This was the third time in the past half hour that the light flicked on and off as the thunder clashed and lightning hit so close it hurt her eyes. She made sure the sliding door was locked before she bundled up her two babies and headed to make a dreadful trek into town to the nearest store for candles, matches, soda, light bread, crackers, cookies, and can goods. Hurricane Opal was coming fast and hard!
This would be her only time calling and asking her sweet mother for money. She knew that she would give her last had she known how bad off they were. But she wanted to try to stand on her own. Her mother sent her fifty dollars. By the time she started driving, it was raining so hard she could barely see the road.
According to the radio, she had a little under an hour to get her supplies and get back home before full landfall. Hurricane Opal had already claimed lives in other states and here it was coming full speed to one of the most deployable bases in the country. She prayed all the way there. The drunks and thugs standing in groups in front of the store only scared her more. So she would hurry getting the kids and groceries in the car.
She was terrified of crowds, strangers and storms. Therefore, it made her particularly uneasy that the vagrants in the parking lot were constantly looking at her. Her heart felt like it was going to thump right out her chest! After throwing the groceries in the car, she jumped in her jeep and wasn’t able to exhale until she pulled off. She had never seen the weather so bad! She didn’t know what to expect from a hurricane! A down south tornado, yes, but an up north hurricane as big and bad as Opal, no way!
The strong winds made her swerve a few times but she made it home as the storm began to come down around them. All she wanted was her husband home. She felt safe just knowing he was there, even if he was in the other room. But instead, he said he was stuck doing field maneuvers, only God knows where! At that moment she had no reason to think otherwise. She believed him.
She called him at least a dozen times, with no answer. But when in the field, that was normal. She just needed to hear his voice. The mere sound of it could wrap around her like a warm blanket. But she hadn’t heard anything since the night before. She was such a beautiful, innocent, naive, and gullible young woman. But she loved with her whole heart. He was her first love. He was her very first everything.
She decided to feed and bathe her babies and put them to bed upstairs. Had she known better, she would have kept them downstairs in a safe place. Anyway, she ran her own bath water and tried to relax as the wind howled making her anxious. She gave up quickly, got dressed, and went downstairs to find a flashlight as the lights continued to flicker off and on again.
Earlier that week she bought a nightie for him. She bought everything she wore, for him. She wanted to look good for him. This particular nightie was forest green valour, with a princess cut, and spaghetti straps. It curved and hit in all the right places. She hated the color green. After ironing and sending countless BDUs to the cleaners, she was tired of seeing green. But it was his favorite color.
They had known one another for a total of 12 years; four in high school, eight together, and seven of them married. His previous infidelities had cracked and weakened the foundation of their marriage and her soul. Neither was hardly standing. BUT she wanted to look good for him.
The hours slowly ticked by as the sky fell in outside. Hail hit the storm glass so hard it burst a hole in the sliding door. Terrified she huddled in a corner behind their black leather sectional and watched the rainwater spray in through the busted glass. Toys, benches, chairs, or anything left outside, were basically gone, carried away by harrowing straight-line winds! Then the lights went out.
She lit a few candles. It rained so hard. As the rain hit the roof and the outside structure of the military housing, the sound of it compounded by the wind was almost deafening. She thought about her babies upstairs, ran up, grabbed them both, and began to pray. She stuck it out. It was single-handedly the scariest thing she had ever gone through. Finally, around 4 am, the radio announcer stated that although the hard rain would continue, the worse was over.
She checked on her sleeping babies and took them back to their beds upstairs. She decided to wait for her hard-working husband downstairs and pulled out the sofa bed. She tried to rest but still couldn’t get a hold of him. She managed to doze off into a light sleep until she heard the jingle of keys and the front door open. He was home, safe, and in one piece-unharmed!
The base housing layouts were all the same. There was the kitchen to the right of the entrance. A staircase to your left leading to three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The living room was adjacent to the dining area. This area was big enough for a large sectional, a bar with stools, a tv stand, tv, coffee table, two end tables, and toys for two babies. All the floors were linoleum. The walls were so thin, they could hear their neighbors arguing daily. The houses were nearly on top of one another with small fenced in back yards and adjacent front yards with a lawn that was shared by everyone on the block.
