Chapter One

I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)
Danielle had been at her wit's end for some time. She had no one to whom she could turn nor any place to where she could go. She only knew that she needed out and she needed help in getting there. Danielle had always prided herself as a survivor and felt she could accomplish anything she set her mind to, however, after analyzing the possible solutions, she quickly came to realize that leaving Donald would require more work than she could accomplish purely on her own.
She had called the Woman's Abuse Shelter hotline. The number had been displayed for several months on the back rest of a bus stop bench advertisement outside their apartment. She had seen the sign almost everyday and yet, until recently, it had not occurred to her to make the call. It was equally amazing that the sign had not registered to Donald as a warning that help was available to the victimized. At least, if he had read it, it had not had any affect on him. As sure as the sign continued to proclaim help for the abused, so continued the certainty that Donald would abuse again. She was sure he had not noticed the ad, however, she was equally sure, that if he had seen it, he would only see it as another meddling social group getting involved in an area that disrupted the sanctity of marriage. He firmly believed that a wife was the husband’s property and he was the supreme ruler over his domain. Danielle was equally confident that if the sign ever did register to him, that he would promptly beat her for no other reason other than his need to reaffirm his male dominance in their home.
The abuse shelter was very friendly but their resolve was very firm. Their first response was to have her move out and then go to the police. They assured her safety by offering her to stay in a safe house and emphasizing that the police would quickly get a restraining order against Donald to prevent him from seeing her. She wondered how many severe cases of abuse they actually handled. Their solution might work well for someone who lost his temper and lashed out irrationally on a rare occasion, however, a cold calculating abuser would not be deterred by a simple court order. Donald would stalk her, find her, and punish her. He would also lash out at the shelter and police, seeking out revenge against them for their part in taking away his property.
Danielle almost laughed out loud at their proposal. They certainly did not know him as she did. They did not know what he was capable of doing nor what he would actually do. She was not sure of how far he would go, however, after 14 years of abuse, she was well aware of how dangerous he could be and she knew without hesitation that she would never be safe from him unless he was locked up and even then, only if he was locked up for a long time. She knew a safe house would not stop him, everyone in the neighborhood knew where the woman’s shelter was, and, for Donald, a restraining order would not be worth the value of the paper upon which it was written. She had analyzed this completely. She would only feel safe if and when Donald was locked up in jail and she had moved out of town, far out of town.
She was not surprised by their proposal, in fact, she had anticipated it. It was a necessary step to fulfill her needs and reach her goal. They offered her the opportunity to see a counselor, to which she readily agreed. This worked very well with her plan. The shelter provided one for free whom she could see according to her schedule when Donald was out trucking. Among other trades, Donald drove long-haul across the country and would be gone up to a week at a time, but she still had to be careful. He had his friends, more appropriately, his spies, and they would keep tabs on her while he was gone. She certainly could not afford the consequences if he found out she was seeing an abuse counselor.
Danielle had driven to the mall from where she took a twenty minute bus ride to Nancy Richards' office. She could have taken the bus direct from the apartment, but it would be too hard for her to explain why she took a bus when she had a car to drive. She also did not want to have her vehicle seen outside Richard’s office so she chose to park at the mall. It was easy to explain being seen at the mall. Who would question that? Maybe she was over-reacting, but her paranoia had kept her alive so far and she didn't want to take any further chances. Donald didn't need an excuse to beat her, but something like this was a guarantee for severe pain. Donald always seemed to know exactly where the line was. He had usually been able to keep her out of the hospital and on those few occasions when it was necessary, he had a ready excuse which prevented police intervention.
Danielle arrived ten minutes early. Although the service was provided for free, she had been advised by the shelter to arrive early to complete the associated paper work. She had only spoken to the shelter over the phone. They had arranged for her to complete the forms at the counselor’s office as she had made it quite clear that she had no intention of going near the abuse shelter.
