.

I should be like a cat. Wait. Be ready. Strike.

I open the car door and step out. The cat takes off in a flash. Once inside, I see a mess he’s made. A mess I’m meant to clean up.

Be bold, I tell myself. I pick up a few of the items and place them in the garbage. He steps into the dining room. His belt is in his hand. Not the routine tonight.

He strides toward me and lashes it across my face. Hard. I feel the sting and fall to the floor. Curled in a ball he strikes repeatedly until he is out of breath. My body is left with no energy. I feel the physical pain and the emotional pain.

I feel the spiritual pain as he walks away. His shoulders sway proudly as he vanishes. My eyes shut. I can’t get up today.

Be bold.

I hear the bedroom door slam shut. He’s putting me out here for the night. I rest before pushing myself up. I move to the living room and sit.

My hands grip the cushions. My eyes look about the room. Flat screen television, recliners, couch, oak mantle, matching oak coffee table, large paintings… he chose all of it. I don’t think he even asked me.

This isn’t my home. It’s his.

Be bold.

I quietly head for the door. My body shakes. If he finds me…

I change shoes. I put on a jacket. I grab my purse. I grab the spare car key.

He can’t find me… ever.

I step into the cold air. An owl speaks. Now, where do I go?

My heart is screaming. My body is quivering because of fear.

Fear induced by him. Fear caused by the unknown. Fear because I don’t know anything.

But I can do this. I need to go. I need to escape. I remove the wedding band and place it in the mailbox. Ignore the fear. Drive away.

Start again…at the finish of one chapter.


© Copyright 2018 Jennifer J. Lacelle. All rights reserved.

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