a burgundy zine

For Better or For Worse by Rebecca Amiss

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By: Rebecca Amiss

An illustration of a dainty, pink flower peeking through a cracked window

Source: The Burgundy Zine

Rebecca Amiss shares her fictional short story about overcoming domestic abuse.

Trigger warning: The following short-story contains descriptions of manipulation and domestic abuse that may be upsetting for some individuals. If you or a loved one are currently experiencing domestic abuse, please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website for support resources or call: 1-800-799-7233.

Fictional disclosure: All events and characters within this short-story are entirely fictional and do not reflect events that have taken place in the real world.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I thought it was just a silly expression. Until now.

The frame is cracked from where I threw it against the wall. The split in the glass is ironically slashed through my then-new husband, Damien. We had only known each other for a few months at the time. I was just twenty-six; he was seven years my senior.

We met at a career vendor when I was a recent college graduate with an MFA in Photography. He was there to promote his company, one of the top businesses to work within the North-Eastern region. We clicked right away. I admired his confidence and directness. Nothing was off bounds for him. If he had an opinion, he let it be known.

After dating for six months, he asked me to marry him. Normally, I would find a proposal like that too hasty. However, I was head over heels in love. I wasn’t myself. I was much more giddy and perky than usual, and my brain was so wonderfully fuzzy, my stomach had constant butterflies fluttering around, like my insides were a spring day.

Everything looked brighter when I was with him. I leaped into his arms and agreed right away, believing I had found my Prince Charming.

In the picture, we’re smiling. We were sitting at a table at Damien’s favorite restaurant, Merci Amour, at Wynn Lake Resort and Casino up in the mountains of Connecticut. He was very popular and respected there, and only gambled on the top floor which was for the very high rollers. An opened bottle of champagne sat on the table in front of us. I was sitting with my shoulders hunched up a bit, my hands clasped in my lap. He was sitting extremely close to me, his arm around me ever so protectively. Or possessively, to be exact.

I didn’t think of it that way at the time. Even if he kept muttering “smile, smile” to me under his breath through clenched teeth. I just thought he wanted a nice photo of us. We were on a “second honeymoon,” as he called it. As if our actual honeymoon skiing in the Swiss Alps was just for practice.

He got us a gorgeous suite on the top floor, accompanied by complimentary champagne and rose petals around a hot tub that could fit the entire Brady Bunch. I guess being a powerful CEO in your own company has its perks. He told me I deserved the world. And in those moments of charm, I believed him.

That night, he watched me get ready. I wore a beautiful high collared navy chiffon dress that I had bought from my favorite online store. As I was putting my earrings on, he came over to me.

“You don’t want to wear that dress, Annie,” he said.

“Yes, I do,” I told him, putting a silver teardrop shaped earring into my ear. “I bought it especially for today. Don’t you like it?”

“Of course!” He smiled and nuzzled his nose into my neck, the light stubble of his beard tickling it. “You look beautiful as always. But it’s a little…conservative.”

“Conservative?” I chuckled. “It’s not like I’m dressed like a nun.”

Damien chuckled lightly. “No, not at all. It’s just—it doesn’t do your beauty justice.”

“Oh, stop,” I said playfully, giving his arm a little swat.

“Okay, look,” he said, walking over to the bed. He pulled a dress bag out of his suitcase and walked back over. “I bought you this dress. Try it on, you’ll look gorgeous.”

I hesitated for a moment. I had been really looking forward to wearing my blue dress, but the glint in his steel gray – almost silver eyes made me melt inside.

“You didn’t have to do that,” I said, taking the dress bag from him.

“Of course, I did. You’re my diamond. I want you to have the best.” He gave my cheek a little pinch.

“Okay, thank you. I’ll go put it on.” I kissed him and went into the bathroom.

A few minutes later, I emerged wearing a form-fitting merlot colored dress. The sweetheart neckline made the top of my cleavage look bigger than it actually was, and the skirt of the dress hugged at my hips, giving off the illusion that I had an hourglass shape.

To be honest, I felt a little too fancy—and a bit cold. However, I didn’t want to upset Damien. He had probably paid a fortune for it.

