Darla jumped off of the couch and ran to the window when she heard Mason’s car pull in the driveway. She glanced down at her watch wanting to confirm just how late he was. Three hours, twenty two minutes and sixteen seconds late depending on how long it took him to walk through the door. She watched from the window as he sat in his car. It appeared to Darla that he was praying. He was probably praying she wouldn’t smell the perfume from another woman or that she and the kids were asleep. Either way Mason was in for a treat when he walked through the door, Darla would make absolutely sure of it. She closed the curtain and walked over to the garage door, knowing which door would be his entry point. She wedged her body tightly in between the door and the frame, when she heard the garage door open. Mason stepped in the door and to his surprise Darla was staring him in the face. The look of rage in her eyes let him know he was in for yet another fight. Before he could speak, Darla began slapping and punching him; while screaming obscenities at the top of her lungs. He dodged and ducked as best he could, but she was quicker than he’d remembered. Darla connected a couple of times and he felt his right eye begin to swell. Mason grabbed both of Darla’s arms and pushed her up against the kitchen wall in an effort to restrain her. As she struggled to free herself from his tight grip, she began yelling at him in between four letter words, “Let me go. You’re hurting me”. Mason tightened his grip with each of Darla’s attempt to free herself. When Darla realized she wasn’t strong enough to get free, she decided kneeing Mason where it hurt the most would do the job; and she was right. Mason doubled over in pain and they both fell to the floor. Darla screamed out in pain as the back of her head hit the corner of the marble kitchen counter and Mason’s 6’2, 240 lb body landed on top of her causing her head to slam into the kitchen floor. They both lay on the kitchen floor in pain, exhausted, bruised, out of breath and silent.
Mason knew his marriage was in trouble from the very beginning. Two weeks after saying I do, they had an altercation in which she threw hot water on him and he suffered second degree burns. Part of her apology was an offer to attend marriage counseling with Pastor Ryan. But the idea of discussing with another man, let alone their Pastor that he was being physically abused by his wife was more than Mason was willing to do. The fact that he was getting knocked upside his head by his wife went against every man code ever written and quite frankly he was embarrassed and thought no one would believe him anyway. After hanging out with the guys one night, Mason learned he needed to always have an excuse prepared. What was supposed to be a night of beers and watching Monday night football with the guys was preempted by a barrage of questions as to how and why he was sporting two black eyes. Mason found himself ill-prepared for the grilling he received. They all knew his explanation of taking up boxing class to keep fit wasn’t true but none of them ever imagined that Mason was being abused at the hands of his wife. As they made jokes and mocked him about getting soft and losing his edge, Mason smiled and quietly wondered if they were right about him. After all, in the year and a half of dating and the six years they’d been married, Mason had never put his hands on her; never raised his voice but unfortunately he couldn’t say the same about her.
Over the years, Darla had shared horror stories with him about the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her mother; stories that made his blood curdle. How her mother always quoted the scripture, “spare the rod; spoil the child”, whenever she beat her. Most of the time she was beaten with an extension cord but her mom was creative with transforming kitchen utensils and garden tools into weapons of discipline. The beatings were endless and for reasons no child could ever understand. Mason knew Darla suffered with depression from time to time and had a short temper which ended more often than not with someone being hit, punched or kicked but he always brushed it off as Darla being passionate and feisty rather than angry and abusive. All of the red flags Mason had ignored when they were dating were now waving rapidly in his face. They met at the church picnic when she was introduced to him as the best potato salad maker in the world. While he wasn’t a fan of potato salad, he was instantly mesmerized by her beauty. Darla was 5; 6 with big beautiful brown eyes and a shape like a coke bottle. She flashed her sexy smile, as she handed him a plate with a double portion of everything. When he sat down to eat, he realized Darla had wrapped his fork in a napkin with her number written on it. It was then Mason knew she would be his wife and from that moment on they were inseparable. She was a breath of fresh air. She was intelligent, witty and fun; a far cry from all of the previous women he’d dated. They spent countless hours talking about God, their lives; their dreams and their future together. But somehow the dream had quickly turned into a nightmare. How could he have missed all of the signs? Mason finally realized she wasn’t fired from three jobs because everyone was out to get her like she said but rather it was her inability to get along with people. All of her broken friendships weren’t because her girlfriends were jealous of her but because she was a horrible friend. All of the mommy and me play dates she’d been banned from attending wasn’t because the kids were constantly fighting the other kids but because she was fighting with all of the parents. The buzz around church about her being asked to step down from the women’s ministry because of her nasty attitude and explosive temper wasn’t just gossip but rather the truth. Mason felt betrayed by Darla’s act of innocence but most of all he felt betrayed by his own heart. He had fallen in love with and married a woman who posed more danger to him than an enemy and yet he couldn’t imagine his life without her. How could he leave her? He’d made a vow to God for better or for worse and he’d promised Darla he would never abandon her, like her dad had done.
