Archive for abuse

Waiting for the Monster

Posted in Poetry, Ramblings with tags , , , , , on 2010/09/25 by R L Burns


the cries echoed throughout

the silent house –

silent except for

the thumping and yelling,

and the weeping of the

two girls huddled together

in the bed,

crying and holding each other,

not knowing what to do

how to help

whom to ask to save them,

to save their mother


the older girl prayed

as the tears spilled

from her tightly shut eyes –

she wished she could

shut her ears just as tightly –

our Father, who art in Heaven…

deliver us from evil…

sadly, it didn’t work –

but then, it never did,

and this saddened her

more than she could

ever admit – to anyone


upstairs the sounds of

fighting continued –

bodies hitting the floor,

fists hitting softer flesh,

the sobbing of her mother

and her pleas for mercy…

the rejection of those pleas

expressed physically

as well as verbally


the older girl held

her little sister close,

patting her hair,

whispering words of comfort,

words that she knew

were lies, but all

she could think to do –

when suddenly

the noises stopped


the little one had

at last fallen into

an exhausted sleep,

so the older girl

covered her gently

with a blanket

and slid out of bed,

creeping quietly

to her bedroom door –

hearing nothing,

she tiptoed to the

bottom of the stairs

wondering what to do


should I go up

and check on her?

was she okay?

had he killed her?

why was it so quiet?


afraid to cause

more problems,

afraid to leave her mother

alone at the hands

of the monster,

afraid to leave

her sister…

just plain afraid,

she dithered for

a few moments

then reluctantly crept back

to her bedroom,

sitting on the floor

by her bed

where she could

keep watch on her sister

as well as monitor

the stairs in case

her mother managed

to escape the monster


sitting there,

nightgown pulled down,

her arms wrapped

around her knees,

she rocked back and forth





Life From the Perspective of a Piece of Trash

Posted in Ramblings with tags , on 2010/09/21 by R L Burns


When you ball up that hamburger wrapper and toss it towards the trash can — he shoots, he scores, the crowd goes wild! — do you ever consider the feelings of the wrapper as it sails through the unknown; how it feels when  it  lands, bruised and confused, in a dark, lonely hole filled with foul-smelling odors?  Ever wonder if that wrapper is wondering what it did to be left, forgotten, abandoned in a dank trash bin? 

No?  Well, let me enlighten you:  it is sad.  It feels like the guy in the movie “Scanners” before his head explodes.  It is filled with self-loathing, berating itself over and over for whatever it was that it did to cause you to hate it, to destroy it without a thought.

The Guy in "Scanners" - Yuck!

How do I know this?  Because I have been that wrapper. 

Like that wrapper, I have given my life (more than once, sad to say) to others, doing all within my power to keep their food warm, bug-free, and fresh.  And yet, no matter how hard I try, I always seem to end up in the trash can confused, alone and abandoned; never knowing why. It’s scary in the dark alone where I cannot find a way out.  I am left purposeless and full of pain.  Beyond that, there are monsters out there who love nothing better than to put discarded items in a masher.  The metal arms of the masher cut and tear me to bits. 

Even though I twist myself into a myriad of shapes to fit any hot (or cold) sandwich “they” desire, it’s never enough.  Some other, prettier, flashier, thicker wrapper always takes my place.  I don’t understand, though, why they use me until I am full of holes, my edges totally frayed, and I am no longer good for anything.  Where’s the respect for the poor little hamburger wrapper?  Maybe instead of the guy from “Scanners”, I’m really more like Rodney Dangerfield — you know, “I can’t get no respect!”

Somehow it just seems wrong. 

Next time you throw away a hamburger wrapper, etc., be kind to it.  Tell it good-bye and thank it for all it has done for you.  Is that too much to ask?  Maybe fold it neatly and place it gently in the trash.  Better yet, save it, keep it with you, let it prove its usefulness before just carelessly tossing it aside for the next wrapper you come across.