“You look amazing, Annie,” he beamed. “Every woman is going to be jealous.” He kissed the top of my forehead.

“Thank you, Damien.”

“Do you like it?” He asked, looking down at me.

“Yes, it’s very beautiful.”

“Good,” he smiled. “And while we’re at it, why don’t you let your hair down?”

I touched my hair that I had spent over an hour putting into a Grace Kelly like updo. “Oh, well, it took me a long time to put up,” I said.

“I know, and you look beautiful, but it does make you look a little older.”

“It does?”

“Yes. It’s a little old fashioned. I mean, you’re twenty-six, not forty.”

His words stung for a moment. I was confused as to how he could think I looked beautiful, but at the same time, not be satisfied with how I looked. Before I could say anything, he started undoing my hair, letting my blonde locks fall a little past my shoulders.

“There we go,” he said. “Now, shall we go to dinner?” He held his elbow out, and with a smile, I linked my arm into his.

When we got to the restaurant, he ordered us a bottle of Dom Perignon. He then ordered an expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. I found myself getting a little tipsy and giddy with each sip. I was no longer cold, and my cheeks had started to flush a little. I ate the delicious rosemary rolls to soak up the alcohol.

Damien ordered us escargot for an appetizer, and I choked it down, not wanting to outwardly show how much I disliked it. He then ordered filet mignon for himself, and the rack of lamb for me.

“You’ll love it,” he said, “it’ll melt in your mouth.”

He wasn’t wrong. I ate every last bit of the lamb, the roasted garlic oil fingerling potatoes, and vegetable mélange. When we finished dinner, Damien got us tiramisu to share and a dessert wine. I could tell he was getting tipsy himself because he became especially playful and handsy at the table. That’s when the waiter came by and took our picture.

Over at the high roller’s casino, I was overwhelmed by all the lights and sounds. The smell of cigars floated into my nose, making me feel a little dizzy. It’s not that I had never been to a casino before, I had gone on many girls’ trips with my friends to them. We mostly just stayed in the regular casino playing penny slots and drinking girly cocktails.

But I was intimidated by the high rollers. Everyone that was playing looked so experienced. Men in their nicest suits played roulette and black jack with such precision, a dark, malty drink of some sort sitting next to them. Their wives, beautiful and manicured, watched them play like hawks, kissing them on the lips when they won.

Damien brought me over to a roulette table and sat down. He ordered a bourbon for himself and a glass of chardonnay for me.

“Oh Damien, I think I had enough at the restaurant,” I said.

“You’ll be fine,” he said, his serious poker face now starting to possess him. “It’s our second honeymoon, live a little!” He added a quick smile to show he was trying to be playful.

I nodded and smiled. “Okay, but just one.”

He was already too into the game to answer me. I looked over his shoulder as he played with vigor. He certainly knew the ins and outs of roulette. To be honest, it turned me on a little. He was in such command, so focused and serious, that nothing could break his concentration.

I looked around, noticing a few slot machines at the back wall. I looked back at Damien who was severely focused on the roulette wheel. I walked away with my glass of wine and went to a machine that had pink hearts and diamonds all over it. I looked at the denomination. $100.

“Yikes,” I said out loud.

The woman next to me looked over and we exchanged a friendly smile. She went back to playing her game. I moseyed over behind her, curious as to how she was doing. She was playing a $100 machine and was not far from hitting $1,000. I nearly dropped my drink. I couldn’t fathom how people could gamble so much with the possibility of losing it all. It made me appreciate the penny machines a few floors down. I hoped that Damien didn’t mind if we went down there so I could do a little playing.

I walked back to Damien who now had a bunch of game chips around him. I wrapped my arm around him and kissed his cheek.

“Looks like you’re doing good!” I said.

He took a quick look up at me, then turned his concentration back to the game.

“Yeah,” he said. “Did you go somewhere?”

“Oh, I was just exploring,” I said. “There are some machines here that are $100 to play!”

“Yeah, well, that’s why they call it the high rollers, babe,” Damien said, almost with a bit of snark in the back of his voice. I noticed he was already on his second glass of bourbon.

