Josh came home after the party as if he had done nothing wrong. He hardly noticed that my ankle was bandaged and that suited me just fine. I didn’t need any of his fake sympathy and quite frankly I just didn’t want him near me at all. I spent the days following acting like the perfect wife and like I still couldn’t remember anything but it was getting more difficult by the day. I hadn’t been able to see Ann yet like I had planned, but I made a point of going to see her soon. I needed to talk to her and tell her all about what had happened and tell her that I had my memory back. It felt like so much had happened and yet only a few days had passed. Every time Josh came near me my skin crawled as I remembered what he had done to me. I kept seeing him standing over me, hurting me and yelling at me. I knew Josh hated me and that he was just playing nice to save his own skin. I also hadn’t seen or heard from Caleb after the party either so I just assumed that chapter of my life has closed for the moment. I didn’t leave the house at all for about a week to allow my ankle and head to heal and since Josh didn’t want me speaking to Ann I couldn’t just invite her over for a cup of tea. I messaged Ann when Josh was not around and filled her in on what happened. I told her about Caleb’s sudden departure and she felt certain that he was following up on a lead.
I took full advantage of the fact that Josh was pretending to love and care for me for as long as I possibly could. It gave me the time I needed to construct my plan on how to prove what Josh did without raising suspicion. I didn’t quite know where to start and felt desperate to see Ann and not just talk to her over the phone.
After my week at home was up and my ankle was feeling better I could almost walk normally again so I decided it was time to go and see Ann. It felt like I haven’t seen her in ages and I headed for the door feeling excited to see her but I opened the door to leave when I walked right into Chloe. It didn’t look like she was planning on knocking and looked surprised when I opened the door. Her eyes were wide and she looked pale, like she was feeling sick. ‘Uh, hi’ I said feeling just as surprised as she looked. ‘We need to talk’ she said and waited for me to let her in. I stood there for a minute staring at her as all I could think about when I saw her was the fact that she was sleeping with my husband. ‘Oh right, sorry’ I said and stepped aside for her to enter the house. Chloe went straight to the couch and sat down. She really didn’t look good and I was afraid of sitting close to her. I didn’t want to catch what she had, so I remained standing by the door. ‘Going somewhere’? She asked looking at the car key in my hand. I looked down and played it off as nothing by saying ‘yes, just wanted to get of the house for a bit. You wanted to talk’? Chloe started bouncing her leg up and down as her nerves took over so I decided to help her out. ‘If you’re going to tell me you are screwing Josh, I know, you don’t have to tell me, I remember’. I didn’t think it was possible for her eyes to go any wider but they did and I was afraid they would fall out. Chloe flew up looking a little green and ran for the bathroom. She threw up very loudly which made me feel uncomfortable to say the least then she came out looking like a train ran over her. Her hair which was usually neatly done had points hanging out everywhere and she had dark bags under her eyes. I motioned for her to sit and got her some water. Even though she had hurt me I still cared deeply for her and didn’t like when she was feeling sick but for now I did only the bare minimum so that she would think I couldn’t care less.
Chloe burst out in tears and asked me ‘How did you know’? ‘I am his wife, I know my husband. I know he calls you when he thinks I am asleep and come on Chloe, I found your freaking panty behind the cupboard. Did you really think I was dumb enough to believe Josh’s excuse that you brought it for me and it just happened tom fall in there all by itself? The only thing you’ve ever brought me was wine which you drank out every time’ I said looking at her with disdain. ‘But your memory’ she said. How do you even remember anything with the strong medication you are on’? She asked and I could see realization dawning on her when she said ‘You are not taking your medication anymore are you’? ‘Well there goes my secret’ I thought to myself. ‘You’ll have to prove that’ I said to her feeling turmoil inside as I knew that if Josh knew my secret I was dead. ‘I’m not here to criticize or expose you’ Chloe said looking like she was going to throw up again and then it dawned on me ‘you’re pregnant’! I said like I had just figured out a mathematical quiz.
