Sundays were always the worst. Church was mandatory--every member of the family was expected to go. How early she got up would depend upon the extent of last night's rampage and the damage done. She had learned how to discretely hide the scars, the bruises, the black eyes--all the tell-tale signs of her husband's unruly temper--through her expert make-up application. The more apparent the pain was, the more time it took to conceal it.

     Everyone at church called her a whore. "Look at that rouge," they would whisper to each other as she passed by. "Blue eyeshadow--at church?" "My, she is the little tramp, isn't she?" And they never understood how a fine, upstanding, Christian man could tolerate this direct disobedience by his supposedly submissive wife. The looks burned into her soul, and as she tried so hard to concentrate on the good message the pastor brought forth for the day, she couldn't resist cursing such hypocrites and their God. However, she would always feel guilt for this "sin" and repent for her thoughts.

     Luckily, it was only for one day. After this she would return to her upper-middle-class neighborhood and resume the role of housewife. When he was off at work she had only the care of the children, aged 1 and 3, and the cleaning of the house to worry about. She would oftentimes find herself gazing out of the window over the sink, wondering if this really was such a bad life to live after all. The slamming of the front door would answer her with a resounding "Yes" as he came home with hatred and violence accompanying him.

     She could avoid him for awhile. The house was large enough to provide work in hidden places where he might not think to look. And sometimes she didn't even need to hide. Sometimes, it was beautiful. The sweet way he looked at her still made her want to melt, as it did the first time he had looked at this innocent child in a coffee shop 5 years ago. Her innocence and naiveté caused her to overlook the signs of an abusive and stifling relationship which most other women could have recognized from the first day. Little things--possessive behavior, angry outbursts, and degrading comments she all endured. Her friends told her to get out, but she was sure it would work out. She could change him.

     But she couldn't, and she forced herself to stay with him through her two pregnancies. She promised herself she would take the children after the birth of her second son and leave, but she didn't. He treated the boys royally and never touched them in a hostile manner. The house was lovely and she had every material desire she craved. It was her loyalty, once one of her most treasured qualities, that was now causing her to remain in this dead relationship until it sucked the waning vicarity of her battered body.

     He would stand over her, after he had thoroughly convinced himself of his power and almighty manhood, chest heaving with his sole form of exercise, and look down upon his property. Looking up from where she lay she thought she could see regret hidden in his blazingly azure eyes. Oh, how she wished it was something like beer or drugs which caused him to act like this. Instead, it was just him. She was immensely more sensitive to words than touch, and the things which he yelled at her during these beatings hurt her more than any kick or punch ever could:

     "You worthless little bitch! I don't even know why I keep you around...I could have anyone! You are nothing to me! NOTHING! Quit looking at me like that! I reserve the right to club you and eat your fucking bones if it pleases me, bitch!"

* * *

     The family grew up. The little boys grew into little men. Together, they coerced him to start counseling. With this help, he improved and they almost became a family. There was always that mutually repressed hatred between the parents, though, and when the boys left home she left also.

     Occasionally, she would take time out of her busy, independent life to look back in time. In all the brutal encounters she had with her husband she could never bring herself to cry. If was as if that was the final shred of free will she possessed. Now emancipated from that imprisonment, she would sometimes stare out of her window over the sink and simply cry.