Limits

On Tuesday he promised that he would never hit her. Again.

It was Saturday and he had already broken his promise six times. This time he had gotten creative and not repeated his method each time. The only thing consistent about all the episodes was that he had blamed her for making him do it.

As she lay on the floor letting the cold seep into her bones, she wondered what would it take to convince her to leave him. She didn’t need the sympathetic words of the nurse or the silent condemnation of her friends to know that if she didn’t make up her mind soon, there would be nothing left for her to decide. She was not a fool. She could see for herself the ghost staring back at her in the mirror. The ghost that had once been the Prom Queen.

She had tried going for counselling once. The faded peach wallpaper in the waiting area was peeling away from the corner. There were innumerable marks and mysterious smudges on it that marred the once beautiful color. It reminded her of herself, trying to recede in the shadows to cover up the joke that was her life. Only, she wasn’t laughing. While she sat there on the hard uncomfortable chair that managed to pinch her skin right where it had bruised last night, she twisted the corner of her scarf in her fingers, wondering if she had made a mistake coming here. What could she say that she hadn’t said before? What would she hear that she herself hadn’t advised others? Before she could finally change her mind, the receptionist called her name.

She thought that she had been very smart- planning the visit to coincide with her grocery shopping, using a false name to make an appointment and even remembering to wear a wide-rimmed hat and dark glasses. She forgot that under all that pretense it would still be her who had to face the questions. She froze up as soon as she sat on the couch. The words were stuck in her head and her throat. After almost thirty minutes of this painstaking experience the counselor had finally given up and called it a day. She remembered the shame that filled her at having failed to take her way out of this relationship. When he backhanded her into the mirror that night, she felt she deserved it for being the coward that she was.

But all that had changed today. The Saturday that he broke his promise again and beat her till she could feel cramps in her stomach. When she tried to get up, she could feel a trickle of liquid flowing down in between her legs. Had she lost control? That would multiply her shame further. She headed to the washroom and locked the door quietly behind her. Shaky hands tried to push the buttons of the shirt through the loops and draw it down her arms. She was debating whether to wash her soiled leggings or discard it when she saw the red. Big gulps of breath couldn’t calm her heart. Had he broken something inside her? Was she one step closer to her final rest now? Only one way to find out. She knew she would have to visit the nurse again tomorrow.

Over the years, she had become friends with the nurse who patched her up. Now she didn’t even have to come up with a story of how she fell down the stairs or walked into a door. She just had to lie there with her eyes closed while gentle hands prodded and felt her body to take account of her injuries. Every time she had denied it having to do anything with her husband. It was all her own clumsiness so she couldn’t really sue herself for stupidity now, could she?

She had called the nurse the first thing in the morning to make an appointment. The ticking of the wall clock seemed to drive her crazy as she sat chewing her nails in the waiting area of the hospital. The sight of the familiar kind face almost brought her to tears when she finally went to the examination room. One look and she knew that this time things were definitely more serious. Gentle probing would not be able to yield results. After an hour or two spent going through a series of scary tests, the doctor was called in to give the verdict. He looked at her sadly and informed her that not only had she lost the baby she hadn’t known she was carrying, but also that she would never be able to conceive again. This time the injuries ran deep.

She walked back home in a numbed silence. Her body protested the long walk that she had chosen to take instead of the ride back home. She winced every time she saw a little baby in a stroller or a child’s laughter. She could never experience that first hand ever. She didn’t even know what she had and now it was gone forever. All because she had not been able to slay her monster. She had chosen to be the damsel in distress, only she refused to take the help of every Prince who came to rescue her. She had thought that the Beast in him would finally see the Beauty in her and the curse would be broken. That never happened. The only thing broken were her body, heart and spirit.

A part of her cataloged the tinkling laughter that came from her bedroom as she entered the house. She followed the trail of clothes that led her to the sight of a voluptuous brunette wrapped in the monster’s arms. He looked over at her when the woman stopped laughing. When he saw her standing in the doorway, watching him charm a future victim, he roared at her for not being at home when he was hungry. She heard him yell out what he wanted to eat before bending his face to kiss the neck of the brunette.

And that’s when it happened.

She found her fingers closing in around the naked mermaid lamp that he had bought to displease her. Her fingertips caressed the curves that would help set her life straight. She vaguely recalled screams keeping pace with the thuds that caused the bed spread to turn red. He had not seemed so strong as he lay unmoving on top of the woman who must now regret ruining her marital bliss. She had picked up the lacy panty off the floor and wiped the lamp clean of her fingerprints. Wide eyes stared up at her as she put her fingers to her lips to silence her. She didn’t want to know that there was a name attached to that face. This brunette was her Angel who had showed her the path. Yes, she would not harm her. Not yet.

She switched on the water and felt the scalding water burn her skin. Good, she needed to purge herself of the his touch. She wore the only clean dress she had, packed the measly possessions she had in a holdall and took out the money she had hidden under the creaking floorboard in the kitchen. Then she lit her cigarette for the first time in years and turned to look back at the prison that had caged her soul for so many years. She threw the burning match backwards, into the kitchen with the leaking stove that he had never gotten around to getting fixed. The explosion that ripped the silence of the neighborhood was disturbingly satisfying.

Later the forensics would report finding the couple dead in their bed. It had been an unfortunate incident. Neighbors gave a moving eulogy for the man who had always been so helpful and for the wife who had been shy and slightly off. No one would know that somewhere out there, she was filling out the forms to work in an orphanage. The only place that would let her have kids of her own.

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