Rice began to fall from the sky and onto everyone but its original target. Handfuls left canvas bags and ended crunching underfoot, in bodices, and pockets. Heads down, hands up, the two walking away from it all hurried to the safety of an awaiting vehicle; while making sure to pass grateful smiles and small waves to the tossing bystanders. A close church bell rang dramatically sending a deafening vibration through the air. It sent out a universal message to everyone in town: Today a couple was married under the eyes of God.
When they reached the car, the husband opened the door for his wife before stepping in himself with the train of her dress in hand. The last few sprays of rice made their way through the open door as it was shut to the outside. The noise quieted down and the driver began to roll off with a set destination. The newlyweds looked at each other with their smiles still wide.
“I love you,” the husband said quietly, putting his hand up to his wife’s face. He let his thumb stroke the paleness of her cheek.
“I love you too,” she placed her hand over his and straightened her back into a kiss, pressing into her husband's lips, proud to call them that from now on.
“You’re being stupid, Mary.” David yelled more often than he wanted to.
“I’m stupid?” She pointed at herself, pressing her fingers into her chest repeatedly. “I’m stupid?” Now more of a question directed at David versus the initial shock of what she had heard her husband say. “I’m not stupid enough to make my affair public.” She strained with every word, working all of the muscles in her neck.
A look of disgust showed on David’s face. “I’m not having an affair!”
Mary reached up quickly, “Bull shit!” She slapped him leaving an instant red mark on his face. David swung forward and hit her back. He pulled his arm back quickly when he heard the skin meet skin.
“Oh my God,” he mumbled to himself. Mary gently touched her face and winced slightly barely showing any sign of pain as she felt her hot skin. “I’m so sorry.” David started to say, pushing forward to take his wife’s arm. She pushed him away violently, giving a loud grunt as she shoved him to the ground.
“Never touch me again!” She yelled. Her whole face was turning red, it wasn’t even noticeable that she had been hit anymore. Her eyes widened and she seethed with anger. Her chest rose and fell quickly as she let out hot air. She pointed at David laying on the floor, “Never. Fucking. Touch. Me.” She was acting skittish and began stepping back slowly.
David watched as she ran her hands through her short black hair, grabbing fist fulls of it and holding tightly.
“Don't touch me.” She said less harshly. She turned and walked into another room leaving David on the floor by himself. In all of their fights he had only hit her twice before. The first time she began crying uncontrollably. She accused him of trying to leave her, said she heard him on the phone with a friend talking about it. She had swung at him first, and he hit back. She fell to the floor covered in tears asking why he hated her. The second time he ended up with more than a guilty conscience.
He came home from work to his pregnant wife sitting at the kitchen table, a hard look on her face. The doctor told her to stay still and not to move to much as she started her seventh month; there was too much stress being placed onto the baby that she risked an emergency Cesarean section, or even a still birth.
She began tapping her finger on the table. “Where were you?” She asked quietly.
“I was at work.” David held up his brief case full of paper work that he transferred between work and home.
“Prove it.” She said.
“Prove it? Call the office, then. I can’t prove anything by standing here besides my clothes and papers.” They had been through this fight before, he knew he couldn't win.
“You were out with some girl, weren't you?” Her eyes scrunched as she grimaced at the thought.
“Mary,” David started.
“Mary, you say, Mary, Mary, Mary. I’m not cheating, Mary. I’m not fucking that girl from the office. I care, Mary.” She began crying and wrapped her arms around her belly. “Do you think I’m a stupid bitch?” She raised her voice, “Don’t you think I can see what’s going on here?”
“Let’s just calm down,” David said slowly. He bent over and placed his briefcase on the floor. “We can talk about everything, you’re stressing the baby.”
“I’m not stupid,” Mary yelled. She got up quickly from the table, knocking it a few inches with her stomach. “I know what’s happening!” She stomped across the kitchen and reached out to push him. He stumbled back and she pushed again.
