“Nikki” by S. L. Murray

She stared in the rearview mirror. Looking for something, anything to change her decision. But there was nothing. No expression on her face and no life in her eyes. Her brown eyes used to be full of life. They used to sparkle and dance. She had happy eyes once but not anymore.

He’d stolen everything good from her and now she was here to get it back. Well, that wasn’t necessarily true. She was just ready to end it… whatever that meant. She had secretly sent adoption papers to her children’s Godmother just in case everything went bad. And with him, everything was always bad.

It didn’t start out that way though. He used to be loving and protective and there wasn’t anything he would deny her. He came in and swept her off her feet when she wasn’t even looking for a relationship.

He was old school about dating and chivalry and even waited for her to initiate sex the first time. He was her everything and she actually believed she was his. He painted an illusion in all of her favorite colors, sights, sounds, and scents. He sold her the ultimate dream and she paid for it with her soul.

They married quickly. Less than a year after they became a couple. He started kicking her ass 4 months after she gave birth to their first baby girl. Well, Asia was now 3 and their second daughter Trini was 1. The abuse had escalated exponentially and was now worse than it had ever been.

She had to get out and do better for her babies and she was all out of options. She tried leaving once. Literally packed her and her kids shit in the middle of the night and ran. 6 months later he found her with help from her ‘family’ and dragged her back across 3 states. She had never feared for her life more than she did the night he got her home.

He beat her with fists and feet that night. He ceased caring about the bruises and scars being seen anymore. He used to give her body shots so no one would know about the abuse. That was the extent of his generosity before she tried to leave. The night he brought her back home, he dropped the kids off at his parents.

He’d said he wanted to make sure they had time to ‘work on their marriage’. At least that’s what he told his mother. He just didn’t want any distractions from the lesson she was to receive. He was going to teach her to never leave him again.

The first blow was to her stomach. The next few went to her face. At some point during the night, he knocked her unconscious. She awoke a few hours later lying in her own piss and blood with him sitting on the couch watching her. He made her clean up the mess she’d made on his floor.

When she was finished cleaning, he forced her into the shower and watched her while she cleaned herself up. He took a towel and dried her off when she stepped out of the shower then proceeded to have sex with her. She was told to convince him that she still loved him or there would be more consequences. Needless to say, she never ran again.

He had a routine now. He would beat on her and then drop hundreds of dollars on cosmetics. She had a vanity and thousands of dollars’ worth of makeup to cover the bruises he left trailed across her body. Lately, he stopped coming home some nights and she was grateful for whoever was stealing his attention.

As she reflected on her life she felt a headache begin. It had been a reoccurring thing since the night he brought her home. The headache would come and she would lose bits and pieces of time not remembering what had happened and how she had ended up in a different place.

Last week she secretly went to the emergency room and was told she had a brain hemorrhage. It was causing the blackouts and memory loss that had become normal in her life now. She was also told it couldn’t be cured but there are treatments she should look into.

In her mind, those few sentences were equated with death and there was no way she would leave her girls with their psychotic ass father. She began to cry. The more she cried the more her headache intensified.

“So… You punking out or what? I thought we were past all this crying and shit. Don’t tell me you feel sorry for him. Oh, naw… You feel sorry for yourself again, hunh?”

“No, Nikki. I’m just upset that it turned out like this. I love my babies. I can’t imagine them growing up without me. This is going to follow them around for the rest of their life. All they have are letters of me explaining why I am about to do this. FUCK! Can I really do this?”

“Yes LEASH. Yes, you can do this. What other options do you have in mind? Continue to let him beat on you until he kills you? I’m just saying. Let me know if you are going to bitch out. I can save myself the trouble.”

“Don’t ever fucking call me that!” Taleashay yelled cutting Nikki off. Demarco called her that when he wanted to let her know she was on a leash that he only he controls. He liked to tell her she’s nothing but an animal he lets live and can put down anytime he felt like it. Needless to say she hated the nickname and everything it stood for.

