by Hannah Melton

            Two years, seven months, sixteen days. Mia opened her eyes to a new day…the day. “Day seventeen,” she thought to herself as she got out of bed and walked towards the bathroom. She winced at the pain coming from her rib cage as she walked. Upon reaching the bathroom she gently slipped off her silk nightgown to see the damage from last night’s “punishment.” Just as she suspected, a huge purple and black bruise decorated the left side of her ribcage. She glanced at the other bruises that adorned her body; some were very fresh, resembling the bruise at her side. The others were older, having turned an ugly muddy yellow color.
Mia shook her head in disgust. “Too long,” she said out loud, turning towards the shower. Angry tears threatened to fall from her eyes, but she wouldn’t allow it. She promised herself that she wouldn’t cry again over the hell that was her life. Besides, crying didn’t do anything anyway. “Shawn wasn’t always the monster he is now…”
Shut Up!” Mia’s brain shouted. “Stop making excuses for him, Mia!
Mia nodded, agreeing with herself and finished showering. She didn’t have a lot of time to       waste.
It is true that Shawn wasn’t always the way he is today. When they met at a dance, Shawn swept her off her feet. He was tall with broad shoulders, thick blond hair, and powder-blue eyes. Mia was thrilled when he showed interest in her. When she lost her parents at the age of nineteen, she felt like her whole world had crumbled. Although she had a lot of love and support from her friends, Shawn’s attention towards her was a new awakening. They had a lot in common; they both were the only child and came from good families. The only difference was that Shawn had come from a wealthy background, while Mia came from a modest background. But money wasn’t important to Mia; she was just happy that she had met someone with whom she felt like she had a connection for the first time in three years. On top of that, Shawn treated her like a duchess. Her every wish was met, even when she insisted she could fend for herself. Shawn wouldn’t hear of it.
“I don’t want you to need anything or anyone else but me,” that is what Shawn would say. Never thinking anything of it, she allowed him to take over. He was also seven years older than she was, which is what she wanted in a man. Someone who was mature and steady in his life. Shawn was not only smart—he was fluent in eight languages because of his job—but he was also funny and charismatic. All Mia could think about was how lucky she was to have found such a wonderful man. When they married, Shawn’s vows spoke of happiness, love, family, and no regrets in her future. Oh, how Mia swallowed every bit of his soon to be lies.
Mia finished in the bathroom. Her bottom lip started to tremble when she thought about the family Shawn promised her.
Two miscarriages! Her brain shouted. Mia shook the thought away. She couldn’t think about that now, even though it was never far from her mind. Mia reached under the king-sized bed and pulled out the duffle bag she had slowly been packing for the past few months. It had to be done carefully and secretly; she had to make sure that she didn’t pack anything that Shawn would notice missing, such as clothing, pictures of her parents, and especially her favorite literature books. She hated the idea of leaving them behind.
Mia knew that by running away, she was putting her life in danger. Shawn had threatened that if she ever tried to leave him, he would “hunt her down.” However it didn’t matter to Mia anymore: she was tired of making excuses for Shawn. She wanted a happy life, full of love and family. The last time she miscarried because of Shawn’s beatings, she knew that she could never have that life or anything close to it while married to him. Mia wrapped her long red hair in a ponytail before heading downstairs. She took one more look at the bedroom, knowing she would never step foot in it again.
If a person walked into Mia’s house, they would think that she was living like a true queen. Shawn surprised her with the three story mansion a few months after they married. The house was decorated with every luxury one could hope for. Modern kitchen appliances, soft leather couches in the living room, fresh carpet all through the house. It was a dream house, but Mia didn’t see any of that; all she saw was a nightmare. Especially in the living room, where her nightmare started.
Almost six months into their marriage things started to change. When Shawn made partner at the advertising firm, he started to work late. It didn’t bother Mia until he would call and say that he and few of his clients were going out for a few drinks. She thought it was unusual but figured it was just business. Mia was sitting in the living room when she heard Shawn stumble into the house four hours later than when he said he would be home.
“Why are you home so late?” Mia inquired when Shawn crossed into the living room. She could smell the bitter, almost rancid smell of the bar coming off of him.
“Clients know how to party baby,” Shawn slurred pulling her off the couch. He planted a sloppy drunken kiss on her lips. The smell coming off of him was so strong that she felt like she was suffocating. Mia pulled away slightly.