“Stop!” David said, “I’m going to push back.” He warned.
“You wouldn't dare.” Mary leaned forward to push him one more time, and instead of pushing back, David hit her. He expected the same reaction as last time; his wife falling to the floor crying. It hurt him to see her in such a state, but it ended her physical abuse.
“You bastard.” She turned and stomped back to the kitchen table. She wiped piles of paper to the floor looking for something underneath them. David stood still waiting to see what she was trying to find hidden beneath bills and junk mail. Mary pulled out a gun.
David’s hands flew back up. “Mary,” his heart picked up speed, “Honey, put down the gun.” He recognized it as the pistol he kept in a shoe box on the top shelf of their closet.
“Tell me to calm down one more time!” She hollered. “Say it!”
He hesitated, “Mary, just calm-” Boom.
Mary pulled the trigger.
“Ahh,” David groaned. “Shit,” he was laying on the floor clamping his shoulder, “You shot me! You shot me! Call 9-1-1!” He closed his eyes tightly trying to distract himself. He yelled out in pain again.
“Oh my God,” Mary dropped the gun at her feet and ran to the phone on the wall. She quickly dialed 9-1-1, but when they answered she didn't know what to say.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency? Hello?”
“Uhm, my husband.”
“What’s wrong with your husband, Ma'am?”
“He, I- uhm.”
“Ma'am? What happened to your husband? I’m sending out police to your location.”
Mary looked at the phone and hung it back up.
“Are they coming?” David asked from the floor. “Mary? Did you call them? Honey?”
“They’re going to arrest me,” she mumbled to herself. “They’re going to see what I did and arrest me.”
“No one is going to arrest you, it was an accident.” David told her. “Did you hear me? It was just an accident.”
“An accident?” She quieted down. The faint sound of sirens began in the background. She was still panicked and unsure of what to do.
“Self defense,” David was saying between breathes. “I hit you, you were just defending yourself. Or maybe you accidentally pulled the trigger, or we didn't know the safety was off, you dropped it and it went off. Any of these things could have happened, but it was all an accident.” Quick thinking. In situations like this no one is supposed to go to jail. Especially not a pregnant woman from a well-to-do couple. It was an accident, and the more he said it to himself the more he tried to believe it. “I love you, honey. Don’t worry, you aren't going to get in trouble.”
The scar from his bullet wound ached as he watched her. The bruises beneath his clothes felt like nothing as he wondered what her next move was going to be. He looked at the clock.
“Sarah is going to be home soon.” He said calmly.
“It’s a little past three.” Mary looked at the same clock. “Sarah will be home soon.” They still fought in front of their daughter, but never violently.
“My Sarah.” Mary held her hands over her mouth. She started crying,”I can’t let her see us this way. My baby.” Her whimpering turned to blubbering as she fell into a ball on the floor. David stood up carefully and walked towards his wife. He took her hands from her face. She was red with water collecting in every corner, every crevice and wrinkle. She tried as hard as she could to sniffle and keep her nose clear. David lifted her back up and walked her to the bathroom. Sitting her down on the toilet, he handed her some tissues. She wasn't wearing makeup today, she was spared the dreaded raccoon eyes; as he often thought she looked like one when her makeup was running. He did the best he could in his situation. Ten minutes ago she was the woman who could have killed him, but now she was his wife, and she was in distress.
For the next year, David tried his best to make his wife happy. Mary seemed to be doing her best as well to contain herself. They still fight, she hits him sometimes, but after the close call with their daughter they tried more to keep it at peace. David sometimes even says he’s happy with his life, he’s happy with his wife, and daughter, and nothing could happen that would change it.
It was late at night, a Saturday, everyone was at home and Sarah was sleeping. Mary and David were in the living room together. Mary was watching TV, David was working on his paperwork. There was a stack of papers that needed to be turned in the next morning and he had passed getting them done at work. It had been a month now since the last breakout with his wife.