“Oh, I know,” I said lightly, in an attempt to laugh off his snide remark. “I’m just used to playing the penny machines. Maybe I’ll go down and play those for a little. I can meet you back up here.”

Damien let out a laugh. “You’ll no longer be playing those! They’re for amateurs. I’ll make you into a high roller. Here,” he pulled out the chair next to him and patted it, “sit down. I’ll teach you how to play roulette.”

I sat down next to him and listened to him as he explained the gist of the game. It seemed easy enough.

“You want to try?” He asked, shouting over everyone speaking, and all the beeps and dings of nearby machines. The dealer watched us as he set everything back up. “It’s easy. You can do it. Come on, try it.”

I hesitated for a moment before reluctantly agreeing. I positioned myself so I could see everything clearly, putting my arms on the edge of the table. Damien handed me over $200 worth of chips.

My stomach dropped a little at the amount. I felt nervous betting so much of his money. I could feel his stare ogling down on me as I looked down at the chips. My palms became sweaty, and I could tell the dealer was starting to become impatient, so I pushed all the chips over to the color red. I felt Damien tense up beside me but tried to ignore it as I kept my attention on the roulette wheel.

For a moment, the dealer hesitated before throwing the ball. I watched as it spun on the wheel. Black, red, and white danced before my eyes. After what seemed like forever, the wheel started to slow down. With a few more cranks, it landed on the number forty-seven on the black tile.

Next to me, I heard Damien exhale through his nose. His shoulders slowly loosened, and his breathing became short and shaky. I knew I had lost the game. The dealer took the chips away, looking at Damien with what seemed like a mixture of annoyance and pity.

Damien sucked down the last bit of his bourbon, slamming it down on the roulette table. He got up and put his dress coat on, gently grabbing me by the elbow.

“Come on,” he said, his voice thick, “let’s go back to the room. It’s getting a little dull out here.”

I felt awful that I had cost him so much money. I wanted to make it right and try again but didn’t want to upset him more than he already was, so I followed him back up to our suite.

When we got in, he didn’t say a word. He started to take his coat off and loosen his tie, unbuttoning the top button of his pristine white shirt. I took my heels off, the bottoms of my feet now sore.

Damien moved swiftly and briskly throughout the room. Taking a complimentary bottle of whiskey out of the mini-fridge, he poured himself a generous portion into a tumbler glass, taking a long swig before setting it back down. The air between us was thin, and I couldn’t think of what to say. This was the first time there had been any awkwardness between us.

“I’m sorry about that,” I finally spoke up. “But I told you I’m not used to the high rollers.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said quickly. “You’ll get used to it. It was your first time. I can’t expect you to be a professional right away.”

Although his words were trying to be nice, I could tell he was forcing himself to say them. His voice was tight and clipped, and he spoke with a swift monotone. He stood rigidly, his hands on his hips and his fingers through his belt loops.

“I may never be as good as you. I think I’ll just always be used to the penny machines—”

“Jesus Christ, Annie, enough with the goddamn penny machines!” Damien’s voice unexpectedly rose. It was the first time he had ever shown any anger towards me. “You’re not going to be playing those anymore, so stop thinking about them. You’ll become a high roller, I’ll make sure you become good as I am.”

“Well, I just—you bet so much money on my play and I got nervous.”

“Yeah, and you learned from that stupid mistake. You’ll try again tomorrow.”

“It wasn’t stupid, Damien. It was an honest mistake. I’m sure you weren’t the greatest when you first started out.

Without any warning, Damien picked up the crystal ashtray that was on the table next to him and hurled it at the wall. The sound of its shatter made me flinch. I looked at him, horror and confusion on my face.

“What the hell was that for?” I exclaimed.

“Goddammit, Annie! I bet over $200 on your play and you put all the chips down on just red?

I started at his sudden turn of thought. “I thought it didn’t matter to you! You told me it was my first time! Why are you getting so mad?”

