I should probably have contacted the police immediately after reading the article about the dead man, but I didn't because I kept seeing those strangulation bruises on Bettany's neck and, not to say that Jim deserved to die for what he did (or threatened to do) to her, but I could understand how she might have done something in self defense. Especially given how volatile I knew her to be.
Which brought me round to confronting her. Even if I didn't go to the police, I needed to get the full story directly from the horse's mouth.
I decided I would talk to her that evening, after Michael was in bed.
But I never got around to it.
We were finishing off a bottle of wine and watching the eleven o'clock news. There was a story about date rape. During the commercial break she asked me if I'd ever been raped.
"Not raped, no," I answered. "Flashed, harassed, assaulted, molested, but never actually raped, thank God. You?" I got up and turned the volume down on the TV.
"Yah. A couple of times, actually. Jim almost raped me. Or maybe it was actually rape. That story has me thinking."
"Why?" I waited for her to go on.
"We had this fight one time. He, like, grabbed me and threw me down. He was big, eh, so I was really scared. Then he put his whole weight on top of me and started unzipping. So I just said, 'No, Jim, not like this. We can make love, but not like this.' So then we 'made love'," Bettany made air quotes to emphasize this, "I guess, but it's not like I was really into it. I mean, I loved him, but sex was, like, the last thing I wanted. But at least he didn't hurt me. And in the end, I did come, so I guess I must've wanted it after all."
"Coming doesn't mean you wanted it. It just means your body responded. I think it happens more than we know," I commented. "It's just easier to give in. Did that happen the night before you left?"
"What?" She looked puzzled. "The night . . . Oh. Yah. . . Sort of. It might've ended that way again. I don't really want to talk about it." She turned up the volume on the TV and topped up her wine glass.
I felt like this was not the moment to ask whether she had accidentally killed her husband. Not that there's really a right moment for that kind of question. But she had clammed up, gone into a safe place in her mind, so I sipped my wine.
The next evening, as I came in from the gym, I heard her on the phone.
"Jesus Fucking Christ, Pam! No!" . . . "I said --" . . . "Pam! Let me speak!" . . .
It appeared that Pam was on a tear and Bettany couldn't get a word in edgewise.
"Look. I'm not going to see him . . . I don't care . . . I don't care . . . No -- . . . Michael is better off without him. . . You don't know everything. . . No, I'm not going to tell you. . . Let me -- . . . Let me -- . . . PAM! Jesus! Let me speak! . . . Thank you!
"Look," she finally spoke a little more coherently, "Jim had his chance and he blew it. I can't let him see Michael because you know full well that I'll just end up going back to him. And even if I don't he'll just teach Michael how to be an asshole just like his goddamn daddy. So, no. I won't give you our address or phone number, I won't meet him, I won't let him see Michael, and I don't care if it means I can never marry again or that in God's eyes we are still man and fucking wife. I don't give one flying fuck. I have to think about me now. And Michael. So just go fuck yourself and stay out of my fucking life." She slammed the phone.
I was still frozen to my spot in the kitchen. I hadn't intended to eavesdrop, but it all happened so fast.
I quickly opened and closed the door again, as if I'd just come in. "Hello!" I called out cheerily, as if I'd heard nothing.
Bettany stepped into the kitchen and looked at me doubtfully, anger still flashing in her eyes.
"What's up?" I asked. I could hardly ignore the fact that she looked upset.
"I just got off the phone with Pam. I called her and found out Jim has been calling her and wants to see Michael. And me. And he's just hurt me too much, you know?" She started to cry.
"Yah. I know," I said as I wrapped my arms around her. I rocked her a little. She was so young, so tiny. She'd been through too much already.
Wilson Phillips was playing.
Come on baby, come on baby
You knew it was time to just let go
'Cause we want to be free
But somehow it's just not that easy
Come on Darlin', hear me Darlin'
'Cause you're a waste of time for me
I'm trying to make you see
That baby you've just got to release me
I'm not going back to you anymore
Finally my weakened heart is healing though very slow
So stop coming around my door
'Cause you're not gonna find
What you're looking for
For previous entries, visit my Fiction Friday page.