“What are you doing?” Mary asked quietly. She was curled up on the lounge chair her mother bought them as a housewarming gift.
“Paperwork.” David said back simply.
“Paperwork for what?”
“Work papers. Time sheets, bills, things I need to sign.”
“Is it that important?”
“What do you mean?” He looked up and took his glasses off.
“Are they so important that you can’t pay attention to me instead? All you do is sit there and you don’t even ask me how my day was.”
“How was your day?”
“It doesn't count anymore, David.” She started to get upset.
“Mary, let’s just talk about it.”
“You’re sleeping with her again, aren't you?” Her eyes squinted as she looked at him.
“Sleeping with who?” He asked.
“Some girl from the office. The one you were with last year.”
“I’m not sleeping with anyone, I've never slept with anyone.”
“Don’t deny it,” she picked up a pen off of the side table and threw it at him. He deflected it and looked intently at her. “You’re a liar.”
“I thought we were past this,” he put all of his papers in a stack and started putting them back in his briefcase.
“I can’t ignore the fact that my husband is a lying,” she threw the puzzle book next, “cheating,” the bag of sewing supplies, “asshole.”
“How long have we been at this?” David asked, there was a tiredness in in his voice.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“How long have we been fighting about the affair that I could or could not be having? Is there ever an end to it?”
“It’ll end when you decide to end it.”
“Then I want to end it now.”
“Admit to me that you’re sleeping with someone else then. I’ve noticed how you’re acting when we’re alone, someone else has been influencing your behavior.”
“No one else is influencing my behavior. I’m sick of this arguing, Mary. I think-” he hesitated, “I think we need a divorce.”
She was quiet when he uttered the phrase no one ever wants to hear.
“A divorce, Mary. Separation. Go our own ways. I’ll take Sarah and we’ll move out, you can keep the house. Your parents always helped pay for it anyways.”
That was the trigger. “Sarah isn't going anywhere.”
“Like hell she isn't going anywhere. What if one day when I’m not here you take your rage out on her? What if you hit her instead?”
“Are you suggesting that I’m an abusive mother?”
“I’m suggesting that you’re an abusive person.” There, he said it. He got it out. He let her know what he was really thinking. "And I think that maybe it's time for a divorce."
"Well if you think you'll be so great without me," her eyes started to tear up, "then you can have your divorce. And when you get married to that woman that'll prove everything I need to know. My mother never liked you in the first place."
David rubbed his hands across his face and let out a sigh. "I'll call the lawyer in the morning. I'll sleep on the couch tonight."
"Good, I didn't want you in the bedroom anyways. I don't know how you plan to tell this to Sarah, but I know for a fact that she won't like it and she'll want her mother."
"We'll deal with it in the morning."
"No good," she started searching for things to throw again and grabbed the remote, "cheating," another pen, "ex-husband!" She burst with tears and ran to the bedroom, slamming the door when she made it down the hall.
The next few weeks were filled with legal documents and a court appearance over child placement between the two parents. David showed bags under his eyes every time he had to go out and Mary carried a cloth to constantly dab her eyes with. One acted dead and the other like she were grieving at his funeral. In the end Sarah was placed under her father's care and it had been the news that Mary didn't want to hear. She started crying all over and had to be escorted out of the courtroom until she could calm down. Checks were expected of her every month from now on for the next twelve years. The court also agreed for David since he had the child to remain in the house they purchased together until either he couldn't pay it off or they chose to move. Nothing fell in Mary's favour.
Mary still had things back at the house, everything she had owned was there and she wasn't ready to pick them up and leave. David made an effort not to be around when she was but it was as if she would never leave. He no longer felt safe going to his own house, and he didn't want to bring Sarah in either. He thought she was the last person that Mary would hurt but he didn't want to take any chances. For two nights he slept in his car and set up a sleepover at the neighbor's house for Sarah. At this rate they would be right back where they started, except as a divorced couple living in the same house.