My comment must have sent her over the edge as she had to run for the toilet again. I walked after her this time and stood outside the door while she was heaving. ‘Just don’t block my toilet’ I said sarcastically. Chloe finished and turned to look at me. ‘What a sad sight’ I thought to myself and spoke before I could stop myself ‘Look at you. You screw my husband behind my back and think I’m dumb enough to believe your façade and then you come into my house expecting me to what? Forgive you? Help you? You are just sad you know that’? I spat the last words at her and she started crying even louder. I rolled my eyes at her and turned to walk away when Chloe latched herself on to my hand. ‘Please Liz, I need you right now, please don’t be a bitch’ she pleaded.
I felt anger inside me that I haven’t felt in many years. I have behaved and kept quiet and felt scared and cried for long enough. It was time for me to let something out and unfortunately Chloe was in the line of fire right now so I let her have everything I had to offer. ‘Me, I’m the bitch now? You stood next to Josh while I was dragged away to an insane asylum holding his hand, clearly showing me where your loyalties lie. Then you didn’t visit me once and pretended to be my best friend again when I was released because you knew I couldn’t remember anything and I was tame enough to believe any bullshit you fed me. You came over to my house for weeks pretending to be my friend while screwing him behind my back and now that your bad decision has bit you in the ass, now you need my help? Who do you think you are standing there telling me I am a bitch’? I yelled at her, not concerned if I hurt her anymore. My heart was in pieces and I needed to get everything I had bottled up for so long out of my system. Chloe reacted like I had shot her through the heart as she clearly hadn’t expected me to go off on her like that but I had enough. She started stuttering over her words and threw up some more.
I stood looking at her and just shook my head. I suddenly felt like a burden had been lifted off of my shoulders and my legs didn’t want to keep me up anymore. I slid down to the floor with my back against the bedroom cupboard door and just breathed. I had so much anger inside of me because of what Josh and Mindy and Chloe had put me through and this was the first time I released any of it. Chloe crawled over to me from the toilet and sat next to me on the floor. ‘I really am sorry’ she said out of breath from all the puking. ‘I didn’t know what kind of man he really was until now’. ‘What do you mean’? I asked her in a calm tone. While you were in Green Meadows Josh asked me to move in with him and I did. At first it was amazing and he treated me like a princess and then after a while he became distant and expected me to do everything for him like you do. He started asking more and more risky things of me sexually and even forced me to have sex with another woman while he filmed us’ she said. My blood ran cold as that was the exact thing he had done to Mindy and me. ‘At first I refused but he became violent and started strangling me yelling at me that he will end me like he ended you, which confused me because you weren’t dead. I was so afraid he would kill me so I did what he wanted but the next morning while he was still asleep I took my stuff and left as fast as I could’ she continued. ‘But you looked quite cozy with him when I got back’ I snapped at her. ‘Yes I know. After I left, Josh came and pleaded with me to come back and said that he would never do that to me again and he bought me expensive gifts and took me out and did stuff with me that I love, like taking me away for weekends to resorts. He even made love to me like a gentleman. He became the man I always dreamed about’. ‘Pity he is married to a lunatic in a nut house right’ I interrupted her and she continued as if I had not said anything. ‘He confessed to me that he paid someone in the institution to poison you but it failed and that he truly regretted doing it and that he was so glad that you were ok. At first I was shocked but he promised me that he had done it purely out of stupidity and that he would never hurt you or me again and then not long after that he told me that you were coming home as the doctor felt she could not help you any further and he had to look after you. She also said that your memory was blotchy as there was much you couldn’t remember which made him seem happy for some reason. So he asked me to move out so he can look after you’.