“I told you the damn rules, and you still messed up! I explained it as easily as I could watching you look at me like some deer in the headlights. You didn’t have to put all the chips down! You didn’t have to bet it all on one play!”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me that? You saw me do it! You should’ve helped me instead of watching me like a hawk! God, the dealer must’ve thought I was an idiot!”

“I don’t blame him,” Damien said sarcastically.

I gave him an angry and hurt look as I walked over to the shattered ashtray. I got down on my hands and knees and started to pick up the pieces.

“Well, I’m sorry,” I said, sarcasm now inhabiting my own voice, “But I told you I’m not a big gambler. You shouldn’t have bet so much knowing I had no clue what I was doing.”

As I picked up the pieces of the ashtray, I didn’t see Damien barreling over towards me. I heard the sound of his feet step in front of me and I looked up to see him lift his hand and swing, slapping me hard across the face, and sending me back on my bottom. My head flew to the side, and I dropped the shards that were in my hands, nearly cutting them in the process. I instinctively put my hand to my cheek, which stung terribly. I could feel my eyes filling with hot, burning tears.

For a second, Damien looked like a grizzly bear standing over his prey. His fingers were curled at his sides, and his shoulders were hunched. I thought for a minute, that he would hit me again. However, his rigid stance softened, and his face fell into what looked like shame. His eyebrows furrowed, making his eyes crinkle at the sides. He took a step towards me and I flinched, keeping my hand on my cheek. I watched him with tear-stained wary eyes.

“Oh God, Annie.” He said, his voice anguished. “I am so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”

He carefully knelt down in front of me and gently caressed his fingers on my knee, making me cringe. I sat there recoiled, hand still on face not knowing what to do or how that even happened. I was speechless—paralyzed with shock and confusion, unable to conjure words from my mouth.

He slowly crawled over to me and took me in his arms. I didn’t fight back. I just let him hold me, my body now taking on the rigid position. I was stiff as a board, but I still let him hold me and stroke my hair as he apologized repeatedly.

“It won’t happen again. I promise.” He said that about a dozen times. I know because I counted.

It won’t happen again.

A stroke of the hair. A gentle kiss on the forehead.

I promise.

I didn’t know it at the time, that it was the first promise he would ever break.

I was never one to wear much makeup. A little concealer and light eye shadow on special occasions—some peach-colored lipstick maybe. I never really had the need to wear it. By the second year into our marriage however, I had become quite good at covering up the bruises. It’s amazing what some concealer and foundation can do.

I never saw Damien’s complete change of personality coming. Of course, I had seen him agitated with other people before—I knew he could have quite the temper if provoked—he’d never taken it out on me until that night in our hotel room.

For a while after that, he was gentle and remorseful. He even brought me down to play the penny machines as a peace offering the next day. I thought maybe his outburst was a one-time thing—until it became routine.

The smallest thing would set him off. A wet dishtowel on the granite counter, a dirty dish in the sink. It came to the point where he would find the most minute of things and make it into something ridiculously overblown. It was like living with a real-life version of Jekyll and Hyde, kind and loving one minute, a monster the next.

The first time I tried to leave him, it just made things worse. He told me he would make sure my life was a living hell, that he’d tell any potential future boyfriends that I was clingy and unstable. He’d even ruin my chances of job opportunities because he had the name and power to do it. Afraid that he could prevent me from obtaining my dream job as a travel photographer and writer, I stayed with him. My physical appearance started to deteriorate. My curly blonde hair thinned out, making them lose their wavy bounce, and my once bright blue eyes had dulled. Between all of this, my weight started to fluctuate. Which caused me to either gain too much or lose too much.

When he proposed that we have a child, I told him that I didn’t want to have any. That I never desired to have children. This caused a great deal of conflict.

“What good are you, then?” He hissed, inches from my face that I could smell his coffee laced breath.

“Damien, not every woman wants to have children,” I said, trying to sound as calm as possible. “Did it ever occur to you that I may not want to be a mother?”

“No! You were built to have babies! You are going to give me a child!”

“It’s my body,” I said. “It’s not right for you to decide if I want kids or not. And—I don’t want them. Plus, we’re always going to such beautiful places and eating out at nice restaurants, it wouldn’t be fair to a baby if we constantly bounced it around from place to place.”