“Well, I was getting worried. You are home rather late,” Mia said trying to put some more distance between her and the awful smell, but Shawn held her really tightly. Too tightly.
“Let me make it up to you then,” he said, trying to kiss Mia again, but Mia couldn’t stand the cigarette and booze scent that was coming off of him anymore. She gently pushed him away shaking her head. That was a mistake.
“Are you denying me?” he barked, shoving her away. His face became indescribable. Mia felt terrified, not knowing what to say.
No Shawn, I was only shaking my head because…” but before she could continue, Shawn viciously slapped her across the face. The force was so hard that she fell face first onto the couch. Mia was so stunned that she couldn’t get up. That just made it worse. Shawn grabbed her hair and pulled her head back really hard. She cried out a little.
“You think it’s easy to be with a fat pig like you?! DO YOU?! At least I pretend to enjoy it!” He let go of Mia’s hair and stumbled out of the room. If it wasn’t for the shock Mia would’ve been crying. After about twenty minutes she finally got up and went to the bedroom. She peeked inside and saw Shawn passed out on top of the bed. She shook her head and went and slept in the guest room.
The next morning, when Mia was in the kitchen making coffee, she heard Shawn hobble into the kitchen groaning, holding his head, obviously suffering from a much-deserved hangover. He looked over at her with regret in his eyes.
“Baby, I am so sorry about last night. I have no idea what got into me.”
“About a quart of vodka,” Mia said under her breath. She couldn’t look at him.
“Mia, I’m trying to apologize, look at me when I’m talking to you!” Shawn said, slamming his hand on the counter. Mia’s body tensed when she heard the slam but slowly turned to look at him. Shawn reached over and gently pulled Mia to him. He took his other hand and placed it were he had smacked, making her wince. “Honey, I’m sorry I hurt you, I was drunk and out of my mind. Will you forgive me?” Mia didn’t want to forgive him, she wanted to yell at him for how viciously he treated her, but the grip he had on her hand was tight and uncomfortable and his eyes were turning back into the dark, menacing eyes they were last night. His look and grip were enough to tell Mia that she had no choice but to forgive and forget the incident all together.
Reluctantly, Mia nodded her head and smiled just slightly. “Of course I forgive you. It wasn’t your fault.” Shawn smiled down at her.
“It won’t happen again. I promise.” Again Mia bought his lies.
It had been like that ever since. Shawn would go out usually with clients, get drunk, come home and beat Mia for whatever reason he would think of, then the next day he would make hollow apologies, either blaming the alcohol or her. Soon it was always “her fault.” Every time Mia forgave him, she convinced herself that this would be the last time he would put his hands on her violently, but the drinking got worse and the violence escalated. For a while Mia was sure it was alcohol that made him abusive, but soon came to see that it was just fuel for the monster Shawn already was. She should’ve seen it when they were dating. “Love is the worst kind of blindness,” Mia thought to herself.
Mia was blind before they married. When they were engaged, Shawn became verbally abusive, but it was mild, almost disguised as teasing. Despite her being in terrific shape, Shawn would mention her weight constantly and how it would be a good idea that she “drop a few pounds for the honeymoon.” Or he would comment on how stupid she was, despite the fact that when they met she was a senior in college, about to receive her bachelor’s in English with high honors. Again Mia excused his mockery because she thought it was just harsh teasing. “Men are like that sometimes,” she would say when her friends would comment on how rude he was to her. Mia soon lost contact with her friends. They just couldn’t stand Mia’s excuses for Shawn anymore.
Mia was positive that when she got pregnant the beatings, or “punishments,” which Shawn had started calling them to justify his actions, would stop, or at least not happen as frequently. But Shawn didn’t care about the baby. He admitted to Mia the day after she lost her first child that he didn’t want to be a father. He just wanted to be with her and nobody else. It nearly destroyed Mia. But then she thought that maybe it was because they had been married for only a short time and it was too soon. The second time she got pregnant, which happened shortly before their second anniversary, she kept it quiet; she was trying to find the perfect way to tell him, but Shawn found out before she had the chance and she paid for it dearly.
