There has been a lot on my mind lately, and so I thought I might try to channel that into a short story. It is not my usual style or genre, and I definitely will not pursue it in any serious way, but a fictional story inspired by my own personal experiences would be a good way to get some things off my chest without getting too personal on a public space.
Abigail stood before the easel and surveyed her work. She had been painting most of the afternoon and was nearly finished. Just a few finishing touches, she thought, as she raised the paint brush to the canvas.
The living room door opened, and the padding of little feet across the wood floor indicated that Abigail’s two-year old daughter had woken up from her nap. Smiling, Abigail turned and opened her arms. Greta, still groggy from sleep, let her mother scoop her up into her arms.
“Hello, sleepy-head,” Abigail cooed softly. “Are you hungry?”
The little girl nodded.
“Well, dinner is in the oven,” Abigail told Greta. “Would you like to play with your dinosaurs while I get all this cleaned up?” she asked, indicating the array of brushes and paints on a table next to the easel.
“Okay, Mommy,” answered Greta, rubbing her eyes with tiny, balled fists.
Abigail set her down and Greta wandered off to find her toys. Abigail turned back to her painting, gave it one last scrutinizing look, then proceeded to pack all the tubes of paint back into their storage box, replaced the unused brushes in the jar she kept them in. Next, she began cleaning the oil paint out of the used brushes in a cup of turpentine. Halfway through, she looked up at the clock. It was four in the afternoon. Her husband would be home from work soon, the knowledge of which filled her with a sense of dread. It had been a good day, but she knew how quickly all that could change once Lothar was home.
Abigail wiped the brushes dry and replaced them in the jar with the rest, then scooped up all her painting supplies and returned them to the cabinet where she kept all her other art supplies. Then she moved the easel out of the way, and went to check on Greta.
The little girl was playing quietly in her room, and looked up when Abigail entered.
“Look, Mommy!” Greta said, holding up one of her dinosaur figurines.
Abigail crossed the room and sat down on the rug beside Greta. “How nice,” she said. “And what kind of dinosaur is that?”
“A stegosaurus!” Greta exclaimed proudly.
Greta was fascinated with dinosaurs, and when they looked through her books, she always asked to know what each was called. Abigail was so impressed by how quickly Greta learned the names of the various dinosaurs. She was still speaking in sentences consisting of no more than a few words, but could easily pronounce the often complicated names of her favourite dinosaurs.
“I need to finish getting dinner ready before Daddy comes home,” Abigail said.
“Okay,” Greta replied.
Abigail stood up and left the room. She hadn’t been in the kitchen long before Greta joined her, carrying a puzzle.
“Here, why don’t you do your puzzle on the table,” Abigail said, guiding the child to the kitchen table. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Juice!” Greta squealed.
Abigail took a carton of apple juice from the refrigerator, poured a small amount into a bamboo cup, then topped it off with filtered water. She carried it over and set it on the table.
“What do you say?” she asked.
“Thank you!” answered Greta.
“You’re welcome,” Abigail replied, and dropped a kiss on Greta’s forehead.
She returned to the counter where she began preparing a salad. A few minutes later, she heard the front door open,and knew her husband was home.
“Hello!” Lothar called, closing the front door behind him.
“Hi! We’re in here!” Abigail answered.
A moment later Lothar stepped into the kitchen. He looked tired.
“Daddy!” cried Greta, happily, as she climbed down from her chair and ran to hug her father.
“Come here, you!” he said and swept her up into his arms.
“Can you play with me?” she asked.
“Maybe in a little while. I just came home and I’m tired,” Lothar said. Then he turned to Abigail. “What are you doing?” he asked, a note of annoyance in his tone.
“Making dinner,” Abigail stated, and reached for a red onion.
“Do I have time to shower before we eat?” Lothar asked.
“Yes, of course,” she said, pausing from peeling the onion to look up at her husband.
Without another word, he set Greta down and left the kitchen. The little girl trailed after him. A few minutes later, Abigail heard the shower running. She finished preparing the salad, then carried the bowl to the dining room and began setting the table. She was just carrying the lasagna to the dining room when Lothar entered and took his seat.
“I wanna sit on your lap,” said Greta, as she tugged at her father’s arm. He lifted her up onto his lap, but Abigail noticed the look of frustration on his face.
“Why did you make such a big meal?” he asked, his tone edged.
“What’s wrong with lasagna and salad for dinner?” she asked defensively.
“We shouldn’t eat so much heavy food this late,” Lothar replied.
“It’s only a little after five,” Abigail stated. “If you don’t like it than don’t eat it.”
In recent months, Lothar had taken to complaining about whatever she cooked, whereas in the past, he had always been pleased to eat whatever she served, and it was starting to wear on her nerves. She noticed, though, that despite his complaints, it didn’t prevent him from heaping his plate with a generous serving.
Once everyone had food on their plate, Abigail decided to breech the subject that had been on her mind all day.