‘So you didn’t protest and declare your undying love to him then? You just accepted the fact that he tried to kill me and took his fake apology as a sign that he loved you’? I said sarcastically as the wheels in my head were turning and all the events from my time in Green Meadows started falling into place. ‘No I was so angry with him but he said that you know something about him and he has to protect his secret. He said it can ruin his whole life if you remembered it and you told it to the right people’ she said. ‘So what are you actually asking me here’? I asked her knowing where she was going with her conversation. ‘Do you remember what the secret is’? She asked. ‘So this whole conversation and acting like you care was all just so that you can find out what I can remember so you can what? Relieve Josh of his marital obligations to me’? I said in a harsh tone and flew to my feet. ‘Get out of my house you pregnant whore’! I yelled at Chloe and bent down and grabbed her by the arm. I yanked her to her feet and pushed her up against the cupboard by her throat. I squeezed my hand tightly and leaned in to her so my nose was almost touching hers and said ‘If you dare breathe a word of anything I said to you to Josh I will kill you with my bare hands’. Chloe’s face started turning red and I could see veins pop out on her forehead but I was so angry at her that I didn’t realize how hard I was pressing until she started gasping for air.
Realization hit me and I let go of her feeling stunned that I was able to manage something like that. I usually was a tame, placid person who stood back and let people walk all over me. I felt unrecognizable to myself at that moment and realized that something in me had changed since I was in the institution. I realized that my fear for Josh was busy fading slightly. I was still afraid of him but I felt empowered for some reason. I had an urge inside of me to defend myself and stand up for myself against the world. Chloe caught her breath while standing bent over and looked up at me with fear in her eyes. ‘Who are you’? She whispered and I said ‘I’m the person you are going to wish you had never screwed with’ and smiled to myself. That was quite a cool line to use. I looked at her and said in a menacing voice ‘I told you to get out didn’t I’? Chloe half ran half fell while going out the door and I stood looking at her receding figure feeling nothing for her.
After Chloe had left I almost ran out the door to go to Ann’s house. I really had so much to tell her now and I wasn’t willing to wait another second! I drove over the speed limit to get to Ann’s house and almost drifted into her driveway. My tires were screeching and I felt like something out of an action film. Ann came running out of her house to see what was happening and I hardly switched the car off as I flew out to greet her. She looked worried as she greeted me and I begged her to go inside so we could talk. Once inside we went to the kitchen where she put the kettle on to make us hot chocolate but I asked her for something a little stronger. ‘I’ll break out the wine’ she said and immediately took out a bottle of wine. She popped the cork and poured us both a big glass full. We went to the lounge and I took the bottle with me. ‘What’s going on’? She asked once we were seated. I started telling her everything that had happened with Chloe and she started laughing saying ‘I really wish I was there to see you beat her ass down. I’m impressed’. Then I moved to the masquerade party and told her about Caleb and she had a small smile on her face. ‘What’s the smile about’? I asked her which only made her smile even broader. ‘I’m so glad you remember him. I like him already and I don’t even know him yet’ she said and I tilted my head to one side. ‘Yet you say. What makes you think you’ll ever get to meet him’? I asked her and smiled back. ‘Well you never know. Now tell me more’ she said looking as if I was telling her she had won a million dollars. I continued and told her everything down to the last detail even though I had texted her some of what happened. I then told her that I knew who poisoned me in the institution and why and she said ‘Well if he hadn’t poisoned you I never would have met you so maybe that one worked out ok’. I was nodding as she spoke and I asked her ‘And how does that make you feel’? We both burst out laughing as it was my best impression of doctor Marshall I could do.
‘On a more serious note now’ Ann said when we could talk after laughing so hard ‘I think that you have some serious anger issues that you need to work through and get rid of somehow before you do something you regret’. ‘I know I do. I realized today that I hate Josh for what he has done to me and that I am so angry with all of them. Even Mindy. But how do I get it out without Josh knowing I have my memories back and then killing me because of it? I am so tired of being afraid of him’ I said and I could feel a hollow place in my stomach as my fear for him threatened to surface as I was not feeling so confident as I had when I left the house. ‘I keep myself all tough now but when he is in front of me I am so scared of what he will do to me. I have been spared for a while because Josh thinks if he treats me badly I will remember something and I will tell on him’ I said truly feeling discouraged. ‘I have no cards to play and no way to prove anything’ I continued. ‘I might have a solution for the anger issues’ Ann said. I lifted my eyebrows at her and waited for her to continue. ‘Come with self-defense classes with me. They teach you how to defend against an attack and how to get yourself out of situations. It’s also good to get rid of your anger’ she said. I thought about it for a moment and agreed to go with her in two days. I went home after spending about another hour with Ann feeling like I unloaded the world on her. It felt like I had hope and by empowering myself to be able to defend myself against Josh sounded like the greatest gift on earth. I needed to turn my fear for him into something more powerful and self-defense would do just fine.
