by Janette Malcolm
Erica Sawyer wondered why her husband, Sean, chose this year to celebrate her birthday. They had been together ten years, and he never made an effort to acknowledge her birthday, not her twenty-first or even her twenty-fifth. Something was wrong, she noticed him glaring at the server with a clenched jaw and tensed muscles. When the server arrived, Sean’s smile didn’t quite meet his eyes; he spoke, in short, clipped tones. Watching the exchange chilled her down to her toes. She shivered and tried to smile when he focused his cold eyes on her; the longer he stared, the more nervous she became. Erica lifted her shaking hand to brush a flyaway strand behind her ear, grazing the raised skin at her temple to calm her nerves.
“Erica, sweetheart, let’s go home.” Sean’s voice dripped with honey as he held out his hand.
Every nerve stood on end, her mind was screaming no. She placed her hand in his and flinched at the pain when he squeezed it. She tried to walk slowly, but Sean pulled her along gripping her hand; she tried to blink back tears from the pain. She looked around at the other patrons enjoying their meals hoping that someone, anyone would see the fear in her eyes, and stop them from walking out the restaurant or give her a means of escape.
Sean didn’t utter another word while waiting for the valet. She watched as he silently walked around to the driver’s side, slid under the wheel, allowing the valet to open the door for Erica.
With her eyes cast downward, Erica thanked the valet and closed the door. She fastened her seatbelt, turned to Sean with a tentative smile. “
“Thank you, for a wonderful birthday dinner. I’ve never had caviar before, and the Chablis was exquisite.”
Sean turned on Sirius, “Say Something” blared through the speakers. Tears welled in Erica’s eyes as she looked out the window, silently praying for safety.
Every word that flowed from Sean’s mouth was like venom sinking into her soul, cutting her being, dismantling her core. She couldn’t take any more verbal abuse and tried to escape. Erica knew that if she could just avoid him, disappear somewhere in the house he would eventually calm down and fall asleep. She slowly inched towards the door, but Sean was watching her every move. This is not how she had envisioned spending her thirtieth birthday.
“Where the hell do you think you are going?”
Erica didn’t say a word. Her words would only make him angrier. She stood still and tried to calculate the quickest exit. The closest door would corner her, the kitchen door was on the other side of the room, and Sean was standing between her and the front door. There was no escape. He was still waiting for an answer. She looked back at Sean, his eyes darkened with anger, his face distorted, his body trembling, and his fists were clenched. Erica knew what was coming next. “Sean, please it’s my birthday I just want to go to bed.”
“You’re not going anywhere until I teach you to respect your man in public.” His hand encased her arm pulling her back. “I saw the way you looked at the waiter, the way you tried to entice him in my face.”
“I didn’t…” Sean landed a quick sharp blow to her face, she tasted blood. Erica tried to back away to avoid another punch, she wasn’t fast enough. There was an intense pain as her vision began growing darker. Falling back into the wall, Erica held up her arms to block any more blows to the face. He grabbed both arms lifting her off the wall and threw her across the room. “Please Sean, I will never disrespect you again” she cried as he preceded to kick her repeatedly in her stomach. “Sean…” She gasped as she passed out.
Erica woke up in her bed with Sean’s arm laying across her. She quickly learned the routine: “Erica!” he bellowed, “Didn’t I tell you to have dinner ready when I got home.” She backed away and turned to the stove. “And I told you, Sean, I have to work too. It’ll be ready soon.” He grabbed her arm, pulling with one hand and punching her face with the other. She recoiled staring at him full of fear. “Erica,” he cried as he tried to caress her face. “Baby, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again.” She wanted to leave him even though her mother said. “If a man hits you. You’re doing something wrong. He’s a good man, try to make it work.” But she didn’t agree, after watching her father beat her mother almost every day until he died fifteen years ago, she never wanted to experience that level of abuse.
Her body was wracked with pain, touched her left eye it was swollen closed, her arms tender, possibly bruised from being thrown around like a rag doll. She couldn’t roll over without flinching. She couldn’t take much more of this. Sean’s arm felt like an anchor holding her down on the bed. There was nothing she could do tonight but fall back into a restless sleep.
Erica was awakened by unearthly murmurs and faint whispers coming from under her bed. She laid paralyzed not sure what could possibly be making that noise. Sean was still sleeping soundly next to her. The whispers eerily calling her name grew louder with each breath she took.
“Erica.” It was so soft at first that she wasn’t sure she was hearing her name. Then she heard it again. “Erica.” She looked over at Sean to see if he was trying to scare her or if he heard it too. He was sound asleep. “Erica!!!” The voice was louder and clearer. She was terrified. The last time this happened was fifteen years ago. The voices were back. Her heart raced, but she didn’t dare to wake Sean. He would think she was crazy and beat her again for waking him. “Erica…kill him!” Kill him, maybe she was going crazy. Who would she kill and why were the voices telling her to kill him? “Kill him, Erica. The abuse will not stop unless you stop it. Kill him.”
“I… can’t. I can’t do it.” Erica was terrified.
”Listen to me. You have endured ten long years of this abuse.”
“How do you know what I’ve been through?”
“I have been here with you the whole time. It is time for you to stop the abuse right now. Kill him.”
“You aren’t real. You a just a figment of my imagination. It’s been fifteen years why are you returning now?”
“It is time. Kill him now!”
“How would I explain his death to the police?”
“Kill him now!” The voice sounded throughout the room. Erica looked over at Sean she couldn’t believe he slept through the whole conversation. Looking over at the clock, she knew whatever she decided to do she only had a small window of opportunity. The alarm would ring in twenty minutes, and Sean would get up expecting her to begin his breakfast. She was still in so much pain, could barely see out of her left eye but none of that mattered to Sean. He would get up expecting everything to be normal. She would have to call into work and make up some excuse about a virus until the swelling went down enough and she could cover her black eye with makeup. She thought about the numerous scars she received over the years. She knew them all. There was one near her temple from hitting her head on the corner of the desk. A jagged scar on her back when he threw her into the mirror. One on her stomach when he pushed her down the stairs causing her to lose the baby. This scar would be far worse than any of the others. He had never beat her so bad that she passed out. No more, she was tired. Tired of his excuses, and tired of the abuse. At this rate the next time he probably would kill her.
“Kill him.” The voice was loud and clear. Erica knew what she needed to do. Opening the drawer in her nightstand slowly, she moved some papers and pulled out a pair of crafting shears slowly removed the sheath covering the blades. Checking once more to make sure he was sleeping, Erica raised the scissors high enough to do the deed and stopped. “I can’t do it,” she said. There was no way she could kill her husband. “Not again.”
“You freed your mother, now free yourself.” Erica nodded in agreement, closed her eyes, took a deep breath and exhaled. Finding the carotid artery she brought the scissors down swiftly. “You did it, and I was with you the entire time.”
Erica looked at her bloody reflection smiling in the mirror, “No more scars.”