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Truth Hurts - A Short Story
I dreaded what was coming next. Glancing nervously to the plain black clock hanging from the wall, I mentally noted that Mitchell would have gotten off work fifteen minutes ago. He’d be here soon. I sat, dressed in a thin grey sweater and an old pair of sweats bearing the acronym of my old high school down one leg, on the couch in my four room apartment.
The place wasn’t much, but it was enough. It was what I called home. The simple black couch on which I sat was imitation leather, and the seams had come undone on the seats in several places. I’d meant to call to get someone to get it fixed, but the warranty’s limit had come and gone.
The carpet was a pale cream color, soft, calming. Walls were of a similar shade. The little coffee table was a deep mahogany, standing out like the couch and the love seat. My forty inch flat screen sat proudly in the corner, by the window over-looking the park. I’d saved for months to afford it.
I was an organized person. The books on the little bookshelf were arranged by size. DVDs in the stand arranged alphabetically. Magazines on the coffee table were perfectly stacked. Things were the same way in the kitchen, same way in the bathroom and my bedroom.
Organizing things kept me busy, kept my mind off things. More than often now, I found myself messing up the order of things just so I could re-organize, occupy my mind with something other than fear.
Mitchell, like every other night, would come home drunk, half-drunk, or carrying his new purchase from the liquor store – that conveniently was just a couple of blocks away. The moment he would come staggering through the door was the moment my confidence would dwindle, my self-esteem disappear, and fear would leap into my chest.
Working in a bar was not an easy job, was usually his drunken excuse. He often said he had to put up with drunks and assholes, people of the like, bashing them with vigour, almost stupidly oblivious that he fell into the exact same category.
Then he would start on me, usually for a reason I couldn’t understand even if he explained it to me. Reasons thought up in his head, things that he thought I did or didn’t do, accusations would fly. He would start to yell at me. Verbal assault quickly made the transition to physical.
When I’d first experienced Mitchell drunk, he hadn’t gotten physical. He got angry, he yelled, and then later reduced to pitiful crying on my shoulder and mumbling drunken apologies. I’d forgiven him.
However, his drunkenness soon became frequent.
The first time Mitchell got physical with me was on a Friday. When trying to tell him what he was accusing me of was wrong, Mitchell turned around and shoved me. I hadn’t been expecting it, and had fallen and bruised my hip. I didn’t know what to think, the shock of it was great, and I decided immediately I wasn’t going to tell anyone. It was just an accident, Mitchell was drunk, and he didn’t mean his actions.
That’s what I thought. I was wrong.
Mitchell hurt me again three days later. He took me by the shoulders and threw me against a wall – but that was it. Again, I’d been shocked to tears, but tried my best to blow it off, trying to convince myself that he would never intentionally hurt me.
The pushing and shoving and throwing soon were combined with hitting, punching, slapping. He’d pull my hair when I’d try and get away from him, pin me to the floor and whisper threats in my ear. He’d slap my face so hard it would welt. He’d punch me in the stomach so hard it would knock the air from my lungs.
He’d threaten me repeatedly, demand me to cover up the bruises or make excuses for them, and say that if I told anyone what really happened, he’d hurt me worse. He told me that my friends would never believe me. Mitchell filled my head with negativity and hopelessness so often that I began to believe it.
I never said a word to friends, or to my parents, or my co-workers. I was able to cover up the bruises effectively, I was afraid to have anyone find out the truth. They couldn’t find out the truth.
I finally decided to get up off the couch – and went about organizing things. Made sure the magazines were neat, the DVDs were in order, the books tidy and aligned. I was just about to go to the kitchen and make sure all the dishes were put away from the dishwasher, when I heard the door open.
Instantly, I felt my stomach flip, my body tensed. Not turning around, I heard Mitchell walk in and close the door behind him. What would he be tonight? Drunk? On his way there?
“Amy!” Mitchell’s voice rang through my ears. He was angry, I knew by the sound of it.
“Yes?” I turned around, and saw him spot me in the kitchen. He strode into the room with a slight swagger. Eyebrows furrowed, eyes black, mouth clenched into a tight line. I didn’t breathe for a moment, as I watched him sit down at the table. Silence.
“How was work?” I asked in a tiny voice.
“Shitty, as usual,” he spat back, leaning his head on his hands, slouching over the table. He didn’t make eye contact with me. Not so bad tonight, I realized. Maybe just a shot or two. Maybe this would be one of the wonderful nights he would just fall asleep on the couch, and be gone in the morning by the time I woke up.
I watched him, as he drummed his fingers against his skull, breathing heavily. He whipped around to face me.
