The first time they made love his intensity excited her. He took charge; he held her wrists. The furred pelt of his chest rubbed coarsely against her breasts. He was satisfied quickly, and rolled over. She told herself that soon they would explore her pleasure. The next morning he ordered her to make him breakfast. As she slipped out of bed, he slapped her hard on the bottom and told her she was fat. “No breakfast for you,” he pronounced. She didn’t reply. That morning, she only had coffee.
The first time he threw her across the room she was stunned. She tried to discern what her offense had been, because what he was telling her made no sense. He apologized, immediately . . . yet, somehow made his actions her fault: “You make me crazy, baby.”
The day he raked his nails across her face, she fabricated a story for co-workers about brambles while hiking. She learned to wear artful makeup, long sleeves in summer. No one said anything. Sometimes, they looked away.
He decided he didn’t like her working. He would be the sole provider. She quit. When friends called, she had to talk to them with him standing there, glaring at her. She made excuses for not going out with them; cut calls short. They stopped calling. He moved them out to the country, because, he said, it was quieter. S
She stopped leaving the house.
The man who delivered the firewood each month had kind eyes. One day, as she looked out the window, he smiled at her. She smiled back. Immediately, she felt other eyes clawing at the back of her head. That was the day he broke her arm. He refused to take her to the ER for two days. The pain was unbelievable. She pleaded. He did not relent. The third day, he took her, never leaving her side, telling the doctors how clumsy she was, how it was she who had refused to come, how he had talked her into it.
The spring day she fled into the woods, he followed, dressed only in his jeans, feet bare. She grabbed the ax the woodman had left embedded in a stump. Her shoes allowed her to outrun him. As she ran, she pulled her red hoodie over her ears. He loved her in red. He bought all her clothes.
The woodman, returned for his ax, found her in the forest. He, who had always been half in love with her, was perfectly willing to say that it was his hand that had left the furry body on the forest floor, chopped and chopped and chopped again. But she wouldn’t allow it. She was done with despair.
At her trial, she spoke boldly.
“I killed him.” She admitted it freely. “This is why.”
On the witness stand, she wore red.