It was winter in Los Angeles. If you’ve never spent any part of a winter in Los Angeles, this story could just as well begin with ‘It was summer in ____’, the blank representing any number of other cities in America. The air was crisp yet warm and the smog induced sunsets were capable of making even the most hurried Hollywood hotshots stop and sigh. Most days, I was thankful to be living there. But by the end of the ninth day of January of that particular year, I was not very thankful to be living at all.
The dark green bruises on my face and neck were easily covered with makeup for the most part. To draw the attention of others away from the scratches and scars – to keep them from suspecting any trouble - was a surprisingly simple task. I often thought jokingly to myself about making a series of YouTube tutorial videos: How To Cover Bruises On A Budget. They’d go viral because people would think they were a joke. The only time anyone came close to figuring it out was when a coworker asked me if I could go out for drinks with her, and I told her my boyfriend wouldn’t allow it. I knew immediately that I had made a mistake in telling her and should have bit my tongue. Maura had been a victim of domestic abuse years prior and knew the warning signs well. I told her I had a bleeding ulcer (which was actually true) and that my boyfriend would get mad if he found out I was drinking alcohol because it was very bad for said ulcer. Hiding the bruises was only the beginning of the lies I had signed myself up to tell, and I had never been a very good liar. We went out that night after work and I had a root beer and talked about my captor for hours as if he were the love of my life. I fooled Maura that night and for many nights to follow, but I could never manage to fool myself, not even for a goddamn second.
I came home from the bar on the night of January ninth, sober and completely terrified. It was around 2:54 AM. Now, I say “around”, because that’s what the clock on my phone said. I have no idea what his said, but I can tell you that it did not please him when I was late. When I walked in after toggling with the dated gold lock for a moment, he was sitting in the dark and smoky apartment we shared with a brand new, shiny Kershaw knife in his hand – the type of knife not made for cutting things but for stabbing people. I thought for certain he would kill me then. Sometimes, looking back, I still wish that he had. Things far worse than an abusive boyfriend threatening to kill me were yet to come my way.
That adoring boyfriend of mine whose name was Benson Randall stared me down for a few moments then, stroking that pretty black knife slowly so as not to mistakenly slice one of his own precious fingers. My movements were careful, as I knew that knife was not the only deadly weapon he had within reach. If I came home too late at night by his standards, he would typically have one of his guns hidden underneath the couch cushions, just to scare me if I happened to use the wrong tone of voice with him. I cleared my throat before speaking in an attempt to sound as collected and classy as possible.
“I’m sorry…” I began. I wasn’t.
“Oh you are?” Benson interrupted, standing up and coming towards me, leaving the knife on the wooden coffee table I had built with my own hands.
“Yes. I tried to come straight home after work, but Maura seemed suspicious, so I went out with her.”
“Where did you go?” he asked, lighting a cigarette. I hated it when he smoked in our apartment.
“That little bar up the street from here… The… Something room …I can’t remember the name. There was no one there and all I had was a —”
He grabbed me roughly by my bare shoulders, exposed by my shirt. The thin material had betrayed me like a cheating lover. Bare skin transformed him into a wild animal, especially if it was mine. He put one hand over my mouth to silence me then and pulled me towards him with the other. If I wasn’t so scared for my life, I might’ve been turned on.
“Let me smell your breath.” he spoke in a mere whisper, but the demanding tone made me feel like I was being yelled at.
I blew my root beer breath towards his perfectly chiseled face, but before he decided whether it was acceptable or not he had already begun ripping my pants off of me and grabbing at my stomach and ribs aggressively. I surrendered without much of a fight, not to the possibility of sexual satisfaction but to that of yet another slow and painful beating at the hands of the man who claimed to love me. I knew exactly what was coming, because it always started the same way. I did not believe in God, but as one of Benson’s strong hands began to tighten around my neck and the other slapped me across the face over and over again, I wished for one small moment that I did – just so I could beg him to let me die right then.