“Well, where’s dinner?” he demanded. My heart jumped into my throat, knowing this would be the start of another painful night. Closing my eyes and bracing myself for the fallout, I replied calmly:
“I didn’t know if you were coming here tonight.”
“What?” His voice was icy cold as he turned to stare at me. The chair was shoved back, as he got to his feet, “What, where did you think I was going, Amy? I’d love to know! Oh, I know what you thought. You thought I was going to Katherine’s, didn’t you?”
Katherine, who was Katherine?
“No!” My voice immediately sounded like a plea, “I don’t even know who Katherine is, I thought you’d be going home, to your apartment, you...”
“Shut up. Do you think I’m fucking stupid?”
“No! No, I...”
I never got to finish my sentence when I felt the sting of his hand come in contact with my cheek. I let out a whimper, although the feeling was familiar.
I raised my hands, cowering away from him, tears instantly rolling down my face. He grabbed me, muttering harsh insults through clenched teeth. Tossing me to the floor, he delivered a strong kick to my stomach.
I went to scream out in pain, but my breath was gone, lungs empty. As I gasped for air, Mitchell dropped down to his knees beside me, and took me by the throat, forcing my face up to look at him. His eyes were vicious, evil.
“Listen, Amy,” He said, breathing heavily, “You never seem to learn. You never seem to learn,” he shook his head as he said this; “It’s the same. You do things wrong, you act horribly, you get me mad. You don’t like me when I’m mad?”
I could only shake my head, tears rolling down my cheeks as I took in ragged breaths.
“Then why do you always do this?” he demanded, “It’s your fault Amy. I love you Amy, I do, but you always get me mad.” He laughed, “It’s funny, but at the same time, I wouldn’t know what to do without you, my love. You’re a beautiful girl, you really are. Prettiest girl I know. I treat you so well, too. So well, Amy. And then you do this to me, I come home from work, tired, stressed out. I want to have a few drinks, calm down, spend time with you... yet you always do wrong.”
“I... don’t... do anything wrong...” I choked out.
“Yes you do!” Mitchell's voice became dangerous again, his grip tightened on my throat. I squeezed my eyes shut, tears slipping down my cheeks as my body shook with sobs. My stomach ached; I could still feel the place where his shoe had dug into my skin.
This was a nightmare, it had to be. It’s what I told myself every time.
“It’s the drinking, Mitchell. Don’t you understand you’re not making sense?”
"You're full of shit. Probably half drunk yourself!" Taking me by the shoulders, he slammed me off the floor several times, screaming, “It’s you, it’s you, Amy! It’s all you!”
He slapped me again, dazing me. I sobbed, raising my hands in front of me, trying to protect myself if he took another swing But he didn’t. I could still sense he was there though, hovering above me as I kept my eyes closed and my body curled in defense. I slowly felt the feeling go from my cheek.
Mitchell didn’t move for a long while – I could barely hear him breathing. It was like every other time; I knew it was almost over. The outburst had been enough. He’d be satisfied now, tired, confused. He wouldn’t hurt me anymore tonight, as long as I kept my mouth shut.
I felt his large hand cup my face and I flinched as soon as he touched my skin. The sudden gentleness almost made me sick.
“Amy,” his voice was entirely different now, soft and soothing like a one would address a frightened child, “Babe, please. Don’t cower away from me. You have nothing to fear.”
I almost felt the urge to laugh at this, in spite of everything. But I didn’t. I kept my mouth shut like I knew I should. I finally decided, however, to open my eyes. Slowly lowering my hands, I looked at Mitchell as he continued to kneel over me.
The expression on his terribly handsome face was calm now, apologetic, and regretful. His dark hair hung in his eyes that were glassy with drunkenness. I looked at him for a long while, not saying anything – I was even afraid to breathe too loudly.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered tenderly.
This had been the first time in a while he’d apologized for what he had done. Although there was no meaning behind the words, nor could his actions ever be possibly atoned, it was an apology.
It made me feel happy with the assurance that he wouldn’t hit me, yell at me or hurt me anymore tonight. I’d survived another round, only to start psyching myself up for another one, which would most likely occur tomorrow night. Or, if Mitchell stayed and slept with me, it could possibly arise in the morning from the aftershock of an unavoidable hangover.
“I’m so sorry,” Mitchell repeated, and he dragged me up from the floor to pull me into a hug. Frightened that he would get angry if I didn’t hug him back, I wrapped my arms around him and gave him what he wanted.
I felt him nuzzle his face into my hair and inhale my scent. He sighed deeply and I felt him relax.
