Letters from a Stranger

Jen is a devoted wife who dreams of a place where she will be free from the torment that she faces every day with an abusive husband. Overwhelmed by pain and stress, she contemplates suicide, considering anything to be free. Her days are consumed with fear and dread... until the letters start coming.

January 29, 2005

‘Today wasn't the first time he's hit me, but it was the first time he didn't beg for my forgiveness with emphatic promises that he would never do it again. This time, he explained to me in tortuous detail how it was entirely my fault and that if only I would have kept my mouth shut he would not have had to hit me.

God,

I am so exhausted. Will this insanity ever come to an end? Will I ever know joy? What do I need to do to make this man recognize that I love him? Please, God, show me a sign if I am not supposed to be with this man. How did I ever end up in this situation? I know better than this. I am not a victim! Yet, here I am, bruised and broken. Please teach me how to be a better wife. Please teach me how to love my husband better. 

Amen

'I often fantasize about running away to a far away and magical place where I would be free from fear and pain, some place that would cause me to smile and to laugh for no particular reason at all. Is there really such a place for me? Could I really live a life free from...'

“What are you doing now, Jen?” Brian interrupted, “Didn’t I tell you to stop writing in that stupid book?”

“Yes, Sir. I’m sorry, I should have already put it away and started dinner cooking,” Jen replied carefully. “Does steak and rice sound okay for tonight?" 

“Forget it,” he grumbled as he pulled his coat off the rack. “I’ll just get something out tonight.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You can eat leftovers or starve for all I care,” Brian yelled. “You always do whatever you want anyway! Do you ever stop to think that your husband might need something! Just go write in your idiotic book all you want. While you're at it, you should write me up a new wife that can provide a decent meal at a decent time for her husband.”

“I love you,” Jen said softly as Brian stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him. Jen slumped down onto the couch, curled into a ball as a single tear slid down her cheek. She took in a deep breath when she heard his truck drive away.

She wondered what had happened to the man that she fell in love with years ago, reminiscing about when they first met. Jen was never the sort of girl who was overly concerned with appearances. She thought it more essential that one have a kind heart and interesting personality. Brian seemed to have both in large quantity. When they first began dating, Brian was such a gentleman. Doors were always opened for her, chairs always pulled out, and compliments were generously expressed.

Wherever they were, whatever they did, Jen was always the focus of Brian’s attention. He would smile every time Jen looked at him. His smiles always caused her to blush and look away. Brian was very gentle with her when they were alone. She felt blessed to be near him... in the beginning. That was before everything changed and she spent the following six years learning to take a punch.

At that thought Jen laughed, “I should have been a professional boxer!” She shook herself back into the moment and picked up her journal.

“I have so much to do,” she said to herself. “Brian is right, I write in this journal too much. I needed to go through the mail and pay the bills anyway." She began to sort through the day’s mail; a visa credit card application, Wal-Mart advertisement, water bill, gas bill... and a letter. 

Out of habit, she almost opened the letter, but then suddenly realized that the letter was addressed to someone else. “Christine Madison,” she read out loud. “Hmm... correct address, but wrong name.” 

The return address was from someone named Eric Marshall. The envelope was covered with a pencil drawing of a beautiful landscape. Her eyes remained fixated on the magnificent detail of the grass in the picture. She'd never seen such exquisite work done in pencil before. Realizing that she had been entranced for far too long, she quickly tossed the letter, along with all of the junk mail, into the trash can.

After completing the daunting task of paying bills, Jen picked up the journal to finish her last entry:

‘Could I really live a life free from fear and pain? Maybe someday I will be blessed with the grand fortune of waking up in that magical place, beside a wonderful man who at least could behave as if he loves me. Perhaps I will simply end it all with a bottle of pills instead. That worked for Mom. However, I suppose even that I would manage to screw up somehow. So, I will just continue to write in this fabulous journal, do the next thing in front of me to do, and pray.’

She closed her journal and put it back into her picture box and under the bed. She went to the bathroom mirror to inspect the damage. Both of her eyes were bruised in shades of red and black, most likely from what appeared to be another broken nose. “How the heck am I going to explain this one to the doctor?” Jen said to herself. She continued to search her face for evidence. All she found was a five day old bruise that had turned a disturbing shade of yellow on her left cheekbone from the well placed right hook from her darling husband.

Jen sat down on the edge of the bed and put her face in her hands. She wondered if she would ever run out of tears. One more day was gone forever. Tomorrow would be different she hoped. Somehow, she would figure out a way to make it good.

A quiet prayer escaped her lips, “God, thank you for getting me through that last beating quickly. I ask that you give me the strength to get up in the morning to go take care of my self. Please give me the right words I need to say to the doctor. Be with my husband and keep him safe. Allow me to rest peacefully tonight. Amen.”

At the conclusion of her prayer, she undressed and climbed into bed and cried herself to sleep once again. She dreamed of her magical far away place and the wonderful man who would love her. 

Jen was awoken at 3:20 am to Brian stroking her hair gently as he leaned slightly over her. She opened her eyes to see him gazing softly at her face in their moonlit bedroom. Brian ran his finger softly down the swollen bridge of Jen's broken nose and whispered, “I sure hope that doesn’t happen again baby. Your nose is too cute to ruin.” And with that, he kissed her in a way that would normally have seemed passionate, but this time she struggled to separate his kiss from the broken nose. She kissed him back, but could not stop herself from thinking about all the blows to her face that she received from him just hours before. This time, she was having difficulty getting it all out of her head. She wanted desperately to scream, but she kept silent. Brian’s touch was gentle, but full of lies. She closed her eyes and went to her far away place. 

“Wake up lazy,” Brian said as he kicked Jen's leg under the blanket. Her eyes shot open. “I need some breakfast before I leave for work.” Jen jumped out of bed and quickly dressed herself. 

While Brian showered, she cooked his breakfast; French toast and eggs sunny side up, his favorite. In her best passive aggressive manner, Jen ran water in the kitchen sink until she heard Brian scream from the shower. “Oops. Did I do that?” Jen giggled. She fantasized about the different ways she could surreptitiously get back at him. She sighed deeply and smiled a smile that stretched all the way across her bruised face.

While Brian continued to get ready for work, Jen packed his lunch for him and then hurried around the house collecting laundry to wash. 

She began to sing, “I’ve been working on the laundry, every freaking day. I’ve been working on the laundry, just to pass the time away. Can’t you hear that husband screaming? Rise up so early in the morn'. Can't you hear the husband shouting, ‘Jennifer, make me some breakfast!”’

The End

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