When Josh arrived home I wasted no time and asked his permission if I may join the gym where the classes were given. As of late, Josh enjoyed going to the gym and he felt flattered that I also wanted to do something that he was doing. To him it seemed like I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I told him which gym I wanted to join and he was not happy. ‘Why do you want to gym there and not with me at my gym? I will be able to help you way more than any other gym’ He said sounding a little annoyed. I used doctor Marshall’s advice against him and said ‘Well it is a gym for women and being around other females will motivate me more than being around a load of men in your gym. Besides I don’t want to distract you because I am struggling and keep you from enjoying yourself. I would love to be as fit as you are’. I could see Josh thinking about what I had said and I felt surprised when he agreed and said that I could join the gym I wanted to join. Keeping up the façade I jumped up and hugged him tightly telling him that he was the best husband in the world. I could see that I had stroked his ego and that he let go of his controlling nature just a bit. ‘You need gym clothes’ Josh said as I was on my way to get my car keys to go and join the gym. I wasn’t planning on waiting until he changed his mind on the matter. ‘I’m coming with you’ he said and headed for the door. I froze for a second because I didn’t expect him to shop for clothes with me. I also realized that if he came with me and the guy at the gym said anything about the self-defense classes I was toast! I reluctantly followed Josh out the door and into the car knowing that I had no say in the matter. He drove to the shop where he picked out what I would be wearing to the gym and paid for it. He actually looked interested as he was talking non-stop in the car on our way to the gym but the closer we came the more nervous I became. Josh took my hand in his as we walked up the stairs to the gym and that caught me completely off guard. He actually looked sincere and I started wondering if I hadn’t been wrong about him and that maybe he really did care about me. There was a woman behind the counter as we walked in who helped us fill out forms and explained the rules and contract period to us. Josh obviously knew what he was doing as he nodded and looked happy with everything. I was flooded with relief when we were done and walked out of the building back to the car. The woman behind the counter said nothing of the classes they offer so my secret was still safe for now.
I felt excited to start the classes and to spend more time with Ann. She really inspired me to make something of myself. She had gone through difficult times too but she rose above her situation and defeated her opponent. I also wanted to get to a place where I could do the same. I needed to defeat Josh and show him that I was no longer a push over. I knew it would take a while before I could fully defend myself but at least I was starting somewhere. The thought of what I had done to Chloe was stuck in the back of my head. I felt empowered being able to choke her the way I did and I wanted more of what I had felt. I felt cautiously optimistic that she would not tell Josh what I had done to her or that I had all my memories back. I hoped that I had scared her enough to keep her quiet. But I wasn’t going to let that hold me back from what I needed in my life right now.
Two days later I was on my way to the gym dressed in a black three quarter pants and a tight purple and black top. Josh did a good job picking my outfit as he knew I loved the color purple. I met Ann outside the gym and gave her a tight hug. She was standing with three other women and she introduced us to each other. Meeting new people had me feeling nervous of what to expect when the class started but I wasn’t going to show them how I felt. I needed to look as confident as I felt but luckily with Ann by my side it was an easy feat. We were all called inside as the class was about to start. I drew in a deep breath and Ann tapped me on the back saying ‘you got this’ as we walked in. Once inside we went into a room with a large mat and were told to start jogging around the mat to warm up. We were then given stretching exercised to do while the instructor introduced herself as Ingrid and she continued telling us about what the core values of the class is all about and how it would help us in real life situations. It all sounded good to me and I couldn’t wait to get started. We were told to partner up and Ann and I stood in front of each other as there was no way I was going to allow any other woman throw me around. We started with basic maneuvers on how to get someone’s hand off of you when they are being forceful. Ann and I giggled a lot during the class as I got most of the moves wrong and ended up on my back tapping out. The instructor told me that she would let my giggling slide just once but from the next class I must take it more seriously as my life could depend on it. Her words hit home as I was reminded why I joined the class in the first place.
