If anyone had told her 3 years ago that she would be where she is now, Susan would not have believed it. As she watched the rain on the window obscure the passing scenery, her mind wandered. She wondered how her life had gotten so turned upside down. She had graduated in the top of her class with a degree in business management and with the letter of reference her professor had given her, she had immediately landed a job in one of the most prestigious firms in the country.
Susan had always been so focused on her career that she had little time for dating. She had been too busy climbing the corporate ladder. Until she had met Donald Murphy. She had gone alone to that birthday party for her boss because he had insisted that she come. She must have looked ripe for the picking, standing there all alone by the bar, feeling totally out of place, knowing that she didn’t belong there among the rich and famous that were attending the party. That’s where she had been introduced to Donald by one of the department managers who had no choice but to attend these functions.
Donald was handsome and charming and he had swept her off her feet. He had spent the better part of an hour talking to her, making her feel more relaxed than she had all night. They had danced a couple of times and it had surprised her that she had not stepped all over his feet, as she wasn’t a very good dancer, but he had made it feel so natural to be in his arms.
Before the night ended, he had asked her out for the following Friday night to go to the symphony, which was Susan’s passion. She had always loved music and had a secret yearning to learn to play the violin.
At first, Donald had been so charming and attentive and so very affectionate, which was something she had lacked and yearned for in her life growing up, after her parents had died.
They had dated regularly for over a year and Susan had started daydreaming less about being the top in her field and more about being Mrs. Donald Murphy. Susan had never realized it before but when she stopped to think about it, he had never really proposed, at least not like they do in the movies. Heck, come to think about it, he had never even said he loved her. He had just always agreed with her when she told him she loved him.
Susan remembered that they had spent another pleasant day with friends at Central Park, playing Frizbee and touch football when one of his friends had asked about when they could expect to hear wedding bells for them. Donald had looked at her and she had been so surprised when he’d said “Soon, I guess. If that’s OK with you?” It wasn’t exactly what she had always imagined in the way of a proposal but she had been so in love with him and excited that he was even considering it that she had accepted. Six months later they were married.
At first everything had been wonderful. They bought a beautiful plot of land just outside of New York City and built the house of their dreams. It had taken five whole months for the house to be completed and during that time she had lived with him at his luxury apartment downtown. When it got close to time for the house to be finished and at Donald’s instance, Susan had quit her job.
While at first, she had kept busy and had really enjoyed decorating their new house. But it only took her about three months to complete and once it was done, she began to get bored with being home alone all the time. She tried to convince Donald that she wanted to go back to work, at least part time but he had been adamant about her staying home.
So she changed directions and tried to convince him to let her take classes for several different topics but Donald did not approve and that’s when she began to notice that Donald’s personality had changed since they built the house. He was irritable a lot and began coming home later and later. He claimed at first that it was traffic that had held him up or that a meeting had run longer than he had expected and Susan had believed him. She had been so in love and happy and naïve.
“No, I was downright stupid. What a stupid sucker I was.” Susan thought as she shifted her bottom on the uncomfortable bench seat, trying to find a spot that didn’t have gum stuck to it or a spring sticking out of it, as she remembered those days.
As the weeks had passed, Donald had changed more and more. He became critical and sarcastic about almost everything she did, especially the way she dressed. He seemed to want her to dress less and less like a woman and more like a teenager or tomboy at home or for casual outings, which he limited. He chose her clothes when he needed her to attend a function with him, which became more rare as time passed.
Their lovemaking had changed too. He began wanting to do weird things in bed. Changing position often and he stopped oral sex on her but demanded it from her. He had even taken to pushing down on her head, making her take more of him than she could handle without gagging and then he would get mad when she would begin to choke and refuse to go on.
Then one night Donald didn’t come home at all. Susan had been frantic. She had been calling his cell phone all evening but kept getting voice mail. She’d left numerous messages, begging him to call her and let her know he was OK. Finally a little after midnight, he texted saying that he was staying in town for the night. No explanation and when she tried to call him back, his phone had been turned off. She had texted back asking where he was and why he wasn’t coming home but he never answered.
