Courting Flesh and Blood

Original Story With The Black Smoke Following, published 3 September 2014
Rated MA for Violence

Courting Flesh and Blood

She looked at him with his gym-coaxed muscles straining the fabric of a Pabst Blue Ribbon t-shirt. His dark hair, his almond eyes, his sly smile. Her chest tightened. Her legs loosened. She put the pen on top of her copy of the receipt. She slid it across the bar. Their fingers sparked as the bundle changed places. She watched his hands pick up the pen and turn the paper to the blank side. She watched his fingers grip the pen, his hand sliding across the paper. He folded the receipt with his name and number facing in and looked up to catch her watching him.

~

“It took me a week to call you,” she said. She rolled over to her side, pressed her naked body against his, and rested her hand on his stomach.
“I know,” he said, lying on his back with his fingers clasped behind his head. His eyes closed.
“I didn’t want to date anybody.”
“Do you now?”
“Only you.”
He slid his arm under the nearly unnoticeable weight of her, wrapped it around her back, and hugged her close. They lay silent. The summer breeze pushed at the curtains. Traffic, children, birds filtered through. She closed her eyes and settled against him.

~

She got out of the car wearing a sundress and flip flops. She stretched her arms above her head. She arched her back. She stood on tip-toes. He swept her up in his arms.
“I love you,” he said. She leaned in and kissed him.
He waited until he shut the door behind him before he reached for the switch. She watched the shadows in the light from a candle.
“Wait.” Her hand traced the length of his arm and pulled his hand back. He picked her up. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist.
The flame flickered in the wake of bodies settling on the couch and danced with the shadows until they fell still.

~

She ignored the whimpers waiting for him to get up according to his promise: if she did day duty, he would do night. He didn’t sleep much anyway.
“You can’t be in this house alone,” he had said. “What if someone breaks in? You could be robbed, raped, assaulted….” She agreed to what he wanted: a purebred female with thick muscles and a tight jaw.
The puppy whined, scratched the door. The puppy skittered across the room and put her too-big paws on the bedside and pulled at the blankets.
“Take that dog out,” he said. “You need to learn how to take care of things.” His breaths returned to deep and peaceful. She took the dog out.

~

The ceremony was simple. She said yes to the marriage, but no to the court house and arranged for a minister to marry them on a Friday night in the banquet room of a local fare restaurant. The lone table was set with fine dining ware and glasses of chilled wine on pressed and folded cloths covering the table in delicate waves. The lights were set low. A small stage was under a hanging blown-glass sculpture. A server followed them into the room and whispered he would return in twenty minutes so as not to interrupt the wedding. He backed out of the room, sliding the frosted glass doors shut, and everyone took their places.

~

He reached out and grabbed her by the throat and pulled her to within inches of his face. He scowled at her, gripping her neck tighter as the anger escalated. She tried to pry his fingers away. As quickly as he grabbed her, he let go and threw her back towards the wall. She gasped for breath. He grabbed her by her hair and dragged her to the patio doors. He opened the door and threw her outside. He shut the door and locked it. When the lights went out, she climbed over the railing and to the bushes where she had a plastic bin hidden and retrieved her flattened pillow and threadbare blanket.

~

Breakfast was artfully prepared: fluffy eggs, sliced avocado, crisp bacon – plated as a smiley face – and ice cold orange juice. While she ate he rubbed tiger balm on her neck and shoulders, taking care to be gentle where he’d constricted. He kissed the top of her head, hugged her from behind, and, once she finished her food, lifted her from the chair, carried her into their bedroom, and loved her fears away. He let her nap. He straightened the house, and planned a long-weekend, beach resort vacation he never intended them to take. He woke her in time to cook his lunch.

~

He pulled up to the single glass door marked For Patient Exit Only. She pointed outside when she saw the car. The nurse pushed the switch and the door swung open. She wheeled her to the edge of the sidewalk. He was still buckled into his seat, sitting turned slightly to look out the passenger window with his left arm draped over the steering wheel. The nurse opened the car door and helped her into the seat. Once settled and buckled, the nurse shut the door. He pulled away from the curb and drove all the way home without once saying a word.

~

“Quit calling me an asshole.” He stomped towards her.
“Quit being an asshole.” She stepped towards him. He lifted his arm and stopped her advances with the tip of a knife against her chest. “I’m filing for divorce November 1,” she said.
“You are not filing divorce,” he said. “You will lose everything.”
“You are more than welcome to file October 31.” She walked away and into their bedroom. He followed her, still holding the knife. He turned her to the side and slammed her against the wall. He took hold of a fistful of hair and pulled her to the floor. She curled into a ball. He straddled her body, raised his arm, and came down thrusting the knife into the carpet.

~

He handed her a dress, and a little pink bag with a matching set for underneath. He put tasteful heels on the floor and ushered her into the bedroom to change. She emerged feeling every bit of beautiful, and confused. He stood waiting holding a single red rose wearing perfectly pressed pants and a collared shirt. He kissed one cheek, then the other. She took the rose in one hand and he took her other in his. He opened every door for her, he pulled out her chair at the restaurant, and he let her have one glass of wine to celebrate he would change her mind and she would stay.

