Jen waited in the room for the doctor, cold and shaking with anxiety. Five minutes seemed like an eternity to her. After considering her options of what to tell the doctor, Jen settled for the same story, just in case Jessica had already given an update. Dr. Laurie entered the room with a courtesy knock. As she peeked her head around the door, her face scrunched in a look that was mixed with pity, sympathy, and concern.
“Oh Jen. What happened this time?” She looked sincerely into Jen's eyes, hoping to connect with the reasonable woman she used to know.
Jen repeated the explanation given to Jessica, attempting to sound as convincing as possible when expressed how dumb she felt for having broken her own nose. Dr. Laurie grabbed a couple of tools and gently began studying Jen's nose, eyes, and then carefully scanned the rest of Jen's face for further damage.
“Jen, I would like to do an x-ray to confirm a nasal fracture. Fortunately, there is no septal hematoma this time or anything else that causes me concern. I will have the x-ray tech come get you in just a minute and then we will talk further based on the results of the x-rays.” The doctor smiled when she looked at Jen, but as she turned to the door her smile quickly faded.
Jen had waited a mere thirty seconds when the x-ray tech knocked on the door. “You ready, Jen? Wow! What did you do this time?” Jen reluctantly told her story again failing to produce the light-hearted laugh at the end. The tech finished the x-rays and walked her back to the room to wait for Dr. Laurie.
“Thanks,” Jen said.
After about 15 minutes of tortuous waiting, Dr. Laurie gently knocked on the door again as she pushed it open. She forced a smile. “Jen, the x-rays confirm a fracture. The good news is that it is slight enough that I will not need to set it. All you will need to do is ice it to bring down the swelling and take something mild for pain, same routine as last time, but you may want to baby it for a few days. Any questions?”
“Nope. That's all. Thank you.” Jen hurried to her feet to collect her purse and jacket.
“Wait a minute. I want to ask you a few questions before you take off.”
Jen silently studied her face and found suspicion.
“When I examined you earlier, I could see the yellowing bruises on your left cheek that you have obviously tried to cover with make-up. This is the second “self-imposed” broken nose and that bruise on your cheek is one of many bruises in the past that you have tried to explain away.”
“You don't think...”
“Stop, Jennifer. Do you have any idea how many cases of domestic violence I have seen in my office over the last thirty years? How many stories I have heard? How many women that have claimed to have run into their own door or fallen down the stairs? I know abuse when I see it. You don't have to cover for him anymore. Now tell me what really happened.”
“I'm sorry Laurie. You have this all wrong. Brian loves me very much. He wouldn't abuse me. It happened just like I told you. The glass dish hit my nose. I must have gotten that bruise from wrestling around with my nephews last week.”
“Are we done now?"
“I guess we are done.” Dr. Laurie stepped aside to let Jen pass. “Please call me if you need anything.”
Jen didn't respond as she left the room, a firm resolve not to cry.
Emotionally exhausted, she drove home in a daze. Dr. Laurie was such a good woman. She hated lying to her and felt bad for treating her so coldly. Dr. Laurie had been an advocate for abused women for many years. She was on the committee for the battered women's shelter at the YWCA. She was very passionate about helping women and children rescue themselves from abusive situations. Jen was ashamed that she wasn't strong enough to concede the truth when confronted. She was just not ready.
Arriving home, Jen remembered the trash still waiting to be taken out. She rushed inside and grabbed the bags and quietly placed them in the neighbor's trash can so Brian wouldn't find the trash in their can.
She grabbed the mail on the way back into the house, sat it on the table and began preparing dinner. While she cooked, she listened to her favorite piano music. Claire de Lune was her favorite song on the CD. The melody reminded her of the pencil drawing of the river on the envelope. Without care or worry, the soft sounds of the piano began to swim through her soul and unravel all of the tension that had built up.
As she finished setting the table, she heard Brian's truck pull into the drive and quickly checked her face in the mirror to see if she needed to touch up the make-up covering her new bruises. Everything looked as good as could be expected considering the swelling of her nose. She rushed to light a candle and then out to help Brian with his lunch box and coat. He smiled warmly at Jen and embraced her gently as she approached him. Escorting her back into the house, he kissed her forehead and said, “I love you baby.” As he washed his hands in the kitchen sink, Jen hung his coat and put away his lunch box.
“Turn that crap off, Jen.” he said pointing to the CD player.
“Yes, Sir.” She leaned over and pushed the power button.
“This is a really nice dinner and the setting is quite romantic, but I have had a long day.” Brian said. “I am going to take my plate to the recliner and relax a little before I go out. I need some time to myself tonight.”
“Brian, you went out last night and didn't get home until almost 3:30 in the morning.”
“Quit nagging me and get that mess in the kitchen cleaned up before I go.”
“Yes, Sir.” Dejected, Jen fled to the kitchen. On her way, she grabbed the mail and tucked it into her apron pocket planning to go through it after cleaning. She began to clear the table, but losing her balance she dropped Brian's dinner plate which hit the floor with a loud clang.
“So much for relaxing. I'm leaving now.” he growled.
“I'm sorry. I love you,” she said softly. Brian walked out, slamming the door behind him as usual. Moments later she heard gravel hitting the house as his truck sped off. Jen sighed deeply as she cleaned up the food from the floor and the table. “Dear God, give me strength.”
When she finished cleaning, she pulled the mail from her pocket. “Trash, trash, dentist office reminder for Brian, trash..." Her eyes widened. Another letter for Christine Madison from Eric Marshall. Her heart raced as she held the second letter and curiosity overwhelmed her.
She ran over to Brian's recliner, studying the pencil drawing on the envelope of the new letter. This time the drawing was of a woman's face. Jen's brow furrowed as she squinted her eyes in confusion, trying desperately to understand why the drawing on the envelope addressed to Christine Madison was of her own face.