She had the presence of mind to roll over in time to protect her stomach and the baby within, but her actions provided an opportunity for him to kick her with his new six-hundred-dollar western style boots. When he tired of hurting her, he grabbed a beer, sat down and watched a baseball game on television while she writhed in pain on the floor.
Sober the next day, Tim saw the damage he had done to his beautiful wife and he sobbed like a child who just saw his favorite dog get run over by a Mack truck.
Julie believed him when he swore it would never happen again and she forgave him because she needed to believe in him. It happened again, of course, and before long a pattern of abuse developed, one that lasted throughout their marriage.
You might ask how and why Julie allowed the battering of her size-six body to continue for all those years. You might even question why any sane person would choose to remain someone's punching bag day after day.
Julie's inner voice, her mangled self-image, successfully convinced her that she deserved to be punished. Tim had no trouble persuading her that she was lucky to be married to him and if he was unable to control his anger, it was not his fault, it was hers. She stayed with him because on some level, she believed his irrational lies.
Perhaps the other reason she remained married to him was because Julie had a need to fix broken things, and that included relationships. Her dream of a happily ever after never wavered even when her own body was broken and bleeding.
I am livid today. I wish I could hire an oversized thug to beat Tim to a bloody pulp so that he could experience a taste of what his size-six wife endured for too long. In addition, I feel enormous anger at myself. Why had I not moved heaven and earth in order to spirit my friend away from that monster?
Just after her first beating, she came to me with a black eye, swollen nose and cracked ribs. She was brokenhearted. Not knowing what else to do, I sympathized. I put my arms around her and cradled her, soothed her as best I could. Why did I not try to talk some sense into her? Why had I not given her a safe harbor in my own home?
There were other times when I sensed that she was being abused but, afraid of overstepping the boundaries of friendship, I kept quiet. I wish I had a nickel for every time I told myself that it was none of my business and that the best thing I could do for Julie was pray for her. I didn't know how to determine the delicate but defining point when it becomes acceptable, even crucial, to cross the line. I made myself believe that sooner or later she would turn to me for help and I would be there for her.
Julie and I met when we were much younger and we spent years of mutual moments in each other's lives. Girl stuff; wife stuff and mother stuff. We exchanged recipes, saw "Beaches" together twice and cried together both times. We even created short stories together, exploring different philosophies as we wrote. We shared hairdressers, housekeepers and hundreds of snapshots. I have lost count, if I ever knew, of the hours we spent discussing the ups and downs and kid-sized problems relative to our children.
Before either of us realized it, our conversations took a turn; our grandkids, not our children, became the center of our exchanges. Lord, how we laughed at the antics of those little ones. Julie was my constant friend for all those years, and I was hers.
Today, every aspect of me is numb. I walk from one room to the other not knowing how or why I got there. Tears spring from my eyes with no preamble. I wear black, not because it is my best color, but because it is the definitive color of death.
How I wish I could go back and do things differently. If I had only given credence to my intuition, Julie and I could be sitting at my kitchen table right now drinking coffee, laughing at a joke or engaged in a lively discussion over a NYT Best Seller.
If only I had reached out instead of waiting for her to come to me, things might have ended differently. Tim might not have beaten my friend unconscious. He might not have dragged her inert body to the sink or held her head under dirty dishwater until her soul left this world forever.
Battered and bruised was not what Julie wanted to be when she grew up.
~ Cappy Hall Rearick