Nora knew that smirk on her husband’s face pretty well. She’d seen it a hundred times before and she knew what inevitably awaited her. She tried to race her mind through the events of the day, tried to remember if there was anything she had done wrong. There wasn’t. She could feel her heart beat increase dangerously and she thought it was going to pop out of her chest anytime.
Even that would be a welcome relief.
She cleared the dishes, looking for an exit strategy. She bit her lower lip to prevent it from trembling but the effort was futile. So she bit it harder until, unsurprisingly, she drew brood. She could taste it in her mouth and at that very moment its metallic taste was a welcome distraction.
She didn’t see it coming. Not that she ever did. But still, it came unexpectedly. The blow to her head that left her ears ringing and her whole body numb. She was down in a minute, the dishes crushing on the tiled floor with a deafening noise. She shut her eyes tightly, willing herself not to let him see her tears. Tears she already felt threatening to spill forth.
“You filthy whore,” he said through clenched teeth as he picked her up from the floor by her neck. “You filthy whore,” he repeated.
“You are suffocating me,” she said timidly, choking on the lump in her throat. She regretted saying the words even before she’d finished saying them. She knew how this played out. Talking only infuriated him more, and him; he was an animal of habit. So what happened next did not surprise her at all.
“Did you just talk back at me?” he screamed at her hoarsely. She almost swore there was a hint of lust in his voice, but that was one part of the puzzle she had never fully solved. She tried to wiggle out of his firm grip but it was of no use. He was strangling her now, trying to completely squeeze the air out of her body. For a moment she thought this is it. The day he would kill her was finally here. He squeezed her tiny neck harder and from the daze she was in she could see his eyes bulging and the veins protruding from his forehead.
“Next time I tell you not to do something you obey. I told you not to put on that short dress in the morning and you went ahead and wore it. This is the price you pay for that.”
“I am going to kill you, woman. I will completely destroy you. By the time I’m done with you Steven and zipporah will only come to pick your corpse from this house.” He hissed in her ear.
She didn’t know what hurt her most; the grip on her neck or the way he casually dropped her parents name during these uneven fights. As if they were his age mates. Her parents, rich influential people in society. And for the umpteenth time, she asked herself what she was doing with this man. And for the umpteenth time, she tried to convince herself it was because of their son. Her son. At this very moment, even that excuse made no sense to her. Was it worth it? Was anything at all worth it? Suddenly he let go of her, her limb body falling unceremoniously on the floor. She gulped in the air greedily; bracing herself for the next beating she knew was coming. She wasn’t wrong.
The beating came from every corner. She wanted to defend herself, to hit back but it was useless. There was no way in a thousand years she could out box him. He was a strong man. A strong man who worked with the army. The blows that landed on her head were the most painful and as she tried to get up he kicked her fully on the stomach. She could taste the blood, more blood, and suddenly she was spiting it everywhere. She didn’t have to put her hand to her mouth to know what the warm fluid gushing out was.
The blood was like a catalyst to him. He was blinded with a lot of things now; furry, lust, anger. Gone beyond the point of reason.
He pulled her up, dragging her to their bedroom. Relief washed over Nora. This was usually the final part of the ritual. Because ritual is what it had become. He would drop her almost dead body on the bed. Tear her clothes.
He would rape her. Because rape was the only way she could describe what would follow. She’d be as dry as the bark of a tree and scared to no end.
And he would rape her.
She’d be there crying and asking when it would be over. And then suddenly it would be and he would roll over. She would lie there in bed emotionless and stare at the ceiling waiting for him to fall completely asleep. Later she’d go and clean her wounds up and go back to bed. She would hold him like a baby and rock him gently, sad for him and the demons that ate him up. The screams when he had nightmares said it all. At one point he’ll reach out for her and cry saying how sorry he was and how deeply he loved her. Tomorrow he’ll be okay, showing his love for her to the whole bleeding world.
Yes, it was ritual.
The voice stopped him dead in his tracks.
“Let her go.” It was a command, not a plea. An order, not a request.
It was their son Kim.
It took a while for Nora to see the gun on his hands. His father’s gun.
“Kim—“Nora begun in a whisper.
“Keep quiet mum,” their eight year old said softly. “Don’t say anything. Or I’ll blow the bastard’s brains away.”
“Son, it is not what you think it is.” Charles, her husband, begun.
The look in her son’s eyes scared Nora. There was something about them that said he was not bluffing and that in itself was scary enough. He was calm, his face an emotionless blank. The only thing that gave him away were his hands. They were trembling so badly the gun almost fell off them.
Charles insanity was totally gone by now. He let go of his wife and started to walk away. He had been in enough emotive situations to know that one slight mistake could lead to death; he could already see the newspapers’ screaming headlines the next day.
“Hey you,” Kim called at him and he stopped. “Turn back and look at me,” Kim said calmly. Charles hesitated; feeling like his manhood was on the line. That one second was enough to push his son over the edge.
“I said turn back and look at me!” Kim screamed and Nora flinched.
Charles turned and looked at him, with only a hint of fear in his eyes.
“One day, I will kill you. It doesn’t matter whether you’ll ever place your hands on her again or you won’t. Just know that one day I will kill you.”
Charles looked at his son in the face and knew that his son meant it. He had dreaded this day, knew at the back of his mind it might one day come; but he hadn’t predicted it to come this soon.
Nora looked at her son and her heart broke into a thousand pieces. Because she too knew he meant it. She started crying silently. Her worst fears were being confirmed. Her son was slowly turning into something that resembled his dad.
Her son was going to turn out just like his father.