The clerk was a pleasant lady in her mid-forties. She was a very plump woman but dressed accordingly. Danielle appreciated her appearance. The clerk wore loose but neat clothing which complemented her rather than detract. She bore herself in such a manner that her personal beauty was not lost in her obesity. Her round face was brightened by very rosy cheeks and an infectious smile. She supplied Danielle with a clip board and directed her to a seat where she could complete the questionnaire.
Danielle smiled as she accepted the board. She felt a bit underdressed for the occasion. She was simply attired in blue jeans and a Led Zeppelin Tee-shirt. Danielle had the figure to pull off the look. At five foot seven and one hundred and fifty-five pounds she was a striking figure. She exercised regularly so was very physically fit. Although the health charts decreed she should weigh less, her physical conditioning dictated that less would be unhealthy for her. She looked at the clerk and made a mental physical comparison. She smiled again and sat down.
She quickly completed the forms and returned them to the clerk. She leafed through a copy of Cosmopolitan. She knew she was attractive yet she was still dismayed at the unrealistic depictions the magazine made for woman, and all for the purpose of tantalizing and pleasing some silly man who couldn’t appreciate the work and effort made to look that way. Danielle knew she would only confuse Donald had she dressed up for him. He would probably think she was cheating on him and then he would beat her to keep her in line.
The phone rang.
The clerk picked it up and only said, “Yes?” After a short pause, she replied, “Okay.” She returned the phone to its cradle and looked up at Danielle and smiled, “Ms. Richards will see you now.”
A door opened and there stood Ms. Richards. Ms. Nancy Richards. She looked like a grade school teacher. Five-foot six, slim one hundred and twenty pounds in a pale dress with matching cardigan sweater which would have been fashionable for every kindergarten teacher over any of the past five decades. Her sandy brown hair was cropped an inch above her shoulders and neatly framed her face which only perpetuated the anachronistic look. Nancy welcomed Danielle and directed her to a love seat while she sat in her own office chair.
Nancy seemed pleasant enough. She was about the same age as Danielle, maybe even a year or two older, however, Danielle could not help herself from feeling that Nancy had not quite endured the same hardship she had over her thirty-two years of living. Did she bear the same physical and emotional scars of abuse? Had she felt the blows? Had she cowered under verbal assault? Had she worn sunglasses and makeup to hide her bruises? How could she help without experiencing the pain? What would she know of the hardship of enduring abuse as she sat there quaintly in her pretty knit dress pretending to be concerned?
Nancy was first to break the ice with the compulsory preliminaries and introduction and continued, “I want to congratulate you for taking such a big step by coming here today. The shelter provided me with only a brief synopsis.” Nancy had a single-paged, typed report in front of her, to which she was referring, “It indicates here merely that you are a victim of spousal abuse. I have no other details.”
Nancy paused and looked up at Danielle to solicit a response. When none came forward, she continued, “Perhaps you can begin by telling me about yourself.”
“What can I say?” Danielle hesitated but only briefly. She had built walls around herself and had been waiting for years to release her burdens and vent. Once she recognized the opportunity, the floodgates opened, “I have lived a horrible life. Orphaned at nine, left home at sixteen, married at eighteen, and pretty well lived in pain and abuse the whole bloody time.”
Nancy’s eyes opened wide with dismay. They bantered back and forth about where to begin and how to proceed. Nancy felt the problems went deeper than the current home abuse and felt they should first delve into Danielle’s past. Danielle was content with this decision. She wanted to develop a long-term rapport with Nancy in order to fulfill her needs and she was not ready to go into the realms of Donald’s abuse.
They spent a lot of time just chatting until Danielle started getting impatient and blurted out, “My parents died in a car crash when I was nine.”
Nancy was caught off guard but before she could remark, Danielle continued, “We were on our way back from a company picnic. My father had too much to drink, as usual, which precipitated an argument on the ride home. He started speeding which frightened my mother. When she started to scream from fear, he smiled and went even faster. He lost it in a curve and started to spin out of control and skidded off the road. We rolled over a few times and landed facing backwards in the ditch. Fortunately we came to rest on the wheels and not upside down. I had been in the back with my seatbelt on. By the time I settled down, everything was quiet. I couldn’t see my parents anywhere. I tried but I couldn’t undo my seatbelt, so all I could do was sit and cry.”