You know what?  I think I will start an After-Care program for abused and discarded hamburger wrappers.  Crushed soda cans, french fry containers, coffee cups — any used container will be welcome.  I think I’ll call it Abused Wrappers Anonymous. 

Eminem and Vanilla Ice need not apply.  🙂

I Remember You

Posted in life story with tags , , , , on 2010/03/01 by R L Burns

George – Here’s the piece I mentioned as it appeared at

I Remember You

December 24, 2009 by RL Burns · 4 comments


Photo: nattu

There are many things I wish I didn’t remember at all. Being raped at sixteen. A stepfather who beat the hell out of my mother, my sister and me. The hatred I felt towards him. Taking a gun to kill him and nearly killing myself instead. Rejection. The disappointment of every romantic relationship I have ever had. I went from a drunken, mentally, sexually and physically abusive husband to one who was emotionally withdrawn and distant – as usual, from one extreme to another, yes?  My stupidity in returning to that first husband twenty-odd years later, believing things could be different, only to find that nothing had changed after all. The pain of my grandmother’s death. 

Abandonment. The sexual abuse by a relative. The miscarriages. The pain of being mocked and used and abused over and over again. The self-loathing induced by my cowardice, my inability – or was it really unwillingness? – to stand up for myself; for letting these things happen. The physical pain I inflicted on myself by holding so much pain and rage inside. The loss of myself…that’s not really true. I never really knew myself, except for one brief moment in time, and I was too young to appreciate what was happening then. 

Instead I was a chameleon, changing my look, my sound, even my thoughts to match those around me. Afraid to be me – not even sure there WAS a me to be – because then everyone would know I was stupid and ugly. As long as I reflected them in a flattering light, they wouldn’t notice how distorted and warped I was. The pain of living a lie, of living without the one person who made me real, who made life (not mere existence) possible. A lifetime of dissatisfaction. The guilt I feel for whining about any of it. What did my grandmother always say? ”I was sad I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” I hate my weakness and self-pity.

And yet, there are some things I am glad to remember. The smell of my grandmother cooking bacon and eggs in the morning. The ice blue color of her eyes. Her smile. The look on my mother’s face when she was pleased with me. Riding my pony. The first time I read The Secret Garden or The Chronicles of Narnia or even The Picture of Dorian Gray. Riding on the ferry to Portsmouth with my mom, watching the sun rise. Playing with Paul’s “wah-wah” pedal while he played his guitar. 

The matching Easter dresses my aunt and I had for church one year. Sitting on the roof of the barn, staring at the bay, the wind blowing through my hair. Getting to sit in the front seat of my dad’s car when he had one of his girlfriends with us. Playing with Steph, singing, holding hands, laughing on the tire swing, giggling together under the covers at night when we were supposed to be asleep. The first time my son really laughed. The first time I saw in a student’s eyes that s/he knew I cared and that I could be trusted.  When Charley’s book was published and I knew I had done a good thing for him. The first time I saw Cheap Trick and the original Star Wars movie. And you, Michael.

The first time you smiled at me and touched my hand. Your voice.  Dancing with you at a junior high school dance.  Spending the day at the theme park…the night before we went. Walking in the moonlight with you, watching it play along the sharp planes of your face. The first time we kissed – by the lockers, wasn’t it? Hellstarr. Your bedroom. The Kiss records. The joy. The long, long, long talks we had — face-to-face or on the phone. The constant touching. The way you would (and still do!) cock your head to the side and purse your lips – ah, those beautiful lips! The tenth hole green of the golf course. Your mouth. Your jealousy. Your kindness. Your blazing blue – but grey – eyes that make me feel that you see me as a particularly tasty meal you want to devour. Your unconditional love and acceptance of me. 

The incredibly gentle, yet demanding way you make love to me. The way you sigh my name. The way you cry. The passion, pain and happiness I see in your eyes when you look at me. The contentment we find in each other’s presence. Until you, I didn’t know anyone could really love ME. I always felt I was less than nothing, until you found me. For the majority of my life I have felt only useful, not beloved, not pretty, not smart, not good. You are the only one who can make me feel those things. Somehow, you give me feelings of freakish strength and peace and happiness, just by being in my life – even from a distance. 

