“You don’t have to live like this, Rachel.” Empathy laced the nurse’s voice. “There is help.” She held out a business card as the doctor stitched the gash over my eye. Neither of them bought my story about falling down the basement stairs.
Ronnie had once been such a loving, attentive husband, but these days, any little thing set him off. Twelve years of marriage, three kids, a demanding job and a mortgage. He has a lot to carry.
I took the nurse’s offering and, without reading it, tucked the card into my breast pocket. Ronnie would definitely find it in my purse. I wanted to tell the doctor to hurry … gotta clean the house, pick up Sammy from soccer and get dinner started … but I’d learned silence is the best medicine for a split lip.
Ronnie always apologized, tenderly, sweetly, sometimes with gifts. And he always said he loved me … after. Brutal flashes rushed in, and I tasted the memory of blood. What kind of love is this? The bad kind, if there’s such a thing. Perhaps, the worst kind. Oh, God, if you can hear me, don’t I deserve better? Don’t my children?
“Are you married?” the nurse touched my forearm, her hand lingering there as we spoke.
The doctor had just finished, and I watched him leave before nodding gingerly. “It’ll be thirteen years in May.”
“Wow,” she breathed heavily, “that’s a long time.”
With no hint of congratulation in her tone, I suddenly felt like a bad wife, sitting there putting my husband’s secrets on display. “He loves me, you know. He really does. It’s just …” I fought for words but none came.
“Oh, Rachel, real love is patient and kind. It’s not easily angered, always protects and never fails. This…” the young nurse moved her hand lightly over the bandage on my brow, “… is nothing like love.”
Her words penetrated my flesh and sank in, weighing on me like a decision I didn’t want to make. The doctor returned and handed me a prescription for pain killer. I glanced at it and sighed, hoping for something stronger. But even Vicodin wouldn’t dull my pain, my real pain. Like a coat of nails I’m forced to wear, it’s a part of me.
“Think about it, Rachel,” the nurse urged as I slid off the table to collect my things.
“Thank you,” I said, and meant it.
Walking down the long corridor, a flurry of medical personnel and patients crossed my path, in no way lessening the armies of voices waging war between my ears. Without looking back at the hopeful young nurse, I dug the card from my breast pocket, reading the information printed there. Abuse. What an ugly word. I closed my eyes for an instant as the throbbing in my head commanded my full attention. Then, somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard Ronnie whisper, “I love you, Rachel.” Glancing once more at the card, I let it fall into a trash can as I exited the hospital and headed home.
* * * * * * * * * *
Domestic violence affects one in four women and is the largest cause of death worldwide among women 19-44, greater than war, cancer or automobile accidents.
Biblical references from 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV).
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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