“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”
― Mo Willems,
The first time I laid eyes on Abi was when we were gazing at puppies trying to decide which one to take home. It was the fall of 2006. I had lost both my dog and my best friend in May. I was ready for a puppy to love.
I actually would have chosen another puppy, but my ex (from here on out to be referred to simply as he) had eyes only for the female puppy we would name Abi Rose.
As was fairly typical I quickly acquiesced to his choice. He said he liked her energy.
On the ninety mile drive home, I had a feeling something was wrong. My instincts were on full alert. The rain was pounding down outside on what was a cool autumn day.
By that evening it was becoming apparent that Abi was sick. I slept on the cement floor of the garden room beside her crate with my fingers touching her.
I would learn that she had kennel cough when I got her evaluated the next day.
I got Abi through that episode, but then she was diagnosed with a heart problem. I was told not to have her out in the heat very long. Then she had an asthmatic cough and I was given a nebulizer by the vet and told how to give it to her.
I was so afraid I would lose her.
Then in a few months I drove to a rundown turkey farm far out in the country and picked up Charlie Ross. I really didn’t choose him either.
I was looking at all the puppies and had no idea which one to choose. I wanted them all. Another couple was there. They had chosen a puppy for her mother.
The woman, probably sensing my indecision, walked over to me and said: “If I had to pick another puppy, I would pick that one,” and she pointed to Charlie. “There’s something about his eyes.”
And so I chose the puppy that is Charlie Ross.
I was happy for a time. I loved my babies. They both had such unique personalities. Abi was outgoing and charming. Charlie was more quiet and submissive but oh so sweet.
I needed them so much because my life was lacking in stability and going downhill fast.
On Saturdays during college football games, he would start drinking before the game began and continue drinking scotch throughout the evening.
If his team wasn’t winning, he would become mean and belligerent. Toward the end of many afternoons, he would start railing at me and tell me to get out.
I always had my purse and car keys by the door leading to the garage. So I would grab up a dog under each arm and run.
He would chase me out, but then if I didn’t manage to get us inside my car and lock the doors in time, he would grab hold of the door handle and pull me out. I never understood what that was about. Why chase me out and then try to stop me?
If I managed to get the doors locked and the garage door up and safely backed down the driveway, he would almost immediately begin calling my cell phone. Telling me he was sorry, begging me to come back home.
I would typically find a place to pull over in some random neighborhood because I couldn’t see to drive through my tears. I would sit in my car with the pupsters and listen to his frantic messages and pleas for me to come back home.
I think maybe that is why I hate cell phones to this day. There was no getting away from his voice. He could always keep his crazed drunken words coming at me.
Once I was deeply depressed and I left the dogs behind. I remember I drove and drove until I found this remote country church. I pulled my car behind it, out of sight of the closest road.
I sat there and thought about taking the bottle of pills in my purse. It might be the only way to truly get away from the craziness that had become my life.
But how could I leave my babies? Who would take care of them?
I went back to my beautiful home and gardens and tried to smile my way through a life that had started out as a fairy tale and become a nightmare.
Never trust fairy tales.
And so this went on for five more years. Thirteen in all.
The police would be called out. They weren’t much help. They tended to believe “the educated doctor” and not the woman who he told them was mentally ill.
After they left he told me that he could have me put away. Due to his being a psychiatrist, he said the judge would obviously take his word on when someone needed to be in a mental hospital.
After all, he did it all the time at the hospital where he worked.
I called the female psychiatrist I had begun seeing one day. I was sitting at a street corner on the other side of town. I asked her if this was true.
“Well,” she told me. “It probably is. I could get you out after the required evaluation time, but you’d be stuck in there until then.”
“So the judge would take his word over mine?” I asked her. And she said probably so.
He said all he had to do was tell the police that I was a danger to myself or others and I could be held until a judge saw fit to release me. This terrified me.
Who would take care of my babies?
I started ordering books online on how to disappear without a trace. The idea became more and more appealing to me.
Except I didn’t have the one necessary thing to make it happen: Money. And that was the key to everything. He watched what he referred to as “his” money like a hawk.
Oddly enough, even though he made very good money, we never had much in the bank. He ordered clothing like nobody’s business. Ties and shoes and fancy watches.
The money dwindled quickly each month and there was no savings account.
Once he told me that he would keep me so broke and in debt that I could never leave him.
At night I would like awake and listen for the rhythm of his breathing that told me he was asleep. I would quietly get up and tiptoe to the guest room, the dogs right behind me, just to have a place to relax away from him.
On the nights I didn’t hear him come into the guest room, I would wake up to Abi growling low but ominously.
I would see his silhouette in the shadows. He would just stand there and stare down at me while I pretended to sleep.
I never heard Abi growl like that at any other time.
In 2009 I started this blog. I didn’t make any money from it until 2011, the year I finally got up the gumption and wherewithal to leave. But it wasn’t much money. Just a bit trickling in. Not enough to take care of Abi and Charlie and me.