Belief in you, in what was, has held me together through my darkest, loneliest, most horrifying hours; has forced me not to abandon all hope. Belief in you and what is, and what can be, will get me through now. 

Thank you, Michael, for the most precious gift of yourself. Thank you for teaching me that love doesn’t have to be degrading or painful or ugly; that it truly can be beautiful and breathtaking and glorious. But thank you especially, for giving me back to me. For showing me, for allowing me to be, finally, who I truly am. And for loving me anyway.  Those things I will happily never forget.


Posted in Poetry, Ramblings, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 2010/02/28 by R L Burns

when you are fragile, whether

mentally or physically,

bouncing back from a loss is difficult


mental illness puts one in a quandary:


you are easy prey for others

quick pickings for the vultures

circling overhead


you blame yourself

for everything –

for every rejection

every mistake

every abuse –

even those made by others.

especially those made by others.


you believe there is something

intrinsically wrong with YOU, that

you cause people to abandon you,

reject you, abuse you,

and so punish yourself accordingly –

cutting, drinking, drugs,

anything to validate your worthlessness.


i suppose, on some level,

there is something wrong with you,

something that carves the words


into your forehead,

words that can be read by those

with just the right twisted eyes…


they find you.

they single you out.

they play on your weaknesses

encourage your confidences,

which they later use against you…

profess that they “say what they mean

and mean what they say”.


you believe.  you are trapped –

by your own need for acceptance,

your own fear of abandonment,

your own desperate need to be needed,

valued, to be loved.


but it’s always a trick,

always a lie –

their twisted eyes are matched only by

their twisted hearts, mouths, and minds.


they don’t love you.

they laugh at you,

denigrate you – along with

their friends, wives, lovers –

for being so susceptible,

so ill,

so needy, so stupid

that you would believe



The Horrible Grandmother

Posted in life story, short story, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 2010/02/08 by R L Burns

In the spring of 1998, it was my fourth year of teaching and my first year at what was considered to be the “worst” elementary school in my county.  It serviced a very poor neighborhood on the edges of a huge military base.  At various times it was, in fact, off-limits to military personnel.  Not a weekend went by without a murder, a robbery, a domestic dispute that erupted into violence, “court” versus “court” rumbles, and at least one arrest – and usually more than one.

The school population was predominantly African-American, and eighty-nine percent of the student body received free breakfast and lunch. 

During the 1996-1997 school year, the state threatened to take over the school due to poor test performance and behavioral issues.  The principal was replaced mid-year.  The new principal told the school board and the Superintendent to forget any change in test scores that first half a year; she had to get the school under control before any academic changes could occur.  To that end, all staff had to go through the hiring process again – more than half were thanked for their time and sent on their way.  Mrs. T. changed everything about the way that school did business and stuck to her belief (which I share) that students must feel safe before any learning can occur.  The home lives of most of our students were so unstable, so crazy, that it was no wonder academics were the last thing on their list of priorities.  Making it through another day in one piece was number one for most of them.

I’ll save the rest of the story about the school itself for another day.  Let me say, though, that Mrs. T. and her new staff and positive student/family policies made a really huge difference to those children and their families. 

Anyway, during the 1997-1998 school year I taught a self-contained class of about thirteen students.  I was lucky enough to have an assistant, Mrs. M.  She was wonderful.  I don’t know how I would have managed without her. 

The students in our class were in grades two through six.  One child had mild cerebral palsy, three were borderline mentally retarded, five were emotionally disturbed, and four had a learning disability.  Scattered throughout the children were other issues, such as ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and Autism.  I was teaching all four academic subjects (English, Math, Science and Social Studies) across all five grades, trying to differentiate everything so it hit everyone at their own level.  It was a difficult assignment, but I truly loved it.

One of my students, the one about whom I was thinking today – hence this story – was a third grader named D.  He was small – maybe, maybe, three and a half feet tall. He had a well-above-average IQ.  He was emotionally disturbed.  His head was shaved, he was thin, he was fast, and he could be really mean – his temper was legendary in the neighborhood. 

