Eventually I identified the continuous thud as someone knocking on my front door. I hurriedly checked my phone and realized I had three missed calls – all from TJ. That’s what the beeping noise had been – call waiting. The blood drained from my face and my heart started racing. TJ hated to be kept waiting. I leaped off the bed and raced for the front door…
“Good morning darling,” I nervously chirped as I yanked open the door. TJ was standing there in khaki shorts and a white button down shirt impatiently tapping his leg.
“Hey babe,” he said as he pulled me into a giant bear hug. “I missed you. Did you hear me knocking?”
“Sorry darling, I was on the phone with my god mom. So caught up bragging about my fiancé I didn’t hear you.”
“That’s okay,” he laughed. “I brought breakfast,” he said as we walked back into the house.
The next few weeks followed a similar pattern. TJ was more relaxed, more patient, and more affectionate. I begin to wonder if I had exaggerated the rough exchanges between us. I must have. He was perfect. Just like I had told my god mom.
Wedding plans commenced in full. Between my god mom, my friends, my female cousins, and myself we managed to knock off a considerable amount of things we had to do. I was back to living my charmed life. Between my glistening diamond, my effective wedding prep, and my fiancé my life really was charmed.
You are cordially invited
All that changed on the day I received an ominous invitation in the mail.
*Knock Knock Knock.*
I rushed to the door and found a stranger in a burgundy suit jacket and a black hat holding a large turquoise box with a cream bow. “Good morning ma,” he greeted. “Please my boss asked me to drop this for you.”
“Ah, Theo is that you?” I said with surprise. I didn’t recognize him until he spoke. He was my ex boyfriend’s driver.
“Yes ma, it is me. How are you ma? How is work?”
“Everything is fine Theo,” I said as I relieved him of the box.
“Ma there is more o,” he said. “Maybe I can drop it inside.”
I stepped aside. Letting Theo walk by me into the living room. As I set the box down on the side table, I curiously observed the two turquoise paper bags he was also carrying. Whatever this was, it was bound to be interesting.
After Theo left I made a beeline for the turquoise box. Untying the cream bow, I lifted the lid and was astonished as something flew towards me. A butterfly fluttered out. I rolled my eyes. G had always had a flair for the dramatic. After the creature settled delicately on the arm of the chair I went back to exploring the contents of the box.
Long and short – it was the most dramatic wedding invitation I had ever received. Complete with fabric for the traditional and church weddings, a dozen cupcakes with turquoise and cream with gold sprinkles, and a photo album of the happy couple. The photo album was intricate, it was the big box, and the pictures attached to its walls displayed in a number of ways depending on how you chose to unfold the box. G was getting married. I hadn’t heard from him since we broke up about a year ago. I smiled. I was happy for him and made a mental note to ask TJ if he wanted us to attend the wedding.
I left the dramatic invitation strewn about the room and went back to reading my novel, absent mindedly nibbling on a cupcake. About an hour later TJ walked in from the gym. He looked tired. He surveyed the room in silence, and a dark look settled on his face.
‘Accept’ with pleasure
“Welcome back darling, how was your work out?” I asked.
He located the invitation card, picked it up and read it. Ignoring me he flung it aside.
I figured he hadn’t heard me so I got up from the couch and walked over to him. I opened my arms to hug him and he quickly sidestepped. “Babe?” I inquired confused.
He settled on the couch and flipped on the tv. I picked up the invitation from the floor, dropped it on the side table, and made a move to settle beside him. Before I knew what was happening, TJ had sprung up, both hands held my shoulders and shoved me back violently, I flew a few feet and landed in the doorway. The door post broke my fall backwards as my head bounced off the edge of the door frame. Pain shot through my head as I sunk to the floor, my fingers grasping at the grey carpet beneath me.
I looked up in shock. What was happening here. “TJ?” I inquired softly.
He lunged at me. Crouching down and landing two rapid slaps on my already stunned face. “So you want to rub this stupid tacky invitation in my face right? You want to show me your ex is getting married?! You’re trying to prove he has more money than I do right?”
I was astonished. “No babe,” I cried “as I unconsciously rubbed my throbbing cheek. I wasn’t sure where to try and console first. A knot was forming in the back of my head where I had hit the doorpost.
“You know what?” he yelled. “Forget it. I’m not marrying your sorry ass anymore. I’m gonna pack up whatever I have over here and then I’ll be gone.”
‘Decline’ with Regrets
I wailed. Reached for his ankle as he still hovered over me and held his leg in a vice grip as he tried to kick me off.
Looking up at him I began to beg, “darling I’m sorry! I didn’t mean anything by it. I just saved the invitation to show you. I don’t care about him. You’re much better. You’re the best,” I pleaded. “Please don’t be upset. I understand why you were. I deserve everything you did to me. Please forgive me. Please. I’m sorry. Just tell me what to do TJ, please.”
He grabbed my wrists and tried to pull me off him but I refused to let go. He rained abuses down on me for another 15 minutes while I begged profusely. Eventually he softened his gaze, loosened his grip on my wrists, and said “it’s okay babe. Get up.”