“You know I don’t mean this,” he began to drabble, “It’s just that you frustrate me. It’s not too hard to do what I ask. I’m not demanding insane things; I just want simple things, Amy, simple, simple things.”
He drew back from the hug, to lean in and kiss me on the lips. I felt my body grow tense as his lips covered mine, in an almost crushing pressure. His breath reeked of alcohol. A voice inside my head was screaming frantically at me, enraged at my betrayal as I allowed him to kiss me – and regrettably, I kissed him back. Pull away – the voice was saying, bewildered, don’t kiss him!
Mitchell broke from the kiss, and then didn’t say much more after that. Gently, almost timidly, he took a couple of steps backwards, as he gazed at my face. His eyes weren’t meeting mine; they were directed at my throbbing cheek. I knew it must either be showing a bruise or a bright red welt.
He was truly crazy, to stare at me like that. To look upon the wounds he inflicted and not bat an eye. Indifferent, I watched as he glanced from my cheek down the length of my body. Reaching out to finger the dainty silver necklace with a heart pendant hanging about my throat, he murmured:
“I like that on you. Is it new?”
“Yes,” I answered, my voice not going any higher than a whisper. I couldn’t relax; my body was still tense and rigid as a rock. I stood with my shoulders squared, my arms tight to my sides with my fists clenched - bracing myself in case I was to receive another blow.
But Mitchell was almost reassuringly calm now. After complementing my necklace, he turned away from me, walking rather sluggishly. Tugging open the fridge, where he stood for a while to stare blankly at its contents, he began to hum a song to himself. It was out of tune, but his voice was soothing. It was the same soothing voice that was able to keep my friends and family fooled. I hated it.
Finally deciding there was nothing inside the fridge that was to his interest, he turned back to face me with a drunken shrug.
“Maybe it’s a good thing you did’n’ make dinner,” He muttered, “Come to think of it, I’m not that hungry.”
I put on my concern for him.
“What have you eaten today?”
“Huh? Oh, just a breakfast sandwich from the shop down the street. Had two cups of coffee... and a drink or two,” He smirked at me, bringing his fingers up to run them through his hair, “Will you make me a big breakfast in the mornin’, though, babe? Sausage and eggs, how about it?”
My heart sank. So, he was planning to stay the night. More and more common this was becoming. It seemed Mitchell was spending more time here at my apartment than he was at his own. His apartment was smaller than mine, however. Not as carefully decorated. Liquor bottles and beer cans were strewn everywhere, under the couch, on the couch. All over the tables and counters, scattered about the floor.
“Sure, if that’s what you want,” I complied immediately. I gave him a smile, and I was surprised he didn’t see the falseness in it.
“Yeah, sounds good.” He flopped down into one of the kitchen chairs, allowing his head to drop down onto his chest. His eyes fluttered, “I’m so tired...”
“Then let’s go to bed,” I suggested, hating myself for doing so.
“Hmmm.” He was quick to oblige. Staggering to his feet, he dug into his jeans pocket and tossed his cell phone and car keys onto the table. Then he left the kitchen without me. I stayed where I was for a moment, desperate for a second alone.
That’s when a persistent buzzing erupted from his cell phone. I walked a few steps towards the table. His phone stopped vibrating.
I heard the bathroom door shut, Mitchell wouldn’t be out for a minute or so. Glancing over my shoulder and then back to the phone lying on the table, I swiped it up and flipped it open.
He received a new text message. From a Katherine.
Katherine, so she wasn’t just a name that he’d cooked up. She was a real person. Was she another unfortunate girl who had been drawn into his deadly charm?
I opened the text message. It read:
“Hey Mitch! Tonite was fun. Want to go for a drive Friday nite? Chelsea’s coming. Please? Love you. Xo.”
I felt a strange pang in my chest, as I reread it over again, and again. It slowly began to dawn on me what those words meant. Either Katherine was one of those cheerful women who said “love you” to everyone, or, Mitchell was cheating.
I found myself leaning towards the second option. I found it actually surprising that this strange feeling that had suddenly enveloped me was hurt. I was confused; I knew I shouldn’t feel hurt. I should want Mitchell to leave me, to no longer be under his control, to have him hurt me.
Flipping the phone shut and setting it back down on the table, feeling somewhat numb; I turned around – only to see Mitchell was standing in the doorway. Immediate dread spread through me and I froze. I hadn’t heard the bathroom door open.
I stared at his face as I felt the color drain from mine, for any signs of anger. But he just leaned calmly against the doorframe.
“Do you like my new background?”
