Warning: the theme and subject matter of this story may not be suitable for younger readers. Thank you.
She was sitting behind a pile of books on early Romantic poetry, like a child in a fort. Other students milled about all quiet words and restrained giggles. It was programmed into all students – you obey the rules in the library.
Just like her.
He was sat next to her, a frown etched on his wide brow, black hair falling down in jagged points.
She opened her mouth with innocent words, meaningless words, mundane words. What shall we have for tea tonight? Did you phone your Dad back? Any more thoughts on getting a job or pressing for you loan? When is your next lecture?
The crack. The angry physical jab that raged a thousand screaming, rotting, angry words at her.
His fist had connected sharply with her upper left arm. So quick and hard an impact that she could have mistaken it for a heavy book falling and hitting her instead of his knuckles.
What had she said this time that meant she required punishment?
She hadn’t murdered anyone. She wasn’t stood there like some cheap fish-wife, screaming abuse in his face. She wasn’t cheating on him. She wasn’t… doing anything wrong. But these were the latter days. She was so conditioned in accepting the blame now.
Whatever those everyday, innoccus words had been that it meant she was thumped for them, were now very much forgotten. The familiar hum of the start of another painful bruise throbbed down her arm.
He grimaced at her, his “look what you made me do” face on.
Rising calmly to his feet, he left her sitting there as he stalked off out of the building, raging to remember what she had said.
She had perfected the art of crying without sound, though. She dabbed at the tears streaking from her eyes – the ever present waterfall of pain that was now her life.
Be silent. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Shhh.
Why did she stay? Why did she put up with him? Why didn’t she bring down the heavy cleaver of ‘No More’ as she’d planned to at Christmas? Why wasn’t she strong enough? Brave enough…
Because she loved him unconditionally. She didn’t choose to give him her heart when she was just fifteen years old – so long ago now; he greedily snatched it up and held it hostage all the while, abusing it and taking it for granted at every turn.
She rubbed at her arm futilely, grateful for the long sleeved top she wore. Of course, she wore those types of tops more and more these days. He preferred them too. She had to cover up to prove she wasn’t the dirty little slag he kept telling her she was.
This was now her fate and she got on with it, wishing the prison her heart was being kept in would fall down so she could be free. The pain of being with him wasn’t comparable to the pain of being without him. Yet.
Life without him? She’d never seen it before. She had no idea what it looked like… she’d literally known him forever and the idea of no him… it terrified her.
People will notice, calm your breaths. That’s it. Look at a book, turn your face away. Hush now.
She felt guilty for everything. Now she was feeling guilty at potentially upsetting others with her silent sobs.
Stop trembling, they’ll see. No one can ever see this.
She could deal with the tantrums and the abuse for now. At least, that was the ragged old tale she sold herself each day. She lived in fear too much and for too long, making her feel like a gnarled up rope about to break. The pain of staying, the pain of going… it tore into the sinews of her soul like a ravenous bird of prey tearing at a long awaited meal.
Be strong… Hush now…