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?”
“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.”
“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.