The class ended and I walked out with Ann. ‘I suck don’t I’? I said and I heard a few women start laughing. ‘No, you’re just new to it. Next class you need to bring your game face and show Ingrid how serious you are’ she said and stopped walking suddenly. I looked back at her and she ducked behind a wall. I walked back to her not knowing what was going on and she said softly but urgently while pointing like a maniac. ‘You’re husband is standing next to your car! He doesn’t want me around you remember, now go’! My throat felt constricted and my legs felt like jelly as I walked over to my car. Josh was standing with his hands in his pockets waiting for me. I tried looking happy to see him and smiled at him but the look in his eyes gave him away and I knew I had trouble. Without saying a word he walked to the driver side and waited for me to give him my keys, which I did obediently. He was quiet in the car and had a menacing look in his eyes which scared me. ‘I haven’t had enough classes to defend myself’ I thought to myself. My pulse was racing and I could feel my heart beating in my throat. Beads of sweat started forming on my brow but I was too afraid to wipe it away and show Josh how afraid I was. ‘Maybe he just had a bad day’ I tried to encourage myself but his whole demeanor told me that he knew something was going on.
We stopped at home and Josh just walked in leaving me to trail him into the house. Once inside he closed the door behind me and locked it. I took a deep, nervous breath and he spoke for the first time. He seemed on edge and I saw his fists curl at his sides which made me cringe on the inside. Gone was all the self-confidence I had felt earlier, it was now replaced by fear. ‘Nice class’? Josh asked me trying to control his tone. Unconsciously I started fiddling with my fingers in front of me and said ‘Yes thanks’. Josh turned his head to the side and I heard his bones popping in their sockets. ‘Got anything you wanna tell me’? He asked in a menacing voice. I tried pushing my fear down and replied ‘like what’? and Josh slammed his fist into the wall and said in a loud voice ‘don’t play games with me little girl, I know what you did to Chloe’! I felt my fear get the better of me and felt a hammer pounding away in my chest and my head. I kept quiet as I was afraid of making the situation worse than it already was. ‘She told me everything. She is expecting my child and you tried to strangle her to death’ he spat and I spoke before I could think. ‘Like you did to Mindy’ I said and regretted the words as they came out of my mouth as I had just given away all my cards.
I saw rage in Josh’s eyes as he flew into me throwing me up against a wall. Before I had a chance to react he had his hand wrapped around my throat and tried picking me up against the wall. He put his face in mine and spat as he said ‘You will die the same way she did’. Ingrid’s words came to mind just then ‘don’t be a victim’ and I decided that I was going to fight. I was not going to die as Mindy did. I was not going to die a victim. ‘No I’m not’ I said as I tried to breathe and tried to do a move that we learnt in class. If only I had concentrated instead of laughing with Ann I would have been able to get the move right but instead I only made Josh’s anger worse. I tried to hit Josh’s arm away from my throat so I can attempt the next move but he didn’t budge at all. Josh was too strong and he was busy squeezing the life out of me. My fight or flight reaction kicked in and I chose to go with fight as I had nowhere to flee to. I lifted my knee and kicked Josh in his manhood as hard as I possibly could. It worked and he let go of my throat for a second bending over in pain. I felt over confident just then as I attempted to kick him in the face but Josh was faster and stronger than I was and he picked me up and threw me across the room. He weighed in at about 140kg and I weighed 48kg so the chance I thought I had at beating him disappeared just there. I flew into a book case filled with glass ornaments crashing into it with my back first which took most of the impact. I was unable to move as soon as I hit the floor and knew I was dead. Josh picked me up by the hair and hit me in the face with his head and dropped me back to the floor. I was unable to feel my legs and the pain in my back was so severe that I felt like I was broken in half. I felt a stabbing pain in my stomach as Josh kicked me over and over until I started spitting up blood. He was yelling at me about how he was going to make sure I will never have kids if I am to survive the ordeal just like I had tried to kill his baby that Chloe was expecting. I was helpless and all I could do was lay there and take each punch and kick as they came.
