Waking up suddenly, she was frightened she had even fallen asleep at all. Frantically, she started searching for her children, finding them cuddled together in a ball behind her. Afraid to move, to make a noise, she looked around the bedroom, and noticed that everything was just as it was left the night before. The dresser was still acting as a barricade in front of the bedroom door. The shelves, television and chair were still stacked on top the dresser. The wooden dowel was still placed within the track of the window, to ensure no access could be gained to the room, and the shades were still drawn, so he couldn’t see them. She had made it through the night, they had made it to Monday, and she knew she could now get help.Fearful to wake the children, who had to be traumatized following the hell of last night, Anna listened through the walls for any sign of life, a television turned on, a voice on a telephone, anything – she heard nothing. Quivering with both fear and anxiety she slowly opened the door, peeking through the crack, careful to not let the door squeak. Once it was open enough to look out, she could see they were alone. Quickly, she ran to every access point and locked all the chains on the doors, placing the wooden dowels in all the windows, and locking the sliding glass door. She checked every closet, behind every shower curtain, under each bed – and with a sigh of relief they were alone. Getting the kids up, she dressed them and packed them each a bag, loaded them into her car and drove to the payphone across the street. Calling her mother, she asked for her to come and get them, as she needed to take care of something’s at home first, and would join them later. Realizing he had broken her cellphone the night before, she had no access to call anyone, her mother left her with hers just in case. Knowing the kids were safe, she knew she had to devise a plan – a plan for their safety so this monster could never come back again. Once back inside the apartment, looking around she slid into a corner and broke down. All of their family photos, frames and all were now partly ash lying in the fireplace. Her wedding dress laid slashed into tiny shreds in the entry way of their bedroom. Furniture was strewn in rooms they did not belong, and the kitchen floor was covered in the glass of every beer in a twelve pack. Flashbacks of him choking her, him holding her down – would immobilize her for a moment, and then the rage would flow through her enough to clean up the mess. “How could I have let it get this far?” she asked herself. “What kind of mother allows a man to scare her children like this?” she said angrily to the reflection facing her in the mirror. This wasn’t the first time her husband had hurt her, but it was the first time the children ever saw it. They had only seen his possessive side, the side where only he was allowed to love her, sit by her, cuddle her or need her. She was his now, not the children’s – and although at times she was able to assert her will and take care of the children regardless, she would pay for it later, when they were away. She made amends with it, because in her mind, this wasn’t him, he wasn’t the bad person – the alcohol was. If only she could keep a distance between him and the alcohol, they would be fine, they could go back to the happiness they shared in the beginning.He wasn’t always a horrible man, in fact in the beginning he lit up Anna’s very existence. Having suffered from a less than favorable childhood, Anna’s self-esteem left something to be desired. When she met Darren, he was a god-fearing plumber, who made her feel like she was placed upon the highest pedestal, and he was sober. Darren would tell Anna, she was beautiful and she believed it. The way his eyes looked into her, almost a captivating search of all she was and knew, drew her in. His touch would make her heartbeat multiply; it would cause butterflies and fear within her instantly. Fear, because she had never felt this way before, and because she didn’t want to ever lose it. At first, he would parade Anna around, like she was a trophy – in church he loved having her on his arm. Whispering to her “when these people see me, with all these tattoos, and you beside me, they have to see I’m a good person” and she would smile, getting closer he would make her promise to never leave him. That was easy for Anna, she couldn’t fathom the idea, she was head over heels in love with this man, and she would never leave him. When he would talk to her, it was as it if was a personal story-time and she was a child intently listening to what would happen next. Every beginning he shared with her, she experienced right along with him, and every painful ending she suffered as well. There was nothing in his past, which she couldn’t forgive, nothing to extend judgment towards, she just loved him so completely, that she didn’t care.Being with him felt natural, it made sense and for the first time in her life, she felt comfortable with a man. She felt comfort in her own skin, because he saw beauty in her every imperfection. Scars, or parts of her body that she had always hidden, he brought out, he complimented and loved – making her feel seen, accepted and loved. She could lay with him naked for hours in front of the fireplace and never would a second guessing moment enter her mind. He would talk to her about growing old together, and how his wrinkling hand would still cup her breast, as it did today. He romanced her, cooked for her even; he in every way possible swept her off her feet and made her feel alive. Quickly they married, to prove all the naysayers wrong. That, they had what it took and that it didn’t matter what the past had held they could make it through anything. Her friends tried relentlessly to break Anna of his spell, to remind her of his alcoholism, and how that doesn’t just go away. They expressed their concern about him possibly getting physical, only for Anna to brush that away with a very stern “He would never do that, I know him, that’s one thing he would never do”. She was happy, why couldn’t people understand that, she