For a moment, I was stunned. He didn’t see that I’d read his text?
“Yes,” I answered, giving him a little smile. I didn’t even have a clue what it was of.
“Just for you,” he said, “But,” his expression darkened, “I don’t want you snooping around my cell phone. Don’t touch it again unless I tell you to, got it?”
I nodded complacently, holding my breath. Was he going to get mad again?
Mitchell just shook his head, muttering something beneath his breath, and wiped at his mouth. My guess was that he had gotten sick in the bathroom. Another mess to clean up; he was never tidy about anything, except of course when it came to his job.
“Just go to sleep, Mitch,” I said tenderly, “You look tired.” Truthfully, he looked like hell, but I wouldn’t dare say it.
“Oh I know,” he shrugged, his voice a monotone mumble, “Glanced in the mirror in the bathroom and was like, ‘shit’,” He smiled, “Thank god I work the late shift tomorrow, I’ll have a bit of time to recoup.”
His eyes fluttered tiredly, and he leaned heavily on the doorframe. For a second, I thought he was going to pass out right there, but he turned around and staggered towards the bedroom. I almost didn’t hear him mutter for me to follow.
I did placidly, but told him that I needed to go to the bathroom first. He nodded, not really caring as he made a b-line for the bed. He would probably be asleep when I came back out.
When I got into the bathroom and shut the door, I saw that Mitchell hadn’t thrown up. The bathtub, sink and the toilet were just as clean as they had been when I cleaned them today. In the past, there had been times where he hadn’t made it to the toilet, and instead vomited in the sink, bathtub or of course, the floor. I’d found him passed out on that floor more times than I can remember.
I walked over to the mirror, and saw my face staring back at me, and was instantly humiliated by the sight of it. Of course, I was pale, my hair was stringy and tousled, and there was a purpling bruise on my lower jaw and just above it, my cheek was still red.
I didn’t even bother pulling up my sweater to see the bruise that I knew was forming on my stomach. I’d grown used to bruises, so much now that I could tell how old one was just with a glance. The color gave it all away. Purple, black or blue, it was pretty new. Green, yellow, or brown, it was a few days old.
Turning on the cold water tap, I leaned over the sink, allowing my hands to fill up with water before splashing it over my face, and then I just let my head hang over the sink, the water droplets roll off my face.
Why can’t you just leave him? A voice in my head demanded, Leave him. He is no good to you, he does nothing for you. You can find someone much better...
No. There was no escaping him. I couldn’t leave my own apartment, and I couldn’t burden my friends, or even my parents with my presence. I had my own job and this was my home.
I couldn’t tell Mitchell to leave, either. I know that he would hurt me the moment the words left my mouth, he told me that he loved me and that he would never leave me, ever. His over-protectiveness and his violent rages had me bound to him.
Then I remembered Katherine. This girl, Katherine, time with whom he’d been spending. I never heard of her before. He was going behind my back with this Katherine. For some reason, I pictured her to be blonde, tall, and voluptuous – everything I wasn’t.
If Mitchell was with Katherine, why didn’t he just leave me for her? She must have something I didn’t; maybe she didn’t make him mad. Maybe she was just as intimidating as he, and the two of them kept each other at bay, neither of them willing to be the subordinate.
Finally, I decided to leave the bathroom, the bruise on my stomach aching dully, not letting me forget that it was there. I wasn’t surprised as I entered the bedroom, to see Mitchell was passed out on his stomach on the bed, still in his clothes.
I quietly got dressed into an old t-shirt and a pair of shorts, making sure each step I took, each movement I made was carefully calculated as to not make a single noise. I’d learned early on, that waking him up would result in a disaster.
Ever so slowly, I crawled into bed beside him. As I situated myself comfortably, trying to find a place where the bruises didn’t ache so much, I felt as if I was lying in bed with a monster. This was like a never-ending nightmare.
The voice that had protested me earlier started up again in my head – it kept saying Leave him, leave him. I was afraid. I knew him too well now, if I tried to leave him, he would hurt me. He would hurt me worse than ever, for he told me he never wanted me to leave him. He would do everything in his power to keep me with him, keep me by his side and let me be no one else’s but his own.
More than once, he’d said to me:
“You’re mine, Amy, you’re my little doll.”
I thought back to the doll I had once owned as a little girl, which had been a beautiful doll made of porcelain, with beautiful brown curls, pink lips that always carried a smile, and large, piercing eyes with long eyelashes, skin a creamy white. I knew right then, a porcelain doll I was not, for if I were made of porcelain, I would have been broken long ago.