He always made her feel special. Treasured. And this was new.
To the rest of the world, she was average. Yet through his eyes, she became the possessor of some mysterious power that led him to drive five hours, just to be with her.
She relished this. The attention. Being the recipient of love-sick, adoring glances. Suddenly, her studied cynicism didn’t matter so much. She tucked the knowledge of their inside jokes in her pocket, with a secret smile – it was for them, for them alone.
He said she bruised too easily. ‘You’re so fragile,’ he would laugh, after leaving yet another bruise on her neck. And she’d laugh too, delighting at the word. It made her think of crystal glass- sparkling, clean, delicate. She, who clumped her way through ballet class, fragile!
Still she wondered, too, if this was really right, or perhaps… but the ghost of this thought escaped before it was formed. On humid Sunday evenings she would look at herself in the bathroom mirror, observe the purple-blue bruise on her pelvis. It wasn’t too noticeable, but was tender to the touch.
He had battering ram hands.
He would always stop, though, when she expressed discomfort. Sometimes she would push his hand away, or say ‘That hurts.’ Feeling embarrassed the whole time – wasn’t this just the perfect way to set the mood? Obediently, he would stop, but then five minutes later…
That’s what she told herself. He had this aura of experience, of street-smarts. In comparison, she was indeed, a flower, wilting slightly behind a thick panel of glass. Of course there were bruises – she wasn’t experienced enough, knowing enough. She wished she could absorb this knowledge through osmosis.
She would brace herself for his hands. Sometimes, afterwards, she would take stock. The inventory: a number of purple-blue-red bruises, tender. In a few days, the soreness would disappear, to be replaced at the first possible opportunity.
She wore the few visible signs with pride, because now she belonged to the secret club, the club of the Beloved. Now, she had someone to smile knowingly at, someone to toss flippant jokes at, someone to share with. This was new. Suddenly, she was special.
She thought this must be love. This was love.
But still, she braced herself. She took inventory on humid Sunday evenings.
Then came the day when he didn’t take no for an answer. The day she pushed him away more than the standard two times.
That Sunday, her neck was slick with blood, the scab forming under her questing fingertips. As always, she took inventory: A daisy chain of teeth-marks, on both sides of her neck.
She wears them still.
There was the deep, horrible knowledge that this was what he wanted. Then the inevitable resignation, the grit your teeth and bear it, it will be over soon.
She swished her long hair over her shoulders. Thank god she could hide it. Thank God she always wore her hair down, so no one would notice.
Then, on cue, the internal smile. So, that was a weird thing we tried. The memory of her struggling is already fading, replaced with a sweeter truth, one that will allow her to sit next to him at coffee shops, hand in hand, limply talking of this and that. One that will allow her to be elevated, admired as something other, something beautiful.