Her suitcase sat gaping open while Maryann stood, between the bed and the closet, staring at it. Over and over in her mind played the words, “I will do this, I can do this,” along with the last conversation she’d had with her mother when she had promised to do something about the situation.
But she loved Tom; during eighteen years of marriage they’d built a life: raised a child, even survived cancer. She understood him and his temper; he had had a hard childhood with a mother who also had a temper and a strap, and a father who escaped when Tom was two. Plus, he had been trying. In the last month he had only hit her once. Well, twice. Her mother, who was both her best friend and worst critic, said it wasn’t only the hitting but the way he spoke to her, too. But Maryann, who was so used to being criticized, often believed she deserved his wrath as she was no prize either.
Two nights before was typical; she was washing the dinner dishes when Tom came in, yelling and carrying on, blaming his indigestion on her. Then, in bed, it was like nothing happened.
“Hey, babe, come here.”
The feel of his fingers on her shoulder was like a tarantula, filling her with dread and revulsion.
“Please, Tom, I was just about asleep. Not now, okay, honey?”
But he was already on top of her, pushing up her nightgown, spreading her legs. Nineteen seconds later he rolled off and was snoring.
Maryann’s thoughts stopped her from sleeping. She went into the den and turned to the Hallmark channel. In Angela’s Garden a gentle, shy woman like herself lives for the flower garden she’s rescued. When vandals try to destroy it, Angela finds assertiveness within herself she never knew she had. Totally identifying, Maryann cried at the end when Angela stepped up to others and saved her garden a second time.
Back in bed, Maryann listened to the gurgling and passing wind of Tom’s pre-bed snack being digested. Smiling in the dark, she turned to the stirring within herself of something different; a presence of something that wasn’t there before. It was the sense that she had had enough.
Snapping out of her thinking-trance, Maryann began to pack and soon had an almost full suitcase. Going to the bathroom, however, she discovered that, of all the inopportune times, her period had started, and when she searched for a pad, there was only one. She grabbed her purse and jacket and jumped in the car. New-car scent enhanced an otherwise rote drive to the mall. In Walgreens she purchased the pads, blushing like a teenager when the male cashier’s eyes met hers.
In the car, she put on the wipers, then looked both ways behind her before starting to back out of the parking space. The boom! of two cars colliding came with a sickening jolt; this was one of the things she dreaded most. Her first thought, Oh no, Tom is going to kill me… Our new car… was followed by Wait a minute, this was not my fault.
Shaking, Maryann got out of her car, oblivious to the rain. About to call 911, she stopped when a woman got out of the other car.
“You don’t need to call the cops. Put that away,” the woman said.
“You came flying out of that spot,” Maryann said. “Give me your name and insurance.” So many times Tom had instructed her what to do in the event of an accident that the words just fell out of her.
“You came flying out of your spot.” The woman looked at the bumper of her Mercedes. “My car has a scratch but I’m willing to let it go. It’s raining and I’m in a hurry, okay? Look, there’s nothing on your car.”
They glanced at the clean, smooth bumper of Maryann’s small Hyundai. “My husband will see something. He’s a bodyshop owner, and he’ll see something. Please, just give me your information,” Maryann pleaded.
“Sorry, this is ridiculous. I’m going.”
“Well, I’m writing down your plate number.”
“You’re leaving the scene of a crime.”
“Yeah, right.” The woman laughed.
The Mercedes drove off. Still trembling, Maryann got into her car, continued backing out and drove home. In the rain-free privacy of her garage, Maryann looked more closely at the bumper. The car was only two months old and should be perfect. Tom would go berserk if he saw anything on it.
But the woman was right. There wasn’t a scratch. She didn’t even have to tell Tom about it, but she wanted to. He would have been proud of the way she handled herself, doing everything the way he had taught her. She had stood her ground with the woman who wouldn’t cooperate. She couldn’t wait to tell him.
But she was leaving. What bad timing… How could she leave now? Back in the bedroom, she again stood and stared at the suitcase. What if the other woman filed a claim; after all, there was damage on her car. Maybe it made more sense to go tomorrow.
As she pictured Tom discovering that she’d gone, her resolve disintegrated further. Poor Tom had had more than his share of sorrow; she loved him and wanted to make things better for him. Could she really be so selfish as to leave at a time like this? What was one more night?
Relieved at having made a decision, Maryann unpacked and put her things back in their places, thinking, maybe she would file an insurance claim, just because she could. Yes, she would. Smiling, she put the bag from Walgreens in the bathroom. Rather than drag the suitcase back down to the basement, she put it in her closet. Then, she picked up the phone and called her husband.
“Hi, Tom? You’ll never believe what happened….”
Denise Beck-Clark is a retired psychotherapist, now without the time excuse for not writing. So she is a full time writer, Raphael’s mother, and not frequent enough traveler. She lives in metro New York.