Face to Face

End of the day. They are stopping there every night for a milkshake after work, a good way to unwind and talk a bit. They don’t have much time during the day. Lucy just left. She went back home.

Home. Emma does not want to think about home. Where is home? Can we call home a place where you are not safe in? Some days she feels that the coffee shop is her home. She knows Breda, the owner, very well. Breda is kind and always has a nice word for her. Breda is like a mum. Emma’s mum is too old now. She is sick, her head does not answer anymore. Emma’s mum is losing track of time, she does not even recognize her when she comes to visit. Emma talks, until it’s time for her to leave.

Breda is about to close the coffee shop. It’s late. Nobody’s left but Emma. Emma looks quite sad today. Or maybe she is just tired, wishing to get home, but having no energy to stand and walk. Breda thinks it might be fine to sit down for a chat. She does not do this often. She does not have time during the day. She likes Emma. She reminds her of her daughter, who left home long time ago, without a word. Breda does not know where she is or what she’s doing. She does not know why she left, what was so wrong with her life. She tried for many years to recall memories, to question herself on what she may have done the wrong way. It’s not easy to raise kids. Maybe her daughter would have liked a brother or a sister to play with. Maybe her daughter did not really cope with her dad accident, maybe Breda did not talk enough about it, reassuring her enough at a time she felt the need for it.

Breda and Emma are now facing each other. In the space between them, there is a secret nobody really wants to share. Emma does not know whether she wishes to talk to her. Maybe Breda will judge her. Maybe she’ll tell her words she does not want to hear. Like the doctor the other day. She knows him well enough, for years. He is like a friend.

  • Three broken bones and an infinite number of scars. Look. Do you still think this guy is good for you?
  • He does not know what he is doing. He is just a bit jealous.
  • He is crazy Emma. He is killing you every single day. You know this?
  • He just does not know how to deal with me.
  • Deal with what?
  • Deal with my crazy side. You know, sometimes I am a bit pushy. I don’t know what I want. I want more.
  • This is bullshit Emma.
  • You don’t understand. He does not want to hurt me.
  • Really?
  • I mean he always says sorry after it. You get it? He is a bit sick too. We are both sick. So we get on well. And he does not do this every day. It just happened. These things happen.
  • You’re joking Emma, right. You must be joking. We had this conversation many time already. You are not safe with this guy.
  • He’ll change. He promised me he’ll change.
  • He won’t Emma. You know it. These guys don’t change. He is telling you this for the past 6 years. Six years of violence. Do you get it?
  • What can I do? What I am supposed to do? An idea to share? You’ll keep me here? You’ll forbid me to leave this place? What you’ll do about this?

Same old story. People don’t have a clue what they are talking about. Emma is alone. She knows something is going wrong but when he is nice, life is so special. No more insults, threats or punches in the face. He is all tender and sweet. He brings her flowers and takes her on trips around the country. She believes it’s all good, life will change, they’ll be happy then. Lucy does not like him. But what Lucy knows about him? She thinks something is wrong with him. Too nice to be true. Lucy is a friend but she never shared anything with her on this. It’s none of her business. And surely she would come with her own set of perfect advices, that won’t fit Emma’s life.

Emma is alone. Who can understand anyway? Who can even believe that she is staying? She tried to contact a women group a year ago, to see if she could talk about all this, to get a clear figure, to see whether what she was living was crap or whether everybody was dealing with the same kind of issue. Over the years she learnt to anticipate the crisis, to stay calm when he started screaming, to cope with the beating without complaining or crying. But last minute she got scared. If he ever heard about it…

She is now looking at Breda. She is realizing she does not know much about her life. Is she married? Does she have kids? What is she doing the rest of the time, when she is not stuck in this coffee shop? Does she know anything about violence, about pain, about coping with disaster, about recurrent nightmares? Does she know anything about self-hatred, guilt, lack of confidence? She is older. She looks wiser. It’s what age gives you, wisdom and some sense of peace, of accomplishment; even if life did not go the way you wanted.

Emma put her head inside her arms, set her head on the table in front of her. She can’t carry on like this. Something is wrong with her life. She feels like she is dying. Each day seems to take her to death too fast for her young age. She is not even 30 years old and she is a mess. Breda is still looking at her. She seems to be willing to say something. Will she say something? Emma wants to believe that she will. If she does, Emma will empty her heart, will let the words flow outside of her, let the pain go away, let her tears draft a pool on the table, let the scars burn under the sun till they disappear into the night.

  • Emma…
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6 thoughts on “Face to Face

  1. This is very disturbing yet hopeful in that Emma is so close to telling her secret. These kind of stories are so important, Marie. I like the way you’ve portrayed young Emma seeking silent wisdom from Breda. I also include a story of an abused woman in my short story collection (still editing, before the pro editor :)) It was the hardest one to write. So many women are suffering and don’t know where to begin to escape or liberate themselves and fiction can inspire many.

    Like

    • I think too Lisa. Can’t wait to read your book BTW!
      When we start talking about it, saying out loud what’s wrong in our lives, we give ourselcces a chance to leave the abuse. It’s so hard to leave. When you have kids I am sure it’s even harder. But we can do it. And we need to raise our voices so that women know they are note alone, and that they can recreate their lives, that what they are living is not acceptable.
      Thank you so much for your support.

      Like

  2. Hi Marie,

    From giving vent to anguish and frustration to poetry to story telling…I can see your writing evolving slowly. The characters are gathering confidence, clarity of thoughts is gaining prominence. I am proud of you dear friend. Keep opening up…you have a bright future!

    Like

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