Authors: Cheryl Bradshaw
“He agreed to represent you. Why does it matter?”
“Yeah, but what I don’t understand is
he agreed to take my case. I’m nobody.”
She wrapped her arms around me. I winced. I’d never excelled at female bonding. I loved my friends, but a simple high-five would have been just fine.
“You’re somebody to me, and to Kenna, and Callie, and your kids, and your family. I’m proud of you, Sasha. This is a big step, and you’re finally taking it.”
I hadn’t taken the step though. She’d taken the step for me. I let it slide.
“How do you know him, the lawyer?” I asked.
First-name basis. She didn’t just
“He’s a friend of Richard’s.”
Richard was Rae’s well-to-do boyfriend. Very wealthy. Very famous. Made sense.
“How much is this Gideon person gonna cost me? If he’s used to working with clients with deep pockets, I assume he doesn’t come cheap. How am I going to afford to pay?”
She swished a hand through the air.
“Don’t worry about it. Right now I want you to focus on taking care of you and your girls like we talked about. Are you ready?”
“I guess so.”
“Is your alarm system on?”
“You said this wasn’t a big deal, and now you’re asking if my house is protected.”
“Damon’s a wild card, capable of just about anything.”
“I can handle him,” I said.
“If he comes here, and if he’s angry, call me immediately. And promise me you won’t let him inside this house.”
“Why would I—”
“Promise me, Sasha.”
“Okay,” I said. “I promise.”
It was early afternoon when Damon squealed up the driveway in a flashy, brighter-than-the-sun-at-midday, orange-ish yellow Porsche. So predictable. I peeked through the wood slats of my living room window, watching him slam the corner of his black suit jacket in the car door. The suit ripped and defiantly remained stuck. Damon sent two verbal expletives skyward and wrestled the jacket off, allowing it to puddle on the ground like a disheveled, unwanted newspaper. I heard my name shouted before he reached the front door, followed by, “We need to talk. Now!”
His childish “I’ll get my way or else” behavior summed up our entire relationship. I stood by the door, still, not making a sound, silently chastising myself for failing to take out a restraining order when I had the chance.
He breathed through the slit in the doorjamb like he knew I was there. “Don’t test me, Sasha. I know you’re in there. Now open up.”
“What do you want, Damon?”
what I want.”
“I’d like you to leave.”
“I don’t give two shits about what you want. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’ll ... I’ll call the police.”
He laughed, the same sadistic laugh he always had whenever he taunted me. “Do it.”
I contemplated his words, second-guessing what would happen if I followed through with my threat. They’d show up, remove him, warn him, or whatever it was they did in an ex-versus-ex scuffle. And then, thirty minutes and a-hell-of-a-lot-madder later, Damon would just return again, except our kids would be home then, making the situation a lot worse. I did what I had to do, the only thing I could think to do—I sucked it up and played nice.
“What are you waiting for?” he seethed. “Make the call. Ask for Officer Morrell or Officer Hardy. Do me a favor and tell them I’ll be a few minutes late to basketball practice.”
Name dropping, his attempt to incite fear, intimidate me, make me feel like everyone was on his side. I stood, frozen, like I always did in his presence. Mrs. Damon “Doormat” Chase. Six months apart hadn’t changed much of anything.
Banging started. Persistent, rhythmic banging. If his goal was to wear me down, as much as I hated to admit it, he was making slow but steady progress.
Just when I thought the pounding would never stop, it did, and I heard something else: the sound of something sliding down the other side of the door.
“Why are you doing this to me, Sasha? To us? To our children? Our family? Why?”
No way. Was he ... crying? He
crying, sniffling like a neglected child. He’d never cried before. Not in front of me anyway. I hardly knew what to think, let alone what to do about it.
“Please, Sasha,” he begged. “Let me talk to you. Just once. And then I’ll leave. I’ll leave you alone forever if that’s what you really want.”
“I don’t think talking is such a good idea right now. You have to cool down first.”
“I’m fine. I swear. Fifteen minutes is all I ask. You can give me that at least. Can’t you?”
“Damon. I ... don’t ... love ... you anymore.”
So much for playing nice. I thought about adding “you ignorant bastard” as the finishing touch, but decided against it. He’d calmed down. I didn’t want to stir him up again.
“Yes you do; you love me. You always have and you always will. You just
you didn’t because you’re hurting right now. I understand what you’re going through. Truly, I do.”
what I was going through? The only thing he understood was his brainless lapse in judgment had led me to discover his secret life, which in turn led to him getting caught.
“I’m not trying to hurt you,” I lied. “I’m really not. It’s just, I can’t go back to the life we lived before. You weren’t here for me. We weren’t a family. When I think about it now ... the memories, the life we shared, it doesn’t even seem
“I know. It’s my fault. I take responsibility for it all. I’m sorry.”
He was sorry?
I should have felt relieved, empowered. I didn’t. I felt pain, resentment. I resented him for all the times he should have said sorry and hadn’t. I resented him for making me feel like a fool. To me, he was nothing more than a thief, except what he took from me was far more precious than a simple possession. He’d stolen years—years I wanted back, even though I knew I could never have them.
