She opened her eyes and frantically grabbed at the nothingness around her. Breathing heavily, she searched the room in an attempt to locate what had awoken her. The clock sat on the nightstand, quietly humming, telling her that is was nearly three in the morning. Mocking her, letting her know just how much sleep she would be losing laying here for the rest of the night, to frightened to go back to sleep. Turning her head slightly, she looked at the man sleeping beside her. His hand was still under his pillow clutched around the gun he always slept with. She continued to stare at him, daring him to move, praying he wouldn't. She watched for any sign that he was awake and testing her, waiting for her to move. Seeing nothing, she took a deep cautious breath, and inched her foot closer to the edge of the bed. It took her a full five minutes to fully extract herself from the suffocating sheets, and another five to make sure her eyes had fully adjusted to the dark so she didn't trip over anything.
She looked back on her husband, staring to make sure he still hadn't moved. Nights were the worst for her, laying in fear next to him all night, barely sleeping; too afraid to even dream. She talked in her sleep and tended to twitch, which disturbed him and made him angry. He accused her too often of saying names of other men in her sleep, giving him excuses to hurt her. He warned her nightly not to leave him, reminding her of the gun under his pillow, always waiting. He liked to make her watch him load it and then unload it. He would take all the bullets out, and pull the trigger, watching her jump with every empty hollow click. After he had his fun with that, he would make her load it back up again, just to remind her that it was always ready.
Some nights, when things got worse, she would lock herself in the bathroom, and sleep on the floor. Luckily the carpeting extended into the bathroom, so she didn't have to sleep on cold tile. He would bang on the door for hours, screaming at her to come out. Crying, telling her he was sorry, begging her to forgive him. Somehow she always forgave him, and yet she didn't always come out until he had gone to sleep. Those nights were easiest to sleep, he always slept hard after a fight like that. Then he would wake up, pull her into his arms, and kiss her forehead. Whispering how sorry he was, he would shift his weight over her, crushing her beneath him and expect her to make love to him, and at least for his pleasure, pretend to enjoy it. She would then be granted the joy of having an empty home for the next twelve hours, while he went out and earned a living. She would wake as late as possible, clean the kitchen, and then sit and watch TV. Sometimes she would break up the monotony by taking a very long bath, often refilling the water that would chill several times.
There were many nights she would sit in that tub of cold water, waiting for the courage to come. He would visit sometimes, usually when they were fighting, the time when she needed it the least. She didn't consider it bravery or courage, when she fought back, only stupidity. Though, many would tell her later that was what she had been, brave and courageous. But courage never came when she wanted him to.
Like tonight, standing in the bathroom in her robe, the razor pressed tight against her wrist. Begging for the courage to pull it hard against her veins, to feel the warmth escape her body. Closing her eyes she begged, she begged that anyone or anything listening would help her end it all. Take away his toy, his game, don't let him play. Then she begged for courage, begged him to be there when she wanted to kill him. Just grab that big knife in the kitchen, and swing when he came through door every night. Hide it under the bed, and hack him to pieces in his sleep, his hand on that gun that would do nothing on the day courage came. But he never came then either, never could she do it. She would see the flash of his headlights on the wall as he pulled in the driveway. The kitchen drawer would open, and she would stand there and stare at the shining, glimmering steal, mocking her, making fun of the courage she didn't have. He would walk in the door, and sit at the table, ready to eat the meal she had prepared, ready to accuse her of everything she never did, but sworn he knew had happened. Ready to have his fun, playing his games with her mind and her body.
Why she never begged for the courage to walk out the door she didn't know. She thought about it often, but the journey seemed too far, too hard. How anything could be harder than what she lived everyday, no one ever understood, not even her. But he had made sure she was stranded, far from family and friends with no money and no car. She was too afraid to walk home, the journey would take more than a day, and the only road she knew to go, was the same road he drove to get home. Terror of what would happen if he found her, was enough to keep her "safe" at home everyday.
Finally exhausted enough to hopefully sleep, she quietly made her way back to bed. She never did discover what caused her to wake, it was more than likely nothing other than a fear of waking him. Ever so carefully, she maneuvered under the covers just in time for him to roll and drape his arm across her hip, trapping her next to him for the rest of the night.