questioned. After a couple months of playing the supportive husband, and the fun stepdad, Darren lost his job. Stress set in, and little fights would ensue. Subconsciously, Anna would worry he was going to drink, but instead he attended meetings religiously and even some she would go with as a support. Coming home from lunch one day at work, she was surprised to find a beautiful lunch on the table waiting for her. Darren stood there proud, and the stress she felt throughout the morning, not being able to “watch” him and trust him – went out the window. They enjoyed a great lunch, and she allowed herself to fall in love with him a little more. Knocking over her milk, she went to the cupboard to get the paper towels, only to find a bottle of alcohol hidden behind it. Her heart sank, the pit of her stomach felt as if a boulder had dropped from the sky. Standing behind her, knowing his secret has been revealed, he pled his case. “Anna, it’s just one, I promise, it’s not going to be an everyday thing, I have this under control, it’s just been a stressful week. It will never happen again, I promise.” His pleading, replaced her anger and disbelief with coddling and sadness, she wanted to help him, not hurt him. “It’s okay honey, we can get through this together, I’m not going anywhere, I promise” she told him, and then he broke down in her arms. Anna thought to herself, what a broken man, he had nothing, no one, and the only solace he could find was at the bottom of an empty bottle. “He needs me” she thought to herself, “and I can help him” and that is what she planned to do. She micromanaged him, tested him, making sure he wasn’t hiding anything. She drove him to meetings and classes; they spent every free moment with family, to ensure he couldn’t sneak away, or hide anything. For months he did great – they did great. One night following a long day, Anna had decided to prepare Darren a nice meal, needing some salt, she sent him to the store. Upon his return, he walked in with not only salt, but a six pack of beer. Instantly, she thought “shit I should have gone to the store, I should know he isn’t strong enough to see beer, to be around it and not impulsively buy it.” Without thinking she grabbed the beer one bottle at a time and through them to the floor, shattering them all. Before the last bottle hit the floor, his hands had wrapped around her throat so tightly she couldn’t scream, she couldn’t breathe. Her eyes blinking rapidly, searching his eyes for any sign of life in them, and failing to escape his hold she fell to the floor. Feeling lifeless, seeing him standing over her, she couldn’t even move – then one deep breath brought her back into the fight. Quickly reaching for a knife, Anna, stood up and charged him, while lunging towards him in an attempt to stab him anywhere, he gained control of the knife and now had her pony tail tight in his grip. Before she could even see it coming, he had used her ponytail as a handle, slamming her head into the corner of the entry way. Instantly reaching for the pieces of her skull she was certain was hanging off, she felt nothing. Managing to scramble away during his moment of contemplating what the hell he was doing, he quickly caught up to her as she was trying to get to a phone in the bedroom. Snatching her up of the floor by her throat again he threw her onto the bed. This was it, she thought to herself, “I am done, he is going to kill me, and I have no way to stop him”. Then just as quickly as she had given up, he had also – he left her there on the bed screaming in agony, begging for him to stop. Once he walked far enough way, she saw the keys on the nightstand, grabbing them she made a run for the door and got out. Locking herself in the car, noticing she was barefoot and wearing hardly anything, he was no sooner pounding on the car window threatening to punch through it if she didn’t open it. Slamming the car into to reverse, she backed out and squealed out of the parking lot no longer worried about how she was dressed. Noticing that the neighbors were home, she wondered how it was possible they hadn’t heard her screams, her begging for her life, how could they just simply ignore that? Feeling dizzy, and terrified, she walked into the emergency room, feeling like everyone was staring at her, she went to the open window with the lady looking at her. “I need to see a doctor please, my head hurts” she said, the nurse asked if she was okay and what had happened. As Anna explained, the nurse said she would have to call the police and that she would have to file a report. “Never mind” Anna replied, “you don’t understand” and she walked out of the hospital to her car. Just as she was getting into her car, the nurse from before came running out to her. “Wait, Ma’am, you can’t leave, you have to be seen”. Anna explained she couldn’t report her husband that it would be far worse for her and that if the only way she could be seen was to make a police report, she would just go home. The nurse assured her; she didn’t have to and managed to talk Anna into coming back inside. Lying in the hospital bed, Anna was curled up in a tiny ball, sobbing, she was in shock. The doctor came in and said that she needed to have a cat scan because the injuries were far worse than just a bump and her throat was swollen to the point of concern. Upon returning to her room, she was met by an officer holding a camera. She knew then that the nurse had lied to her; and that she would need to lie, and she did. The doctor came in and told her this was not an isolated drunken “choking” that this was “attempted murder” and that she needed to snap out of this and cooperate with the officer. She cooperated, just not truthfully. Then, she went home. Hoping to see her husband, and saddened when he was not there.The next day, Anna’s children came home and so did Darren. To her relief, he always behaved in front of the kids, so this would buy her some time to figure things out. After all, she did love him, and she knew it wasn’t him that hurt her, it was the alcohol. The house showed no semblance of any fight, her neck wasn’t