It was a beautiful anniversary party. All of our friends and family had joined us in the ballroom decorated with white and lilac balloons, the colors a tribute to the bouquets that were carried by the bridesmaids five years ago. Everyone was joyous, laughing and chatting happily, and then he entered the room. Why was he there?
Why is he here? Why? Why? Oh my God. Why?
My heart started to race as fear masked my face, the happy, loving, confident me suddenly hidden and this frightened whisper of a woman once again returning. I looked to my husband, who looked to me and then looked up and too saw him – my ex-husband. I could see my spouse look around the room for the children too and then he ran to this unexpected, most definitely uninvited guest.
Sam pushed at this intruder’s chest, his mouth uttering words meant to usher him out of this place. I couldn’t tell what those words were, but I remember my former flame’s first words: “You’re last.”
He intended to kill my husband. I saw it in those fiery evil eyes, those eyes that I once so god-damn foolishly had fallen for. He glanced around the room, “Where’s the newest one, Angela? Where’s your son?” His voice sent shivers racing down my spine and my entire body trembled. An image flashed through my unquiet mind: my six month old son a fatality to the gun that I now glanced in this man’s hand, his tiny body twisted and deformed, no longer recognizable as a child of God, just a victim of the devil’s work – this devil who wore a disguise so clever he had once convinced me to say “I do.” I saw tiny bits of brain matter and bone, and my body twitched and turned, agitated and wanting this nightmare to end. I found myself mute and locked in this awful reel of absolute horror.
Then another image flashed quickly across my racing, restless mind. This time, it was my mother, who had noticed as he entered the room too and knew, had always known in her heart, what this monster was capable of. She had run with the children. I saw her locked in the coat closet, her arms wrapped tightly around my two children praying to God that they wouldn’t be found and they would be kept safe.
He didn’t try to find them when they were not easily located. Instead he said, “I can’t find the boy. I’ll move on then. “ His eyes darted across the room until they locked upon my dear friend. “You,” he hollered and approached her with an alarmingly determined rapidity. “You were there!”, he grabbed her arm and yelled loudly in her face. “Why were you there? If you hadn’t moved, it would have just been us. I could have kept her alone and dependent! You came and reminded her she could be happy and herself!” He shook her body fiercely as though she were a mere rag doll, her strong, tempered body suddenly falling limp in his arms. I could see her fear, smell it, taste it; it was so real for me – so fucking real and I couldn’t stop it as hard I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t happening.
“Fuck you!” he screamed in her face, further startling everyone in the room, as we all looked on helpless, frozen in fear, unable to make this end despite our deep desires. There were no heroes here; it was all horror. “Fuck you! Fuck you!” he screeched even shriller, as he now took a knife from his pocket and sent the razor sharp blade plunging into her temple, again and again and again until her screams became silence, and my voice had finally been found.
I jolted up in bed with a deafening scream that woke my husband. I was sweating profusely, my body trembling. Tears ran down my cheeks as my spouse made himself more alert and attempted to calm me. “It’s okay, Angela,” he whispered as he rocked me in his arms, “It isn’t real. It isn’t real. It’s just a nightmare. It’s okay.”
But it felt so real, so fucking real; the horror and fear was palatable. My heart was beating rapidly and my mind was whirling. I tried to shake this nightmare off of me, but it remained with me. While my husband tried his damndest to assure me that it wasn’t real and everything would be alright, I didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t feel assured.
I rocked back and forth and pulled myself out of his comforting arms, allowing myself to fall back into that nightmare in my memory. I started bawling, my cries now nearly as strident as my shouts. “He would have killed me if I had stayed. He would have killed me if I had stayed. “ I repeated these words like some menacing mantra and blocked out the reality that I was safe here in my home with my new husband and loving family. That former life didn’t have to haunt me anymore, but it did.
“He would have killed me if I had stayed,” I repeated. I knew these words were truth as I spoke them again and again. The party and his vile presence had been a nightmare, but this knowledge was a reality. How, then, could I have ever married such a malevolent man? Why couldn’t those vows also be nothing more than a nasty dream? Maybe then he couldn’t still haunt me.
I shared these fears in my latest therapy session. I was there informed of the side effects of Effexor: vivid dreams. This dream was so real it crippled me, and I stayed at home too afraid to leave, an anxiety attack having proceeded the nightmare, and depression joining the fear and anxiety in a toxic combination – but none of these, alone or together, as toxic as that relationship had been.