The sun shone the day she married him: it rained the day she left him.
“‘Happy is the bride the sun shines on,’” her mother had quoted as she placed the veil on Madeline’s head and fluffed out its edges. Together they’d smiled at their reflections in the mirror. Marrying handsome, charming Damien was a dream come true – for all of them. Her friends had openly envied her – even shed a tear or two - because Damien was now hers forever.
Or so she had thought.
Almost immediately Madeline’s suspicions had been aroused. Just little things at first: the Internet sites he ‘accidentally’ stumbled upon, the unexplained absences, the quickly terminated phone calls, the way he eyed other women when they were out, his possessiveness. She told herself that she knew so little about men. It was probably normal. He loved her. She was just insecure. Divorce was not an option. And so to preserve her dreams, she dismissed her doubts and fears.
When their daughter Amanda arrived his fits of jealousy increased, but still Madi continued to deceive herself. Until the day she walked out, taking Amanda with her.
Driving through the streaming rain she brushed at the hair clinging to her face and peered through the windscreen. Her face was wet - whether from tears or rain she couldn’t tell. Amanda cried in the back seat where Madi had secured her, a hastily packed bag thrown in alongside. Damien had gone out – to rent a movie he’d said – and Madi had seen her chance.
Her father opened the door, his alarmed greeting bringing her mother running. Wordlessly Madi handed Amanda to her mother. Stepping through the door she pushed back the hood of her rain jacket and turned to confront their horrified faces.
She’d asked herself the same a hundred times in the car.
She shrugged. “Said he wanted to teach me a lesson.”
“What did you do?”
She winced at their accusatory tone, but it was understandable. An elder in the church, Damien appeared to be the model husband and father. Few people – if any – suspected what lay beneath that perfect exterior.
She replayed the events of the previous hours. Dragging her by her hair he’d thrown her against the bath and spewed out his rage.
“You thought I didn’t know. You thought I wouldn’t find out. Well I’m not stupid. How long has this been going on behind my back? Answer me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I saw you with him. In public. Smiling and carrying on.”
“You mean the man in the store? He just said what a beautiful daughter we have. That’s all. I’ve never seen him before.”
“Liar,” he screamed at her. Then she saw the knife in his hand.
She inched up against the wall, feeling the coldness of its tiles seep into her bones.
“Damien. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to teach you a lesson that’s what I’m going to do. And when I’ve finished no man will want you.”
Unconsciously Madi reached up to touch her hair. Reaching almost to her knees it had been her crowning glory. Now it lay jaggedly against her neck and cheeks, sawn off by her own husband.
She saw her mother’s eyes follow her hand and the tears that filled her mother’s eyes. She hated to hurt them. Perhaps she shouldn’t have come. Her father’s words cut into her thoughts.
“What will you do now?”
“I need to get away. Not here. This is the first place he’ll look.”
Her mother moaned but her father nodded.
The shrill of the phone broke the silence and her father went to answer it.
“Hello. … Damien,” he glanced at Madeline. “Why would she be out on a night like this? She hates driving in the rain. … I see. … Well, come if you must, but you won’t find her here.”
He hung up and faced her.
“You’d better go. He’s on his way. Here,” he pulled his wallet out and handed her several bills. “Take these. You’ll need them.”
“Thanks daddy,” she embraced him. Gently he let his hand caress what remained of her hair before kissing her cheek.
Wrapping Amanda more tightly in her blankets, her mother gently placed her into Madi’s arms and then kissed them both. With one last loving look, Madi stepped through the door and out into the pelting frigid rain.
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