I Believe In

Entry by: Olivia

1st April 2016
I believe in ……

She felt the fear in the place she always felt it. Deep in the pit of her stomach. It felt familiar; she was so used to it. She took a biscuit from the tin, Café Noir, one of her favourites. He walked in, dropped his bag and picked up the newspaper. She took his dinner from the oven and took it over to the work surface. Cutlery on the table? Check. Napkin to right? Check. Cold water in glass on coaster, salt and pepper out (and full). Table mat clean and right way up? She ran through it all. Nothing wrong there. Plate warm, meal cooked, food hot; all should be well. She dished the food out and took it through to him. Placing it carefully in front of him she kept her eyes downwards and backed out of the room.
She had two more Café Noir, closed the kitchen door and started the washing up. She knew she could get most of it done in the allotted 15 minutes and then serve his dessert. She cleared up systematically just like he had shown her, keeping an eye on the clock in the kitchen. 6.30pm serve dessert. Check. She took it in and removed his first course plate. So far so good. She should be through by the time he had eaten that; just the coffee to go. 6.45, coffee served. Check. Dessert plate cleared; looking like a winner. Taking off her apron she sat at the breakfast counter, skimming through a magazine, eating the left overs of the dessert.
She was startled when he came into the kitchen, he rarely came in unless it was inspection day, especially not if the meal had all been eaten. She looked up but hurriedly cast her eyes down again. One look was enough.
‘Upstairs’ he barked, although if she were ever able to comment he would always deny barking, claiming that ‘she heard things wrong’. She got slowly up, bracing herself for what she knew lay ahead.
She had tried, she had tried so hard to please him. She had tried to understand him, she had tried to reason with him. Exhausted, she had given up. Acquiescence was easiest, quietest, least likely to cause terrible upset.
Upstairs she endured the unspoken horrors, the degradations and the humiliation. 7.30 start,9.30 finish. Always. She knew she would be left alone ‘to sort herself out’ and took her allocated time of 15 minutes to bath. Stiffly, with the usual sore discomfort, she climbed into bed and willed herself to be asleep before he got in at 10.00.
She watched the scenes run and repeat, as if they were happening to someone else. The silences, the sulking when ‘all didn’t go according to plan’, the sneers and the disdain. She felt the disappointment of a relationship gone sour. She felt the horror of his ‘normal’ so far removed from hers. His need to control was unfathomable and boundariless. What had started as fun had turned out to be deadly serious and non negotiable. Every morning she looked at her face, mask-like it hid the anguish. She looked at her body, bloated with bad food, with far too much food. She considered her bank account, her ‘pin money’.
She believed in retribution and just leaving him wouldn’t be enough. He would simply deny his cruelty and she wouldn’t get much. It was a ‘short marriage’ – God only knows what a long marriage would have done to her.
Getting the cameras installed so that they couldn’t be seen took all her savings, but she considered it an investment.
She spilt a little gravy as she served up. For that she got one bad point. The next day the dessert was five minutes late. 2 points for that. It was all he said, ‘two points down’ and she chalked them on the board. ‘The reckoning’ as he called it, took place on Fridays. She only every got bad points, there were no good ones. No chance of redemption, he didn’t believe in that. Anyway, the punishment apparently fitted the crime and the upstairs session took full account of her misdemeanours.
Reviewing the footage on Monday she was very clear. Her body hurt but her mind was sharp and working well. She had booked the appointments, she knew she would need them.
She would never know what had surprised him most; the lack of dinner on the table, the police arriving or the video evidence of his abuse. Probably the fact that she had not done what she had been told to do had sent him over the edge. He had always told her that if she got it wrong she would be punished. She believed in equality, so it was only fair that he got what was due to him, surely?