“Lothar, she began. “A lady I know told me today that she had a small house that will be available to rent in a few months.”
“So,” Lothar said and took another bite of lasagna.
“Well, we’ve been saying we don’t like living in this apartment, since there isn’t a garden for Greta to play in, and the utilities are so high,” she explained. “The house I heard about is only a little more a month, and we would have a fenced in garden and there’s a wood stove, so we won’t have as much heating costs.”
“So, you want to move again,” Lothar accused. He sounded angry.
“All I’m saying is that we could think about it,” Abigail remarked.
“I know you,” he snapped. “And you’ve already made up your mind. Then I will get stuck doing all the work while you goof off.”
Abigail resented his accusation. “That’s not true,” she insisted.
“I don’t want to move again,” Lothar snapped.
“We’ve talked about this,” Abigail said. “We only took this apartment, because it was the best we could find at the time, but we never intended to stay here. Now we have a chance to move to a better home, and you won’t even consider it?”
“It’s always the same with you,” he said, ignoring Abigail. “You get an idea in your head, and I have to go along with it.”
“Can you please just think about it?” she pleaded.
“So you can sit on your ass while I do all the work?” he replied.
Abigail threw up her hands in frustration, but didn’t say anything more on the subject.
They finished their meal without speaking to one another. When they were finished, Abigail got up and told Greta it was bath time.
“What about the dishes?” Lothar demanded to know.
“I’ll clean up after I get Greta in the bath,” she replied, and took her daughter’s hand to lead her to the bathroom.
Lothar, meanwhile, cleared the table and began washing up, as Abigail waited for the bath to fill. Behind her, Greta was undressing herself. Suddenly, Lothar entered the bathroom, and Abigail tuned just in time to see him snatch Greta’s jeans off the floor.
“I could have put those away,” she said.
“Clothes don’t belong on the floor,” Lothar stated harshly.
“Greta only just took her clothes off,” Abigail replied.
“Why didn’t you pick them up?” There was anger in Lothar’s voice.
“I was getting the bath ready,” Abigail said in her defense. “I would have put the clothes away when I am finished.”
“Why couldn’t you do it right away?”
Abigail was on the verge of losing her temper now. It was always like this; Lothar was constantly seeking something to complain about. “Like I told you, Greta just undressed. I hadn’t had a chance, yet,” she said, forcing her voice to remain calm.
“I come home from work, and have to clean the kitchen and clean up the house,” he complained. “What do you do all day? Just sit on your ass!”
“That’s not true,” Abigail retorted. “Come on, Greta. Into the bath.” She led her daughter to the tub and helped her to climb in.
“Is Daddy mad?” Greta asked.
“No, I’m not mad,” Lothar answered, though the anger in his expression and voice was all too obvious.
“I’ll be right back,” Abigail said to Greta, and walked past her husband.
He followed her into the bedroom, where she was taking out pajamas for Greta. “I bet you were on your phone all day!” he accused.
“No, I wasn’t,” Abigail said with a sigh. “Do you really have to start something with me?”
“I’m not starting anything,” he insisted.
“Yes, you are!” she retorted, and making a selection, took out a set of pajamas and shut the cabinet door.
“No, I’m not!” he reiterated. “But I work all day and shouldn’t have to come home and clean the house.”
Abigail spun on her heel to face him. “No one asked you to clean anything!” she snapped. “I told you I would clean up the dishes, and I would have picked up Greta’s clothes, too, if you would have just been patient and let me do it.”
“You never do anything in the house!” he shouted.
“Yes, I do!” Abigail exclaimed. “I spent the whole morning cleaning the house, not that you’d notice!”
She pushed past him and returned to the bathroom to check on Greta, but Lothar just wouldn’t drop it. He followed her and began making other accusations.
“There’s someone else, isn’t there?”
Now Abigail was angry. “No!” she snapped. “And I’m tired of the accusations!”
“If you aren’t on your phone, then you are married to your paintings!” he retorted.
“Would you stop it?” she cried. “Why do you always have to start a fight?”
“You’re a lazy bitch!” Lothar proclaimed.
Abigail stormed out of the bathroom. When her husband followed after him, she turned on him. “Stop it, right now!” she demanded. “I’m sick of you starting shit with me, and I don’t want our daughter exposed to this.”
“You want to start something with me?” he accused.
“I’m not starting anything! You are!” Abigail exclaimed, exasperated.
“You’re a fucking bitch!” he shouted.
Abigail stormed off to the bedroom and slammed the door, to shouts of “whore, bitch, cunt.”
Lothar continued to shout through the closed door. Then Abigail heard him threaten to throw out her easel. She rushed from the bedroom and found Lothar in the living room, her painting in his hands.
“Put it down!” she cried. “Put it down!” By now, there were tears streaming down her face. She rushed forward and snatched the painting out of his hands, as he continued to spew insults. “You’ve got no reason to treat me like this!” she declared.
