His eyes reminded me of the water that I swam in as a child in our backyard pool. Yet, I didn’t see much there, as if he had closed his soul off many years before we met. Still, there was something about Jeff, something special that I noticed as we traded off machines from his shift to mine every week day for several months. He would give me the run-down of the machine and then make small talk.
Jeff’s gestures were quite different from the other men that I worked with in the shop, and a welcome relief from the abusive relationship I was currently seeking to leave. Then, the day came that our small talk led to me disclosing where I lived. It turned out that he knew my live-in boyfriend, had for many years. For the first time someone knew that I was being abused, they understood my secret before I even spoke the words. His kindness quickly became concern.
Soon, I was inviting Jeff over, a friend I could trust, a friend that was willing to stop at nothing to help me end the secrets I had been living with. He borrowed a pick-up truck and in a rush I threw my and the three children’s most needed items into trash bags and we hit the road. With absolutely no destination in mind, just safety from the known dangers.
Jeff knew someone that owned some property on a lake, it was a tiny campground with a few cabins for rent. Reluctantly the owner offered up a temporary home for us to hide in. There were no sob story discounts, a full $600 a week when rent would have been $350 for a month in any trailer park in the county. Yet, I had no place to rent, I needed time to pull things together, so with the help of my new friend the children and I called the cabin home.
After two weeks there, with lots of fresh blue gill for three meals a day, and daily laundry trips we were able to move to a trailer park where safety would only last so long. I’m not sure how, but Howie found out where we were living and showed up on my door step one Saturday morning.
Jeff, the children, and I were all in the living room watching cartoons and playing when there was a knock at the door. I was still laughing at the new joy I had found when I opened the door and the sound caught in my throat, there stood Howie with his evil soul peering out between shaded eyelids.
“I want my cell phone back,” was all that he said.
I didn’t invite him in, the last thing I wanted was him in my home, trashing my life. So I kept the storm door between us as I pulled the calm from somewhere inside of me and said, “Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Walking toward the bedroom I quickened my step, feeling the nausea climbing up my throat. I quickly grabbed the phone and as I turned to walk out Howie stepped from the hallway. He grabbed me by the hair and gave a yank.
“Just so you know, I could rape and kill you right now and no one would ever know that I was even here. Jeff would take the fall for me. How sweet is that? A classic revenge on love gone wrong?” he whispered the violence to me as I held tears in.
He was right, everyone was in the living room, enjoying a relaxed Saturday morning and I was facing death and no one would know.
With disgust I spat out the words, “Get out!”
Just as stealthily as he entered he left my home, leaving me quite shaken, confused, and beyond scared. I thought I had left danger behind, but life isn’t that easy. I returned to the living room, with a secret that I must keep, I could die and the person that had saved me from certain death could be blamed for it? No, I can’t let that happen.
Eventually I had to return to Howie’s home to collect a few forgotten items. Jeff had warned me that I should take someone with me, but I trusted myself, I thought I could handle it. I was not expecting what happened.
Me, pressed up against the back door with Howie’s body holding me in place. “You went off the pill for him? You said that you loved me, but you wouldn’t have kids with me. You want his kid?” his anger leaving spit upon my face. It was that day that he threw me on his bed, as if I were a small child that had come between him and his fried food. Instead of walking away, he repeatedly raped me, threatening my life, telling me all the things he had seen me do since I’d left him. He was stalking me! What the hell?
Howie even went so far as to tell me, “If you don’t come back to me I will be sure that you die, because he can’t have you. It’s me or no one, he will be in prison for what I’ve done.”
I had lived with Howie long enough to know that he was completely capable of everything that he said, but how could I prove these words?
The answer was simple, I couldn’t prove any of it and my best guess at a good response was to move back in so that when I died everyone would know it was Howie that had killed me. But, I had no idea how accurate this would be.
When I moved back in with Howie the first thing he did was toss out all of my birth control pills, to be sure that I got pregnant, then accused me of carrying Jeff’s baby and trying to pass her off on Howie. There was no doubt in my mind, that the child within was Howie’s. Yet, as the doctor cut her umbilical cord nine months later Howie said, “Is it mine?” I knew then that Skyler and I were alone in this world of hate, just us and her siblings. Still, death loomed near, and I had burned the only bridge I knew because I feared Jeff would take the fall for Howie.
The secrets continued …