It was a couple of days before Matt emerged from his room, eyes rimmed red and puffy. Nicole had spent a lot of time with Stephen, both tactfully remaining silent on the subject of her bruises. She was just returning from his flat as Matt opened the door from the bedroom.
"Matt!" The first real smile she'd allowed herself since the 'accident' broke over her face. She pulled him down to kiss him. After a moment of surprise, his hands cupped her face gently as he deepened the kiss. Her arms snaked around his neck as his pulled her closer to his body, as though he never wanted to let her go. With a sigh though, he broke away, looking down.
"I'm sorry, Nicole." His voice was low. She dropped her arms to his chest, laying her palms flat against him, staying silent as he took a deep breath. "You should leave."
She pushed him away then, hurt. "You want me to go?"
He shook his head. "Its the right thing for you to go. Look at what I did to you, Nicole. And look what I've done to this flat. All our stuff. I'm not stupid, I know we can't afford it. Just...go. Find someone better."
He looked at the floor the entire time he was talking, his voice flat and emotionless.
"I will go if you can look me in the eye and tell me that you honestly want me to go."
He looked me in the eye and in their pale blue the torture was evident.
"I can't lie to you though." He replied, helplessly.
Nicole stepped back into his arms, which automatically pulled her close as he buried his face in her hair.
"I'm not leaving you, Matt."
They spent the afternoon cuddled together, watching films on the laptop Nicole had kept safe from her husband. It was peaceful for both of them, confirming to themselves and the other that they could survive this.
The trend continued while her bruises steadily faded. Soon, she was able to cover them with makeup and return to work. Eventually, Matt also returned to the bar occasionally. Initially it was fine.
Nicole stretched, enjoying the feeling without any pain. Her bruises and Matt's had gone completely now. As she turned in the mirror, like all classed as belonging to the 'female persuasion' she noted where weight was in the wrong place, where imperfections had sprung up and the myriad of perceived flaws with her body, forgetting momentarily that she had a husband-one so doting that he was the envy of all her female co-workers and a couple of the men too. Hearing the door close, she smiled.
"In the en suite" she called softly, pulling a silk dressing gown on.
"Oh so you're actually home?" Matt's bitter voice slurred from the doorway. Nicole felt her entire body go cold at his tone. Her heartbeat accelerated as she turned to face him. A murderous scowl was plastered across his face as he slumped in the doorway.
She nodded. "Do you want a coffee or something?"
His gaze went to her fist which was holding the dressing gown closed tightly, to the point that her knuckles were white.
"No.. I want you." His gaze turned hungry as he took her in.
"Matt, you're drunk. Let me get you a coffee-"
He pinned her against the wall so fast she barely had time to register his movement before she was slammed against the cold tiling and pinned under his hot body.
"I don't want any fucking coffee." He snarled, the words chilling in their clarity. His breath fell, hot and reeking, in her ear. "I want your body, now. And I will have it."
"You're hurting me." Nicole whimpered, terrified. And it was true, it felt like he was crushing her wrists in an iron grip.
He snickered, trailing his lips down her neck and along her collarbone. Nicole felt her skin crawl. Unbidden, tears sprang up in her eyes.
He cocked an eyebrow at her. " 'No?' You're my wife, you'll do as I tell you."
She shook her head, trying to pull away, but he had her totally pinned under his body.
She began to sob as his lips continued to move further down.
"..Please don't start this again.."