Nikki knew what she was doing when she called her that name. She needed Taleashay to be beyond pissed so she could get back focused. Any bit of weakness would cause them to fail and failure would likely mean death for both of them.

“Well Shay what do you want me to do? Hold you and tell you it’s alright? Cause bitch it ain’t. You were never this weak before you met him. You fell in love; fell for the okie-doke and now you out here looking like Mike Tyson’s sparring partner. Fuck them tears. Your girls are going to grow up letting a man whoop they ass too if you don’t put a stop to this. So fix your face and go through that tired ass make-up routine… Concealer, foundation, shimmer.”

Shay gave a sad smile as she heard the analogy. It was something they had discussed several times before: concealer, foundation, and shimmer. Cover, lie, and pretend. They were all the same in her world she thought as she started to reapply the make-up. Several minutes passed and Shay was ready to get out and make her move.

She checked the mirror one more time and saw that her face was almost flawless. She could still see faint tear streaks. She left them slightly noticeable and slid from the driver seat of the car while checking to make sure the gun was in her purse.

“Nikki, you got me right? If I can’t go through with this… “Shay stammered. She tried to hide the fear in her voice but it was evident. And she knew Nikki could hear it too.

“Look. I told you. I’m right on your heels. If he moves then ‘It ain’t no I in team’… Thelma and Louise bitch.” Nikki joked. “But for real though. We are doing this. For the girls… And, more importantly, for you. Now walk in this house and let him know you are done with this Mona Scott version of a marriage.”

They were on the porch and Shay turned to look at Nikki as someone opened the door to the house and caught her attention.

“Oh shit! Wassup Taleashay.” Brian said a little too loud.

“Wassup Brian.” She said flatly. She knew it was a warning for Demarco. Little did he know that neither one of them cared at this point. Shay pushed past Brian and walked into his home. She slowly made her way towards the back room. That’s where everyone usually posted up when they were hanging out. Brian was trying to make small talk as she walked down the hall.

“I don’t want no drama Shay. Can you please respect my house? I’ve been tellin his ass…” As soon as she stepped into the den she saw why Brian was pleading for peace.

“What the fuck Marc?” She said in a voice barely above a whisper. It wasn’t that he had a chick in his lap or the fact he had lipstick on the side of his mouth. She didn’t care about any of that anymore. It was the way he looked at the woman that was all over him. He looked at her with love and adoration in his eyes. He looked at her the way he used to look at Shay. That shit hurt her to her core.

Marc didn’t even bother to look up. “Go home Shay. NOW!”

“Naw Marc. It ain’t no home for us. Not no more. That’s why I’m here. I came to tell you I’m done. So if you gon whoop my ass today then you are goin to have to do it in front of all yo folks. Show them who you really are.”

Her voice started to shake. She was faking the bravado that was on display but she was going to stand her ground as long as she could.

Everybody looked at Shay like she had two heads. Marc wasn’t abusive as far as they knew. She knew he had everybody thinking she was the problem but she decided if he was going to kill her, and he eventually would if she didn’t get out, that they would know why. The chick that was all over him looked like she wanted to pull away but he held her tighter.

She turned and smiled at Shay like she won some great prize and Shay just shook her head with pity in her eyes. She had no idea how falling for Marc would destroy her life. Shay began to laugh. It was the laugh of a broken woman who had officially cracked. Mark was starting to get pissed so Shay decided to push a little harder. She needed him to show his true colors. She needed witnesses.

“Is this HER? Marc… Is this the one you have been going crazy over damn near every night? I mean… she ok but she ain’t as cute as me. We all know that.” Nikki snickered from somewhere in the room. Shay began to laugh a little more. It was a sad laugh that let you know tears were soon to follow.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Take yo ass home Shay. If I have to say it again…” Marc started to stand. He was always protective about his women. Shay knew exactly what buttons to push. She was about to get it poppin… literally.

