For the past week Sharon had been walking on eggshells. David alternated between calling her a “dumb fucking bitch,” and treating her with sullen angry silences. The silence was worse, since she didn’t know when or how he would explode.
He left for work early each day and was coming home late each night. She told herself he was staying later at the gym, and willfully ignored the smell of alcohol, perfume and tobacco when he came in.
The days were alright, but as the evening progressed her dread would grow. She didn’t know when he’d return and in what mood. He hadn’t eaten at the house all week. But, he demanded that she cook for him. Because she didn’t know when he’d be home the food was always cold. He’d then make either a rude snide comment or start screaming at her for being worthless and then throw his food, plate and all, into the garbage. He’d then storm out to the living room to watch TV until the early hours of the morning.
On Thursday morning, she had just returned from getting the boys on the school bus when the doorbell rang.
When she opened the door, she saw Betty standing there. Sharon immediately felt a stab of panic and thought, what if David saw her here? Before she could say or doing anything, Betty had taken Sharon into her arms and hugged her fiercely. Standing there in the doorway, Sharon broke down and started crying.
“Sorry, it took me so long to come over, sweetie,” Betty said,”I’ve been living in therapy this week. The back was so bad I could barely walk.” Betty had been in a horrific car accident a few years back which forced her to retire from teaching. She joked that she had bad days and worse ones.
Sharon didn’t say anything. She just melted into the embrace of the woman who had been more of a mother than her own.
Betty gently raised Sharon’s head, and taking her by the hand lead her to the kitchen.
“Here, sit down and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea,” Betty said.
Sharon meekly sat down at the cheap plastic table,while Betty made the tea with a clear familiarity of the kitchen.
While Betty busied herself, Sharon stared at a stain on the table. She felt so conflicted. On one hand, she loved Betty, and always felt loved and secure when she was present. Things seemed clearer when they talked. When David was around she couldn’t keep her thoughts straight. He made her feel little, worthless and stupid. She was deathly afraid of what he’d do if he found out that Betty had been in the house, again.
“Here you go, sweetie,” Betty said, placing the cup of herbal tea in front of her.
Sharon took the warm cup in her hands. She looked up and saw Betty’s deep brown eyes looking back. Sharon felt the tears leaking from her eyes again. Betty pulled a tissue from the box on the table and gently dabbed Sharon’s eyes.
“Sweetie,”she said softly, “what did that animal do to you?”
Sharon shook her head too embarrassed to tell Betty of the past few days. “It wasn’t too bad, he was just worried when he didn’t find me home.”
Betty sat down on the chair facing her. “Don’t make excuses. In the fifteen years that I was married to Boris, he never once yelled at me or hit me.” Boris had been killed in the same accident which injured Betty.
Sharon set the cup down undrunk. Betty reached across the table and took her right hand in hers. “You don’t have to take this.”
“I don’t know what to do,” she said miserably.
“It’s tough to see your way out of the cage. He’s convinced you that you’re worthless and convinced you that you can’t survive without him. That’s nonsense. You’re so much stronger than you know. And let me tell you a secret, you don’t need a man to validate you.”
“You say that to me all the time.”
“Because, sweetie, it’s true. You have no idea how hard it was for me to go on after Boris died.” She released Sharon’s hand and unconsciously touched the wedding ring which hung from a chain around her neck. “There were days when I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed and go to physical therapy. I just didn’t see the point.”
Betty reached into her pants pocket and pulled out a slightly rumpled card. “My sister convinced me to see a therapist. Dr. Bollen. She really helped to get perspective on my life.” She pushed the card across the table.
Sharon just looked at it. “I’m not crazy,” she said.
“I didn’t say you were. You just need perspective. You need to see that you are so much more than you think you are, or David lets you be. You’ve given him too much power and he’s crushing you with it.”
“Ok, I’ll call her.” Sharon said in an effort to deflect the conversation.
Betty shook her head. “I know you. You’re agreeing to just shut me up.” Betty held up a hand to block Sharon’s denial, “You and I keep going round and round. Honey, at some point this has to stop. You don’t have to live like this. And you have to face facts, he’s getting worse. It has nothing to do with you, it’s all him. At some point he’s going to hit you or the children, and then what?”
Sharon didn’t have an answer.