What he doesn’t know, however, is that after I told him that and he stormed out of the house in a fury, is that I locked myself in the bathroom, and cried.

Because the truth was, if there was anything I wanted more in this world, it was to have a baby. But I knew that I couldn’t have one with him. I’d never be able to forgive myself if I brought a child into our world. If he had no issues hitting or saying terrible things to me, then what would he do to our child? The safety of a potential baby outweighed the possibility that he could harm them too.

I sat on the edge of the bathtub, buried my face in my hands, and sobbed like I had just lost someone so close to me. In a way—I had. I silently apologized to any future children that they may never get a chance to be a part of this world. Because as long as I was with Damien, I would be his sole prisoner.

Now, as I stand over the shattered picture, two things come into my mind. My first thought is, I want to finish the job and stomp on it. Stomp on it until the tiny shards of glass tear at his smug, smiling face.

My next thought, however, is fear. I haven’t felt this much fear for him since the first night he hit me. I’ve always stood my ground with him. Swing after swing, slap after slap, I never showed him cowardice or that I was intimidated by him. If anything, I think it made him angrier. How dare I not cower to his masculinity and clout?

But this? This impulsive destruction of a memento he coveted so dearly and, in my mind—so twistedly—scared me to the very last bone in my body. I hadn’t been thinking when I hurled the picture at the wall. After I got out of the bathroom, I was no longer filled with sadness, but with rage.

The fact that I had actually allowed myself to suffer for this long, to sacrifice my life and happiness for someone who obviously didn’t care for me the way I thought he did in the beginning, enraged me.

So, as I was filled with the urge to throw and destroy something, I grabbed the nearest thing and chucked it like a football. The sound of the picture hitting the wall sobered me into apprehension.

After a few moments of internal panicking, I entered the kitchen to grab the broom and dustpan. I carefully swept the shards of glass into the dustpan and thew it away, closing the trash bag and putting it into the trash bucket in the garage so he wouldn’t see it.

After discarding the evidence, I put the broken picture frame in the bottom of my drawer underneath all my clothes, hoping he wouldn’t snoop around—which he’s been known to do. I looked at the clock and noticed he’d been gone for a long time. He could come back at any moment. I made sure everything looked to his liking—sans the picture. He’ll notice right away, I’m sure. He always does.

Damien had gone the rest of that day not noticing the missing picture. He had been pretty heated up when he stormed out of the house, I figured he was still trying to calm down. We had only made small talk the rest of the night, and he refused to kiss me good night or even make love, sleeping with his back towards me.

But when I realized that it’d been a few days and he still hadn’t noticed, I actually started to wonder if he was feeling alright. It did occur to me however, that he might be waiting for the right time to spring it on me that he knew it was missing all along.

That way he could come at me with it when I least expect it.

After a few weeks of giving me the silent treatment or bullying me for saying I didn’t want children, Damien seemed to have gotten back to his old self. He started kissing me goodnight again but was still short with his communication. Before we knew it, another weekend had come.

After spending the day in Boston and eating at a new exclusive seafood restaurant right on the harbor on Saturday, we decided to take Sunday slow and spend it at home.

We lounged on the couch, binging the latest true crime documentary series. It was about spouses getting back at their partners in heinous ways. Damien’s viewing choice, of course. We sat on opposite ends of the couch. His body was rigid as we watched the documentary. I had noticed he started to become on edge again yesterday.

Throughout the day in Boston, he’d been less charming in public. Normally, he acted like a prince straight out of a fairy tale making all the women we encountered swoon. He loved showing off how chivalrous he could be, opening the door for me, treating me like royalty.

When women gushed over how they wished their own husbands were more like him, he got a smug glint in his eye that he passed off as fake modesty, something I’ve come to realize he’s very good at. He could be quite the actor when he wanted to be.

However, yesterday, he would walk ahead of me, not even holding the door open when going into places, almost acting as if I was just another random person behind him. He would tease me when looking at clothing or jewelry I liked, saying my taste was tacky.

