SURVIVOR SERIES: A Pot of Coffee and a 1-800 Number
Despite my begging Julia not to, she dialed the 1-800 number and looked at me with those demanding, “big sister” eyes. I heard the beeping of the numbers as she dialed. Each one, getting closer to someone on the other line. What would I say? Where would I begin? How much time could I spend talking?
My sister suspected something was going on when I went to the emergency room last year with a broken rib. She asked me, point-blank: “Did Jake do this?” I denied her outrageous question and told her she was insane for suggesting my husband could do such a thing.
If she didn’t know then, she definitely knew when I went to the hospital a second time while I was three months pregnant. Jake got upset with me over a credit card bill. I had gone over budget on a crib I bought on Amazon. As the argument went on, he became angrier until he slammed my body into the wall like a weightless doll. I lost the baby that night. Of all the pain and abuse I’ve suffered, that was the worst.
Julia was so great. She didn’t ask questions and didn’t force me to talk about it. I told everyone I took a hard fall and even though I knew she didn’t believe it, she at least acted like she did. She just sat with me and let me cry. Oh, God I cried so hard.
Jake didn’t always used to be like this. He was so charming and attractive. He won my dad over quickly with his hard work ethic and interest in hunting, fishing and football. When we would go out on dates, he’d hold the door for me and tell me how beautiful I was. He was so interesting, too. He had all these hilarious and crazy stories – he was always the life of the party. When we started dating, I felt so important. I felt like I was with the luckiest girl in the world. When he proposed, my parents were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to bring in such a wonderful addition to the family.
It wasn’t until three years ago that I noticed things weren’t the way they used to be. He started getting short with me and instead of endless compliments, he asked why I had to wear so much makeup, do my hair, and dress nice for work. In order to convince him I wasn’t cheating, I started putting less effort into my looks.
The physical abuse didn’t start until two years ago. One night we were enjoying a night out with friends and he got upset when a stranger tried to buy me a drink. I can still remember the words he screamed at me as he choked me: “Slut. Whore. Stuck-up b*tch.” It’s hard to get that out of your head when you believe that’s the last thing you’ll hear before you die.
I was convinced this outburst was solely because of the alcohol. He apologized endlessly and offered us to go to couples therapy. I truly believed it would never happen again. How stupid I was…
A week ago I discovered Jake had an affair with a woman from work. Somehow, when I confronted him, he convinced me that I was the problem. For a while, I believed this. I believed him when he said it was a one-time thing and that it would never happen again. I believed him when he said, “if only I didn’t make him so jealous all the time.” I believed him when he said, “if only I gave him more affection.” When I brought it up again a few nights ago, he lost it. He told me I didn’t deserve any of the things he provided for me, and that I was “lucky to have a guy like him because no other guy would put up with my sh*t.”
I don’t know what it was – but something snapped in me when he hit me that night. It wasn’t any worse than any of the abuse I’ve taken in the past, in fact it was nothing compared to that. But something snapped in me in that moment and I decided I had it. While he was asleep I packed a bag with a few of my essentials and took off. I had no idea where I was going. I’d dreamed about this moment off and on for years, but now that it was real, panic began to set in. I thought about turning around, going back home and just dealing with it. Instead, I desperately grabbed my phone and called Julia.
“Gabby?” She sounded tired and raspy. “It’s two o’clock in the morning! What’s going on?!”
“Julia?” I said, as if I couldn’t believe she really answered. I broke down and told her everything, most of it completely inaudible through the tears.
She invited me over, had a pot of coffee ready when I arrived and a box of tissues on the table. I explained everything as quietly as I could so not to wake her daughter and husband.
She listened. She heard me, hugged me so tight, and told me how glad she was I was there. My fear of being a burden was lifted. She made me a bed and put a cold towel on my forehead like Mom used to do when we were sick.
For two days I had nothing but a quiet house to stay in, a peaceful night of sleep, and a couple of days without fear. Jake called and texted what felt like a thousand times a day. He called Julia and my parents, all of whom said they had no idea where I was.
After a couple of nights had passed, she revisited the topic. I could tell something was up as soon as I smelled the coffee brewing in the kitchen. She brought me a cup with the perfect amount of cream, and sat with me in my heaping pile of blankets and dirty tissues.
I thanked her and took a sip.
“I found this number,” Julia said, “I think you should call. You need help, Gab.”
We went back and forth for a while, bickering like sisters do. I told her I couldn’t – that I had no idea what I wanted. She dialed the number anyway, and shook the phone in front of me as if to say, “Take it!”
After two short rings, a woman answered. “Hello, how can I help you?”
I didn’t respond. I was still contemplating if I could do it.
“Hello?” The woman said again.
Julia shook the phone at me again. I took it.
“Hi,” I said, “My name’s Gabby. I think I need some help.”