“That’s awful!” Nancy exclaimed, “You poor child.”
Danielle continued without reacting to Nancy’s comment, “A man and a lady came by and helped me out. They took me back to the road until the ambulance came. I never saw my parents again but found out that neither had seatbelts on and had both been ejected. Both had died before the ambulance ever arrived.”
Nancy had difficulty in separating her personal feelings from her clients’ anguish and was obviously affected by Danielle’s story. She tried to regain her professional decorum and posed a standard canned question, “How does that make you feel now?”
Danielle had little use nor respect for the whole touchy-feely question. Instead of providing a direct answer she chose to reveal as little emotion as possible and spoke rather matter-of-factly, “My father had been abusive towards my mother. They always fought and my father always drank.”
“They shouted a lot?” asked Nancy.
“No they fought!” Danielle sat up animated in her armchair. Her fists were raised in a mock fighting stance, “They physically and sometimes, brutally fought. My father would hit and kick and mother would defend herself. She would usually throw things and that would be my father’s signal to stop fighting and start drinking.”
Danielle looked up at Nancy and added, “And no, they did not hit me. I got to see it, I got to hear it, but they kept it between themselves...ultimately, it was their undoing.”
“I notice you refer to your parents as mother and father,” Nancy observed.
“I only had a mother and mom and dad. It takes more than biology to make a mom and dad, if that’s what you’re getting at?”
“I see.” Nancy was busy trying to make notes while trying to maintain eye contact with Danielle. Another canned question, “And how does that make you feel?”
Danielle sat upright her seat, obviously upset. “Look,” came her frank challenge, “I’ve got a lot of garbage behind me and a lot of baggage with me. Let me just tell you my story and we can get into the touchy feely stuff later. Okay?”
“Okay” was Nancy’s simple response. Having been duly chastised she offered Danielle the opportunity to continue, “Well then, what happened after the accident?
“I went to live with my aunt. My father’s sister. Mom was an only am I. Things went well for a few years until Marie met George. Marie is my aunt. George had been previously divorced and from what I gathered it had been very bitter. He had two children but rarely got to see them, so George was really excited when Marie got pregnant. They had a baby boy, George Jr., in March and then got married in May the same year. I was twelve at the time and things still went well.”
“Oh that’s good” Nancy interjected.
Danielle gave a harsh gaze to Nancy and sternly stated, “My story.”
“Sorry,” came Nancy’s humble apology.
Danielle continued, “All went well for a while.”
Nancy simply exclaimed, “Oh?” and Danielle proceeded.
“It started subtly at first. I started looking after G Jr., that’s what I called him, just babysitting for an hour or two, but then George insisted that Marie go to work. I started looking after G Jr. even more and by the time I hit fourteen, they pulled me out of school and I became their full-time maid, cook, and nanny.”
“That’s horrible!” was Nancy’s uncontrollable reaction.
“Horrible?” Danielle was getting very agitated. “I was miserable! I had no friends, no free time, no life. I didn’t have time to watch TV. I felt like friggin’ Cinderella without the fairy Godmother.”
Danielle paused and covered her mouth. She had been getting fairly animated and was embarrassed by her own emotions. “Sorry, I don’t usually use expletives.”
“Well, you didn’t actually swear.” Nancy pointed out.
“Maybe not, but I came close.” Danielle grinned as she regained her composure.
“Well, we won’t worry too much about that, will we?” Nancy looked at her watch and added, “We’re just about out of time, so let’s stop here. I certainly think we should meet again. Same time next week?”
Danielle had already stood up and was putting on her coat, “I’ll call you when I know when I can get free.” Danielle smiled and added, “Thank you very much, that felt good. It was good start.”
“Yes, I do believe so.”
Before Nancy could even get up, Danielle turned, opened the door and was off with a quick, “Bye!” as she exited through the doorway.
Nancy merely reclined in her chair. The hour had gone by very quickly but she found herself totally exhausted from it. She was very thankful to have an hour break before her next appointment. Danielle would be a considerable challenge for her.

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