young woman trying to be a good wife
| Marie sat in a chair by the window and stared out at the street. She watched as mothers walked beside their laughing children. She watched as dogs chased cats and cats chased birds. She watched the wind blow snow drifts into the street. At 4pm she tucked the paper corner back under the tape at the edge of the glass. Marie lifted the chair carefully and walked across the small room. She set the chair back in its spot at the table and sighed as she entered the kitchen. She remembered her childhood kitchen. It was large and sunny. You could always hear laughter echoing in from the living room. She recalled the colorful flowers her mother had kept on the window sill in a blue vase. Marie stared at her own kitchen. The small window, like all windows in the house, was covered with thick paper. The room was tiny and contained only a stove, a refrigerator, a few cabinets, a small sink and one counter. She flicked on the light and the bulb above lit the room. Marie turned on the oven and opened the refrigerator, pulling out the ingredients for dinner. She pulled out the steak for Lenny and a small chicken cutlet for her. She pulled out biscuit dough. She formed it into circles and placed them inside the oven. She laid the steak out and reached above her to pull out the pepper and salt, sprinkling both lightly onto the steak. She reached below her and pulled out a pan. She set it on the stovetop and turned on the burner. She reached below her again and pulled out a pot and set it in the sink. She turned on the water and as the pot slowly filled, she thought of her mother again.
A month ago, she had met her mom for lunch at a cafe. Her mom had complained that she hadn’t seen the new house and asked why Marie wouldn’t have her over for dinner.
“I’m busy mom! Why do you have to be involved in everything? I have my own life now,” Marie had snapped. She had watched her mom flinch in surprise.
“I see,” her mom had replied quietly, “Sorry to bother you.”
Marie felt guilty, but looked down in silence. She couldn’t let her mom come over. Lenny was going through a rough time and had pawned almost everything to pay the bills. She didn’t want her mom to see her bare house. Marie was a grown up now and a newlywed and she wanted to prove she could make it without her parents help.
“Mom, I just need some time,” Marie had said, refusing to make eye contact. Then, she had stood and walked away. She hadn’t heard from her mother since. Marie had wanted to call her, but the only phone Lenny and Marie owned was the cellular that Lenny kept with him always.
Marie placed pot on the stove to boil, adding potatoes and placing the steak in the pan. She checked the biscuits and turned off the oven. When the steak was done, she set it on a plate and covered it so it would be warm when Lenny got home. She quickly cooked her chicken and drained the potatoes before mashing them. Just as she finished, she heard a key in the door and rushed to place the food at the table. It took several minutes for Lenny to open the door, as he didn’t trust less than 5 double sided key locks. When he finally entered, the table was ready and Marie was standing dutifully beside his chair. Lenny turned on the one lamp that served to light both their living room and dining room and surveyed the table.
“Perfect,” Lenny said, grinning at his wife as he approached. Marie took her place at the table. Lenny began to eat happily as he talked. Marie ate quietly. Suddenly, Lenny went silent. Marie tensed and wondered what had happened.
“What is this,” Lenny seethed.
Marie looked up and waited to see what he had found wrong this time.
“It’s burnt,” he snapped, holding up a darkened corner of his steak
Marie began to shake as she waited silently, a pained look on her face.
“Are you trying to kill me?” Lenny shouted, rising quickly and throwing his steak down.
Marie flinched but remained silent, hoping he would just storm out this time, only locking her in as punishment.
Suddenly he lunged for her and she shrank back quickly, tipping backwards out of her chair. As she hit the floor, she scrambled quickly to right herself but he caught her by her hair.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Lenny raged, shaking her as she sobbed, “I’m not eating this crap, but we don’t waste food, so you will.”
Lenny drug Marie by her hair back to the table and grabbed the steak with his right hand as he thrust her face towards him with his left. Marie shrieked in pain as Lenny began to stuff the steak into her mouth, choking her and then threw her to the floor.
“Eat it,” he ordered standing over her.
Marie forced herself to chew as she sobbed and gagged. Lenny glared down at her and then stormed out of the room. As soon as he was out of sight, Marie spit the steak into her hand and ran to hide it quickly by burying it in the potatoes. She heard Lenny pounding around in the bedroom and quickly ran back into the living. Lenny walked into the room and glared at her as she sunk onto the couch.
“I’m going out for dinner and drinks and you better have all this shit cleaned up when I get back,” Lenny demanded as opened the front door.
