This is a hopeful story about a woman escaping from an abusive relationship and following her dreams. It is becoming increasingly important in our society to discourage the typical flippant attitude toward domestic abuse and encourage communication about this sensitive topic. Birdie Beers is a victim, but she’s also a modern-day hero.
Birdie Beers dabs concealer under her left eye. She blends outward and upward before stepping back from the mirror to inspect her handiwork.
Not quite satisfied, she leans in closer and repeats the process. She follows with a thick layer of foundation and a heavy dusting of powder before finishing with blush, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.
She leans back, allowing her vision to focus and view the finished product. While she’d been aiming for a natural look, the dark berry lipstick makes her look more like she’s going to a gala. Nevertheless, she realizes she’s done a passable job at concealing her greatest shame.
She hollers out the door, “Hey Walt, come check this out!”
He appears in the doorway of the bathroom, still in the white shirt and black pants he wore to work, and studies her face. “Your eye looks puffy, why didn’t you put ice on it last night? And that lipstick makes you look like an old whore. I’m going to have to call Michael and tell him we’re not coming.”
Walter Markley never hit Birdie Beers.
Until he did.
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs, avoiding his eyes. It has become her automatic response to nearly everything. Two magical words which prevent most fights as well as the aftermath of said fights. They stroke his ego, which needs stroked several times daily, and serve as proof of her remorse for whatever crimes she commits in his eyes. They are an ice pack on the broken bone that was once a promising tale of love.
He shrugs, “It’s not that big of a deal. I don’t feel like seeing my brother, anyway. He makes me tense, and I already had a bad day.” He walks away without further explanation.
She sighs and begins to wipe away the layers of makeup with a damp cloth, wincing as it passes over the still-tender bruise around her eye. She takes care to not reopen the already-healing cut on her lip when scrubbing away the only lipstick in her makeup bag dark enough to serve as camouflage.
Once she’s finished, Birdie calls out to him, “Since we’re not going out, do you want me to make something for dinner?” Not waiting for him to answer, she walks into the kitchen with the intention of finding something suitable and easy.
“No, I’m still going out,” he says. She notices he has changed out of his work clothes and is now standing at the front door, shrugging into his coat. Her body tenses, careful to not do or say anything which might change his mind. He kisses her cheek, more out of obligation than affection, “Don’t wait up.”
Once the door clicks closed behind him, she mentally relaxes; though she knows quite well where he is going. The fact that it no longer bothers her hurts more than the first time she found out he’d cheated.
He doesn’t stay with them. He comes home to me.
After three years together, she’s grown to both love and fear him with every breath in her body. It is a sad fact and something she’s never shared with anybody, not even her best friend, Willa. He keeps close tabs on her, but she often wonders, if she could only harness the logic and courage, if she would walk out the door right now and never look back.
It remains unclear to her why she stays. She supposes life with Walt is like an addiction at this point. Her new normal.
Once Birdie feels confident he is gone and not returning soon, she climbs on top of the marble countertop in the big open kitchen of their beautiful Gold Coast apartment in Chicago and retrieves the packet from the top of the cabinet. She pops out the pill labeled for Friday and washes it down with water from the tap. She then returns the birth control to its hiding place, and wipes her footprints off the counter with a decorative dish towel.
She returns the towel to its place on the handle of the stove and is straightening it as her phone begins to ring. She answers immediately, with no hesitation, as if programmed to do so.
“Hello, Walter,” she says, careful to be cheerful . He rarely fails to call after he’s left, as he seems to take great joy in reminding her to stay put, not eat, and not call anybody.
“Don’t leave the apartment,” he says in lieu of a standard greeting. “Your eye still looks like shit, and that nosy bitch across the hall already glares at me in the elevator. I swear any woman that has a little bruise these days gets treated as an abuse victim, and all men get treated like criminals.” She hears him curse under his breath and she grips the phone tighter. “Damn dog,” he mutters. “People just walk their dogs down the street not paying any attention to where they’re going. I may just kick one into traffic one day.”
“Okay, I’ll stay here.” She interrupts his tirade if only in an effort to keep the visions of her boyfriend murdering an innocent dog at bay.
I already have enough nightmares about him killing me.
“Where were you planning to go?” The edge on his question causes her blood to run cold.
“I wasn’t going to go anywhere. I was just reassuring you.” Her body tenses as it recognizes his tone. He is getting fired up, and the last thing she wants is for him to change his mind about the side dish and come home to release his sexual tension on her.
He snorts, “Well, I’ll know if you leave, so you can forget about sneaking out. Don’t go ordering a pizza so you can flirt with the pizza boy either.” He hangs up and she swallows the lump forming in her throat.
Flirt with the pizza boy?
Birdie half-heartedly searches the kitchen for something to eat, but ultimately realizes she isn’t hungry. Walt had pinched her waist that morning and commented she’s been getting fat, and it’s been nagging at her all day.
Skipping dinner is probably smart.
Deciding to read a book instead, she tiptoes through the pristine apartment, over the slate floors and soft carpet, careful to not undo anything she’s scrubbed, waxed, or vacuumed today. She dresses in a purple silk nightgown and slides under the Egyptian cotton sheets to escape within the pages of someone else’s story; all with the comfort of knowing nothing will be out of place when Walter returns home from his tryst.