When I held up a beautiful turquoise colored top and was admiring it in the mirror he came up behind me, patted my belly and said, “Looks like you need to lay off the chocolate before you can fit into that, babe,” before taking it out of my hands and putting it back on the rack.

The biggest issue, however, was at dinner. Damien deliberately made us eat outside, knowing my irrational fear of birds would make me anxious as seagulls swooped and dived right above us. He even found it funny when he waved one of his oysters in the air and mimicked a seagull’s screech as I begged him in a hushed voice to stop.

Now, as I watch him inhale and exhale slowly, his arms folded tightly in front of him, all his mocking playfulness had drained out of him and has been replaced with hardness.

“Everything alright?” I asked. He took a quick look at me before turning his attention back to the television.

“Yes.” Was all he said.

“Are you sure? You seem like something has been bothering you lately.”

“Just got a lot on my mind.”

“Well, tell me about it. Don’t just keep it all to yourself.”

He looked at me. “I’ve just been reassessing everything since you told me you hate children.”

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t hate children, Damien. I just don’t want any of my own.” The betrayal of my own words made the pang in my heart twist.

“It’s alright,” he shrugged. “I guess I’ll just have to get used to having such a selfish wife.”

Selfish!” I shot up, twisting my body towards his. “I’m selfish? You don’t even respect my choice!”

Our choice,” he said forcefully.

“Is that why you’ve been so mean to me?”

“Mean to you?” He echoed.

“You’ve been distant and cold. And yesterday, you were just mean. Teasing me all day and making fun of me at dinner.”

“You can’t even take a joke,” he shook his head.

“No, you were just being an ass.”

Damien’s eyes darkened. “Watch it, Annie.”

“No,” I said defiantly, my cheeks starting to flare up. I was suddenly becoming overheated and wasn’t able to stop myself as the next words tumbled out of my mouth, “why do you think I don’t want to have kids with you?”

Damien’s eyes grew wide, his pupils overpowering his irises. Before I had the chance to reform my words, he grabbed me by the hair and yanked my head towards his.

“What are you saying?” He seethed, his words misting onto my face. “That I’m the reason you don’t want kids?”

“No,” I managed to choke out. He shook my head, fistfuls of my hair intertwined between his fingers.

“Then what is it?”

“Let me go,” I said, my voice strangled.

“You want children, don’t you? You just don’t want them with me because you think I’ll smack them around like I do you. Or maybe because you’re afraid they’ll end up like you. Stupid. Selfish. Little. Twats.”

No!” I screamed. I yanked myself away from him as fast as I could, practically ripping my hair out, and darted towards the bedroom.

My feet pounded against the ground as I ran, with Damien racing after me. I slammed the door and barricaded it with my body as he pounded down on it violently, screaming at me to open it. My body jerked as he started to shove his shoulder against the door. My feet slid into the rug as I tried to hold as much bodyweight against the door, my hand gripping the knob, sweat making it harder to hold on to. I could feel the knob rattling beneath my hand. Damien gave one last hard shove to the door, making me fall to the ground.

He entered the room, standing over me. The image of him in that same position all those years ago in the hotel room flashed into my mind. Only this time, no remorse came to him. He walked over to me and dragged me by the hair towards the bed, picked me up and threw me on it. I struggled beneath him as he pinned me down.

“No! Get off!” I cried as I tried to push him off me.

“Shut up!” He snarled, shoving me harder into the bed, his elbow ground into my collar bone, making me gasp for air.

He was hovering over me, his body inches from mine. In that moment, I could only do one thing. I slowly moved my knee up as best as I could and smashed it into his crotch. He flew off me, and knelt to the ground in pain, wincing and cursing multiple four-letter words at the same time.

I rolled off the bed and ran out of the room. I made my way towards the front door, but Damien had caught up and grabbed my arm. He yanked me towards him and slammed me against the wall. I tried kneeing him in the crotch again, but he was one step ahead of me.

“Guess it’s a good thing you don’t want kids,” he gurgled into my ear. “It wouldn’t be good for them to see Mommy in such a bad state.” He grabbed my chin in his hands, squeezing it so hard, I could practically feel the bruise forming beneath his fingers. “By the way,” he added, “I found the picture in the bottom of your drawer. So, that’s what you think of us.”

