The Face I Feared

I remember that face, and I remember the fear. I remember that night I finally got the courage to walk away (well, more like run away) as if it was yesterday. It's hard to get the aura of death out of my mind even now, seven years later. I knew, that New Year's Eve, I wasn't going to make it out alive without a miracle. The rage in his eyes was like none I had ever seen in the eighteen years we'd been wed, and I'd seen plenty of rage.

But this was different. Those green eyes were filled with fire (fire from hell, I always thought). Over that last year his fits of anger were growing in intensity. I'd been dealing with this anger all of our married life, but what I was dealing with then was far beyond the years before.

It wasn't always me that was the victim anymore. He'd begun to take his anger out on others. I suppose I felt a responsibility, as his wife, to protect the others. I always tried to come between him and whomever he chose to go after on any given day, for any given reason. But during the weeks prior to that Christmas, his strength had increased with each outbreak of rage.

I remember he almost killed that boy, a 19 year-old employee, one week before Christmas. I don't know what set him off but I couldn't stop him. I couldn't pull him off him. The only thing that stopped him was a car entering the parking lot, creating a life-saving diversion.

I know I should have called the cops myself but I was scared, so scared of him. I was afraid of staying and afraid of leaving. I'm not sure what happens to the mentality of an abused person, or why I got trapped. What held me there? Somewhere inside there was love for my spouse, but there was a fine line between love and hate. Yet, something kept me there until that night.

Ever since we'd said our vows, my life had changed for the worse. I quite honestly never knew what would set him off. He wasn't a drinker and he didn't use drugs, something in his body was producing a chemical imbalance that would create anger so intense one wrong word or one wrong action would send him over the edge, and that edge is where I was standing--- December 31, 2002.

He was screaming obscenities and throwing whatever was in his reach. He swung a baseball bat at my head. I dodged, he missed; it went through the wall. I remember huddling in the basement bedroom with my two children, calling my mom in Ohio, secretly. I didn't know what to do, how to escape. So we prayed. We prayed for a miracle. I remember that miracle arrived at 2:30 a.m. on New Year's Day.

My husband left the house. I don't know why, I don't think he can tell you why, but that created a window of opportunity. I called my mom back, still afraid and unsure of myself. She told me to call the police and get out of there. So I listened to her, first time in years I'm sure.

The police stayed with me while I collected a few articles of clothing for myself and my children then followed me out of town. I was heading for my sister's house in the northern part of the state, my refuge, still afraid and worried he would follow. For several weeks I looked out the window thinking he'd have someone out there trying to find me. I felt stalked by paranoia that follows an escape, I suppose much like a prisoner on the run. He never came...

It took me a while to realize my own fears were what held me in captivity all those years. In time I got hold of my emotions, found a job and recreated my life. Although I've struggled at times, I've never looked back. The hand of God led me to safety and I hold His hand to this day, but the memories remain... and on occasion the nightmare will replay. In those nightmares I always see the face of death and those green, fire-filled eyes.

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