Friday night couldn’t have come quick enough. All I could think about all day at work was my date with Richard. Everyone was surprised at my cheerful good mood. I even got t0 work early that day, and I could hardly keep my eye off the clock. I hurried through everything so I could go home and cook dinner for the kids.
We blew through dinner and then hurried to get everything cleaned up. The boy’s were curious and wanted to know why I was smiling so much. I went into my closet and got out some dresses I hadn’t worn in while and tried them on. Jaden knocked at my door to complain that Junior was bugging him; they both came into the room and stared at me curiously as I held the dresses still on their hangers to my chest one by one patting, smoothing and evaluating them in the mirror. Those clothes had been stored away for so long they seemed unfamiliar to me; I came across dresses I didn’t even know I had. I begged for the boys’ opinions but Jaden just flopped down on the bed and played his video game. J.J was curious though, and wanted to know what I was up to. I had a lovely red knee length dress, I wore it to a party once, but this seemed like the perfect occasion to wear it again.
I got out of the shower dripping wet and stood in front of my full length mirror. I hadn’t been with a man since Joseph and I split. I wondered what it would be like to once again feel a man’s warm touch.
My hands moved slowly down my body to my hips where a few stretch marks were visible, then back to my breast, that are not as high or full as they were before I had the kids. Could I still satisfy a man, would I be good enough? At least my skin till looked good. My dark skin tone complemented my red dress perfectly. That I felt good about. I pulled back my shoulder length curly black hair into a messy bun, and slipped on a pair of silver sling back pumps and my look was complete. I hoped for more than just “you look ok mom.” But that’s all Jaden had to offer.
“Mommy, dad’s gonna think you look pretty too!” Junior said smiling, the words hit my ears like a missile. I slammed the earrings down on the table and walked over to the bed and grabbed him by the shoulders and brought him up to my face and shook him.
“Joseph Junior don’t you ever speak about your father to me again!” I screamed. I felt tremors running through my body. The small beads of tears running down my son’s cheeks snapped me back to reality. My grip loosened and he fell on the bed sniffing and sobbing. Jaden’s wide eyes were fixed on me. He got up and went after Junior as he stormed out the door. I went to see how they were doing. Junior was still crying wildly as Jaden tried to comfort him.
I didn’t try to hold back the tears as I apologize, but then Helen arrived to pick them up. She was excited to keep the kids for a few hours so I could take a “breather” as she called it.
“Do you have everything you need? Emergency numbers, the number for the restaurant, my cell nu...?” She stopped me before I could continue.
“Will you quit your worrying and go have some fun. I have everything under control.” She noticed the tension between the boys and me, but said nothing. I kissed them goodbye, and promised that we’d talk about it when I got back.
I went back to my apartment to wait for Richard and wondered whether I should bother with the date. Ten minutes later a knock at the door ended my chain of thought. He arrived with flowers in hand. “You look lovely.” Were his first words. His compliment was welcomed but got no reply.
Magic is not good enough to describe our date. I spent most of the night trying to remember how to be in the company of a man, but he was charm itself. We enjoyed each other’s company so much that time just slipped by. I had to called Helen to let her know that I was going to be late, but she offered to let the kids stay over for the night. He protested that the night could not end unless we went for a walk on the bay. I was willing to do anything to enjoy his company a bit more so I agreed. I had never seen the late night side of Northridge before because I hardly went out, and when I did, I never stayed out late. When we got back, the place looked like one of those grey ghost towns you saw in movies.
We sat in the car for about seven awkward minutes, trying to end our amazing night. Finally, I just looked at him, smiled, and then left the car. I entered my apartment smiling from ear to ear, I threw my bag on the floor and then threw my back against the door. There was a sound in the living room. I walked slowly through the dark hallway to the living room. As I flipped the switch and the lights flooded my apartment, my heart stopped and a huge lump swelled in my throat. I stood frozen like a deer in head lights.
The man sitting in my lazy boy, set a dripping cup of gin on the rocks on the side table next to the chair and stood slowly, glaring into my eyes. “Joseph” I stuttered his name.
“Wow,” he snorted a giggle. “Karen, you look lovely. You’re just as beautiful as the day you ripped me away from my kids. Did you have fun on your date tonight?”
Air caught in my lungs and pushed a hard lump in my throat. I swallowed hard, and stepped back slowly with my eyes fixed on him “What are you doing here, how did you get in?” Visible tremors rocked my body.