I sprung up and put my arms around his waist. I cried on his chest as he continued to scold me.
“Why do you make me so angry? You know you shouldn’t do these things but you do. I love you but you need to stop testing my limits okay?” TJ chided.
“Okay” I agreed.
Just then my phone started vibrating on the coffee table. TJ shot me a sharp look. It was my cousin. I wiped my tears and said “I’m sorry she’s calling darling. Sorry for the interruption. We are supposed to go and pick fabric. I can postpone if you want,” I offered tentatively.
Rain drops are falling on my head
“No babe, go ahead. Just make sure you get yourself cleaned up first” TJ said. “And wear something long sleeved.” My eyes followed his, my wrists had started to turn a blackish blue, the door post had a streak of blood from where my head had made contact. All of a sudden my whole body ached. I was so tired.
“Go have a shower and I’ll make you a cup of tea,” TJ said.
I walked in the direction of the bathroom as I heard him laughing on the phone with my cousin. He had called her back and was asking her to push our meeting for another hour. “You know how your cousin is,” he said. “It takes her forever to get ready. I don’t know who she is dressing up for. After all, her man is already home and I’m not going anywhere.”
Their voices faded as I leaned against the shower wall and started the water. Relief flooded through my body as the hot pellets connected with my cold skin. I was relieved TJ and I had made up. I couldn’t bear to think about the details of what had happened though. I rubbed my palm against the glass wall and looked out at my engagement ring, it glistened in the fluorescent light before the steam again blocked my view. I sighed deeply.
G was getting married, so was I.
Turning over a new leaf
I hopped out the shower. Got dressed. Pulled on a long sleeve shirt and sat down to do my make up. TJ walked into the room, with a cup of steaming Earl Grey which he set on the dresser. “I added a sprinkle of nutmeg just like you like babe,” he said as he massaged my shoulders. I winced in pain. My whole body was sore.
TJ sat on the edge of the bed while I did my make up. Making small talk as I concealed and contoured.
A few minutes later I hugged him goodbye and got into my cousin’s car. She lowered the music as I got in, reached over to hug me and waved to TJ who was standing in the doorway.
As she backed out of the driveway she remarked “there’s something different about you. Are you okay?”
I brushed her inquiry aside. “I’m fine. So where are we going first?” I asked. Attempting to inject enthusiasm into my voice.
“Let’s start with Dollhouse,” she enthused. “They’ve got some amazing designs.”
While we were waiting for our consultation at Dollhouse my cousin walked over to the couch where I was sat and dumped four cocktail dresses in my lap. “Try these on! You will look amazing.”
Glancing down at the swirls of glitter, shimmer, and shine I smiled. She had great taste. The emerald green, cobalt blue, and multicolored fabrics all looked exquisite. I felt genuine excitement welling up in my chest. I rushed to the changing room.
“Come on slow poke,” my cousin yelled as she yanked open the dressing room curtain. “What’s taking so –“ she paused. “Wow, TJ is one lucky man. You look breathtaking.”
I had on the emerald green cowl neck cocktail dress with the low back.
“I wasn’t able to reach the zip though” I whined. “Please help.”
As she circled behind me I heard a sharp intake of breathe at the very moment I realized I should have postponed this dress fitting. She gingerly ran her fingers along my spine. I winced. “What happened?!! You’ve got about four bruises along your back. And your hair is matted. What is that? Is that blood? Honey!” She was getting frantic and I didn’t know what to say.
“Can you just help me zip up please?” I asked. “I tripped at the gym last night.”
“Huh? You didn’t go to the gym last night. We went to that wine and paint thing remember? What are you talking about?”
I hesitated. “After that I tripped. Okay?”
“I don’t believe you.”
I was silent.
She came around and planted her feet in front of me. Hands on her wide hips as her eyes scanned every inch of my body. “What about your wrists? Why are they bruised?” she asked, measuring my gaze.
“Can you let it go? Let’s focus on this dress.” I spun around and asked “It’s perfect right?” My eyes pleaded with her to just drop it.
She frowned at me, tears pooling in her eyes. “Okay,” she responded softly. “It doesn’t matter how beautiful it looks you know? If it is not 100% right you don’t have to wear it.”
I hugged her tightly. I knew she wasn’t talking about the dress. Over her shoulder I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I took in everything. Dress, ring, bruised wrists – it hit me. I had a decision to make.
*** If you are the victim of domestic violence please say something! Do not continue to suffer in silence. If you are not comfortable sharing the details with a friend, family member, or counselor that you know please contact a domestic violence organization in your area where you will find a listening ear and advice on what to do next. You can call anonymously and your private information will not be shared with a third party without your consent.***
Domestic Violence Websites & Hotlines:
Federal Government of Nigeria Toll Free Number for Violation of Girls and Women
0800 727 32255
|United Kingdom||http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/0808 2000 247
1-800-787-3224 (For the hard of hearing)