The next day, Susan was so worried when she still couldn’t contact him that she had called his office and was told that Donald was out of town until the next day. His assistant either couldn’t or wouldn’t tell her where he was. He had never mentioned that he was going to have to go out of town and Susan spent most of the day going between crying and being angry, mostly crying.
Two days later, Donald finally showed up acting like his unexplained absence was no big deal and he got angry when she tried to question him about his whereabouts.
“How dare you question me? I’m the man in this house and I come and go as I please. Where I go and what I do is none of your damn business!” He yelled at her. Swinging out at her, making her jump.
“But where have you been? I’m your wife! I have a right to know where my husband went for two whole days without telling me. I’ve been worried sick. I called your office and all they would tell me was that you were out of town.” Susan had tried to push the issue.
“How dare you call my office and question my staff!” Donald had roared and then grabbed her by the throat and slammed her up against the wall of their bedroom. “Don’t you ever do that again.” Donald had growled with his face right up to hers. His beautiful brown eyes were hard and almost black with anger.
Susan had been so shocked and frightened that all she could do was nod as much as his hand around her throat would allow. He had released her and stormed off to go take a shower. “What’s for dinner?” Donald had asked casually, as if nothing had just happened, dropping his clothes on the floor as he went to bathe.
“Stroganoff” Susan replied and ran to the kitchen, where she cried until she heard him moving around in the bedroom. She quickly wiped her eyes and splashed some water on her face in the kitchen sink and dried off with a paper towel. Her hands were shaking so bad that she was making a mess of the onion she was trying to cut for the meal. She hoped he would think it was the onions that were making her eyes red and watery. She knew he hated it when she cried. Her mind raced as she began preparing the meal.
“What is going on? What’s happened to make him change so much? I feel like I don’t know this person.” She thought as she browned the meat. “What happened to the man I fell in love with?”
Donald came into the kitchen, wrapped only in a towel, acting like nothing unusual had happened. His hair was still wet and he hadn’t completely dried his back and shoulders so there were still little droplets of water clinging to his skin. Donald wasn’t a big man but he did stand almost six feet tall. He had dark brown hair, his muscles were well defined and his stomach was flat. His towel had slipped down to where it was barely covering him in front and he looked so hot!
He came up behind her and began to nuzzle her neck as he slipped his arms around her from behind. He slipped his hands up under her shirt and began to fondle her breast. At first she had tried to stand still and not react to his touch but he knew her body too well. He knew where and how to touch her to turn her on. She hated herself for giving into him but she had learned the hard way not to even try and refuse him. That thought had been like throwing ice water on her passion.
He’d reached out and turned off the stove, picked her up and carried her back to the bedroom. They had spent the next hour having sex. He didn’t make love to her anymore. He used her body to please himself, not seeming to care that she was not aroused and nearly dry. When he couldn’t get her to respond, Donald began getting rough and when she objected, he raped her.
That night had been repeated several times over the next several months except instead of just choking her, he had taken to slapping her into submission, first with his open hand but it didn’t take long for his hand to close into a fist. He would humiliate her, forcing her to do things that she didn’t want to do by beating her into submission.
On her last night in that house, he had come home drunk and already in a rage when he had entered the house. Susan had tried to run from him as soon as he had come into the house but he had caught her and knocked her to the floor and then he had kicked her in the stomach so hard that she couldn’t get her breath for a few minutes. When she did finally manage to get her breath, it hurt her ribs to breathe too deeply and she worried that he might have broken some of her ribs.
She tried to tell him that she was hurt but he didn’t seem to hear or care. He raped her right there in the hallway outside their bedroom and he left her lying on the floor with her lip bleeding from where he had hit her when he knocked her down and in so much pain she could barely move. He got up with a sneer on his lips. “Well, at least you are good for one thing” he said as he slammed their bedroom door and went to sleep without her.