I tried shaking my head but could barely move it beneath his grip. He squeezed harder, forcing me to let out a sob.

“Why don’t you just say you’re sorry?” He said. “Say sorry for being such a selfish wife. For breaking that beautiful picture of us. For treating me like a crappy husband. Say sorry, and I’ll forgive you. That’s all you have to do.”

I shook my head stiffly. Damien let out a disheartened sigh, then slammed my head against the wall again. I began crying harder, the most I’ve ever done in front of him.

“Annie, I’m giving you an ultimatum here,” he said, his voice now becoming impatient, “you’re just not complying. I don’t like doing this to you. But you make it very difficult for me. In a way, I’m not the abusive one here. You are.”

My eyes snapped towards his. I looked at his face, his eyes displaying a frightening mix of deviousness and false sincerity. The edge of his lip curled into a tight smirk, making his mouth twitch. I could tell he wanted to screw his face into a rageful expression so badly, but he was holding it back to assuage me. It wasn’t working, however, and now I can’t hold back my own rage that has returned.

With all the strength I have, I shoved him away from me. He tried to go back in, but I shoved again.

“No,” I said, my voice shaking vehemently. A chill surged through my entire body as I took a step away from the wall and toward him. My nostrils flared as I stared him down. Although he’s considerably larger and taller than me, I felt as if I was eye level with him. My rigid body movement towards him forced him to back up a few inches.

“What are you going to do?” He scoffed cockily. “Hit me? Go ahead. Do it.”

I shake my head. “No, Damien. I’m not going to hit you. You know why? Because you’re not worth fighting against. Even though nothing would make me happier than to see your face smashed in, I’m not going to lower myself to your level.”

“Oh, really?” He took a step toward me, accepting the challenge. “You could never be at my level. I will always be—”

“Shut up, Damien,” I said forcefully, my voice cracking.

“Don’t talk to me like that,” he warned darkly, moving an inch closer.

“I said shut up! For the longest time, I’ve allowed you to control me. Those times when I tried to leave, and you threatened me, I admit I was afraid of your capabilities on following through on them. Not anymore though. I don’t care. Go ahead and tell everyone you know I’m mentally unstable or however you put it. They won’t believe you anyway, they’ll just see you as the raving lunatic you really are. I’ll be away from you, that’s all that matters.” I started inhaling and exhaling quickly, my breathing becoming almost violent. I could feel tears threatening their way up, but I swallowed them down. I was done crying.

“Did you know that every morning when you left for work, I made a silent wish that you would never come back? Not die necessarily, just disappear. And that when you did come home, I felt disappointed. Then guilt for even feeling that.” The more I spoke, the harder my voice shook. I could feel my body physically draining as everything poured out of me. “I broke the picture because it was the first thing I saw. I threw it at the wall after you left the day that I told you I didn’t want children. Well, you’re right. I do want children. Just not with you. The thought of having a baby with you and the fact that that child will have half of your DNA makes me sick.”

I paused to take a deep breath. I looked up at Damien. His face was rigid and hard. His eyes bulged out in anger, I could see the veins around his lids protruding. His fists were balled at his sides as if he were ready to strike at any moment. I raised my chin up at him, not taking my eyes off his.

“I am done with you,” I declared.

I started to walk past him, but he grabbed me by the arm.

“You stupid little bitch,” he spat. “You’re not going anywhere. You know you’ll come crawling back to me because you can’t live without me. You are a pathetic excuse for a human being.”

I looked at him straight in the eyes and yanked my arm out of his grasp.

“No,” I hissed. “You are.”

I shoved past him and walked out of the house. Sprinting down the steps, I made my way to my car and tore out of our long, winding driveway. I knew he’d follow me. I know he’ll catch up with me. Let him. The first place I’m going to is the police station. They’ll take care of him.

As I drove, I rolled my window down. The breeze felt cool on my face as the flowers outside were just beginning to bloom. I looked at the calm, spring day ahead of me. And the world around me started to feel brighter than it has in a long time.

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