At the age of five, D. had seen his cousin murdered.  He then took a knife, used a mirror so he could see his shoulder, and carved a “V” into his shoulder blade.  He did this, he later explained to me, to remind him of his cousin’s murder and his vow to avenge him.  He was very disturbed.

I loved him, but I didn’t trust him very much, until one day in December. 

I had this thing with my elementary kids, where, if I thought they weren’t telling me the truth, I would say that I could smell their hair burning when they lied. (A trick my aunt used on her kids to great effect back in the day.) 

One day a student approached me and told me that D had done something offensive (I can’t recall what), but when I asked D. about it he denied it.  I looked at him suspiciously.  He hopped up and down, rubbing the fuzz on his head.

“Mrs. B.!!  I’m not lying, I swear!!”

“Are you sure, D?” I asked.

“Smell my hair!!!  Smell my hair, Mrs. B!!  I’m telling the truth, I promise!!”

I smothered the laugh that threatened to erupt, knelt down and obliged, making a pretense of smelling his hair.  Nodding, I hugged him and told him I believed him.  He smiled, relieved, and yelled, “I told you so!” when the child who had come to me initially hung his head in shame and admitted he had lied.  From that point on I trusted D. and knew he trusted me.

That he trusted me was proven out even more later that year.

One afternoon in May I walked my students out of the school at the end of the day.  Mrs. M. had left early for a doctor’s appointment.  I watched as the students moved, en masse, to cross the street and return to their homes.  Smiling, glad the day was over and I, too, could go home, I went back to my classroom to get my things. 

I was startled, upon entering, to see D. sitting at his desk, drawing.  I asked what he was doing back in the classroom.  He refused to answer me, just kept drawing, scribbling, really, with a black crayon, making huge sweeping movements on the white paper in front of him.  I walked over to him, knelt by his desk and tried again.

“D.  D?  Honey, you have to go home now.”

He shook his head in the negative.

“Yes, dear, you need to go home.  I have to go home, too, because my son will be getting home from school soon and I need to be there for him.”

He shook his head again and kept drawing, refusing to even make eye contact with me.

Five more minutes of talking – in a calm, quiet voice – proved fruitless.  The only responses I received from D. were head shaking and one, “NO. I am NOT going home.”

At a loss, I called the office and asked for our head of security, Mr. P.  He came down to the room. He had no more luck with D. than I did.  After several minutes, Mr. P. told me to leave the room and said he would have to call the police.  We are not allowed to touch students, so we couldn’t MAKE him get up and go home, so calling the police was, apparently, the only option.

Reluctantly, I left the room, asking D. one more time if he wouldn’t, please, come with me and go home.  He looked up at me, finally making eye contact, but shook his head no.  I walked out into the media center, which was also the center of the school, and decided to wait there until D. had gone home. 

I watched the policemen walk towards my room a few minutes later.  There were, I noticed, three of them.  Three really large policemen, all to deal with a little third grade boy not even four feet tall.

Suddenly I heard yelling.  Startled, I looked towards my room. 

The three policemen rounded the corner carrying D.  It took all three of them.  In their arms he was bucking, flailing his arms, and screaming at the top of his lungs –

“Fuck you, you mother fuckers!! Put me the fuck down or I will fucking kill you!”

He tried to bite the policeman whose arm was closest to his face. 

“Goddammit!!  Fuck you, pigs! Let me fucking go!!!!  I fucking hate you, fucking mother fuckers!!”

I wanted to cry as they passed me on the way to the office.  I looked around the media center and was sorry to see four or five general education teachers standing in the media center, watching D.’s not-so-graceful exit.  I was sorry they were seeing him at his worst, knew it would forever color their dealings with him.  Shrugging, I turned to follow D. and his escort, determined to see if there was anything I could do to help.