He discussed the situation with their lawyer and got her to finally leave. The nagging feeling that she was still going to show up bothered him and he got a restraining order set. Changing the locks to the doors and windows wasn't going to make a difference if she really wanted to get in.
“You got a restraining order?” A woman screeched from behind David and Sarah as they walked down the street. He turned quickly, his heart racing as he recognized her voice.
“Go away, Mary.” He tried not to make a scene. Some people were watching, but not enough to worry about. He clutched Sarah’s hand tightly.
Sarah tried to pull her hand away. “Daddy, you’re hurting me.”
He looked down at her and loosened his grip. He didn't want her to be around in case it got bad. “I’m sorry, sweetie. Why don’t you go look at the dresses in your favorite store.” He nudged her towards the entrance of the store they were by; meant just for little girls who loved fancy dresses.
“Really?” She started smiling.
“Go pick out your favorite dress,” he gave her a small shoulder push in the right direction and watched as she ran inside. She was in there all the time, chances are she already had a favorite dress picked out but he knew she would spend another hour trying on the others.
“You’re spoiling her,” Mary was closer, just a few steps away. “She’s going to turn out like her no good father.” There was a slice to her words, he could hear it in her tone, “Her no good, son of a bitch father.” She took the last step between them and slapped him hard on the face. It had been months since he last felt someone hit him and he didn't miss the feeling. "You can’t get rid of me that easily,” she hit again but harder, punching him this time. She hit him square on the nose and he began bleeding across the front of his jacket.
“Jesus Christ,” he put his hand over his nose. People started to crowd now. Mary grabbed his coat and pulled him onto the pavement. She started kicking him immediately, not giving him enough time to pick himself up.
“Stop!” He yelled, holding up his bloody hands. “Just stop,” he could feel the color changing on his skin where she kicked him. She stopped long enough to climb on top of him and kept hitting him. She had only anger in her eyes when she hit him, there was no longer the love he remembered when they got married.
Someone came up and pulled Mary off, putting her face down onto the cement and they started to tell her her rights. David saw the blue of a uniform through his beaten eyes and dropped his head back down in relief that it was over. She continued yelling insults back at him. They left her lips and slithered across the ground until they hit him as hard as her fists. Within the next two weeks, he would see her again only in trial and watch as she was found guilty of assault, intention to kill, and violating the terms of her restraining order.
Sarah had been keeping to herself during the entire process. David tried his best to keep her active and talk to her about everything that was going on. She was old enough now, six, to understand what was going on or to at least be affected by it. David had planned to take her out to a birthday party after school one day. She came home with an invite and David encouraged that she go, it would be good for her to be around her friends. As soon as the bell rang to let the kids out, he was there to pick her up and drop her off at her friend’s house. She was the first one to show up and looked excited as she left the car.
“Hey, I love you.” He rolled down the window and said loudly.
“I love you too, Daddy.” She ran towards the house. The front door was open and her friend’s mother was standing there waiting for her. He was invited to chaperon, but maybe some other time. After everything that was going on he needed some time alone. His face was still bruised and his right eye was just clearing up from its previous swollen state. Keeping away from the kids and the berated questions of adults was within his best interest. His job allowed him to be there for his daughter every day, a six in the morning to two thirty shift. He was there when she woke up and there when she went to bed, and now he was letting her out of his sight for the first time in that two weeks.
During the entire drive home he worried about the safety of his daughter, the constant nagging feeling that maybe this was a bad idea and he should turn around and go back to get her. The safest place for her though was in a house full of adults and other kids, there were too many people there for anything to happen. He pulled up in the drive two blocks away and sat in his car alone.
“What went wrong with my life.” He said more of a statement than a question. He knew what went wrong. Mary went wrong, the marriage. It should never have happened. But how did he know back then that in the end this is how it would be? And Sarah. He loved her, but this wasn't the lifestyle he wanted his child to grow up in. Now she’ll be known all throughout school as that kid with the crazy mother, that girl who grew up in a publicly abusive house. He got out and walked up the side door, never the front. The front was for guests and deliveries. The side door led into the kitchen and felt more homey. The house was his for three more months before they sold to move into a smaller apartment and he wanted to enjoy every last bit of it.
