I would have known. Of course, I would. The bruises, black eyes, and lacerations would be easy to spot. I’d seen physical abuse on television. These things were not happening to me.
We live in a nice neighbourhood. There’s no violence here. No abuse of any kind.
I married when I was twenty-five years old. My husband, Justin, was intelligent, charismatic, and successful. He had an amazing sense of humour. That’s what I loved the most about him. He knew how to make me laugh. We had fun together. He took me to movies and fancy restaurants. We purchased a lovely home near our family and friends. Within a few years, we welcomed our beautiful little boy into the world. Life was perfect.
After our son was born, Justin demanded I stop working.
“It’s a woman’s responsibility to take care of the children,” he insisted.
But was it best for me? I wondered. I loved my job, but I decided I had no choice but to quit. Months later, it became apparent that Justin’s respect for me had diminished. He wasn’t interested in having conversations with me. Was it because I wasn’t working at a real job? I wasn’t sure.
He didn’t like it when I went out with my sisters or friends.
“They’re a bad influence on you,” he asserted.
I didn’t believe him, but it was best for me to stay home. My husband was happy. I was isolated and lonely.
Justin was very good at managing our money. I didn’t have to worry about our finances. The only problem was that I couldn’t buy myself anything without his permission, which I didn’t always get. I was frustrated. I was trapped.
For our fifth wedding anniversary, Justin surprised me with an expensive trip to Europe. While we were there, he spoiled me. He must really love me, I thought. I wasn’t sure. He was always on his phone.
“Work, you know,” he said. “I’m indispensable.”
I needed to remember not to express my opinion because I didn’t like it when he was in a bad mood. Justin gave me the silent treatment when I disagreed with him or misbehaved. I didn’t want to make him angry. I wanted our son to grow up in a happy home.
Justin called me every afternoon at one o’clock. It was thoughtful of him to take time out of his busy day to call me.
“Who did you talk to today?” he quizzed.
“Nobody,” I said nonchalantly.
Did he really care about me, or was he suspicious of what I was doing? I wasn’t sure.
When our son was old enough to play hockey, Justin volunteered to coach the team. He was such a considerate father. Always friendly with the parents, and the kids loved him. Of course, Justin was always in a good mood at hockey events. I wasn’t used to seeing this side of my husband anymore.
In high school, our son was busy with friends, school and sports. I had more free time and wanted to help with the family finances.
“Who’s gonna hire you?” Justin said. “You’ve been out of the job market for too long.”
Was he right? I had a university degree, but maybe I was too old for the job market. I stopped looking for work.
I decided to take a yoga class. I did the research and found the perfect beginners’ yoga course.
“Guess what, Justin?” I said excitedly.
“What,” replied Justin sounding bored.
“I’m going to take a yoga class,” I said smiling.
He wasn’t happy. In fact, he was angry.
“What day? What time?” He questioned me aggressively. “What will I do for dinner?”
It was just a yoga class on Monday night. Why did this bother him so much?
Almost everything I did annoyed my husband. I couldn’t do anything right. He called me names for insignificant incidents.
“You are such an asshole,” he snickered, when I dropped a box of cookies.
It’s just a word. I didn’t know how to take it.
“I don’t like it when you call me names,” I murmured.
“I’m only joking around. You don’t know how to take a joke,” he teased.
I looked at him for a few seconds. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I turned and walked down the hall to the bedroom and got into bed. I was so tired.
Every morning, I stood naked in front of my bathroom mirror, wondering why I was so unhappy. I couldn’t see any bruises or black eyes. I had no broken bones or lacerations. My wounds were all hidden. The scars, too. Justin was nice to everyone. Everyone except me.
I wish I had known.
We lived in a nice neighbourhood. Domestic abuse didn’t happen. To me.
Heather McGuire earned a Master of Arts degree at Concordia University. Her short story “Wine with Dinner” will appear in Canadian Stories about Wine and Other Brews (2023). She is the author of the forthcoming memoir Living as a Ghost in My Marriage (2024).