They had taken him to a small conference room off the main office.  I walked into the room to see D. sitting in a chair much too big for him, his little hands gripping the arms of the chair so tightly that his dark cream colored skin showed almost bone white.  Tears were threatening to run down his face.  The three policemen were standing together at the end of the conference table, about six feet from D.  I sat in a chair opposite D. and smiled encouragingly at him.  He looked at me; stared, really, tears still filling his eyes.  After a few moments he appeared to calm down a bit.  I spoke to him softly.  I don’t really remember what I said.

Mr. P., the school security officer, came into the room, nodded at the police, then looked at D.

“I called home, D., and someone is on their way to get you.  I am sorry it had to come to this, son, but we really had no choice.”  Mr. P. was an African-American gentleman of average height and build, with a usually smiling face.  Not smiling at that moment, though.

D.  looked up and said, “Fuck you, Mr. P., and you cops, too.  Fuck you. I’m not going home!” His body had tensed again at Mr. P’s words, almost as if he was expecting a blow. 

No one spoke for the next few minutes, we just waited for someone from D.’s home to arrive. 

“Where the fuck is he?” I hear someone growl in the main office. 

“I don’t have time for this shit. Where – “

The door opened and in walked a very dark-skinned woman in, perhaps, her early fifties.  Her face was angry, her eyes bulging, her hair in disarray. 

D.’s whole body language screamed fear as soon as she entered the room.

She approached the table and began screaming at him immediately.

“What the fuck wrong with you, boy?”

As she spoke, she reached toward him and he flinched away from her.  I knew what that meant and I was already sorrier than I could say that we had called this woman to come and get him.  I was to become even sorrier.

“You think I’m gonna put up with this shit?”  She screamed.  “Well, I won’t, dammit.  You think yer gonna grow up to be like yer damn father??  Well! I tell you, “she leaned forward, index finger in his face, voice lowered menacingly, “I tell you that I will fucking KILL YOU MYSELF before I let that happen!”

Her voiced raised to a near scream. “You hear me, boy?” She slapped his face.  “You fucking hear me???”

D. said nothing, just nodded, crying even harder.

I looked at Mr. P. and at the three policemen, totally in shock.  How could they let her treat him this way?  Wasn’t her behavior illegal?  Certainly they weren’t going to let this crazy woman take him home?? 

Mr. P. was looking at the floor, obviously uncomfortable.  The policemen were looking at each other or at the wall, one of them even smiling.  I was nauseated.

The woman, D.’s grandmother I found out later, then uttered her piece-de-resistance:  “You’re such a bad child.  I will not let you upset yer mother anymore.  She has cancer, boy, and it all because of YOU!  You’re killin’ yer ma and I ain’t gonna let you hurt her no more!!!”  She raised her hand as if to strike him again, and, finally, one of the policemen did something.

“Ma’am,” he said in a very stern voice as he shook his head in the negative. 

She started in on D. again and I could no longer take it.  I got up, like a coward, and left the room, leaning against the wall, tears now streaming down my face, my breath ragged.  A moment later the door I had just used opened again and out walked Mr. P.  I could still hear the grandmother screaming at D.  I put my hands over my ears and cried harder.

Mr. P. tapped me on the shoulder.  “Robin.  Get back in that room.”

I stared at him as if he had told me to fly to the moon.  “No.  I can’t go back in there.  I cannot listen to her anymore.  Please…” I looked at him pleadingly.

“Robin, that boy in there needs you.  Now go splash your face and get back in there.  Now.”

I hung my head, crossed the hall to the staff lounge, and splashed cool water on my face.  I grabbed  a few tissues and headed back to the conference room.

Stealing myself, I took a deep breath and opened the door.  It was quiet – at last – in the room.  Mr. P. looked at me and said, “Ah, Mrs. B.  Glad you could rejoin us.  D. is going home in a few minutes.  Shall I go get his things from the room?”

“I’’ll fuckin’ go,” the grandmother jumped in.  “I got to get the fuck home to the kids, no time for this shit.”

I looked at D. and then at her.  “How about if I take him to the room, Ma’am?  You rest here and we’ll be right back.”

