It was dark when Tony got out of bed to go on his business trip, but I lay there quietly, not making a sound and wanting him to hurry up and leave so I could pack.
A few days before the trip, I noticed Tony getting several text messages, but when I asked him about it, he skirted the issue and then changed the subject. He was happy about the trip, but he was also distracted more so than usual, and I knew something was going on, and I guessed it had to do with another woman.
Tony had abused me physically in the past when we argued, once throwing me against the wall and breaking my ribs. Another time, he was angry because I hadn't answered the phone, so he came home and accused me of being out with another man, and then proceeded to go out into the garden, which I loved, and started pulling my vegetables out of the ground. I never knew what was going to make him angry, or how he was going to react, so I spent a lot of time feeling nervous and drained.
The last thing he told me before he left was to clean the house while he was gone. I didn't answer, my body stiff from holding it so still, and my mind fuming at the nerve he had, telling me to clean the house while he was on a trip to Las Vegas. I heard the door slam, and every muscle in my body relaxed, enabling me to find the energy to get up and make coffee. I waited until I heard his car pull out of the driveway, and then I hurried upstairs to get dressed and wait for my friend Helen to come over and help me pack. I began pulling my things together and putting them into boxes, my energy being so low that it was a struggle to do the smallest of chores. I knew it wouldn't be easy getting away from him, that he would find me no matter what, and the consequences could be devastating for me.
Helen was the person I needed to help me through the move, and the only friend I had left who would come to my home. Tony had alienated my family within the first few months we lived together, and had slowly managed to offend my friends so they wouldn't come over.
I wanted to leave and have a peaceful life, but I also had feelings for Tony, in spite of the fact he abused me and treated me like I was stupid and ugly. Helen knew he would murder me someday if I didn't get away from him, and she promised me when I made the decision to leave, that she wouldn't let me back out.
Her old Buick rumbled up the driveway, the sky still dark, and her lights shinning in through the living room window brought a calmness to me that I hadn't felt in a couple of years. The first thing she did when she came through the door was give me a big hug, holding me tight, and letting me cry on her shoulder. All the anger and emotions I had been holding in came rushing out, my body heaving as tears rolled down my face, until I couldn't cry anymore.
The furniture was his, so I didn't have to rent a truck to haul anything. Mostly, we had to pack dishes and linens, pots and pans; the things I couldn't pack until he left. We even took the food since I paid for it. The house was completely bare, except for a sofa and television set. Before I left, I nailed a note to the wall, and it made me feel good inside, as though I had the last word and the strength to start a new life.
The note read, "Is this clean enough for you?"
I was lucky enough to be able to get out of that relationship, but sometimes it isn't that easy. The key thing to remember is to plan ahead, try to keep the peace until you can leave safely, don't take risks, such as calling social services or a shelter when the abuser is in the home, and be careful if you do call, because the number you call can be accessed by the abuser if he dials "Last call dialed" on the phone. Make sure nobody knows where you are moving so he can't track you down, and get the police, human services, and other social agencies involved that can help you find a safe place.