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John Wilson

Loren sat by the window clutching Cuddles, her old stuffed bear, as she stared out at the rain gently falling on the lawn. She shifted slightly to relieve some of the pressure on the bruise on the inside of her thigh. Loren's stomach ached. Without looking she knew that in the morning it would be one big bruise too.

Loren's reflection stared back at her from the rain-soaked window. She watched a single teardrop slide down her cheek, matching the track of a raindrop on the outside of the windowpane.

Loren looked over her shoulder at her husband of ten years, asleep on the bed behind her. He was snoring loudly like he always did when he passed out from drinking too much. She considered getting up and pulling the sheet over him. Not because she was at all concerned about whether he may be cold, but she just couldn't stand the sight of his nakedness staring back at her. Instead she just turned back toward the window and pulled Cuddles closer to her chest trying to wrap herself around the old tear-stained bear.

A new ache began to spread in her groin area and Loren's tears increased. She felt so violated. This had become a pattern. Jack would come home after a couple of drinks and sit in front of the television drinking more. It was just a matter of time until she did something wrong. Something as simple as stepping in front of the television at the wrong moment, or dinner being too hot or too cold. She wouldn't even know what her offence was until later. Jack always waited until the children were in bed asleep before saying anything about her infraction. Loren had learned to recognize that look in Jack's eyes. On these nights she stayed in the kid's room as long as she could before coming out to face whatever Jack was going to accuse her of tonight.

She knew that when she came out of the bedroom that sooner or later she would hear him slip up behind her and he would growl out that familiar line, "Just what was that all about a while ago?" Of course Loren wouldn't have a clue as to what Jack was mad about this time. Whatever she said to him would result in Jack accusing her of acting like she didn't know what he was talking about when she knew good and well what she had done. 

The beatings usually started the same, with Jack grabbing her hair and slamming her into the nearest wall. Then Jack would begin to hit her. He was always careful, no matter how drunk he seemed to be, he never hit her where the bruise would show. Occasionally she would have to wear long sleeves on a day too warm to do so, but the bruises weren't hard to hide and so any evidence of the beatings stayed buried deep within Loren.

The beatings always ended the same too. Jack would throw Loren on the bed and force her to have sex with him. Afterward Jack would pass out on the bed. After Loren was sure he was beyond waking up, she would slip out of the bedroom and go cry herself to sleep on the couch. But tonight, instead of running off to the couch, Loren sat in the chair by the window trying to figure out how she ever came to this. What had happened to the fairy-tale marriage of only ten years ago? How had the handsome, sweet guy with the cute tush that she had married turned into this monster? 

Loren looked over her shoulder again; the bare butt staring at her now was not at all cute to her. Now it was just disgusting.

Loren turned back to the window and stared at the raindrops running down the panes again as she remembered the way things were. Jack had just graduated from college when they got married. Loren had earned an associate's degree and planned to go back to college after a few years. Jack was so young and idealistic at the time. Both he and Loren knew that he would change the world just because he was Jack. 

For the first two years that idealistic attitude kept them going. They would take long walks together talking about the great plans that they had for themselves. Even though money was short at the time, they both were sure that it was just a matter of time until Jack would be making more money than either of them could conceive of at the time. But as time went by it became apparent that Jack just didn't have what it took to be a real success in business. Slowly frustration began to set in. 

Jack really didn't blame Loren for his failures, just took it out on her. At first it was just little things. When Jack would get angry about something that Loren had done that wasn't perfect, he would just glare at her and stomp out of the room. As time went by Jack began to raise his voice to her. It slowly evolved into insults and belittling her. 

Loren could remember the first time that Jack had actually hit her. It seemed to startle him as much as it had her. Jack was immediately apologetic, promising that it would never happen again and going out of his way to try to make it up to her. But still, Jack implied that it was Loren's fault. "Any man has a point when he just can't take any more and loses control of himself. If you hadn't pushed me past that point, it would have never happened."

Looking back now, Loren knew that she should have followed her instinct and walked out on him right then. But she loved Jack so much, and he promised that it would never happen again. But it did happen again, and again Jack was so contrite and apologetic that Loren forgave him again. The insults and hitting became more frequent. It seemed to coincide with Jack's growing frustration with his job. It hadn't happened quickly, it had just grown over the years. 

There were good times between the bad and every time Jack hit her it was because of something that she had done. It happened so slowly that Loren didn't even notice how bad it was getting. Now the past two years had become Loren's own private hell. She had learned to look closely at Jack when he came home from work each day. There was a certain look that he had that signified that something had gone wrong at work. 

Jack would sit in front of the television brooding about what had happened and drinking, never once did he try to share the day's problems with Loren. The few times that Loren tried to talk to Jack about what was really bothering him, he had only informed her in no uncertain terms that a woman with just an associates degree could never understand the real problems of business. So Jack would sit there mentally wrapped up in a tight little ball. Some time during the evening Loren would make some small mistake and all the anger and frustration would be transferred to her.

Loren tried to think back to when sex had become a part of the beatings and realized that it had always been a part of it. Even before Jack ever hit her the first time, when it was just shouted insults, sex was always a part of it. At first it was in the form of making up. Jack would always be so sorry and then would do something really romantic to make it up to her and Loren always forgave him and always ended up making love with him in the end. But as the abuse got more intense, the act of making up got more perfunctory. 

Now there was not even a pretence of trying to make up, it was nothing short of rape after a beating. Loren could not, for the life of herself, figure out how she had let things get this bad, but she knew that for it to get any worse would mean that he would kill her. Loren had now made up her mind that it was not going to get any worse.

She had thought of just taking the kids and leaving, but that seemed like the wrong thing to do. She had no place to go where he wouldn't find her. Loren was certain that if she did leave him that no one would believe her story. 

Everyone thought that Jack was a saint. He had let her know in no uncertain terms that if she tried to tell anyone, they would never believe her. Jack made sure that Loren didn't have any friends except the ones that he had already approved of. That way he knew that they were all fans of him, and would never believe anything bad of him. So Loren felt that she had no hope of ever getting away from him.

Loren hugged Cuddles even tighter, until she could feel the hardness of the pistol she held in her hand through him. Loren thought hard to remember the time that Jack had insisted that she learn how to shoot it. He had wanted her to know how the gun worked in case she should ever be home alone and someone broke into the house. Loren could remember Jack's exact words as he showed her how to hold the semi-automatic pistol, "All you have to do is point it at his chest and pull the trigger. Every time you pull the trigger, it will shoot until it is out of bullets." Jack had said something about the pistol being double-something and that's why all you had to do was just pull the trigger.

Loren let Cuddles slide from her lap as she stared at the gun. The thought kept running through her head, "This is the only way." Loren stood up and turned around. She looked down at him again. Jack was laying flat on his stomach, so she had no chest to point it at. 

Besides, she knew that she could never hurt him, no matter what he had done to her. Loren turned away from the bed and looked at herself in the dresser mirror. She couldn't believe the incredible sadness in her own eyes, the look of utter defeat as she slowly raised the pistol to her own temple and quickly pulled the trigger.

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