You conniving little slut! I said I don’t want any goddamn kids!” he screamed as he kicked her in the stomach with his boot. Shawn wouldn’t let her explain that she didn’t intend to get pregnant, but to him, she got pregnant on purpose to spite him. Mia spent two days in the hospital following the beating. When the physician asked if this was caused by any domestic violence, she desperately wanted to say yes, but was too frightened of what Shawn would do if she blabbed, so she lied and said she was clumsy and fell down the stairs while wearing heels.
Mia dropped her duffle bag by the front door and went to the kitchen. She wasn’t surprised to see a huge bouquet of red roses sitting on the kitchen table in the vase that she reserved for “apology roses.” Beside the vase was a note that said “To My Mia.” She absently grabbed it and opened it. She practically had the words that were written on the small card memorized.
I’m sorry that I lost my temper last night. Sometimes I just get frustrated with you. How about tonight we have a romantic dinner, just the two of us? Wear that new red dress I bought you. I will bring home wine. See you tonight, babe.
“No you won’t,” Mia grumbled, crumpling the note and tossing it into the wastebasket. She went over to a small jar that sat on the counter and reached in. She pulled out a wad of bills she had been saving ever since she decided to escape. She couldn’t use any cards because they were all in Shawn’s name. He’d convinced Mia to close her own accounts and quit her job, saying it’s the “husband’s job to provide for his wife.” He then refused to put her on his accounts, stating that she didn’t need to be on them and instead he would give her a weekly allowance.
Mia looked at her watch – it was almost 9:30 a.m. and the cab was going to be there any minute. Her heart started beating so hard in her chest that it almost hurt; the moment she’d thought about was almost here. She went and sat by the door to wait for the cab. While waiting, Mia couldn’t help but think about her children that she lost. She allowed some tears to fall in memory of them. All Mia really wanted was a family. That was her biggest excuse for staying so long and she hated herself for making it. Her hands started to tremble violently when she thought about the beatings that had cost her children’s lives. Mia had come to the realization not too long ago that it wasn’t just Shawn’s fault. She was just as guilty as he was for the deaths of her children.
I wouldn’t have lost you if I had just left,” she said aloud. “God, if I hadn’t been so stupid to think that Shawn would eventually change…” Mia stopped and rested her head against the wall in frustration. People don’t change, Mia, she thought to herself. The mistake we all make is thinking that someone will change for us, when deep down they will always be who they are. Mia got up and looked out the window to see if the cab had arrived yet. When she pulled back the curtains, the sunlight poured in, reflecting on a silver frame. Mia looked over to see that the frame held her wedding photo. She walked over and looked at the picture. Her stomach churned and knotted when she saw Shawn smiling at her. She couldn’t see it at the time but she could now see the lying monster hiding behind those blue eyes. It’s been nothing but lies since the beginning, Mia thought.
A loud honking brought Mia out of her thoughts. She looked out the window to see the taxi pulling up the long driveway. She quickly grabbed her bag and opened the door. The rush of the Arizona heat hit her face as she stepped outside to meet the driver. She locked the door and dropped the keys in the flower bed as she walked over to the cab. Quickly, she got inside with her bag draped around her shoulder.
Where to?” the elderly man asked, pulling the car out of the driveway.
Mia hesitated just a second before answering. Was she willing to risk death to get away from this man? Should she try to work it out?
NO!!! her mind screamed. She had tried to make it work for far too long. Shawn wasn’t in love with her. She was his possession and that’s all she ever was to him. Mia knew that she wasn’t all innocent in this. She had plenty of warning not to marry Shawn but she ignored it all. And as a result, she lost her friends, her children, and nearly her life. It was time to start anew!
Miss? Where did you want me to take you?” the driver asked kindly.
Train station,” Mia said authoritatively, coming out of her thoughts. She breathed in deeply and smiled as they drove away from the house. About half way to the station, Mia looked down at her left hand. She noticed that she was still wearing her wedding ring. The diamond and pearl ring glistened in the sunlight. She remembered what Shawn had asked her when he presented the ring to her.
Will you be mine forever? No matter what?” he asked as he dropped down on one knee. She remembered how happy she felt when he slipped the ring onto her finger. But that couldn’t compare to the joy going through Mia when she pulled the ring off her finger. She rolled down her window and looked at the ring again.

No! Goodbye, Shawn!” She smiled and tossed the ring out the window, letting it disappear in the hot desert sand.