He rummaged around in a frenzy while she watched. Just back from a great evening with a friend, she had been telling him about it. While she talked, he got up, searching for something, asking her questions about how she had felt, where she went, what they spoke about. She happily narrated the amazing evening she had, connecting up surprisingly well with the new friend she had made, telling him how refreshing it was to find someone to discuss literature with for a change.
At some point, she stopped, realizing he had stopped hunting for whatever he was looking for. He stood a distance away with a crepe bandage in his hand that he had unwound the length of. She had loaned it to him when he had twisted his ankle a couple of days, perhaps a week, ago.
"What are you doing?" she asked, a sense of foreboding coursing through her veins. The air was suddenly ominous and she hated the fear that crept inside her stomach, an eddy of trepidation that coursed through her and ran her body cold.
She tried to get up.
"Sit." he ordered. She sat back, petrified.
A pair of scissors in his hands cut the bandage into two. That was however not what stopped her short, choking her breath and intimidated her. It was his eyes, watching her, in a cold murderous gaze while he began to slowly wrap the bandages around his hands, slowly, deliberately, never once taking his eyes off her. She held his gaze, feeling the bile rise to her throat slowly. She was spiralling into a space she didn't want to be in and fought hard to keep her calm.
He had not answered.
"Why are are you tying bandage on your hands? Are you hurt?" she asked again, amazed that her voice came out without the chill she felt inside her.
"Do you know," he said smiling, eyes still not leaving her, "You wrap something around you and then put on your gloves for boxing? It prevents bruising."
She let go a breath slowly, realizing she had been holding it a while, relaxing a bit.
"Are you going somewhere for practice?" she asked. He was a fitness fanatic and she played around with the possibility even as he spoke.
"I don't need to." he said, stepping closer to where she was seated on the worn-out sofa. "I can practice right here."
She smiled and later would recall the irony of that smile.
A million stars blinded her as the first punch hit her nose throwing her head back, her neck turning to the side as she realized she was his punching bag. Her face was pounding with the first hit and then came another, which she tried to duck but the punch managed to graze her cheek.
Oh God! What was wrong with him? Pain seared through while she tried to get herself to stay calm. So far, she had not screamed and she shuddered at her capacity to withstand physical pain. Stop! Stop! Please stop!
She managed to get out of the sofa and ran to reach the door. She needed to get out. This man had gone mad. Her head spun with the shock of it, with the stupefying realization of the reality that the man who said he loved her had turned into a jealous raving madman who was unleashing unfettered violence on her. She needed to get out.
He swung her around a few meters away from the door. That is when she lost track of the pain. The punches came without a break, her back against the wall he had pushed her to, her ribs cracking, breaking, and the kicks landed on her pelvis and that hurt. It was as if a stubbornness began filling her up. She refused to scream or cry. He did not stop until her legs gave way, and she slid onto the floor, curling up, blood soaking up on her t-shirt, the size of the blotch increasing as her hazy vision struggled to stay aware of what was around her.
"You went out with a man?" he blazed.
"I asked you if I could and you encouraged me remember?" she responded quietly, salty blood seeping out from the corner of her mouth. She sat up on the floor, her arms holding her knees and she realized she was swaying, as if singing herself a lullaby. She needed some rhythm to keep her composure. She would not cry. She did not want to give him that satisfaction. It took all of her energy, but she held on. She needed to hear it from him even though she had it figured out by then that this man was insanely jealous that she had gone out with one of his friends for coffee.
"So?" he retorted, his eyes still cruel, bearing down on her, without sympathy at what he had just done to her.
"This doesn't make sense. It was just coffee!" she replied. Pain was throbbing through her and she dared not raise her hand to even touch her face. It felt ripped apart. She inwardly prayed it was lesser damage than she felt.
"You don't understand, do you?" he said, a short laugh and sarcasm dripping together. She looked at him then, a question in her eyes, pain set aside for that instance.
"I own you." he continued. "You will always be my slave and do you know why?"
"If you ever refuse me, for anything, or even so much as look at another man, no man will ever want you. I will make sure of it. I will tell them all about you; every little detail, all of it. If you ever tell anyone I hit you, I will destroy you."
Sitting on the bare floor, cold seeping to her bones, she believed him. With a sickening heartache, she knew he meant it. He was capable of it. She wanted to get out. She needed to find her strength to end it all.
He raved, ranted, telling her about how he thought she was a cheap whore, telling her about other women he was sleeping with, about how he didn't love her. She believed he didn't. Love is not this. She listened. She made no move. She had been trapped into this relationship, a fly who unwittingly got caught into the spider's web and wasn't able to leave thereafter. It had been months and she hadn't found a way to come out of this clean. She felt dirty and knew nothing could cleanse her spirit. it was that thought that scared her the most.
Finally he stopped talking, watching her. She sat, staring at him, dead eyes, not giving him a reaction to his endless tirade.
"Get out." he said. "Go clean up. Not a word to anyone."
She got up, surprised to manage on her own. The cold breeze hit her face as she stepped out into the darkness. It was late she noticed, relieved that she would hopefully not cross anyone on the way back to her apartment. She lived down the street and she found her way into the bathroom, managing to drag herself to the mirror.
Her eyes remained shut, afraid of what she would see.
He was right.
The damage was more internal. Her nose had bled onto the t-shirt and her cheek was slightly grazed. a cut on the top of her nose looked like it needed attention but she would manage that. The t-shirt came off and she could see the bruises forming, below her breasts, a red welt on her pelvis was sign of another injury. She knew they would be blue by morning. All she wanted was to be able to treat her nose without having the doctor ask her too many questions.
A couple of lies about hitting her nose on the door and falling, she managed to get through the doctor. It had taken all her strength to not squirm, or limp. Broken nose.
She would have to live with that. It was a reminder to never let a man ever hit her.
A week later, she walked on the street and ran into him. It had been a week since that night he had broken her nose.
"Why haven't you shown up bitch?" he asked. "I hope you haven't told anyone."
She looked up at him. "No, I haven't," she said, her voice calm and without emotion. "Isn't that obvious considering you are not in jail?"
"Also," she added, resolve and strength in her voice, "I am not sure what you will do, but I am dumping you. I am not your slave and I never will be."
His eyes blazed. "Why you..." and he stopped as a group of youngsters passed by.
"Never been dumped, have you?" she asked, putting as much sarcasm into her voice as she could. "Well then...here is your first."
She did not wait for him to respond. She turned and walked away, head held high, back to her apartment. Her heart was resounding. She thought it would burst. She managed to shut the door behind her as her legs became jelly and gave way. She slid down to the floor, thankful to whatever had given her strength to face him. She smiled for the first time in days.
She was scarred but alive. She let out a sigh,the dam broke...and the tears never stopped.