As he stepped into the kitchen he took in a deep breath. The feeling of being alone hadn't hit him this hard before. It felt like the house had been holding its breath the entire time while Mary was still there, and just now it let out all of the air.
He dropped his keys on the table right inside of the door and walked into the living room to turn the TV on. He clicked it to the news and walked back out into the kitchen to look through the cupboards for food. He hadn't eaten since lunch at 11:30 and his stomach was begging for something. He pulled out a box of macaroni-and-cheese and started to get the water boiling. The stove was so old, it would take over ten minutes before it began to simmer. He grabbed the newspaper from the morning that he left on the table and walked into the living room ready to relax. He still couldn't understand the feeling of stillness in the house. It was as if it had been abandoned for years and was just now experiencing the feel of people again.
He sat down in a new chair that he bought from a friend for fifty dollars-Mary took the big one away with her-and began to read the headlines of his newspaper. He dropped the corner of the paper and looked at the TV in front of him. Prison break from the county jail brought on by a riot. He folded up the paper and placed it on the floor paying attention more intently to the screen. That was the jail that Mary was in, he wondered if she was involved with the riot.
"We have a News Center 5 exclusive right now," the reporter on screen was handed a slip of paper from off screen, "The identities of the two escaped prisoners are Lauren Schumacher arrested for homicide in July of last year," David didn't know her but kept note to pick up Sarah personally from the birthday party when it was over. "And Mary Wilson arrested just two weeks ago for assault, intention to kill, and violating the terms of a restraining order. Police are suggesting that citizens keep inside until-" David's heart dropped as he thought about Mary being out in public. He had no clue where she would go, if she would come back to the house. By foot it was only a twenty minute walk from the county prison. He reached for the remote to turn up the volume, he had to make sure he was hearing it right.
The remote was on the floor with the paper. He let Mary take the end tables since they matched her chair so well. As he leaned forward, he felt the chair squeak back like someone was pulling on it and the remote became just out of his reach. His eyes widened as he thought about what could be stuck on the chair, his breathing was scarce and he turned slowly without leaving his one piece of furniture.
Mary was standing behind him with a blank look on her face. She had one hand on the chair, holding it down. It was tangled in the fabric and her knuckles looked big. He couldn't move when he looked at her, there wasn't even the anger she felt when she beat him anymore.
"Mary," he whispered her name.
"No good," she pulled her other hand over the side of the chair, "cheating," there was a knife in her hand, "spoiled," she started to bring it down quickly, "mindless husband!" David jumped away when he saw what she was doing but not fast enough. She got the knife in his arm and pulled it back out. The large cut started flowing with blood and he pressed his hand to it. His breath became ragged and he understood fully the situation that he was in.
Mary left from behind the chair and started yelling, "I am the best thing to ever happen to you," David tried to get up and run away, she grabbed the back of his shirt, "and you sent me to prison." She stabbed him again in the back and pressed into it. "You took away my daughter," she pulled it out and stabbed again, "my life," again, "and used me!" She pulled it out a fourth time and rolled him over to his back. The blood was setting into the carpet and moving quickly.
"Stop," David gurgled through the blood that started working into his mouth, "Mary stop, please." He was crying. The only time he begged like this was when she beat him in front of the little girl's fancy dress shop.
She climbed on top of him. "Break my heart I break yours." She was crying too, her tears were always large and streamed freely down her cheeks. She brought the knife down and stabbed him in the chest, pulling it out just to go at it again with a grunt each time. It only took three more wounds before he passed out from blood loss, and another two minutes to die completely but she kept stabbing over, and over again. The water on the stove had begun boiling and leaped over the edge of the pot to land with a hiss on the burner.