The Good Life

She had been dreaming of the moment since she was a girl of no more than five trying on her mother's dresses and heels. The moment that belonged to her, to be the blushing bride and to be whisked away into the sunset by the man of her dreams. And it had seemed like it had all happened, her man was strong and handsome, loved by her friends and parents, perfect by anyone's standards. She never had to ask him to spend more time with her, he was protective, and he was a gentleman. They lived in a small three bedroom house, which was in a great neighborhood but not close to any of her friends and family, though she believed that the dwindling contact with them was just part of married life. As the months went on, she found herself only speaking to her parents on major holidays, and her friends were almost completely out of her life.

Only a few months later, her husband's job started to get demanding and she found him more and more irate over the simplest of things. When she tried talking to him about it, he simply smiled and told her she couldn't possible understand, she had never really been the brightest of characters. And she smiled back, embarrassed but agreeing, of course she couldn't understand. He always threw small jokes at her expense, laughing it off with a smile and hug, taunting her inability to complete the simplest things. Soon, the taunts weren't followed by the reassuring hugs and smiles; they were followed by stares that made her hang her head in shame. He was right after all; she wasn't sure how she had never known how dumb she was.

One morning followed as usual, she went outside to fetch him the paper, smiling and waving at her friendly neighbor, chatting a bit before excusing herself and returning to the kitchen to fix breakfast. Looking back, she couldn't believe she had flirted with the other man. Her husband made it very clear how upset that made him, and as she touched her stinging cheek and watering eye, he pulled her into his arms with an apology and a kiss. She hugged him back, accepting his apology and saying it all had really been her fault anyways.

The weekly trips to the grocery store she made started being in long sleeve shirts and long skirts or pants, she had never worn makeup before but soon found it to be a necessity (how nosey people could be, and of course how ugly she began to realize she was) to go out into public, and her sunglasses became a permanent accessory. If all of this didn't deter the nosy people at the store, she was always quick with a laugh and a wave of the hand, explaining she had walked into a door, tripped over a chair or in the shower, and on one occasion fell right on her wrist, fracturing the bone in two places. And the nosy people always came right back with a nervous smile and unbelieving eyes, making up excuses to leave and finally leaving her alone.

As time went on, her loving man helped her realize all her faults, making her aware of how stupid she was, how ugly she had become, and how useless she really was. She agreed with him, knowing he was right but not understanding how she couldn't realize this until now. She found herself falling into a state of (not depression, her life was perfect) routine, feeling like she was simply floating through her life. Sometimes as she sat in the bathroom at night, holding her bleeding nose (clumsy, clumsy) and crying as softly as she could because her perfect man was asleep in the next room, she found herself thinking that this wasn't her life but a bad dream, that she would wake up and everything would be all right.

Soon, she found herself becoming quite mousey and skittish, crying at the drop of a hat and feeling so tired all the time. Of course, this was because of her own doing, staying up late too much was tiring her out, her life was perfect (she had to remind herself of this a lot) and she had a loving and caring husband. She tired her best to snap out of her self pity, and of course her wonderful man helped her too.
She was in the bathroom, covering his 'helpful reminder' that made her eye puffy and swollen with some foundation, getting ready for her trip to the grocery store (second this week because silly her had bought the wrong kind of roast, she remembered with a five hour lasting handprint on her cheek) when she suddenly stopped, hands falling to her sides as she stared in the full length mirror at her body. She had gotten ugly (first thought in her mind), evident by the purple, black, and yellow marks covering nearly every inch of her torso, back, and thighs. And suddenly, she was overcome by an overwhelming feeling of despair and sadness, so bad she had to look away from the mirror. She hated herself, and she felt like this was a smart emotion coming from her dumb brain, what was there to love (she knew not much)?
The trip to the store would be quick, that she was thankful for, she really only wanted to go home and get her chores done than maybe take a little nap. While walking around the aisles of the store, she noticed another woman following her. At first, she thought it to be coincidence, the woman was simply shopping just as she was, but the woman had no items and wasn't even looking. When she paused to get some bread, the woman walked up next to her, nonchalantly asking her how she got the bruise over her eye. Before she could finish, the woman joined along and they finished together in sync. She stopped and stared at the woman, the woman stared at her. She turned back to her bread, trying to let the woman know she wasn't interested in any foolishness, but the woman piped up again. The woman said she probably had a lot of accidents, falling, tripping, and running into walls, because the woman herself used to also. She turned back towards the woman, mouth agape, saying she had no idea what the woman was talking about. The woman pulled down the neck of her turtleneck, reveling a straight yet jagged scar running across her neck. The woman explained that this had been the 'accident' that finally got her to leave her own loving husband. The woman stepped towards her, touching her face. The woman said she shouldn't have to be afraid, shouldn't have to bleed, that no one should hit her, that love didn't hurt. She started to cry as the woman said these things, and shook her head defiantly. The woman reached into her bag and pulled out a card with a number listed on the back, and an address on the front. The card stated Battered Woman's Shelter on the front (not that she thought she applied) and she slipped it into her pocket reminding herself to throw it away least her loving husband find it. The woman said to call her, when she was ready to stop having accidents, and just like that the woman slipped away. She stood there for a moment, unbelieving, but soon finished her shopping and left.
That night she walked into another door, and sat crying in the bathroom (quietly, her perfect man was sleeping) with the woman's words echoing in her brain, unwilling to leave her alone. She shook her head, sniffling and looked down to the floor spying her jeans laying on the floor. She was shocked that they were there, she always picked up her laundry (he didn't like a messy house), but even more shocked at the card sticking out of her pocket. She thought she had thrown it out, and reached down to do that now. With the card in her hand she paused, reading the front over and over, flipping it over to see the number was written in pen and right below it read the word 'Jennifer'. The woman's name she assumed, and remembered what she (Jennifer) had said. Love shouldn't hurt. Her hands trembled and she rose to her shaking knees. Love shouldn't hurt. She quietly tiptoed out of the room and down to the kitchen. She picked up the phone, and dialed the number on the back of the card, because maybe, just maybe, Jennifer was right. Love shouldn't hurt.





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