By Mary Bradford
He searched her eyes for something, anything that would show him her thoughts.
“I love you, Tess, I love you so very much. You know that don’t you?” He held her in his arms. She smiled, and stretched her body against his.
It was his signal.
Smothering her smooth skin with butterfly kisses, he worked at showing his love for her. Tessclasped him to her, letting her sharp, manicured nails dig into his skin, piercing through the patchwork of yellow, green, and purple bruising that peppered his back. Her fingers working deeper, making the old scars juicy with new blood which dribbled down his sides onto her, splattering the sheets.
Satisfied, she cast him aside and swung her legs out of the bed to stand, cutting their lovemaking short.
“You bore me, why I bother… you’re not even that good.” Pausing at the bedroom door, she glanced back and laughed.
The morning came and Tess pulled her overnight bag behind her as she went to the front door. Work was taking her away for two nights, and she would return on the fourteenth.
“Don’t forget Valentine’s, I’m expecting something special, exciting, don’t disappoint me now, okay?”
Standing in the shower after she left, the warm water soothed the cuts, washing the dried blood from the night before. He ached. A swelling appeared where the rolling pin had caught him on his forearm before dinner last night. His feet were marked in different shades of blue, where her stilettos had stomped on them. Wrapped in a towel, he returned to the bedroom. The soiled sheets screamed at him, he would need to wash them before the blood dried in too much. They needed to be crisp, white, pristine – until the next time.
He needed Fiona.
“Hi, Can I speak with Fiona please?”
“Hello, I’m sorry, but she’s on another call. Can I help? My name is Bruce.”
“Will Fiona be long?” he heard the panic in his own voice, yet he knew he was alone in the apartment.
“I can’t say. You seem to have phoned in before, so you know calls are as short or as long as needed. Why don’t we talk while we wait for Fiona, would that be okay?”
“I love her. I love her a lot, but she doesn’t seem to believe me. I’m kinda tired of well, just tired.” His back hurt when he sat against the soft pillow.
“How often does it happen?” Bruce’s voice was calm, non-judgemental, understanding.
“Fiona knows. She and I are like best buddies.” His laugh was weak, sad. Was he weak? Sad?
“We’re here anytime, no matter how many times you need us. Would you feel better if you came in and shared a cup of tea with us? No pressure, just like a phone-call, just a chat.”
“I can’t just drop everything, I’ve only two days and so much to organise, Valentine’s Day is almost here.”
“Think about it, please.”
“Say hello to Fiona.”
Once the door was opened, the aroma of a lamb stew drifted in, greeting her. She smiled. He was an excellent cook. Unlit candles were placed on the table, rose petals strewn on the floor,a trail leading down the hallway. She followed it, pausing to kick off her high heels. Music at the level she liked was soothing in the background. Peeping into the bathroom, a basket of body cream, bath-foam, chocolates and a rich red wine, the one she liked, sat on a small mosaic table. She undid the buttons of her blush silk blouse, and stepped out of her navy pencil skirt.
The stream of rose petals led on to the bedroom. He was waiting for her then, she smiled. The thought of his ripped, strong body longing for her, was exciting. She called out to him as she reached the bedroom door, her bra slipping to the floor, ready to join him.
But it was empty. A dozen red roses lay against the pillows, a note propped against them. Picking up the note, she read his words,
Dinner is in the slow cooker. I should have done this before now, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. I love you, but love shouldn’t hurt. Love is two people being equal, wanting to do things together. Love isn’t lying to the doctor, over and over, about how I got my bruises.Fiona and Bruce are right. When someone loves you, you don’t shiver when they walk in the room, or at the sound of their voice, not knowing if you’ve done something wrong. Love is a million things, Tess, but you haven’t shared any of them with me.
Goodbye, Tess. It’s over.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help and advice for any kind of abuse – mental, physical, or sexual – please contact your local services, doctor or the Gardaí. Never suffer in silence. There is help available.
Mary Bradford can be found at www.marytbradford.com