Susan had crawled into one of the spare bedrooms and made it to the bathroom where she was violently sick to her stomach. The pain in her ribs every time she vomited had been excruciatingly painful and she worried that he may have broken some of her ribs as she couldn’t barely stand to touch her side at all. She rinsed her mouth out until the cold water made the bleeding stop then stumbled to the bed. She considered calling an ambulance but knew that they would ask a lot of questions that she wouldn’t be able to answer without getting her husband in a lot of trouble and Donald would have been furious.
When she woke up the next morning, Donald had already gone to work. She threw back the covers and was horrified when she found blood on the sheets. She thought it was because her period had started. Susan had never had regular periods, so the fact that it was already over two weeks late was not unusual.
In the past, her period would be normal for a couple of months and then she would skip a month and then the next month it would show up with a vengeance. She would bleed and cramp like crazy so that morning she wasn’t overly concerned with the large amount of blood except that she felt unusually weak and sick to her stomach.
The large bruise on her side had her more concerned than the blood on the bed as she couldn’t stand to touch it at all and it was painful to breathe too deep. She tried to convince herself that it was just a bruise and she had almost decided not to go to the doctor except as the morning wore on she got to the point that her stomach and ribs were hurting so badly she almost couldn’t breathe. She’d started to call her own doctor but she knew they would ask a lot of embarrassing questions about not only the bruise on her side but the many other bruises on her body.
She had gone out to the patio to sit in the sun, hoping it would make her feel better. She had forgotten that it was the day Mr. Johnson, their gardener, came to take care of the yard and he startled her as she lowered herself down into the plush chair where she liked to sit to watch the city lights at night.
“Are you alright, Mrs. Murphy?” Mr. Johnson asked as he came over to help her and noticed her split lip and the black eye Donald had given her the night before. “You look awfully pale. Who did this to you? Did Mr. Murphy do this?”
Susan couldn’t see any point in lying to him. He had noticed bruises on her before but had kept his mouth shut. “Yes, Mr. Johnson. It was Donald. I’m not sure but I think he may have broken some of my ribs this time. I can barely breathe without it hurting like crazy.” Susan admitted.
“You need to get to the hospital or at least a doctor and have that seen about.” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s none of my business ma’am, but why do you stay with a man who treats you like this?”
“I’ve been wondering about that myself lately, Mr. Johnson. But he’s told me that if I ever try to run, he will hunt me down and make me regret it.” Susan admitted. “But you are right about a doctor. Do you know of someone?”
He told her about a clinic in a nearby town and Susan thought that was a better option than her regular doctor. He had even offered to drive her there but she had told him she could make it on her own.
The drive to the clinic had been painful to say the least and the bleeding was getting worse. She had bled completely through the pad she had put on at home and she felt light headed as she parked her SUV as close to the door as she could get. She wasn’t sure she was going to be able to hold it together as she walked inside.
She was so worried that Donald would be upset with her for seeking medical attention that she had lied and told the people at the clinic that she had been thrown, stepped on and dragged by a horse. She had even given her maiden name when she filled out the paperwork. When the doctor had given her a pelvic exam it had been so painful that Susan had cried out.
During the examination she had suddenly began hemorrhaging more profusely and they had called an ambulance to take her to the hospital as the clinic did not have the facilities to take care of that type of emergency. When the doctor in the emergency room started questioning her about how far along she had been she realized that she was pregnant and was miscarrying. Susan became very upset and hysterical and had to be sedated.
When she woke up several hours later, she was disoriented and it took her a minute to remember what had happened. She moaned when she tried to move and she realized that her ribs had been taped.
As she tried to sit up, a shadow moved near the window and suddenly Donald was standing next to her bed. He stood looking down at her with disgust plainly written on his face. “You stupid bitch. Why did you go to that clinic? How dare you drag my name through the mud like this?” Donald spat at her.
“I went to the clinic in another town instead of going to my own doctor because I didn’t want anyone to know who I was. I even used my maiden name when I filled out the paperwork.” Susan said, in a deadpan voice. “How did you find out where I was?”
