“’Morning, Ms. Mary,” I smiled at the little old lady as I walked in the door of the bookshop the next day. I had woken up early just to come here.
This was like a rainbow to the storm that was last night.
“Good morning, deary!” she smiled that warm smile that I had grown to love over a summer of constantly coming in. On her small body she was wearing a green sweater with gold ruffles around the neck and sleeves and a reindeer on the front with red pants to match. In her ears were two bells that jingled every time she moved her head. Her short white hair was curled and pinned in the back with a small bow and her lips were a bright red.
“You look like you need a cup of tea and a Christmas cookie, am I right?” she asked, knowing me well enough to know there was something off about me today. “
You would definitely be right about that.” I walked over, flinching every step.
That morning, I woke on the floor. A faint memory of being shoved off the bed filled my head. I hadn’t fought back, by then I had realized fighting back just made him worse. Made him more forceful and ruthless. He wanted what he wanted and he got what he wanted. The fight was half the fun.
I had picked myself off the floor to see that my bed was left an absolute mess and he had not bothered to shut the window so my room was thirteen degrees. I looked down at myself and my eyes filled with tears at the bruises littered all over my body and the dried blood covering my thighs.
I gingerly stood up and shuffled to the window to tug it closed. As I walked over to my closet to retrieve some clothing, I passed the mirror.
I stood in front of it in sheer horror as I took in my appearance. There were violent bruises on my breasts, where his hands had forced themselves. Tear streaks stained my face, a red mark remained on my cheek from where he had slapped me the night before.
I had searched through my closet to find something to cover my marks. I found a high-collared button-up shirt and an oversized sweater for extra padding to anything I might bump into and a pair of leggings that would favor my bandages I gingerly put on my inner thighs.
“Here you are, sweetie, come have a seat and talk to Ms. Mary,” she put a plate down on the counter and patted the chair next to her.
I walked delicately over to her, trying desperately not to give anything away. I sat next to her, putting a homemade cookie into my mouth.
“How are you, dear. You don’t look…well,” she asked, laying her hand on my shoulder. In that very spot was where I had landed when Trey threw me to the ground after he was finished with me. I winced at her touch.
She pulled her hand up quickly, her eyes startled. “Are you all right, Della?”
I smiled weakly at her. “Oh yes. Don’t worry about me, Ms. Mary. I’m perfectly fine.”
She watched me for a moment. “You don’t need to hide anything from me, dear. You know you can trust me with anything.”
I smiled up at her, genuinely this time, thinking back to this summer when I had finally opened up to Ms. Mary about my anxiety problems. She had listened intently, sipping her tea every so often. In return, Ms. Mary had told me a part of her story.
It was a bright summer day and I had come in to a nearly deserted shop. She had invited me to sit next to her for a cup of tea. She had set her teacup down gently and folded her hands on the table.
She had looked up at me and smiled once. “You know, dear, I went through something terrible when I was just a titch older than you. I was nineteen. I believe you are seventeen, am I correct?” she asked as I nodded in answer. “Ah yes, a bit older than. Most girls my age were engaged, if not already married. I was falling behind, you see, and my family was determined to get me married off. There was a final dance for all the boys going off to World War II at the school and my mother made me go. I didn’t want to, I really wasn’t too interested in all those boys having one last night of fun before getting shipped over seas. But one couldn’t argue with Mother. She always got her way. So Mother gussied me up, made me all pretty for the soldiers, trying to marry me off. I arrived with a couple of my girlfriends, who all immediately found dance partners. I stayed next to the punch bowl, yes, I was that girl,” she laughed once. “I should have stayed at the punch bowl.”
I had began to toy with the ring on my finger, feeling the story starting to take a down-turn.
“He was loud. Walking over to me like he owned the world, could get any girl he wanted. I don’t know, dear, I guess I wanted to prove him wrong. I played hard to get, that’s for sure, but, in the end, he won out.” She ran her shaking fingers through her hair. “We married soon after that day, as soon as we could, so we could be married before he left.” She looked suddenly at me. “I wish I could tell you there was a happy ending to my story, but obviously that would be a lie, seeing as there is no ring on my pretty little finger here. You see, love, he was an angry man. An angry man with a lot of tension and he cause a lot of harm to me,” her voice began to shake. “And nobody believed me.”
Suddenly, with much force, she said in a stable voice, “That’s all.”
And that was the end of the conversation.
So now, sitting in front of Ms. Mary with the same problem she went through years and years before, I felt my hand starting to shake while grasping the teacup.
“Sweetheart?” Ms. Mary asked, laying her hand to settle the shaking. Before I could even begin to answer, the bells above the door began to jingle as David walked through, his face brightening as his eyes found me.
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