Bloggymoms Writer’s Workshop Prompt 7-25-11

Troy Deagen could feel the anger in his body rising to the surface as he paced the stylish but  neutral-toned living room. Where in the hell was his wife, Nora? It wasn’t like her to not greet him at the door with his nightly drink in hand and the dining room table  ready for dinner. His legs pumped faster as he thought about what he would do to her for defying him. Had he not taught the bitch after twenty years that HE was the master in their house and their marriage?! In his mind, he could hear her laughing at him, mocking him with her absence. Anger spun quickly into rage as he hurled his half-empty glass into the mirror over the mantle of the fireplace. He watched his angry image shatter into a hundred shiny pieces as they fell. He would beat her ass tonight like he’d never done in their twenty years of marriage. Satisfied with his solution, he walked into the kitchen for a new glass.

On the kitchen table stood Nora’s journal. He stopped in his tracks. He stood staring, not quite believing the image his eyes were translating to his brain. “That stupid bitch.”, his mind raced. She’d finally become careless with the precious journal she’d managed to hide from him all of these years. New glass forgotten, he walked over to the journal. His eyes registered Nora’s elegant script on clean white pages. Pulling the journal slowly towards him, he felt a feeling of forbidding. He sat down slowly as his eyes scanned the words.

If you are reading this, Troy, then you must know I’m gone. I  know you’ve made yourself a drink, you’ve thought quickly about what my punishment will be, and you’ve destroyed at least one or two things by now. I know you so well. At least, I know your anger so well. 
Twenty years ago, you changed the course of your life as well as mine. Oh, how naïve I was. How easily I explained away your little quirks, your hurtful comments. It’ll get better, I often told myself. I told myself that very thing for the first ten years of our marriage. But it never did get better.
He didn’t mean to take his frustration and anger out on you, Nora. He just had a bad day. He’s working so hard to provide a wonderful life for you; to give you all the things a woman dreams of having. He’s under a lot of stress, Nora, he didn’t mean to slap you when you asked him what was wrong. You should have known better than to ask him about the perfume and lipstick on his shirt, Nora. That’s none of your business. Just be the good little housewife and don’t make waves.
My mind has replayed the last twenty years of our lives together, Troy. In those twenty years, I can’t really recall one truly happy moment with you. I can’t even tell you the exact moment I gave up on myself, on life, on our marriage, or on you. I don’t think there was a defining moment, just an erosion of time and emotions. 
Do you remember the first time you hurt me enough to warrant a trip to the doctor’s office? I do. I told the doctor I was a klutz and had tripped over a pair of shoes which in turn caused the injury to my wrist. Do you remember his skepticism as he told me my story didn’t match the injury? I felt a moment of small hope in my mind, until I looked up and saw the warning in your eyes. I learned how to become almost as skillful and deceptive as you, Troy. I learned to create stories that would explain the injuries without any questions. 
And the fake smile plastered on my face in public and around our friends. I don’t think there is a plastic surgeon in the world who could perfect a fake smile as well as I did. All those endless social gatherings, your arm around me, secretly pinching me, nuzzling my neck, whispering warnings in my ear. Our friends always commented on how envious they were of our marriage; how wonderful it was that we were still so affectionate with each other. Yes, skillful and deceptive.
Over the years, I dealt with the ongoing battle of blame. Mostly, I blamed myself. Not so much in the beginning but after awhile, Troy, you had me convinced that it WAS my fault. If I could just learn to keep my mouth shut at the appropriate time, if I had just cooked your steak a minute longer or a minute less, or…… that list is endless. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how I carried things out EXACTLY the way you told me to, I always fell short.
Last night, as I was clearing the dishes from dinner, I turned on the radio. I opened the kitchen window to let in the soft, warm evening breeze. I started washing dishes and began to hum. It startled me. It’d been so long since anything joyous has come out of my body, mouth, or existence. I stopped, suddenly frightened that you might have heard me. I held my breath. My ears strained to hear where you were at in the house. And suddenly, I knew. I just knew. I couldn’t go on like this any longer. I finished up the dishes, turned off the radio, and went to sit outside on porch. 
The song I hummed to earlier kept replaying in my head. I felt an odd sort of flutter in my chest along with a feeling of being strangled. I understood. I truly understood. The hope that I thought was once a long distant memory was still fighting, fighting deep inside of me, Troy. I almost burst out with laughter and tears in that moment. You see, you HADN’T defeated me after all. Instead, it’s like I’ve been in a long, deep dark slumber of sorts. And for me, it was now spring. A time for hope, new growth, new possibilities. 
And then the fear set in. Ah yes, my constant companion of twenty years. The fear that I must somehow deserve your wrath, your anger, your disapproval. How HAVE I become so fearful over twenty years. My mind went racing to the beginning, the words, the ugliness spewing from your mouth. This time, something was different in my memory, Troy. I saw myself standing there, you facing me, but in front of me, Troy, was a mirror. A full-length mirror. And you were pointing at YOUR reflection in this mirror. Saying all those mean, nasty horrible things to yourself.
I thought to myself, I wonder what would happen if words could fly. What if they could fly right back to the very person speaking them? Would the words flying back be just as powerful to the person speaking them as they are to the person receiving them? And in that instance, I realized, it’s not my fear I feel, Troy, but YOUR fear.  How sad for you. How sad for me. 
I went to sleep peaceful for the first time in years. I knew I would see you off this morning, playing out my role as your wife one last time. After you left, I packed my things. Yes, things bought with your money but you see Troy, I earned them; more than earned them. I deserve them for the last twenty years. But more than that, I deserve to live. Not as a prisoner but free. Free from your words.
Good-bye,
Nora


