‘How very considerate of you for telling me just how much you don’t love me. All this time I was under the impression that our love for one another was equal, only to find out that one of us has been a little, lying bitch.’
‘You don’t understand!’ I say quickly, ‘I-’
‘When did you decide you didn’t like me?’
I gulp, and open my mouth. I close it a few seconds afterwards.
‘That’s what I thought,’ he says, his eyes glinting dangerously. ‘That’s exactly what I thought.’
‘Hear me out, please!’ I try to place a hand on his shoulder, in an attempt to calm him down.
I don’t even see it coming. One minute, I am reaching towards him; the next I am on the ground, rolling around and clutching my stomach. I am in total agony. The wind has been knocked from my lungs and its hurts. It is excruciating.
He is laughing. He thinks it’s the funniest thing he has seen. He doesn’t see the pain in my eyes.
‘Get up!’ he barks, moving closer towards me. I don’t want to get up – it hurts too much. I don’t want him to force me up.
He is extending two arms towards me. I hurriedly get on my knees and crawl backwards. His eyes swell with disbelief. This is the first time in ages that I have not bowed to his commands. He strikes my cheek with his fist. My head is snapped around and I don’t even have time to cry out.
He is breathing in and out heavily as he watches me. I move backwards, away from him slowly, wincing when my cheek throbs at every movement. I back into the wall.
He comes towards me. His steps are slow and deliberate. He smiles as my breaths come out heavily. I try to flatten myself up against the wall.
He stops nearby me, and stares at me. I stare back at him, wondering what he is going to do.
‘Look,’ I begin hesitantly, but I never have time to finish.
With one leap into the air, he lands right in front of me. Before I have time to move away, he grabs me around the throat and pushes me into the wall. He is squeezing too hard and it hurts.
‘Let me go!’ I rasp, flapping my arms around uselessly.
He grins gleefully and opens his hands. I am taken aback at first, and then realise that I am free. He sees the understanding dawn on my face, and lunges at me again. I reach out around me, desperately trying to find something to protect myself – anything. My hands touch something soft and I grab it.
He seizes my arm and yanks it away. There is a small tearing sound as the material I am holding rips. I let go of it and look up to face him.
His body is convulsing with rage and I am in a sudden, serious fear of my life. Why, oh why, is this happening to me? Why was it him who took a liking to drinking? Why did he start drinking?
I realise that I don’t actually know if there was any reasoning behind his new hobby.
‘Why did you start drinking?’ I ask softly, not knowing if my words would cause another explosion.
‘What?’ he growls.
‘Why did you start to drink alcohol?’ I ask, ‘Why did you destroy yourself?’
There is a silence while we eye each other, and then … with a sudden roar he gets to his feet and pulls me up.
‘Get out!’ he hisses in my ear. ‘Get out and never come back! You understand what I’m saying?’
I nod quickly and he throws me away from him. I stagger and grab a table to balance myself. This is unusual. His tempers and the physical abuse I have come to expect, but this … he has never told me to ‘get out’ before. I touched a nerve when I asked him about his drinking. Maybe there is something I don’t know.
‘I told you to get the fuck out of here!’
He starts moving forwards, baring his teeth menacingly. I need no further words. I am out of there in a second. I pause just outside the doorway, and look back. I am alarmed to see that he has sunk down and is sitting in a heap on the ground. His body is quaking, and I realise with a start that he is crying. Crying!
I debate going back to him, but decide against it. He has given me a freedom card, and I am taking it, right out of this place; right out of his life.
Without another glance backwards, I begin to run. I run away from his apartment and down the steps to the floor level. I run out of the door into the dark night. I run onwards. The sun will soon come up and the sky will turn a lovely light blue colour. Light. That’s what I feel like. I am light-headed, despite my aching stomach and cheek. Why do I feel so happy? Well, I have been allowed to finally escape from the cage in which he had kept me imprisoned. I am as unchained as the owls and bats that fly overhead. I am free.
‘Excuse me, Miss Palaíy?’