She started to argue but Mr. P. cut her off, saying, “I think that’s an excellent idea, Mrs. B.  I’ll escort you both.”

I took D.’s hand and we left the conference room followed by Mr. P., but not, thankfully, by the grandmother. 

We talked quietly about homework and “normal” things til we got to the classroom.  Once in the room I helped him pack his backpack, slipping a few pieces of candy into the outside pocket.  I smiled at him and he smiled shyly back.  Mr. P. stayed in the background, giving D. some space.

As we started to leave the room, D. pulled my hand and called my name.  I turned around and looked at him questioningly.

A tear trickled down his cheek.  He held out his arms to me.  I got on my knees and hugged him tightly, and he hugged me back.

“I love you, Mrs. B.” he whispered.

“I know, D. I can’t smell your hair, so I know you are telling me the truth.”  We looked at each other and laughed, then I said, “I love you, too, D.  Now let’s go.  When you come back on Monday we’ll have a great day, right?”

He nodded, and we headed back to the office.

Mr. P. and I stood in front of the school and watched them cross the street on their way home, waving at D. when he turned around to look at us helplessly.

I looked at Mr. P. and said, “What the hell?  If I lived with that lady I’d be emotionally disturbed, too, wouldn’t you?”

Mr. P. replied, “For certain sure, Robin.  For certain fucking sure I would.”


Street of Dreams

Posted in short story with tags , , , , , on 2010/02/08 by R L Burns

Rose sat bolt upright in her bed and looked around, confused.  That’s odd, she thought.  Why would I dream about him now?  She shook her head, took a drink of water from the carafe on her bedside table,  and settled back under the comforter.  Jeff slept soundly beside her, mouth open as usual, snoring.  Sleep claimed her again, and this time it was dreamless.

At work the next day, she felt off somehow, like something was nagging at the back of her brain.  Throughout the day she drifted off into space, her mind blank, and it took her much longer than usual to get the client billing done.  Then she had to complete an inventory of the editing truck they had brought back from the beauty pageant two days before. 

By the time she got home, she was exhausted and eager for bed.  Luckily, Jeff wasn’t home when she got there, so she quickly showered, brushed her teeth, and put on her nightgown – an old, comfortable flannel one.  She crawled into bed and fell asleep almost immediately. 

That night, when she awoke, she knew something was dreadfully, terribly wrong, and it wasn’t only the dream in which she had been trapped that filled her with fear.  Afraid to look around the room, she opened her eyes only a very tiny bit, little reptilian slits darting around the room.  Outside the moon was nearly full and the silvery glow was pouring into the bedroom window, making it easier to see than usual. 

Suddenly she knew what was wrong, but she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it.  Jeff was on the bed, on top of her – perhaps it seems incredible that she hadn’t known that sooner, but she had been deeply asleep, dreaming, and it had taken a while for her consciousness to fully rise to the surface. 

He was on top of her, naked.  Her nightgown was pulled up around her hips.  This in itself was not particularly odd, as he had some weird habit of fucking her (yes, fucking, it certainly wasn’t making love) when she was asleep – almost like he believed she would reject him if he approached her when she was awake.  Which she probably would have done.  This had happened several times now, though, and she just let it happen because it was easier than fighting him off.  She had, to her credit, asked why he did that to her, had asked him to stop. 

His only answer to why was, “I don’t know”. 

His answer to being asked to stop was to wait a week or two before assaulting her again. 

This time, though, something was different.  Yes, he was on top of her naked and he had removed her underpants and pulled up her nightgown, but he wasn’t having sex with her.  He was masturbating.  Realizing this, she suddenly wondered (like a really slow game of connect-the-dots) how/why she felt him moving inside her, too.  She opened her eyes a little more, but not much, because she didn’t want him to know she was awake – she didn’t want to face what was going on; it was too embarrassing.  (How stupid a girl she was, being embarrassed when HE was the one who should be embarrassed!  But, that’s how it was.) 