Mason’s trip down memory lane was suddenly interrupted by jerking movements he felt beneath him. He looked down to see Darla’s eyes rolling in the back of her head and her body convulsing. He rolled off of her and began screaming her name. He grabbed her head gently to lift her up and felt something warm and sticky on his hands. Mason pulled his hand from underneath her head and ran over to the cordless phone on the counter; noticing the blood on his hands as he was dialing. Terrified Mason hung up the phone and ran over to Darla in an effort to see where the blood was coming from. He rolled her over while she was still convulsing and saw blood underneath her head, when suddenly Darla stopped moving. Mason panicked and wondered what to do next. How could he explain to the paramedics, the police, his friends and family what really happened? No one would believe him. He’d never mentioned the abuse he’d suffered to anyone. He’d covered up the abuse with lies and ridiculous explanations for years. How would he explain away the bruises on her arms? He would lose his job, his kids and his freedom if anyone got wind of this. Mason kneeled down beside Darla and began to pray. With tears he asked God to show him what to do. Before Mason could say amen, there was a knock at the door; more like a banging. Mason jumped up and ran over to the door, but before he could look through the peephole he heard someone say in a loud voice; “Police, open up.” Mason opened the door and two police officers were standing with their hands resting on their guns. “Sir, we received a call about a domestic disturbance. We need to come in and take a look around”. Mason stepped quietly aside. The officers noticed the blood on Mason’s hands and the black eye. “My wife needs a paramedic”, Mason said as he motioned towards the kitchen. One officer ran over to Darla, took her vitals and immediately called into dispatch requesting a paramedic. The second officer spun Mason around; placed him in handcuffs and read him his rights. “Sir, you’re being charged with spousal abuse”. Mason hung his head in disbelief; he couldn’t believe what was happening. He broke down crying when he heard the officer say, “Yes, she’s breathing”. It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. He thanked God she was alive. As the officer led him to the car, Mason tried to explain what happened and asked if someone could call his mom to come over as the kids were upstairs asleep. Humiliated, Mason sat in the back of the police car, wondering what would happen to his kids; to his life. Police lights and sirens from the ambulance served as an alarm clock for the entire neighborhood. He could see bedroom and porch lights turning on in sync, moving from house to house up and down the entire street. His neighbors began coming out of their homes gathering on the lawn, to see what was going on. Mason began praying like he’d never prayed before. He asked God to fix his situation and to heal his wife. “Lord, I need you now”, he whispered in between sobs. Suddenly Mason heard something that caught his attention. He could hear the conversation between the two officers. “We have an eyewitness”, the officer said. “Unfortunately, the eyewitness is their five year old son. But he said, Mommy was mad; she’s always mad and she kept fighting Daddy. She kicked him and they fell down and Daddy started to pray. She fights Daddy all the time.”Thank you God”, Mason whispered; but the fact that his five year old son was more courageous than he somehow gave him the courage to make a decision he’d been hesitant to make; to leave.