My eyes were blurry and covered in blood from Josh hitting me with the head and I started wheezing as my chest felt as if it was closing up from the blows he was delivering. I heard a loud bang and then my ears rang so loudly that it hurt my head even more. I then saw Josh’s face in front of me on the floor, his eyes just staring at me and for a moment I was unable to comprehend what had just happened. He then moved away from me backwards but his body didn’t move itself. I felt confused at how he was doing that and what the motive behind it was until I saw the arm that moved him away from me. WTF written under each other came towards me with an open hand and then I saw Caleb’s face as he bent down next to me with his face millimeters away from mine. He whispered something in my ear and attempted to pick me up but I cried out in pain. I heard him asking someone if they had called an ambulance already and the voice that answered was Ann’s. I could barely make out what she said but I assumed it was along the lines of ‘Yes I did and they are almost here’. I lay on the floor coughing up blood, staining the tiles even darker than they already were. My chest hurt trying to breathe and I wheezed like someone with asthma. I felt Caleb’s hands over me examining my body for damages. It hurt everywhere and when he came to my back he went to sit behind me so he could have a better look. I was laying half on my side, half on my face so he didn’t need to turn me over to have a look. I felt his finger tips on my skin but my back felt hot and like I had a huge blister on my back. I heard him mumbling something to Ann and I tried to ask him what he had said but Ann said ‘shh’ in my ear. ‘Save your breath love’ I heard her saying as I started drifting out of consciousness. I heard Caleb’s voice as he said ‘Stay with me Liz, please stay awake’ and I put everything I could into not dying on my living room floor.
I heard the sound of sirens approaching and knew the ambulance was closing in. Caleb got up and ran outside telling Ann to keep me awake. Ann was crying with her head against mine, her tears falling on my cheek as she was holding my head in her hands. ‘Please stay with me’ she begged through her tears. ‘I need you’. I heard footsteps and voices that sounded like more than two people had entered the house. I felt Ann moving away from me as the paramedic came over to me to help me. He had a light that he shone in my eyes and started asking Caleb questions which he answered without hesitation. I heard the words fractured and broken before I lost consciousness again for a few seconds. I felt a hand patting me in the face telling me to stay awake but all I wanted to do was give in and let go. The pain I was in was indescribable and dying felt like the better option at that stage as in death there would be no more pain. I opened my blurry eyes as I was loaded on a stretcher and looked over to where Josh was. He was laying oddly still for someone who had just rampaged all over me and I found it ironic how such a big angry man looked so small and harmless laying there in blood. I felt unsure of whose blood he was laying in and at that moment I couldn’t care less. I was taken outside to the ambulance with Ann walking next to me and Caleb helping the paramedic load me in. I heard Caleb tell Ann to go to hospital with me as he had to stay at the house. I felt Ann getting into the ambulance and heard the doors shutting at my feet. I felt the engine roar to life and felt a rocking motion as we were on our way to hospital. Ann was holding my hand all the way and she tried her best not to cry as she had done at the house. She kept stroking my hair and saying ‘It’s over now, he can’t hurt you anymore love’. I found her voice comforting as I closed my eyes in the ambulance and gave in to the inevitable. I felt my heart slowing down and my breathing becoming strained. My whole body felt so heavy as if it would drop right through the ambulance floor onto the tar road we were driving on. My ears started ringing and my eyes were rolling in their sockets as my body was convulsing. I could barely hear Ann screaming next to me to wake up as by now as I was too far gone. I slowly drifted away as the ambulance was rocking me to sleep, an eternal sleep that I would not be able to wake up from again. My luck had finally run out.