When she looked a little closer, she understood what was going on.  He was masturbating while simultaneously inserting the rubber handle of a hammer into her…She thought she would vomit.  How did I end up in this situation???  Why is this happening???  What do I do??? 

Of course, she did nothing, as usual, except close her eyes and pretend she was somewhere else.  Invariably she saw herself sitting on the roof of the barn, a clean, fresh breeze blowing through her hair, making her smile.  She’d look down into the yard and catch a glimpse of someone making his way through the trees towards the barn to join her.  She could never see his face clearly, but she knew it was him, nonetheless:  Christopher.  Then she would smile even wider and all would be well, and she could make it through whatever was happening.  Totally ridiculous, she supposed, but, hey, people do whatever they have to in order to survive, don’t they?

In a mercifully short time, Jeff was finished.  She thought she would give herself away and jump up when she felt his hot sperm land on her stomach.  It was all she could do to keep from wretching and flinching.  She did stiffen like a board, knowing by then that he was too drunk or high and too aroused to notice much of anything except his own need.  Her eyes tightly closed, she heard a dull thud as the hammer hit the floor, and the squeak of the bed springs as he fell over to the side.  Within moments he was snoring. 

She lay there, tears flowing from her still-closed eyes,  pulled down her night gown and moved as far from him as she could in the double bed they shared.  She kept repeating to herself, That didn’t really happen.  It didn’t.  It was just a bad dream.  He wouldn’t do that to me…

To prove it,  she forced herself to look down on the floor beside the bed to see if the hammer was really there.  Shit.  It was.  She got up then, quickly, heedless of waking Jeff, and ran into the bathroom where she (who NEVER vomited) threw up repeatedly.  She cried as she knelt in front of the toilet, great wracking sobs. 

Finally spent, she got up, washed her face and brushed her teeth, and returned to her house of torment.  She climbed back into bed, careful this time not to do anything to disturb Jeff.  She stayed on the very edge of the bed, tense and taught as a bowstring, waiting for the snake next to her to strike again.  But he snored on peacefully.  She hated him then, more than she ever had done in the past, but her hypervigilence took it’s toll and eventually she fell asleep again.

In her sleep she saw Christopher.  He was in a car when suddenly there was a bright flash of light and a nauseating crunch of metal.  The next thing she saw was his crumpled body in the car.  His face was bleeding, as was his arm, profusely.  His leg looked to be at an odd angle.  She screamed his name and woke up.

Jeff grunted and rolled over.  Rose’s heart was pounding mercilessly and she could barely breathe.  What did it mean???


 Little more than a week later Jeff hit her for the first time and knocked her down the stairs.  Later she would find it curious that he had done the two things she had specifically said she could not, would not, tolerate:  sexual abuse (she’d had enough of that already),  and physical abuse.  The night he hit her, after she returned home with his “two fucking packs of cigarettes”, she had told him he had to leave. 

“I am going to my dad’s in two weeks to stay there for two weeks while he’s out of town.”

He had looked at her angrily and replied, “Alone?” 

She nodded. 

“Well, I don’t want to stay here at your mom’s house alone!”

She smiled at him.  “That’s the general idea.  Pack your shit and get the fuck out of my house.  I don’t care where you fucking go,  but you cannot, repeat, NOT, stay here.  AND I want a divorce.”

At that he cried and apologized for being such a bad husband.  She just sighed and told him not to worry about it, that their marriage had been a mistake from the beginning, made for all the wrong reasons.  She loved him, but not like a husband. She had felt gratitude towards him for “rescuing” her (or so she thought) from the relative who was sexually abusing her. 

When Christopher had written and told her to marry Jeff, be happy, and have lots of babies, what else was there for her?  (Of course, that was partly her fault, too, as she had not told him the truth about what was going on or about how much she still cared — what if he didn’t want her?  What if he was repulsed by her now that she was damaged goods?  What if he didn’t love her, only pitied her?  Nah, better not to take any chances with that, just hope he would see through the lies she told him.  But, he didn’t.)    No one cared or believed her when she tried to tell them about what was happening to her…She was angry at Jeff, but felt guilty because she, at least, had known she was doing something wrong in marrying him.  Maybe that was why she took his abuse for so long:  she believed she deserved it.