~

He took two leaping steps at her, fists balled. His brown eyes turned black. His hair stood on end. His jaw clenched and his lips tightened. She stepped back into the wall, and then he was on her, in her face.
He turned her from the wall and pushed her backwards across the room, yelling in her face. He snapped her back and the closet door gave way under the pressure of her body flung like a basketball against a wall. She fell.
He straddled her as she tried to stand up. He kicked her ribs. She fell again. He wrapped his arms under her and lifted her with gentle care, going only a few motions at a time, until she was standing again.

~

His arms were filled with roses and chocolates. “Sit, sit,” he said, and shoved the bounty at her. He went back out to his car. She sat, not daring to eat a chocolate or smell the roses. He returned with arms filled with shopping bags from the bookstore, the shoe store, the dress shop to replace what he had thrown in the trash. Not a single item of his apology shopping spree, nor any from previous apology shoppings, was boxed up on the day she drove away to meet the shelter worker in the grocery store parking lot.

~

The life she left was in flames. Their war waged behind closed doors with cuts and bruises concealed with clothing and makeup, stories and lies. Once she was defeated he took them farther south, and they left Atlanta in ruins with the black smoke following. Then, in the first moment he let down his guard, she ran five states north. There she remained for two years, until the fires crested and crashed, then she returned to Atlanta as one returns home after the smoldering fires, having nothing left to burn, have smothered themselves and the only choice is to rebuild.

****************************************************

Any thoughts or feedback? This story has been worked and reworked countless times. This particular version was for a contest submission, and was, as usual, put in the rejection pile. I went out of order for this post. Yesterday (8/8) was the 6 year anniversary of the day I left my abusive marriage for good.

Six years has passed since I last locked the door to our marital home. It was hardly a home. A cardboard constructed set, all pretty and done up on the outside and splintered boards on the inside. Door locked. Life left. Fear packed in with toys, blankies and jammies, and a single thread of self, knotted and pocketed to start a new life, a safe life.

*****

Featured Image is mine.

The ads (which may appear) below are not mine, but they keep this free for me. Do with them as you choose.

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6 thoughts on “Courting Flesh and Blood

  1. I can certainly understand why it wasn’t picked Mel. It is far too real for most readers. The writing is excellent, the rhythm adds so much – flatter,abuse, flatter, abuse, etc. The way you delineated it as the end rushed towards the reader was a better use of pacing than I have ever seen in any written work. It felt like the whole situation was out of control and I was just holding on waiting for the crash – either him killing her or her killing him – like the final hill on a roller coaster.

    It is brilliantly written Mel and I am so glad that you are personally safe now, as i think about you facing a similar abusive situation. You are so brave to have stayed sane and got free. I gotta tell you I had to come back to it twice to get through – I could feel the fear and pain/. This piece would be best marketed to a focused readership- those who have either been abused or those who work at helping them.

    I’ve nudge up against the cultural pushback on abuse many times and people get very angry. My Mum was a social worker and professor in child abuse for many years and where there is child abuse, there is often spousal abuse as well. Many high-falutin’ Christians speak poorly of Muslim treatment of women. It turns out that the greatest cause of death in North American Christian women between 20 and 45 is murder by a loved one or relative. The majority of injured (excluding sickness) women who report to emerg wards have been beaten by spouses or family. The vast majority of women have reported abuse of one sort or another in their life time – it used to be about 20% who were violently and/or sexually assaulted, the rest were psychologically or verbally or physically or financially assaulted. Anyway, you get the drift Mel – heaven help us-more women in North America are abused than not. I’ve tried bringing this topic into comments or discussions and I inevitably get shut down by angry bloggers or readers. People – many women – do not want to hear this truth. They choose to turn a blind eye rather than face the fact that their loved ones are beaten and abused.

    I shudder whenever I read personal stories or even fiction about this topic because as many programs and resources are poured into it, it never gets better and won’t until we admit there is a problem – a big, life threatening problem/

    I am so glad you got out of it Mel and i am sure your piece would sell very well to those who know the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For whatever reason, I can’t comment on this post. Stupid phone.

      What an awful, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad week. That bruise! Oh good gracious, the pain. I can’t even imagine. I hope you heal quickly and never, ever endure this again.

      I do so hope your bank gets it all worked out for you. Amazon is tricky. It’s a tricky, sneaky beast. Don’t ever click yes there unless you are prepared for an eternity with them. I disagree with their automatic everything. It shouldn’t be that way. Big business does as big business does, to hell with the rest of us.

      Did you end up moving? I think the last time I read you were considering a cross country move.

      And Ned and Alicia? Can’t not be happy for that happiness. I once told Ned he almost makes me believe in love. The fact is they do, but I’ll never tell him that. *wink*

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so very much for dropping by for read and comment Mel. I am honored. I will be fine – I just needed a good rant – thank you for listening.

        I hope I wasn’t too verbose or vehement in my comment on your post. If so please let me know and I’ll tone it down or out. Please accept my apologies.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh no, your comment was absolutely gorgeous. If a comment can be described as such. No toning necessary. I just need a minute because it’s a heavy post in a heavy week.

          Liked by 1 person

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