“Sasha, you still there? Say something. Please.”
I didn’t want to feel sorry for him. He didn’t deserve my pity. He didn’t deserve
. But I couldn’t shut down what I saw in my mind—Damon pouting outside my door, weak and helpless. Broken. Finally. And I had to admit, it felt good. For the first time in years he’d chosen me over someone else.
“Yeah, I’m still here.”
But why? Why am I still here?
The only explanation that made any logical sense was that I needed closure. I’d never had it. Maybe this was it. Stray dog or not, I’d resolved to move on months ago. It was what I wanted—to be free of him and the catatonic power he had over me.
“If you knew how much I’d been trying to change,” he said, “for you and the kids, then you’d understand why I got so angry before. I don’t want a divorce. And deep down, I don’t think you do either.”
He was wrong.
I wanted it with every cell I had inside me.
I’d never go back to him.
Maybe this simple truth was what he really didn’t understand. I’d never given him an explanation, not a proper one anyway. I’d been too caught up in finally catching him in his lies. Now was my chance, the one time he may have been humble enough to take it. Maybe if I did, he’d accept it and we could both move on.
“Fifteen minutes,” I whispered.
“You’re ... letting me in? Really?”
“Fifteen minutes, and then you leave.”
I unbolted the lock, allowing Damon to enter. So why didn’t he? Why wasn’t he coming in? I cracked the door. One inch, then two. Three. I peeked out, my jaw dropping when I met his gaze. I wanted to scream, cry out, but my lungs collapsed like a deflated balloon.
There were no tears.
No dried bits of saline on his face.
Nothing except a single, solitary look: RAGE.
I’d been a fool. A damned fool. And he knew it.
His hand surged forward, striking me across the face. It was like the slap heard ’round the world, only it didn’t stop there. As I struggled to draw breath, to massage the slow burn heating the side of my face, he came at me, pinning my body against the wall, his hand tight like a chain around my neck. He compressed his fingers and squeezed, tossing me with a gust of momentum to the floor.
Must. Get. Up.
I came to my knees, tried to stand, but couldn’t. He gripped a fistful of my hair, yanked it back. I screamed.
He was in my ear, growling at me like I was a bug he could crush because it pleased him. “You stupid bitch! Did you really think I would ever shed tears for you? Did you? You’re nothing! Nothing but a pathetic excuse of a woman. Do you want to know why I screwed around on you? Why I cheated? Because I could. Because they satisfied me in ways you never have.”
In the past, I’d endured his rants, his tirades. But this ... this was something else entirely.
,” he mocked. “Shut your mouth! I talk. You listen. There will be no divorce. Understand? I allowed you this ... this ... separation. Time to come to your senses, to accept our relationship for what it really is. But you still don’t get it. It’s not up to you. It wasn’t
up to you. What I do and whom I do it with is my business. Your only job is to sit here and wait for me to come home
I feel like it.”
He tightened his grip and continued.
“I’ve put up with this little charade of yours for long enough. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. I’m moving back into the house tonight, and tomorrow you’re going to resume your marital duties like this little hiccup we had never happened. And you will
question me or humiliate me like this again.”
He paused, waited for a response, waited for me to accept the one and only offer I was ever going to get from him. I didn’t care what he did. I’d rather be dead than live the life of a programmed robot. Hell in all its infinite, scorching-hot layers couldn’t even be this bad.
“I can’t and I won’t.”
I barely squeaked out the words, but he heard me.
“What did you just say? Because it sounds to me like you still haven’t accepted what’s going on here.”
I found my voice and didn’t just speak the words, I screamed them. “I haven’t accepted it, and I never will! You aren’t a husband, and you’re certainly not a father. I want you out of my life, out of the girls’ lives, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.”
He snorted a laugh. “All right. Fine. I see I’m still not making my point. Let’s try this another way.”
I had a feeling I wasn’t prepared for what was about to come next. I thrashed my body around in a failed attempt to regain my freedom from his grasp, but I wasn’t strong enough to fight him. Using my hair as his personal whip, he thrust my head forward, my face colliding with the cold, hard surface of the tile floor in front of me. It stung a little at first, the pain feeling like a small scratch, nothing more. The next blow hit harder. Once more and then twice, and then again and again until I’d been flung around like a rag doll. A chunk of my hair ripped out, strands floating to the ground like billowy feathers. I wanted to be strong, to fight him off. I wanted to try. I had to.
I reached back, clawing at the flesh on his arms with the edge of my nails. It did nothing but fuel his rage. My nose began to bleed. Or was it my head? Or both? My face was dripping, red spattering everywhere. It misted the air, then slid down my face, the tin-like taste of blood finding its way into my mouth.
In the back of my mind I could hear Rae as if she were right there in front of me. She prompted me, urged me on, saying, “Stand up! Defend yourself! Be the woman I know you can be!”
He may have had the strength, and he may have had the desire, but I had the will. Ten long years of it. I drew my knee to my chest and kicked back with everything I had, my foot ramming its target. He released me, staggered back, cupping a hand around his groin. I hoped I’d broken it, impaired the damn thing forever.