Once it was said, Rose felt much better, much calmer, more at peace than she had in a very long time.  She was able to sleep, although she went downstairs and slept with her sister. 

And again the dream came.  The car wreck, Christpopher covered in blood, leg broken.  This time, though, there was more.  She was in the hospital standing by his bed.  His head was bandaged and there were all kinds of IVs in his arm.  She was holding his hand and talking to him, telling him that she loved him and that he would be fine.  At one point his head turned towards her.  She smiled at him and told him he would be fine, that she was with him.  The shock on his face was almost comical.  Then she woke up.  What the hell???? she asked herself.

The next day at work she convinced her friend, Donna, to call his grandmother’s house to see if he was okay.  She had told Donna the whole dream and that she was worried that something was wrong with him.

“Please just call for me, Donna.  Please. ”

“Why don’t you call yourself?”

“I’m afraid of what I will hear….I don’t know.  Won’t you do this for me??  Please, pretty please with sugar on?”

Donna sighed and said, “Oh give me the damn number, Rose.”

Rose handed her the slip of paper and hugged her.  “Thank you!!”

As Donna dialed, Rose paced the room.

“Hello”, she heard Donna say into the phone.  “My name is Rose and I was trying to  reach Christopher.  Is he there by any chance?”

The grandmother replied warily, “Rose?”

“Yes, ma’am, Rose.”

“Rose from Virginia?”, the grandmother asked, obviously surprised.

“Yes, ma’am, Rose from Virginia.”

Instantly the grandmother’s tone changed to one of welcome.  “Honey, let me give you his number, he will be so glad to hear from you!  Call him right away!”

As Donna wrote down the number, Rose whispered to her, “Ask if he’s okay!  Ask if he’s okay!”

Donna frowned at her but said, “Thank you so much for the number ma’am, and I will certainly call him, but may I ask, is he doing alright?”

“Well, honey, it’s funny you would ask that because about two weeks ago he was in a pretty bad car accident.”  Donna’s eyes nearly popped out of her head and she looked at Rose in awe. 

“A car accident?”  Rose’s heart sank. 

“Yes, dear, and he broke his leg, and had some other hurts, but he’s okay now.  So you give him a call.  Bye now.”

“Bye, ma’am”, Donna said as she hung up the phone.  “Did you hear that, Rose??  He was in a car accident, just like your dream!  And his leg was broken!  How did you know?”

“I can’t tell you, Donna, because I don’t know myself.”

“Want me to call him, too?” she asked Rose sarcastically.

“No.  This is one call I need to make myself.”  Breathing deeply, Rose picked up the phone and dialed the number Donna had scribbled on the paper. 

The phone was picked up on the second ring.  It was him. 

“Hello?” he asked.

She was at a loss for a moment and didn’t know what to say.   She lamely ended up saying, “Uh, hi.  Bet you don’t know who this is!” 

How lame was that,  she thought to herself.  Dead silence greeted her.  “Um, hello?  Are you there?”

A few more seconds passed and then she heard him say, very quietly, “Oh yes I do know who this is.  Rose.”

“Oh, well.  Yes, it is me.”  Jeez, could I sound any more stupid???

They began to talk, and it was like they had never parted, really.  Suddenly he said, “You know, Rose, it’s really strange that you would call me now.  I mean, at this time.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, a couple of weeks ago I was in a pretty bad car accident”, he began.  “I’m okay now, but the strangest thing happened while I was in the hospital.  There was a nurse there, and I couldn’t see her, but she was holding my hand and telling me that I would be fine.  And she called me “Christopher”, not “Chris” like everyone else, and, well…it was YOU.  I know it was you.   Isn’t that stupid?” 

He sounded embarrassed, like he wished he hadn’t told her.

“Stupid?  No, I don’t think so.  Let me tell you why I called….”

And so it began again.  For the second time.