It was just before 5 am when the door opened. She jumped up to greet her husband. She noticed he looked different but ignored her feelings of doom. But she was just so glad he was home. He looked at the bags of supplies she had gotten earlier still sitting on the kitchen floor next to washer and dryer. As she greeted him, his eyes and the way he looked at her were disturbing. He reeked of alcohol. But she was just so relieved he was home it never crossed her mind where he actually had been for three days.
She noticed his accusatory tone when he asked where she had been. She answered, “Winn Dixie. My momma sent us $50. I was so scared but I had to get food and candles….”. Her words were stopped by his hand gripped around her neck. He nearly picked her up off the floor. She fought to loosen his grip as he began to murmur something about her meeting someone at the store. All of a sudden, SHE was the cheater? She struggled to release his grip and ask him what was wrong with him! The look in his eyes terrified her! He was enraged and she had done nothing to deserve it.
He backed her up by her tiny neck and body-slammed her down on the sofa bed. Before she could catch her breath, he began tearing at her clothes. She kicked and struggled beneath his weight to no avail. He whispered something in her ear that she would never forget, “You’re a whore, you wanna know what kind of whore you are? You one of them ghetto hoes.”
His voice was raspy and he didn’t sound like himself. His breath wreaked of alcohol and something else. He held her down with all his might which felt stronger than usual as if he had some kind of drug in his system. He claimed he caught her before her “man” could get there and she wore the nightie for “him”. He tore it off of her with one hand while continuing to choke her with another. Every time his grip loosened enough, she screamed in fear for her life begging him to stop and get off of her! But her pleas only made him angrier.
He ripped everything off of her within a matter of seconds. She fought hard for this stranger to get off of her! Terror mixed with rage took up every inch of the room. Why was the man she loved violating her in this awful, inhumane way? For some reason, she looked at the clock. It was 5:04 am. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t breathe. All she could do was cry. She figured if she stopped fighting maybe he would stop.
The first time he slipped into a drunken stupor on top of her, she tried to roll his 180 lb body of pure muscle off of her, but he woke up and violated her again. And again. And again. Each time she tried to escape this nightmare, he would wake up and start over. Horrified, she shook with fear, under his weight. The entire time his hand was around her neck or holding her down by her wrist, upper arms or inner thighs. He was so brutal. When he went into a deep sleep for the last time, she looked at the clock. 8:01 am.
She rolled him off of her and cried as silently as she could before rolling her sore body from under him. She crawled on her hands and knees to the staircase, thankful that her babies were still asleep upstairs. When she made it upstairs, she rushed into the bathroom and locked the door behind her. She immediately turned on the shower, sat down in the tub and bawled loudly until the shower water was cold and she had no tears left.
In the aftermath, if she left him, her leaving wouldn’t be about hurting him but healing herself. In fact, her love and gullible nature allowed her to halfway forgive him. Yet she couldn’t believe he’d hurt her so deeply. The next morning, she just laid there behind her locked bedroom door, drowning in a puddle of her own tears. Later she awakened to her daughter’s laughter while playing outside her bedroom door. Her entire body ached. She had bruises from her neck down. There were actual imprints of his fingers around her neck, wrist, upper arms, and inner thighs. She could hardly walk.
She packed a suitcase for herself and another for her kids. She figured she would come back for the rest of their things. She scooped up her son and led her daughter downstairs. She went back up, retrieved her suitcases, and stood beside the sofa bed. He was awake. The only thing she felt for him in that moment was a total lack of respect. No love, no hate, just an urge to be as far away from him as possible. The 900 miles from North Carolina back home to Alabama would suffice.
He pleaded with her to stay. He apologized over and over. He begged her to still love him. He needed her.
He. Needed. Her.
So, unfortunately, she stayed. She loved him. But a few weeks later, after a move promised a fresh start, the monotony of life pressed on. She got up one day, packed up things for her kids and herself, drove to the army base, and asked the first person she saw to go get him from within the building.
Ten minutes later, he emerged from the mass of soldiers and walked over to the running jeep. All she said was that she’s going home for a few days. She drove off with the rape fresh on her mind. As if that wasn’t enough there was along the possibility of an outside child looming over her.
Mentally, she was to the point where she wished she had left years ago, where inside I felt physically empty. Having given all I had, I had no more to give to my violator, my aggressor, my husband, the love of my life. During the drive home to Alabama, many tears fell as the radio played song after song reminding me of the man I loved who couldn’t love me.
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