as swollen and she could play it off as having had a bad cold. Anna tried to avoid Darren, but his possessiveness would make that impossible, she played along. She just needed to get through this night, then it would be Monday and she could get some help. While Anna was watching TV on the couch with the kids, Darren went to the store. Anna made sure the kids knew she loved them, and held them tight, then told them to go to bed and she would be in to tuck them in shortly.Following Darren’s return, he saw Anna in whispering to the boys – “What are you being so secretive about” he hollered at Anna. Kissing the boys goodnight, closing their door she told Darren she was just saying a good night prayer was all. Glancing down at Darren’s brown bag, she knew what was in there. Last night he came home with six bottles and tonight there twice as many. “You want to break these too?” he teased. Shaking her head No, she made her way to the couch. He sat beside her with a bottle in one hand and then tried to touch Anna with the other. She shuttered when he touched her, which was a first – she was terrified of him. The thought of him touching her made her violently ill. “What, you don’t love me anymore? He questioned. “You have a new man now, is that why I can’t touch you?” “You are a whore after all, it’s all you will ever be, and you know that right?” Sitting still, she sat quietly looking at him, not knowing whether to speak up or to stay silent. Before she knew it, he was up off the couch, and thrashing the living room. Throwing every item from the living room into the fireplace – causing so much black smoke in the home that within minutes the Fire Department was in their home. He managed to make it seem normal what he was doing, and shortly after, the firemen left. No sooner has they left, he grabbed her jewelry, flushing it all down the toilet, and without even blinking – he unzipped her wedding dress from its protective bag and began shredding it with his knife. He was ruining anything that met anything to her, and she just let him. Watching him numbly, as if she was having an out of body experience, and unable to move. He walked over snapping her laptop in half, then took both of their cellphones and broken them in half as well. “Guess you can’t call your boyfriend now, you dirty skank whore” he kept saying over and over to her. At this point, Anna become infuriated and was worried the kids would wake up – she took all her strength and got into his face – “I hate you” she whispered it over and over again. “You’re a monster” “a Liar” “you promised me”, “how dare you” and she began to cry. Feeling void of any love for him, she was now pissed more than being scared and as she continued to tell him what she thought of him, he got up and walked towards her. Worried she walked towards the kid’s room, reaching her, he grabbed her arm, and back handed her with no warning. “Is that how sluts talked in your mother’s house?” he questioned. Scrambling she got away from him, and locked herself in the boys room. The boys both awake now were crying and scared. She frantically moved their dresser in front of the door to keep Darren out. Then placed the wooden dowel in the window, pulled the curtains closed, turned on a movie in their room and they held on tight to each other. Darren banged on the door, and threatened he would kill them all, and demanded they open the door – but there was no way in, or out at the point for any of them, and without access to any phones, Anna just prayed that he would leave and leave them alone. Eventually both boys fell asleep, and although Darren’s repeated attempts between beers to get Anna to come out, she never said a word, never moved a muscle; she just laid there with her children in her arms, praying for god to protect them. Anna knew he would return at some point, and Anna also knew she would let him. Even though he had hurt her, had put her children in danger, she still loved him, and felt a need to do anything he told her to do. She knew this, but she also knew it was wrong. She knew she needed to set into action a way that he couldn’t get to her, and that she couldn’t get to him. Yes, she needed to make sure she couldn’t contact him, call him, touch him, and see him. He was to her, what alcohol was to him – an addiction. She knew she had to break it. It was no Monday morning, and it was time.Leaving the house how it was, she went to the pay phone across the street and called the police. She told them what happened, what he was wearing when he left and soon they were at her home. She told them the truth about the hospital visit, the fire the night before, she told them everything. While they were checking the house, over the radio she overheard the suspect had been apprehended and her heart broke. Instantly she wanted to take it all back, she wanted to fix it, and run to him wherever he was and beg for his forgiveness, to gain his love, respect and trust back. She wanted him – even if it killed her. But, she didn’t take anything back or run to him, she kept all those thoughts hidden inside. This is why she called the police, this is why she wanted him arrested, not to keep him from her, but to keep herself from having access to him. He was her drug, she couldn’t let him go on her own, she couldn’t see the toxic hold and downward spiral she was on, while holding his hand. She needed him ripped away and he was.Looking back now, four years later, Anna thinks back to that time with heartache and failure in her mind. She is disgusted at times, that she allowed that all to take place, and that she could have allowed someone that close to hurt her boys. There are days where she is angry that he promised her the world, and instead almost removed her from it, but one thing is for sure, she has never regretted picking up that phone that day and making that one last phone call that saved her life. The End
Each week authors will be given a new question to answer which will lend additional insight into their story and writing process. Do you have a question you'd like to see the authors answer? Tweet it to @aNextAuthor!