The first time he hit me, it was all my fault. I knew it was. We were goofing off. Playing around, wrestling on the bed. I accidentally brought my head back and whacked him in the nose. He abruptly rolled me over and slapped me across the face, pushed me hard down into the mattress by my arms, and jumped off the bed.
When he came back to the room, his face was as red as his eyes, and he apologized with tears and pleads for forgiveness. Of course I forgave him. It was my fault.
The third time he hit me was a week later- it was because I started my period. Obviously I’d lied about possibly being pregnant. I was stupid, I should’ve considered how sometimes periods can be really late. Like, a month late.
The fourth time he hit me it was because I didn’t smile at him while we were having sex. It’s only natural that a girl should want to smile at her boyfriend.
The fifth time he hit me because I was taking too long in the shower and he didn’t like that. Water isn’t free, I should know that.
The sixth time he hit me because I didn’t get up from the shower floor fast enough. I always did move too slow.
The seventh time he hit me it was to remind me that hot water isn’t free. Obviously I needed the reminder.
The eighth time he hit me because his dad told him to keep his whore girlfriend in line. Men should respect their fathers, I get that, and I really shouldn’t have been smoking outside with him. Ladies don’t smoke, it’s disrespectful.
The ninth time he hit me because I wasn’t getting in the car fast enough. Damn it, I really needed to learn to move faster.
The tenth, and final, time he hit me was the night his dad tried to kill his mother. He hit me and then left the room to find something that might help me “learn the lesson better”. He walked in to his father assaulting his mother within inches of her life. From the bedroom, I crept down the hall and watched him fling himself in front of his mother, catching his father’s closed fist across his handsome face. He turned and crouched over his mother’s unconscious body, protecting her from every blow. From his position, his eyes caught mine. He was sorry. He was horrified. He was injured.
He was never going to change.
The night is one I will never forget. I can only try to describe the SWAT team that rushed to the house, swarming in as his father dragged his unconscious mother to a bedroom and locked themselves in, threatening to blow the house up with the dozens of firearms stored in his closet and the explosives in a chest at the end of his bed. The way the masked men pushed me to the floor, next to his kid sister, who was also injured and lying bleeding in a doorway. The way his sister’s boyfriend was crumpled next to her, desperately trying to stop the bleeding. The way he lay on the kitchen floor, his face red and his eyes never leaving mine. The way the house shook when the SWAT team crashed through the window to his dad’s bedroom and sent his body screaming into the opposite wall.
The way his dad came home three days later, bailed out by his mother with a feeble “I shouldn’t have drank all the tea. I know how much he likes a glass of tea when he gets home.”
A few weeks later I moved away for college. He stood in the terminal with me as we waited. Just as I was about to board, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
In front of all of those people. Those people who were waiting anxiously for me to say “YES!” I shifted feet and looked around nervously. He was getting anxious.
“Yes,” I told him, knowing full and well that when I was safely halfway across the country I was going to break off the engagement.
He grinned and shouted and jumped up, pulling me into his arms.
“If you don’t come back, I’ll f*%@ing kill you,” he whispered in my ear.
I have never looked back. I knew when I left that he would kill me if I came back, or he would die trying. I knew that, no matter how much I thought I deserved it, I wanted to live more than that.
And that’s why I left.
Photo Credit: Flickr