Chantelle’s eyes snapped open and her mind returned to present. She blinked a few times to clear the mist from her vision, before turning her hair to the man dressed in blue beside her. Her brown hair bounced out behind her.
‘Yes?’ she asked, tucking a loose tendril of hair behind her ear.
‘We found a note.’
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘a note addressed to you.’
‘To me? Is it from him?’
‘I think you’d better read it,’ he said gruffly, looking down. She narrowed her eyes, puzzled by the policeman. She followed him to a large brown table around which stood his fellow comrades. One raised a hand to acknowledge her, and she nodded in reply.
‘Here,’ the man to her right said, holding out an old piece of paper. She took it from him and read it.
I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry I hurt you. Forgive me please.
I love you,
‘N.M,’ Chantelle murmured, ‘Nathaniel Mraus.’
It was from him.
‘You said the alcohol made him violent. He abused you, is that right?’ the policeman who had given her the note said. She nodded briefly. Tears welled up behind her eyes, and she brushed them away quickly. She didn’t want to cry – not now. Now was not the time to break down, it was the time to be strong.
‘He wasn’t a bad person, not really,’ she said, ‘I loved him. I freaking loved him!’
Unable to help herself, she broke down in loud, uncontrollable sobs. The policeman patted her gently on the arm.
‘I know it’s a shock,’ he said softly.
‘It is,’ she gasped, ‘I had no idea that his father did that. If I’d know I – well, I could have helped him. I would have understood him better, and I could have stopped him from using alcohol to hide from everything!’
‘Don’t blame yourself.’
‘How can you say that?’ she croaked out, ‘It is my fault. His father fucking abused him and I had no idea. All the time that Nate was being abusive, he couldn’t help himself. And now he’s gone.
‘I just can’t believe it. I didn’t think he was having such a hard time. He – he killed himself! He killed himself.’
‘I know. I know it’s hard to believe. You are – sorry, were – his girlfriend?’
‘Ex-girlfriend,’ she told him, in a small voice, ‘We broke up.’
‘Ah, sorry about that,’ the policeman said, smiling apologetically at her. She shook her head to wave it away.
‘Miss Palaíy?’ a policewoman said, stepping up from where she had leant quietly against the wall.
‘Please, call me Chantelle,’ said Chantelle.
‘Oh, okay. Well, I was wondering if I could see what is in your hands.’
Chantelle looked downwards at the material she was holding. She gulped as she stared at it. It held so many dark memories. She clutched it to her chest, before handing it over.
‘What is it?’ the lady asked.
‘It’s part of a curtain. The night we – the night we broke up, he was hitting me and I was trying to find something to shield myself. I grabbed the curtain and it tore. It ripped and now he’s dead.’
The policewoman handed the scrap of material back to her.
Chantelle’s eyes widened as she glanced at the material and note in her hands with new eyes. He was dead. Nathaniel was dead. And all she had to remind her of him were the fragments of curtain, and this note.
‘Oh no,’ she whispered, staggering back. Her legs gave way and she collapsed. She fell to the ground, still clutching the note and curtain in her hand. Her body shook as she cried new tears. When they had broken up, she’d felt free, but now she felt trapped once again. She loved him, she still loved him. And now, he was gone. She would never be able to tell him that she understood what he was going through. All this time she had thought of herself as the victim, the one under the clutches of the evil man, when really it was him. They were both victims, she hadn’t realised it until now, until it was too late.
by Sasha Simon
If you have problems with domestic violence, post-traumatic stress, or have suicidal thoughts please visit the ReachOut Australia website for help: http://au.reachout.com/
If alcohol is a problem for you please visit the Alcoholics Anonymous Australia website for help: http://www.aa.org.au/
If you are struggling with memories of child abuse please visit Adults Surviving Child Abuse: http://www.asca.org.au/, or call 1300 657 380.
If you are feeling suicidal or suspect that someone is, utilise the resources at http://www.lifeline.org.au/, or by calling 13 11 14.