“I want you out, you fucking whore!” he demanded, getting in her face.
Abigail pushed him away with one hand, and carried the painting back to the easel. Then Lothar marched to the bedroom. She followed to find him throwing her clothes out of the wardrobe onto the bed.
“Leave my stuff alone!” she shouted, snatching an armful of clothes from him. “If anyone is going to leave, it can be you!”
Then she left the room to go tend to Greta. Again, Lothar followed, and the slew of derogatory name-calling continued.
“Get out of here!” Abigail demanded, but Lothar lunged at her with his fist raised. “Go on, hit me!” she challenged.
“Leave Mommy alone!” Greta screamed at her father. “Bad Daddy!”
For a moment he hesitated, then he stormed from the bathroom. She heard him rummaging about in the bedroom and a few moments later, the front door slammed, and shortly after, heard the car drive away.
Struggling to fight back the tears, Abigail got Greta out of the bath. Remarkably, Greta was totally calm. She allowed Abigail to help her dress without any fuss, while wanting to know why Daddy was mad.
“I don’t know, honey,” was all Abigail could think of to say.
Abigail tried her best to appear calm, but her mind was racing. She had no idea where her husband had gone, or when he would be back, and she was worried what might happen when he returned. She was just about to start getting Greta ready for bed, when she changed her mind, and decided to get out of there.
Not knowing how much time they had, she told Greta they were going for a ride, and started packing an overnight bag. She searched for a change of clothes for each of them, but in her panicked frenzy, could hardly think clearly. She pulled clothes from the wardrobe, trying to figure out what she wanted, and stuffing random articles of clothing into her backpack.
She rushed about the house, gathering up anything they might need for a night or two, grabbed her phone, and called a friend who lived nearby. There was no answer, so she left a message telling her friend they needed a place to stay for the night, and would leave right away. She hung up the phone and placed it into the backpack, along with their toothbrushes.
“Come on, Greta,” she said, taking her daughter by the hand. “We’re going for a bike ride.”
Abigail opened the front door, glancing about, as they exited the apartment. “Wait here,” she instructed Greta. I’ll get the bike.”
She opened the shed door, where they kept all their bikes, and got out her E-bike. Next, she put on Greta’s helmet and set her into the child’s bike seat, buckled her in, then climbed on in front of her.
The bike was fast, but afraid that her husband might see them and try to stop them from leaving, she took country lanes where he was less likely to drive. That meant taking the long way, but at least this way, they could avoid discovery.
Finally, they arrived at her friend’s house. Abigail helped Greta off the bike, then rang the door bell. Her friend’s husband answered the door.
“Rose is out looking for you,” he informed her. “She thought you wanted her to come get you.”
Abigail shook her head. “No, sorry,” she apologized. “I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, so took the bike.”
“Well, come in,” Rahul said, stepping aside to let them in. “I’ll call Rose and let her know you are here.”
“Thank you,” Abigail replied.
Once they were inside, Greta joined Rose and Rahul’s two older sons in the children’s room. The oldest boy, Arjun, was the same age as Greta, and they were good friends.
After Rahul got off the phone with Rose, he asked Abigail to sit down. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Yes, please,” she answered.
“Rose is on her way,” he told her, as he turned on the kettle. “Are you alright?”
Abigail nodded. “Yes, just a little worked up.”
“Well, you’re welcome here, so try not to worry and get some rest,” Rahul said.
“Thank you,” she replied. “I really appreciate you two taking us in like this.”
“No problem,” he said, smiling.
When the kettle boiled, her filled a tea cup and set it on the kitchen table. A few minutes later, Rose returned. Abigail filled them in on all that had happened that evening. Rose was already aware of the problems Abigail had been having with her husband, and knew that she had been seriously considering leaving him if things didn’t improve. What had been holding her back all this time were her fears. How would she support herself? She was a stay-at-home mom, and only worked a low-paying part time job a couple mornings a week. But now that she had taken the first step, she was no longer afraid. Somehow, Abigail knew, she would find a way to make it on her own.
That’s all for now, but I might continue it. I hope you enjoyed reading this unedited, spontaneously written segment.
A lot of people find themselves feeling trapped in toxic relationships, but too afraid to take control of their lives and get out. I know those feelings. It’s terribly degrading to feel powerless to change your circumstances, to feel like this is the only option you have. It makes matters a lot worse when you don’t have family or friends you feel you can turn to when things go wrong. I was very fortunate, that the moment I walked through that door, I found more support than I ever knew I had, often in unlikely places. Friends came to my aid, people I barely knew offered their support, and within a week, I was offered a place to live. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve managed, despite certain people’s insistence that I was making a huge mistake and would fail.
Well, my advice to anyone finding themselves in a similar predicament, my advice to you is to ignore the nay-sayers. No one knows your situation as well as you. No one knows the pain you are going through like you, and you don’t have to suffer through it. Take a chance at a better life and get out, if that’s what you feel you need to do. You never know unless you try.