When I left in October of 2011, I was utterly terrified that I wouldn’t make it. That I wouldn’t be able to feed and house us. I would surely fail, just as he always told me I would.
Really from 2006 until May 10, 2018, Abi never left my side. She followed me wherever I went.
Though he had chosen her out of all those other puppies, he started saying that “She’s just like you.” Whatever that meant. I guess because she preferred me to him. He certainly didn’t mean it kindly.
I know this is long and convoluted. These thoughts are what I woke up to this morning and so here they are.
“You will end up in a ditch without me to take care of you,” he’d say. “That’s probably where your mother is and you’ll end up just like her.”
Please do not think that you are smarter, more wise to the ways of the world, that you could not fall under a man’s spell like I did.
These men are charmers. They devote themselves to you until you feel like you are indeed in your very own fairy tale. A fairy princess.
Never trust fairy tales…
This type of man will convince you that no one has ever loved you like he does, and no one ever will again. And unless you are very savvy, you will fall under his spell.
Doesn’t every woman want to be showered with love and affection? Especially girls who never had a father to tell her he loved her?
After he has you securely in his grip, he will scare you into believing that he can do whatever he wants because by that time you will be deep into your endless pit of despair and have little will to fight back.
I put my two grown daughters (not his children) through a lot in those 13 years I was married to him. Thirteen years might not sound like a long time.
It is an eternity.
I’d leave him and stay with them a few weeks and then I’d go back to him. I hurt and disappointed them. People often prefer what they know to the unknown.
When I finally left, my oldest daughter bought a house to rent to me out of the kindness of her heart. But once I was there, finally safe and sound but obviously shaky and uncertain, the relationship deteriorated.
I don’t think she could find a way to forgive me those awful thirteen years I was his wife and a mere fraction of a human being.
Just before I left that last time, I was on the phone with her when she broke down and said: ” Please get out of there. I keep waiting for the phone call saying he’s finally killed you.”
Yes, I put them both through a lot. She and I never managed to repair our relationship and I haven’t seen her in years. I guess some things that are broken cannot be glued back together.
I am thankful that I have a relationship with my younger daughter and Andrew. I cherish that.
I’m glad I didn’t figure out a way to disappear, because I’d have had to disappear from my own children. Otherwise he’d have made their lives hell trying to find me.
And as it was, I wasn’t able to get away until he found my replacement. A woman with starry eyes thinking what a catch she’d landed. A doctor who made a lot of money and doted on her.
I tried to I tell her what her life would be like. How it would start slowly until she became someone she didn’t recognize in the mirror. I told her I didn’t want him, but I thought she should know what she was in for.
And she chose not to believe me. They’ve been married about six years now. There were times in those first years when he obviously “butt called” me from the phone in his pocket.
I would say “hello, hello.” And obviously he did not know he’d inadvertently dialed my number.
I would sit there with the phone to my ear and listen to them arguing and screaming at one another. I knew her nightmare had begun. I found no pleasure in knowing that.
Never trust fairy tales…
I’m sorry I’ve gone on and on. I’ve been writing for hours now. The room is dark and the clouds are heavy with rain. Kind of reminds of when I was nursing my babies and my breasts would become so full and painful with unreleased milk.
There is a stillness in the air. I just heard the first groan of thunder, the heralding of a storm. I sit here with Charlie beside me and look out the patio doors waiting for the first rain drops.
In my grief, all these memories are coming to the surface.
My pupsters were always afraid of men. Of the phone ringing. Yes, the very ringing of the phone alarmed them. And I understand why.
Because of those times I sat in my car with them on Saturday afternoons when a college football game seemed to hold my future in its very hands.
We sat there and listened to my phone ring and ring and ring. We listened to him pleading, and then alternately getting angry. I would sit there crying as dusk began to fall, holding my babies and wondering how my life had come to this.
Never trust fairy tales…
I miss Abi so very much. I am so sorry they had the fears they had just because I wasn’t brave enough to find a way out for so long. Five years they were there with me in that fine house with a man whose mood changed on a dime.
I am in a good place now for the most part. I would give anything to have my sweet Abi back here with us. As one days passes to another, I mourn the loss of her. She gave me such joy and laughter with her silly antics.
I mourn the relationship with my daughter that is nil and void. She was not able to accept the mother who had hit bottom. Who had no confidence and had to build her life from the bottom up.
I don’t blame her. I just put one foot in front of the other and am thankful that I found my way out.
My life is simple. I don’t go out much and never ever at night. I have seen demons in the light of day. I don’t trust what might linger around street corners in the dark.
The rain is falling now. Thunder is steadily rumbling in the distance. Charlie is snoozing beside me.
Every little girl who dreams of a life that includes a white picket fence yearns to be a story book princess.
But please believe me when I caution you never to trust fairy tales. Because if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.