“They must have looked in your wallet for information on your next of kin and found out your real name and our address and they called me at work. They said you had one of my business cards in your wallet. By the way, where did you get it and why were you carrying it?” Donald asked, clearly irritated with her.
“I’ve had it since we first met. You had some on the desk at your apartment and I didn’t think you would mind if I took one.” Susan said.
“So you’re a thief as well as a liar.” Donald accused her.
Susan couldn’t say anything as she stared at him in disbelief. That was when she realized he didn’t care about her at all. His only concern was for himself and his image. She felt like her heart had been ripped out of her chest. She didn’t know the man standing next to her hospital bed. He was not the man she had fallen in love with and married. This man was a stranger to her. This was the man who had repeatedly raped her and got her pregnant and then had kicked her so hard that she had lost their child.
“At least I’m not a murderer. YOU killed our baby, Donald, when you kicked me.” She nearly screamed at him.
Donald started to draw back his hand to hit her when a nurse entered the room.
“Oh, you’re awake. Good! Good! Now let’s see how you are doing.” The nurse said as she waved Donald away from the bed. He went to stand by the window again as the nurse began taking Susan’s pulse.
“I’m Mary and I’ll be your nurse this evening.” The nurse said as she checked the IV. She gave Donald a look but Donald didn’t say anything. Mary fussed around her, taking her pulse and blood pressure and Susan tried to think of a way to get the nurse a message but was afraid Donald would be able to hear if she tried to tell Mary anything. Susan could see him watching what was going on with disgust clearly on his face in the reflection in the window, so she knew he would see if she tried to use hand signals to the nurse.
Mary checked the bandage around Susan’s ribs and then the pad between her legs. She changed it as well as the disposable mat that protected the bed. “We can give you a sponge bath this evening, if you would like. You are on strict orders to stay in bed, so no standing up until the bleeding stops.” Nurse Mary chatted away as she moved around the bed, taking care of Susan. “You are allowed a light meal and liquids. There is a menu on your tray. You need to pick out what you would like to eat and let us know as soon as possible so that we can get it down to the kitchen before dinner time.”
Susan thanked her and tried to think of a way to keep Mary from leaving the room because she was afraid of what Donald might do next and she didn’t want to be alone with him while he was in this mood.
“Could you please get me something to drink? I’m so thirsty!” Susan asked.
“Sure. What would you like? I can get some ice for your jug and you can have cold water, or perhaps your husband can go get you something from the machine down the hall?” Mary said loud enough for Donald to hear. The nurse seemed to understand without being told that her patient wanted the unpleasant man, who was not acting much like a loving husband, out of the room, even if for only a minute or two.
“Fine! What do you want?” Donald snapped as he turned away from the window.
“A Sprite, please, to calm my stomach.” Susan replied.
Donald glared at Susan as he stomped past them and left the room.
Susan saw her chance and quickly grabbed Mary by the arm. “Mary, can I trust you?” Susan quickly asked.
“Yes, dear. What is it?” Mary said sincerely.
“I don’t want any trouble but please don’t leave me alone with him. Just tell him visiting hours are almost over and he’ll need to leave soon. I’ll explain more when he’s gone.” Susan looked at the woman with pleading eyes.
“Alright dear. I will say, he’s not the friendliest person I’ve ever met. I could call security if he’s going to be a problem?” Mary said.
Susan shook her head “No, please. Just don’t leave me alone with him. I hear him coming back. Please Mary, don’t leave me.” Susan begged. The fear must have been plain in her voice and on her face as she pleaded with her.
“Alright.” Mary said.
Donald came back into the room and set the can of soda down on the table at the foot of her bed and returned to his post by the window.
“Thank you.” Susan said. Donald made no effort to acknowledge her thanks, nor did he offer to help her in any way.
“Sir, I’m sorry to say that visiting hours are almost over. You’ll have to go, soon. We have baths to give and meals to serve.” Mary said with authority.
“Fine. When will she be able to come home?” Donald turned and snapped at the nurse.