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10 Responses

  1. "I thought to myself, I wonder what would happen if words could fly. What if they could fly right back to the very person speaking them? Would the words flying back be just as powerful to the person speaking them as they are to the person receiving them? And in that instance, I realized, it’s not my fear I feel, Troy, but YOUR fear. How sad for you. How sad for me. "Sniff!! I'm typing between the tears. This is so beautiful, I was totally in the moment, as if it were being read aloud to me. I love that you concluded your other story, and I am left wanting to know what happens to Nora.Advice:"feel the anger in his body rising to the surface" or "he could hear her laughing at him" or "he felt a feeling of forbidding". These are perfect opportunities to bring his senses into play. What does "forbidding" feel like? What does the laugh sound like? How does he feel his anger rising? These are some questions you can ask yourself when you read back to yourself what you've written. Instead of using the words "feel, felt", close your eyes and show me how it feels or felt. You don't need to do it every single time (overkill), but I'd like to see a little more showing in your stories. I know you can do it. (I'll try to get some good show vs. telling advice up on BM this week.)You are doing a great job with the little details that really make your story complete. Here are some of my favorites:-mocking him with her absence.-a hundred shiny pieces as they fell-elegant script on clean white pagesHer language throughout the letter is so spot on, it really brought me in, as if I were the one who had experienced everything.Chelle, this is fantastic. I love it!!

  2. Wow! Very powerful! Came by on The Drama Mama's advice and glad I did! I felt nervous for her and then excited. I love how you were able to explain her stance and choices and timing without tying it all up with a bow. So many great lines! My favorite: "I started washing dishes and began to hum. It startled me. It’d been so long since anything joyous has come out of my body, mouth, or existence. I stopped, suddenly frightened that you might have heard me. I held my breath. My ears strained to hear where you were at in the house. And suddenly, I knew. I just knew. " The only one that felt a bit awkward to me was "he felt a feeling of forbidding".

  3. I was so drawn into your story; I was about to cry as I was reading. I felt Nora's feelings: her hurt and heartache. Wow, your writing is once again captivating. Of course, I feel for all those women that are victims of domestic violence and some believe that's a way of life when the opposite is true. Hope to read more next week, Barbara

  4. Stephanie, thanks for the feedback. I realized that I mainly concentrated on Nora's character. It makes sense to describe Troy's feelings rather than state them. That would make it more powerful.

  5. Jennifer, thank you for your feedback. The line "he felt a feeling of forbidding" is awkward. I think I should have described what I was trying to convey in terms of how a person dreads something is about to change for good. I'm so glad you came by!

  6. Barbara, thank you so much for reading my stories! So many women and men are victims of domestic violence and lose their hope of a different life. Looking forward to seeing you next week

  7. What a fabulously emotional piece. I had all these forbidding feelings brewing in the opening paragraphs and then her journal was so amazing and freeing.This was well paced and had just enough tension to keep you going.

  8. Thank you, Carrie. It was a challenge to sum up 20 years of emotion and not minimize her moment of clarity and freedom.

  9. After reading this post all the way through, I can't help but to feel happy and elated that you are finally in a place that you want to be. I was in a similar situation and I still wonder why I had put up with so much for so long. I'm sorry that you had to deal with this type of situation, but again, I'm glad you're in that place where you no longer have to deal with such abuse. God Bless!

  10. Thank you for the comment, Carla. I'm glad you're out of your situation. I enjoyed reading through your blog.

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