My suitcase lies hidden under the bed, packed with bare essentials, a new identity and enough cash for the next six months. I know the perilous consequences if Jake discovers my covert plan. I’ve waited months for the perfect day. Each morning after he leaves for work, I review over and over in my mind exactly how I will escape. I’ve rehearsed the day until it has become as familiar to me as the sound of my own voice.
I know today is the day. It appeared without warning, yet I have yearned desperately for its arrival the past months. I feel a surge of adrenaline, my heart races and my head is pounding. Can I actually gather the courage to do the unthinkable? So many previously considered “What ifs?” clamor for my attention. I remind myself to breathe deeply. My tangled thoughts are interrupted by my four year old daughter calling out.
“Mommy, we’re going to be late for the babysitter. Hurry up!”
“I’ll be right there, Sharon. Help Abby go potty and brush her teeth.”
I need a few minutes to get my head straight after working the nightshift. I know my best friend Tracy will be praying for me all day. Tracy, my only confidant, sworn to secrecy, my lifeline. Tracy is the mastermind who devised this plan in the first place and assures me it is fail-proof.
I sit on the edge of the bed shivering. I pray for strength and courage to a God I am not even sure exists. I’m terrified to leave and terrified to stay. How could love hurt so much?
Jake seemed the perfect potential husband. He fooled me and the rest of the campus with his charming wit and incredible good looks. I practically melted when he first kissed me. His gentle way and protective attitude made me feel secure and loved. Everyone, especially my family, fell in love with him and delighted in our engagement my senior year of college.
Only once before we married did I glimpse the beast that lurked beneath the surface. When Jake made his only attempt at going further than kissing, I shyly, yet firmly pushed his roaming hands away and whispered, “No, please wait.” He punched a hole in my dorm room wall and slammed the door as he stomped out. I lay there for hours in shock, tears soaking my pillowcase.
Later that evening, I heard the tick of pebbles hitting my window. Peering out, I saw Jake holding a huge poster, “I’m sorry. I was a jerk. I love you!” In his free hand he offered up a pint of my favorite ice cream and beamed his winning smile. I forgave him and we shared the Rocky Road with one spoon.
Our first honeymoon night fulfilled all of my hopes for the start of a wonderful marriage. However by the third night, Jake became rougher in spite of my polite protests. The actual violence started a few months into the marriage. I managed to explain away my first black eye with a silly story about tripping over the chair in the dark. I had always been klutzy so most of my injuries I could cover. Many of my bruises Jake cleverly inflicted in areas that could be hidden by clothes.
I became withdrawn and stayed close to home. Tracy guessed the reason for the change in me during my first pregnancy. Maybe others suspected, but most were too polite to comment. Instead of joyful expectation, I experienced extreme anxiety during both of my pregnancies. Eventually, I promised Tracy I would consider leaving if Jake ever touched one of the girls.
His continual threats of what he would do to me if I ever try to leave, keep me from running. I’m torn. Although I am petrified of him, I realize, I truly love him and don’t want to break my wedding vows. I bargain with myself and decide to give him one more chance. One last chance.
Abby shuffles half naked into the room crying. “Mommy I didn’t make it to the bathroom. I got my pants all wet.” As I stand up, I feel panic well up when I notice the fresh bruises spotting Abby’s thighs.
I wrap Abby in a big hug, then on my hands and knees dig out the hidden suitcase. She leans on me as I quickly help her wiggle into clean pants.
“Come on girls. We’re going on an adventure today.”
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