“So… It is her. Sweetie, you can have him. I wish you all the luck in the world and I hope it turns out to be better than mine. I fell in love just like you are about to do and it was the worse decision I ever made. He beats my ass EVERY DAMN NIGHT when he get home. No reason. Just because he can. I tried to fight back. I tried to leave. He found me and dragged me home just to beat me some more. Yeah. I love the nights that he don’t come home.

My body gets a well-needed break. I’ve had so many broken bones, blood vessels and bruises that I couldn’t even tell you a part of my body where they haven’t been. But my last straw was last week. I never would have thought he would stoop so low as to rape me. Yeah yall. I was raped by my mutha fuckin husband!

As he punched me and slapped me and choked me and bit me and scratched me drawing blood while inside me… He was calling out for DENISE. Telling me how no woman tells him ‘no’. So he raped me while thinking about you. That is your name right honey?” She never took her eyes off of Marc as she spoke.

Denise jumped off the couch and looked at Marc like he was crazy. That pissed him completely off and it was just what she wanted. It was officially GO time and there was no turning back. Shay watched Marc storm across the room with murder in his eyes. Little did he know she was feeling the same way.

One of them would probably die today whether he knew it or not. She backed away from him as he came to a stop right in front of her. Everyone else faded away as Shay fell back into a state of hopelessness, terrified of her decision. Her entire body started to shake from fear.

Somewhere in the background Nikki cleared her throat and Shay started to remember she wasn’t there alone. It was time for Taleashay to drive the point home. To show everyone the monster that her husband really was.

Shay took a few more steps back away from Marc. She had to make sure she was out of reach because if he grabbed her there would be no way of putting his demons on display. She looked to Brian to grab his boy. When he didn’t move she started talking again.

“You said you wanted peace in yo house right? You betta grab your friend cause he has that look in his eye. Just know… I’m fighting back today.”

Brian moved in between the two of them. He looked like his dog just died. Everybody thought Marc was a good guy and this information was the equivalent of pissing in their breakfast cereal. As soon as she had enough room, Shay began to untie the straps on her sundress, while never removing the purse hanging from her shoulder.

As soon as it hit the floor everyone in the room started to mutter obscenities. They could see the bruises and teeth marks on her breasts. They saw faded fingerprints of where he had choked her. There were welts from when he would hit her with a belt like she was a child and there were bruises in all shapes and sizes marring her flesh.

Each one a different color depending on the stage of healing that it was in. This was how she lived every day with him and she wanted them all to know it.

She felt the pain before she even realized he’d moved. Marc slapped her so hard she began to see spots. A woman not used to it would have hit the floor but she was conditioned at this point. She knew it took about 6 seconds for her vision to clear so she began to count mentally.

The spots started to clear and Shay looked around. She thought that she would be safe in a room full of people but that wasn’t the case. There were 3 other men and 5 women in the room and not one of them made a move to help her. She was about to call each and every one of them out on their cowardice but she was rocked by another slap. This one harder than the first.

“Didn’t I tell you to take yo ass home? What? You thought telling them was going to change something bitch? I own you. When you said I do you became my fuckin property to do as I will.

You are my wife and if I wanna take my frustrations out on you I can. If I wanna fuck when you don’t want to I can. A man can’t rape his wife. That’s what you here for, to fuck and suck me when I tell you to. Now Leash, for the last time… Take yo ass home.”

Shay didn’t move. She couldn’t. She was stunned. This wasn’t supposed to go like this. His boys were supposed to stop him. She just wanted out and she didn’t wanna die for that to happen. Regret had settled deep into her soul and she had no idea what to do next. She saw him raise his hand this time.

The strike came in slow motion and she braced herself for impact while sliding her hand into the purse she had never taken off of her shoulder. He struck and everything went dark. She heard Marc calling her name…

“Leash. Leash… You don’t hear me now?” She slowly raised the gun to his chest while staring him defiantly in the eyes.


*pop. pop*

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