She is not allowed to use the vehicle unless he writes down the kilometres every time she leaves the house. Every time. He will check them then, berating her because he knows that the distance to the supermarket is 7 kilometres, and she has used 18 kilometres on the clicker. Where has she been? What else did she do? Who did she talk to?
This deserves a punishment. She is not allowed to go and see her mother now. Not allowed. She will remain at home, and think about what she is doing behind his back, because he is in control, he has the power and makes the decisions. He will take the children out for the afternoon, reminding her that she did this to herself.
As they drive away she watches from inside the front window. You can barely see her face, as she is silhouetted against the window frame. The next door neighbour takes the opportunity to come to the front door while he is out.
“Please answer, I want to help you. I know what’s happening to you. Let me help you.”
She won’t answer, because imagine if he knew. Imagine if he knew that she has been trying to leave him for months, but every time he nearly catches her. She can’t simply walk out, because she loves her children. But she knows that they see and hear what he says and does to her – she needs to leave.
But she needs to leave safely.
Last time she was at the supermarket she bought a few extra items. He checked the docket. She tried to explain but he wore her down.
“Stupid bitch”, and she was in the house for days after that.
How do you take the children to school when you are covering your beaten face and hands?
Sometimes, if she were to tell the truth, the bruising is easier to see. It’s the bruising inside that doesn’t heal. She knows that she is a stupid bitch. She knows that she is worthless and she has lost her family and friends.
She is losing everything.
He has everything.
She makes dinner. He will be home soon and she wants to avoid a confrontation. She doesn’t want him to yell at her, and she doesn’t want to watch her children hide under their beds as he storms about the house – throwing things, swearing and screaming, reducing her to her former self.
She is scared for her life. She is scared for the life of her children.
Every single day.
One day she will take the children and leave. One day she will be free and safe. Safe and free. One day she will reach out and seek some help. She needs it to be the right time.
Or it will cost her with her life.
He is home. She can tell as he walks in that he is angry, the door bangs harder, his stomping is louder. His face is wretched. The children disappear. They are in the kitchen, and he is yelling at her, spitting on her face as he towers over her.
He grabs the skillet and throws it against the wall. The baby starts to cry, this aggravates him further. He grabs the spatula and swats at her like a fly. Whack, whack, whack.
She feels blood trickling down the side of her face. She reaches to her matted hair and the feels the oozy blood that’s now mixed. He grabs her wrist and twists it, “Look what you made me do! You do this on purpose, you make me so angry! It’s your fault! Get the fuck up!”
She can’t because her head is spinning. He stands over her for a moment and walks out. She rests against the kitchen cupboard and then lays her face on the cold tiles. Her head, her mind, her heart.
She sees her daughter’s small perfect feet on the tiles. Little chubby feet. She starts to weep, and the little feet start to pick up the skillet and clean up the food, which has stuck to the walls and the cool tiles.
Her son comes in with the baby. He helps clean up. She is stuck to the floor, her head and blood and spinning.
“Dads gone now, I’ll help you up.”
They both lift her body and she rests back against the cupboards. “It wasn’t always like this,” she starts to say, “when we first met, your Dad was kind and he was good. Over the years….I make him cranky, I do the wrong thing, I’m stupid…..”
It hangs in the air with the fear.
“No Mum, you’re not. He is,” her daughter lifts her up and they take her to the shower together. They wash her, hold her, and she sobs.
In the morning he will come home with a bunch of flowers and an apology. She will go to the shops, and he will calculate the kilometres. And he will find something to be angry about.
Something to be angry with her about.
Because she is a stupid bitch.
But one day she will be free.
*Jennie Wilson is an Australian Writer, NGO professional and former Police Officer. The Prisoner is the true story of one of the countless victims she has worked with.
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