Scissors flashed and scraps of white satin fluttered to the floor, an isolated, indoor blizzard. The razor sharp steel hacked vindictively. The dress had been her mother’s and her mother’s before her. It was supposed to be a reminder of a glorious day. Truth be told, it had been stunning. Molten sunlight had filtered through the maple trees, their Autumn leaves a riot of gold and crimson. An exquisite moment, frozen in time, laden with music, laughter, and naive promise. It was the fairy tale wedding every girl dreamed of, sugared and magical. It should have been the beginning of Happily Ever After. It hadn’t quite turned out that way.
Her arm didn’t weary until long after the dress was in tatters. The outburst had played out, but her emotions still flared brightly. The scissors fell from limp fingers, clattering on the floor. Salty tears stung as they kissed her split lip. She hated him; she despised herself. She was strong and smart, so how had she let this happen?
It wasn’t a question of intellect or strength. She had simply missed the progression. Everything had changed incrementally, sliding an infinitesimal amount from day to day. The todays weren’t much different from the yesterdays. The yesterdays varied ever so slightly from the days before. The slow motion shift went unnoticed, until the disparity was too great to ignore. Four years ago she had been spirited, confident. Nowadays she barely recognized the empty eyes staring at her from the mirror. She was a demoralized shell, chained in her own personal hell.
She sunk to the floor, gathering the shredded dress around her. What had she done? Her breakfast crept into her throat. She swallowed hard, forcing it back down. She had hoped her own daughter would walk down the aisle one day, wearing that precious heirloom. It was beyond repair. She wrapped her arms around her fluttering stomach and squeezed her eyes closed against the rising panic.
Pounding on the bedroom door made her jump. Frantically she hurled herself at the heavy oak bureau. The legs scraped across the hardwood as she struggled to barricade herself in. His voice, barely muffled by the door, sent a wave of fear through her. When he drank he berated, projecting his insecurities on her, emotional abuse. She could shoulder that. This controlled fury wasn’t fueled by liquor. It was different, born of a demonic, broken place inside. It made him dangerous and unpredictable. It petrified her.
She could make out snippets of cold rhetoric through the door. His insistence that she be disciplined was beyond logic, past mercy. She couldn’t fathom what had triggered this. She wracked her brain, struggling to identify her error. Had she said something out of turn? What was her failing this time? The sudden clarity of outrage burned her self-reproach to ash. She’d done nothing. His irrational tantrum wasn’t her fault, yet she’d been conditioned to bear the guilt.
“Open the door. You’re only making it worse.” His voice was silk wrapped iron.
“Leave off! I’m calling the police.” She fumbled for her cell phone. It skittered across the floor, spinning just out of reach. He hammered with renewed vigor and the bureau shivered, inching forward. She threw her weight against it, slamming it back against the quaking door.
If she could get to the phone, would anyone even believe her? Everyone adored him, a small town football hero, turned successful business owner. He was the golden child, a respected and admired local celebrity. The bruises should speak volumes, but his justifications always sounded so valid. My clumsy wife, so accident prone. I worry about her, you know? One of these days she’s really going to hurt herself. He was charming and credible, masked in his concerned facade. He’d flash those enchanting dimples. Who would take her word over his? He had distanced her from her family and friends with surgical precision. She had no champion.
The sudden stillness in the hall filled her with unease. She strained, listening for movement outside the door. She scoured the void for the hint of a footstep, a creak of a floorboard. The silence stretched, only to be drowned by the roar of blood rushing in her ears. The frantic percussion of her heartbeat echoed loudly. Long seconds turned into slower minutes. She let out her breath in a ragged sigh. She hadn’t realized she had been holding it.
Was he gone? She took the risk and dove for her phone, fingers scrabbling on cold metal. She straightened only to be rooted in place, spellbound by his dark gaze. She hadn’t locked the window. He slithered in over the sill with deadly grace. She looked wildly around the room. Trapped. A strangled moan fought to escape through clenched teeth. He held the pregnancy test in his hand, the cheery blue plus sign mocking her. He must have dug it out of the trash. His eyes promised agony.
Her brain screamed – dial 911 – but she didn’t have the phone in her hands. She had mistakenly seized the fabric shears. She brandished them, defending the scant space between them. He eyed their sharp points warily. Time stood still for the eternity between heartbeats, then snapped into fast forward. He lunged for her. She jerked back. The silky fragments from the shredded dress slid underfoot. She was falling.
Pain blossomed. He was grabbing at her, shaking her shoulders and yelling. She couldn’t make out the words. She couldn’t pull away. She was fractured, ripped outside her body. Scarlet droplets marred the blanket of fabric snow. Her vision narrowed, fixated on a scrap of cloth. She clutched it, a satin lifeline. The world went dark.
A rhythmic beeping intruded on her dreams. She didn’t want to wake. It was safe here swimming through a warm Monet seascape of blurred feelings. There was no past or future, buoyed by the endless security of present. A wave of sound pulled at her, dragging her toward the surface. The rippling swell shattered into fragments of whispered conversation.
she’s very lucky… scissors missed anything vital… no harm to the baby… she’s always been fragile… stress caused a mental break… file a report… institutionalized… easy to sue for custody … so very sorry…
The disjointed phrases jabbed, icy shards prickling her consciousness. Her eyes fluttered open. The hospital bed was shrouded behind a dingy privacy curtain. Shadows moved beyond it, reinforcing her isolation. She moved gingerly, the dull ache in her side protesting. Her thoughts were muddled. Her eyes raked over the hanging IV. When she tried to reach for it she was yanked short. It took a moment to process that she was handcuffed to the bed-rail.
The shock jolted her fully awake. Out of her dreams and into a nightmare. He was going to steal her baby. Branded unbalanced, she was powerless to stop him. Her chest tightened as a silent scream built. It blinded, consuming her. Despair became her identity.
From her clenched fist, a scrap of white satin fell. It floated gently to the floor. A single snowflake.