The weather is quite clement, it’s not too hot nor is it too cold. Ebony sits on the back balcony soaking up the warm rays of sunshine that descend upon her. She raises her pale face to the clear sky above and inhales deeply, causing the neighbours freshly cut grass to tickle her nostrils. Brax and Lehanna are running around the backyard playing Zombie Tag, a game Brax made up himself. Their delightful little screams and playful banter are music to her ears and it’s blissfully over-riding the echoes of her and Brad’s argument last night. He came home just before midnight heavily intoxicated and demanded more money. When she gently refused and told him she had no more to give, he burnt up like a heated butcher’s knife. “Bullshit! You have money hidden all over this house, so where is it?” he fumed. “I don’t have any more just so you can drink it down the drain. We have bills due and—” "Bills?” he snapped, cutting her off short. “You seem to have them every bloody week! I’m sure they can wait one more week, right? Besides, it’s the least you can do considering I put up with you all the time.” Ebony flinched as if his harsh words slapped her in the face. “Put up with me? You have to be home to do that and you barely are these days! I’m sorry, but I can’t help you again tonight. Now if you don’t mind, I am tired and would like to get some sleep.” Brad inhaled so hard and fast he almost snorted. “You are nothing but a selfish bitch, Ebony. Go back to what you’re good at and that’s being a loner with no friends. You my love, are pathetic.” Ebony held her hurt eyes on his burning gaze. “If that is what you think of me Brad, fine. Don’t come back here until you are sober and well and truly clear headed,” she said quietly. She fixed herself under the covers and turned away from him. She felt his lingering presence for a few moments before she finally heard his heavy footsteps fading down the hall. The front door slammed so hard it not only shook every window pane in her tiny house but also rattled her heart.
Brad never used to be hot headed and hard hearted as he is now. They met six years ago at a friend’s barbecue and as soon as they locked eyes, fireworks set off between them. He flew in, his small green eyes full of pleasure and introduced himself. “Hey, I’m Brad,” he said. “I couldn’t help notice you and couldn’t resist coming over and saying hi.” “Hi, I’m Ebony. It’s nice to meet you,” she said quietly. He tilted his head. “You’re a shy girl, aren’t you?” “Yes, kind of. How did you guess?” “I don’t know. Maybe it’s the innocence reflecting from your eyes.” Ebonies cheeks heated up. Brad chuckled. “That’s cute. Have you been in Springbrook long? I haven’t seen you around town before.” “I’ve been here two years. How about you?” “I was born and raised here. Hey, are you here with anyone?” Ebony nodded. “Yes, I’m here with Taya and Ray. I think she knows your friend Daniel?" “Ray does, yes. But what I meant is, are you here with a boyfriend?” “Oh no, I don’t have a boyfriend.” “Great! Listen, I have to head off. Do you want to catch up for a coffee sometime? I would really like to finish our conversation.” Ebony glanced down at her toes, her cheeks burning red. Should she? She asked herself. He is coming across too confident and she’s worried it might clash with her shyness. “Well?” he asked, hopeful. Ebony glanced up at him. “Sure, why not?” They traded numbers and Brad thanked her, cast her a gracious smile and walked away, leaving Ebony confused yet curious. They became inseparable soon after and it didn’t take her long to fall for his sweet charms and gracious smile. Every weekend, he escorted her to dinner, the cinema and went to the trouble of setting up romantic picnics for her. He never failed to have a gift for her and over time she accumulated many pieces of jewellery, some being hand-made, love quote books, chocolates, flowers and lavender soaps. He treated Ebony like royalty and she thanked her lucky stars every night for her blessings. Taya, Ebonies best friend, was thrilled for her happiness and her heart burst with joy every time she saw Ebony and Brad together. Even though Taya was ecstatic for her friend, she was slightly envious and wished her partner Ray would shower her with the same kind of love and affection Brad poured into Ebony. Ebony and Taya have been friends for eight years now, they are more like sisters. A mutual friend introduced them and when Ebony had nowhere to go, Taya gladly took her in under her wing. Their friendship rapidly blossomed and they found fun in partying every weekend like it was a new religion. Even though Ebony was seventeen at the time, Taya had the right contacts who snuck Ebony into the clubs underage. If they weren’t out partying, they were mucking around at the gym and walking their neighbourhood late at night scaring poor innocent people in their homes. Fun was something they never lacked and Ebony often felt guilty with some of the mischief they got into while Taya never seemed to care. However, as soon as Ebony and Brad became serious, he distracted her with his full attention and before she knew it, he had well and truly steered her away from the life and freedom she had. After three months, Brad suggested they move in together and Ebony reluctantly agreed. They moved in with Brad’s mother until something more permanent came up. Ebony’s life dramatically changed and rather quickly. Before Ebony knew what was happening, she struggled to make plans with Taya. Brad couldn’t stand the thought of Ebony not being around him and Ebony believed it was the strength of love he has for her. He demanded every inch of attention and once they moved out of Gloria’s house and into their own, it only got worse. By then, Ebony was in too deep.
While she consumes all her time at home by keeping the house clean to his standards, raises the children on her own, supports them all physically and financially, works five nights a week and upholds all the responsibilities that is thrown their way, Brad is always out with his friends drinking, fishing and doing whatever else that pleases him. The very few times a week when he chooses to stay home for more than just a couple of hours, he tends to lock himself away in the bedroom and only makes his presence well known when he’s throwing criticism at her or the children. She and Brad have broken up a couple of times over their six year relationship but their break-ups never last more than a week. Brad always knew how to play with her heart strings and knew exactly what words to say to draw her back in. So far, he has succeeded every time. However, she does hope they will get their old love back one day. If it existed once, surely it can exist again.
It has now been twelve hours since Ebony last seen or heard from him and it worries her and relieves her. She checks the time on her phone and becomes conscious of how long she has been brooding over Brad and her past. She stands up with a long stretch and absorbs the sun’s rays as if it will give her the strength she needs. “Kids, come in for lunch now, please,” she calls. She makes them their favourite peanut butter sandwiches with a glass of orange juice and settles them in the lounge room to watch a movie. She makes herself a cup of coffee and relaxes in the front room to catch up on some reading but the words are a blur and the harder she tries concentrating, the more her eyes wander off the pages. Ebony gives up and places her book on the side table next to her untouched coffee. She sucks in a shallow breath and slowly lifts the front of her tee-shirt. Her bruised right rib is now a nightmarish black with deep red and purple splotches around the outer edges. She gently traces her forefinger along the tender sides of her rib and gasps as sharp pain sets in. She drops her shirt in shame and blinks away tears. It is a painful reminder of who is in charge and a harsh reminder to never speak out of turn even if she is defending her own honour. She and Brad do love each other under the cracked surface, but they go the extra lengths to hurt one another. Every day she wonders how much more she can take and if the love for Brad isn't worth fighting for freedom.