“I thought you would be happy to see me, that’s no way to greet your husband after so much time apart.” I turned, fist pumping I started in a run towards the door. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my scalp like someone grabbed a handful or my hair and yanked it out with brutal force. My feet flew into the air as I slammed to the floor. He slammed the door shut and came toward me. I got up and ran to my bedroom and shut the door. The door knob jiggled violently as he tried to force the door open. I opened the window and screamed for help. I heard the wood creaking as he tried to break it in.
“Karen I just want to talk.” He said gently, but I screamed even more. “Open this damn door Karen!”
After our divorce we had to run away several times to get away from him, but he always found us and each time he did, there was physical confrontation, and I never won. Either I was rescued by the police or a neighbor. He always managed to slip the cops, but they finally caught him and locked him in that mental facility. Now he was back again. I knew there was no way he just wanted to talk.
I looked around the room for a weapon to defend myself with. On my bookshelf was a polished porcelain statue of a colonial lady, a present from my eldest son. I grabbed it and armed myself. The door jams shattered to pieces as he delivered the final blow. My eyes widened, my heart danced a familiar dance as he stepped trampled the broken door and entered the room. The dull light from the window illuminated the room and cast a faint shadow in front of him. My sweaty palms grip tightly around the object in my hand. He said nothing as he gradually came closer, putting one foot in front of the other. Mimicking his steps I place one foot behind until I was backed up against the night stand. He held onto the figurine. I applied some force, but he yanked it from my hand and threw it to the floor.
“I told you, I just wanted to talk.” he whispered. His chest was pressed against mine. I leaned back trying to put space between us. Both my hands gripped the edge of the table. I was almost sitting on top of it. The lamp toppled over and fell and shattered; I flinched at the sound as a flood of heat filled my abdomen, and then made its way up to my throat.
“Where are my children?” he asked softly. He held me by the shoulders and brought me closer to his face. I struggled in his arms.
“Where are they?” he asked forcefully, pronouncing each word, separately. When he got no answer, he threw me to the ground and pinned me. As I struggled beneath his weight, he wrapped his hands around my throat. With one arm, I grabbed onto his hand, while the other searched the floor for the statue. I got hold of it and hit him across the head. He fell beside me, and rolled over moaning. I got up and looked at him lying on the floor. I staggered across the room, and went out into the hallway gasping wildly trying to catch my breath. I was disoriented.
I closed my eyes for a moment, and shook my head to clear up the fogginess. I made it the kitchen still struggling to catch my breath. I reached for the phone but it was swatted away before my fingers could touch it. He was standing behind me wearing a cruel smile.
“You really hurt me Karen.” He rubbed the spot where I hit him, and wiped the blood from his fingers unto his jacket. He backed me into a corner. I stood there with my back pressed up against the wall he paced the floor in front of me, teasing me like a cat toying with a captured mouse. I looked for every possible route to get around him, but he was quick.
“Don’t do this Joseph, think about our children.” He laughed, and came closer to me. His expression changed dramatically.
“Did you think about our kids when you ripped our family apart?” His grip tightened around my arms as he pulled me in to him. Then thrust me to the ground.
“I should have gotten rid of you when I had the chance. You’re a horrible wife. You don’t know how to obey one simple command or take care of a family. I wasted too much time on you. But you can make this right, get the kids and let’s start over.”
“I’d rather die than come back to you.” I said lying on the ground.
“Is that a request? I can handle that. I’m going to make you suffer.”
I knew what would come next. I face several beating like this one before. He hoisted his leg to deliver a kick to my side, but I shifted. He lost his balance and toppled over. I wasted no time in getting to my feet and finding the door.
My feet slapped the cold asphalt as I ran along the street screaming for help, but all the shops and stores were closed. My neighbors slept like rocks, because I saw not one light come on in any of the other apartments. I looked over my shoulder and saw that he was chasing me.
“How long do you plan to keep this up Karen? There’s no escaping from me!” As I came around the corner still looking over my shoulder, I heard the screeching of tires, and then turned to face the blinding glare from a pair of headlights. The car came to a screeching halt as I ran straight into it and rolled across the bonnet.
“Oh my God! Are you all right?” I lay on the ground pulsing all over with pain, then I was help to my feet by Richard.
“Karen? Are you okay, what’s going on?”
“Help me! You have to help me get out of here.”
“Okay, okay but tell me what’s happening.” I looked up and saw Joseph running toward us.
“Come on let’s go we have to get out of here!” We got into the car and drove off. Joseph kept running after the car, but quickly gave up.