The dread was filling my stomach. Squirming and threatening to rise up into my throat. The drive home was short but every mile stretched out endlessly before me. I kept telling myself to calm down. Breathe. It’s okay. They were okay. My children were fine. I’m overreacting. Stop it. Stop being ridiculous. Breathe. Now let it out. But what if? No! STOP IT! Everything is fine. BREATHE, DAMMIT!
I willed my shaking hand to calm as I reached for the garage opener. Willed his car to be inside the garage. Willed everything to be okay. But as the garage door started to rise and I could see the emptiness inside, the bile in my stomach lurched to my throat and my body began to shake. No no no no no. No! NO!
I slammed the car into park and fell out of it. My feet slamming on the pavement. Alarm bells violently crashing in my head drowning out all other sound. I threw the door open and ran inside. Ran to each of their bedrooms. Their beds empty. His bed empty. The silence in the home deafening. I reached for my phone. Dead. With shaking hands, I grabbed the charger and plugged it in. The truth of what was happening becoming ever so clear in my head. My children. He had taken my children.
I spun around and fell back against the kitchen cabinets and began to scream. The agony ripping through me. The hot tears flowing down my face. Bending over as another shattering bellow tore at my throat. My legs giving out beneath me. Collapsing to the floor while the screams overtook my body. Deafening screams. Terrified screams. Sickening sounds that were inhuman. Writhing. Screaming. My children…
I drug myself to the phone and saw there was one voicemail. I pressed play. His words, “I had to take them. You would’t listen to me. They are safe. You don’t need to know where we are.”
Vomit. The bile I’d been holding back no longer contained. My body wrenching. My stomach aching. The tears falling. Dying out. Dying out until there was nothing left. I was nothing but an emaciated bag of skin and bones curled up in a ball staring as the tears continued to slide unchecked onto the cold tile. The silence overwhelming.
Only a couple months earlier, my cousin had bought me a plane ticket to visit her. She knew something was terribly wrong but had no understanding of what. And so she created a way for me to get away to heal and breathe for just a few days. My monster was against this.
Late the night before, when I found myself being pushed down the stairs, his face twisting with rage, and saw the onslaught of his last ditch efforts to stop me from boarding that plane begin, I pushed past him and ran.
I grabbed the car keys and peeled out. My intentions were only to breathe and get a handle on myself. To give him some time to calm down. But as my phone kept glowing with text after text and relentlessly ringing, I knew going home wasn’t a possibility. I sent one text about going to my friends because he was scaring me too much to come home and then my phone died.
I woke before the sun sometime early the next morning with a jerk and a gut feeling something was terribly off. I grabbed my keys and raced straight towards home hardly able to breathe because my chest was so tight. My instincts were right. He had taken our children out of their beds in the middle of the night. Packed their belongings. Loaded them in his car. Took off. How frightened must they have been? The thought makes my heart constrict.
My monster had taken them because I had left not able to endure another moment of his torture. Taken them because I would no longer conform to him. No longer blindly follow at all costs. That I’d question him at all. That even though terrified and battered, I’d rise back up. He had taken them to punish me.
I should have called the police. I cannot tell you why I did not except fear. Fear is a mind killer. Fear can paralyze. I had no idea where my children were or where he would have taken them but fear halted me. Froze me into inaction. Fear and perhaps the feeling that somehow and in some way, I deserved this. He would not answer my many phone calls or respond to my texts. And my fear grew. And I waited. The time ticking by despite having stopped. I was in agony.
One message. “I’ll see you at our next marriage counseling appointment”. And then life become nothing but the hours and days and seconds and minutes until it was time. Alone. Simultaneously becoming less while also feeling a strength growing deep inside my gut. And aching to hold my babies.
I walked into that room so small yet so full of loathing for my monster. Subdued rage. I scanned the room looking for my children knowing full well they would not be there. And then I sat and listened completely baffled as he weaved a story of being terrified for his safety and that of our children. That he had to take them like he had because he was just so scared. That he did it on a whim with no intention of staying away for more than a few hours. And even though I pointed out the flaws in this tale with questions such as, “did we not agree that if I felt threatened that I could leave as long as I communicated what I was doing?” and “what threat existed to you or the children?” or “if you left on a whim then why did you pack all their clothing, medications, favorite toys, and food?”… I only got blank stares back. I shuffled out of that room deflated.
He was not held accountable for his actions that day. And in many ways, he was justified by the counsel that sat across from us. And looking back, I’m even more disgusted by this than I was then. And I was taught that a man like him can get away with anything. And that a woman like me has to just take it. That day I saw my children. That evening, I lovingly kissed their faces and tucked them into their beds and whispered a prayer. And that night, I was punished at the hands of my monster in the quiet of our home and knew no one was going to stop it.
No mother should ever feel what I felt in those moments. In those hours. In those days. No wife should know to her core what I then knew. That there was no barrier he wasn’t willing to cross. No woman should ever have to cower before a monster. Or be victimized again by the counsel who is meant to help. No child should ever be used as a pawn to break another. Or stolen in the night when there is no threat. No human should ever have to cry like that. Never again.
Hello Fear, my silence is now broken.