“Several days at least.” Mary answered shortly, not liking his tone of voice. She couldn’t say she cared much for the way he was treating his wife either. Most men would have been more concerned and attentive. This man just acted as if he was being inconvenienced and was annoyed by it all.
“Call me when you are ready to go. It’s quite a drive to come all this way.” Donald said as he bent to pretend to kiss her cheek, trying to make a show of being a caring husband.
“Keep your mouth shut while you are in here or you will regret it.” Donald whispered to her as he pretended to nuzzle her ear. He had captured the fingers on her left hand when he had come over to the bed and he squeezed them so hard she winced as she felt the diamond on her wedding ring cut into the side of her middle finger. Donald had a smile of satisfaction as he let go of her hand and saw her clutch it with her right hand as she moved the ring back into place. He saw the blood on her finger, and grinned an almost evil grin, as he left the room.
Nurse Mary watched him walk down the hall and was so tempted to call security right then and there and have him banned from coming back to the hospital but she needed to find out more about what was going on. She watched him walk swiftly down the hall to the elevators and then she closed the door so that they could talk freely. She would be able to tell if anyone so much as cracked the door to listen or started to come into the room.
“Let me see your hand.” Mary said as she returned to Susan’s bedside. “It was all I could do not to hit him over the head with a bedpan. How in the world did you end up with someone like that?”
“He wasn’t always like this. I don’t know what has happened to him. He was so different when we were dating and we first got married a little over a year ago. It’s just been in the last few months that he’s totally changed. I don’t feel like I know him anymore and I’m afraid of him.” Susan admitted.
“He was the one that did this to you, isn’t he?” Nurse Mary asked as she found a band aid for Susan’s finger.
Susan nodded as big tears welled up in her eyes.
Nurse Mary looked at her squarely in the eyes and gently took Susan’s hands in hers. “I’m not supposed to advise patients on what to do but I’ve been a nurse for a long time and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen abused women come and go in here, too many times it’s more than just once. If a man will hit a woman once, he’ll do it again and again until either you or someone else makes him stop.
I would not recommend you try to stand up to him by yourself because he’s so much bigger and stronger than you are but if you were my daughter, I would tell you to either call the law and have him arrested or get on whatever transportation you can and get the hell out of dodge. Go to family or friends that you can trust but don’t ever let him get you alone again.”
“I don’t have any family. My parents died when I was very young. I was brought up by my mother’s older sister but she died a few years ago.” Susan began to cry again.
“Did she have any children of her own?”
“Yes, two sons but they are both older than me and I’ve lost touch with them since she died. Besides, they have their own families to worry about and I won’t bring my troubles to them.”
“Well, hon, it’s up to you but if it were me. I’d get away from that man. If he did this kind of damage so soon into your marriage, if you stay, I’m sorry to say, it’s probably only going to get worse.” Nurse Mary said as she patted Susan’s hand. “You rest now and make out your menu. You will be safe for a few days at least because he won’t be able to hurt you while you are in here. I’ll make a note in your chart that you are not to be left alone with him if he does come back.”
“Thank you, Mary.” Susan said as she laid her head back on the pillow. She felt so tired.
Mary pushed the table so that Susan could reach everything on it without having to move too much, then she left the room. Gingerly, Susan reached out and grabbed up the menu. She checked a few boxes on the paper without real interest in what she had selected. Right now she has no appetite.
Susan lay back on the pillow and pulled the blanket up to her chin and closed her eyes but all she could think about was the evil look on Donald’s face as he had left and him whispering that she had better keep her mouth shut while she was here.
“Well so much for that.” Susan thought. If Nurse Mary had ordered that either he not be allowed to enter or Donald found out she was not to be left alone with him, then Donald was going to know that she had talked and he would be furious. There was no telling what he might do but whatever it was, he wouldn’t be able to do anything until he could get her alone again and thinking of what might happen then was too terrifying for her to even consider right now.
Susan was torn over wanting to work things out, wishing they could go back to the way they were before he had changed and being terrified and never wanting to be alone with him again. He was not the man she had married anymore. It was as if someone else had taken over Donald’s body, someone evil.