Marie nodded, frightened as he looked back at her and then slammed the door as he left. She listened as all five locks were bolted again and then broke into sobs once more.
She tried to figure out when her life had become this. Everything was so perfect in the couple of months she had known Lenny before they were married. She had known he was the one for her and he had proposed after only one month of dating. It had been hard to get her mother’s approval but she had finally agreed saying Marie’s happiness was all that mattered. They had a small courthouse wedding and no honeymoon, but she was 19 and in love. Their new house was small, but he promised her more in time. A week into their marriage, he pawned off all their wedding gifts for money to pay the pills. A week after that, he installed five double sided key locks on their door, saying he didn’t want her letting men into his house when he wasn’t there. A week later, the paper over the windows had gone up. He was sure she had been flirting with other men through the glass. He began to lose his temper with her over everything. Her mother had called and Lenny had initially said no to Marie meeting with her. He had finally agreed, but had watched her from the street the whole time. Since that meeting, she had not been out of the house.
Marie began to clear the table. She reached to the floor to pick up a dropped fork and noticed Lenny’s cell phone lying under the table. She picked it up and dialed her mother’s number quickly, her heart speeding up as it rang.
“Marie!” her mother exclaimed when she answered, “I thought I’d never hear from you again.”
“Oh mom,” Marie spoke tearfully, “I miss you so much and I’m sorry!”
“Oh, honey,” her mother sighed, “It’s ok. It doesn’t matter.”
“You don’t know how hard it’s been,” Marie stammered with a sob, “I wanted to call you so many times.”
“Honey, are you ok,” her mother asked slowly, “Is something wrong?”
Suddenly there was a sound at the door.
“Oh god,” Marie whimpered, “He’s back… Oh god.”
She clicked the phone off quickly and threw it back under the table. Marie listened carefully and hearing nothing now, wondered if she had been mistaken about the sound. She crept towards the window beside the door and waited a moment before carefully lifting the corner of the paper. Lenny’s car was still gone, but she noticed a dog bounding around her yard. Marie sighed in relief and returned to the table to clean. She was almost done with the dishes when she heard a rap at the door. She froze for a moment and then heard another rap, accompanied by a voice.
“Millstead Police, open up,” a voice commanded. Marie walked to the door and stood quietly.
“Mrs. Grant, you need to open up now so we can talk to you,” another voice outside explained.
“Um, I can’t,” Marie replied with a shaking voice.
“You can’t?” the first voice asked.
“The door has key locks on both sides,” she explained, “And only my husband has the keys.”
“Am I to understand that you are unable to enter or leave your house when your husband isn’t home ma’m,” the second voice asked with concern.
“Yes sir,” Marie responded. She heard the two officers discussing something outside, but she couldn’t make out the words.
“Ma’m,” came one of the voices suddenly, “We really need to talk to you face to face and your mother is concerned and would really like to see you. Could you open this window for us so we can come inside?”
“Lenny doesn’t want me to uncover the windows. And I’m not supposed to let men in the house,” Marie explained. The officers began to talk quietly again.
“Well, I’m sure he’ll understand if you uncover just this one window to talk to police officers,” one of the voices said, “You can even come out here. I’m sure that would be alright.”
“I guess,” Marie agreed hesitantly, knowing Lenny would probably still be mad if he found out, but figuring she could tuck the paper back like usual. Marie pulled aside the paper and pulled the window open just enough to fit through. She climbed onto the porch and the officers noticed her many bruises and a fading black eye as she shivered in the cold air in only a tank top and jeans.
“Ma’m, I think I know what’s going on here,” the older of the two officers said sadly, as he placed his jacket around her shivering shoulders, “You don’t have to put up with this anymore. We’ll take care of it for you. Let’s go over to your mother’s now and we’ll talk this out.”
Marie’s eyes filled with tears and she nodded as she followed the officers to their car. She was tired of being pushed around and tired of not being good enough and tired of being locked inside and not seeing her family.
When they arrived at her mother’s house, Marie’s mother cried and hugged her, her worst fears now confirmed.
“Marie I love you and I’m so glad you’re home!” she sobbed as she held her daughter close.
Marie wiped a tear from her cheek and shivered in the frosty air. The snow started falling, and she smiled. It might be cold, but at least she was finally free to enjoy it.
Word Count: 1899
The rules for the contest include a word limit of 2000 and I must end with "The snow started falling, and she smiled. It might be cold, but at least she was finally free to enjoy it."