Red Flags

She wiped her tears and picked herself up from the floor.
She wouldn’t give in to tears again. She just wouldn’t. She had to pick herself up.
At least it wasn’t too bad today.
And wasn’t it her fault too?
She knew he got mad whenever she used red lipstick.
But she wanted to feel cute on her birthday, and she thought he wouldn’t be home until later.
She disobeyed him.
Wasn’t this the price she had to pay for her disobedience?

But it didn’t start like this. It was never like this in the beginning.
Or were there signs she failed to see??

She met him in her final year of university.
She, a beautiful smart lady with big ambitions to take over the world.
And He, the gentle, easy-going postgraduate student.
Their first meeting was because of an argument. She had gotten into a row with a bike man.
She smiled when she thought of it now.
He had said that was what attracted him to her.
Her “confidence and eloquence” as he put it.
They hit it up right after that.
Spending more and more time together.

He was very sweet with her.
At least so she liked to remember.
There were a few times when he got short tempered.  The times when she kept trying to prove her point to him.
“You don’t have to try to prove your point to me dear” he would say in a somewhat condescending manner.
“I don’t mind when you do it with others, I love it actually, but when you are with me, you don’t have to”
“Let’s just chill.”

She took it as a sign that he didn’t want to fight with her.
Afterall he was a very gentle guy.

Or times when she spent “too much time” with a guy friend. He would say she was being too “flirty”, that her smile was “too flirty.”
“Reserve that smile for me dear, I want it all to myself”,
She didn’t take it too seriously.
He was just joking she would say. No way he would expect me to change the way I smile.
Whenever she  tried to complain he would brush it off
“It’s all your fault you know” he would say jokingly. “It’s because you’re so beautiful and you made me fall in love with you.”
And that would usually make her blush. His words working the magic he intended.

Yet that didn’t appear to be a red flag.

Now that she looks back, maybe she should have read more into that attitude.
It’s too late to change anything though.
She has always been one to believe regrets did no good. All regret does is put one in a perpetual state of powerlessness.
She would not give in to it this time.

He proposed to her after barely 7 months of dating.
She remembers the day like it was yesterday.
He had put so much thought into it. Their close friends and family members were present. She didn’t even have a chance to say “yes” before he slipped the ring into her finger amidst cheers from everyone.
He couldn’t wait to marry her he whispered into her ears.
She remembers feeling confused. She was supposed to be excited, but something just felt wrong. It just felt too sudden.

Now she recognizes that feeling as her instincts warning her. Looking out for her, and telling her she was making the wrong decision.

But it wasn’t concrete.
She had no concrete reason to say NO to him.
His shortcomings were there, but didn’t they say no man is perfect?
She couldn’t say no to the devil she knew because of an angel she didn’t know.
And her biological clock was ticking.

After the proposal, things started to change. He demanded more and more of her time. He said she was his now and she had to spend every time possible with him. She thought it was cute that he was being clingy. But she didn’t like the fact that she didn’t have time to spend with her girlfriends again.
He got angry whenever she talked about it.
“So you will rather be with your girlfriends than be with me abi??”.
So she let it go.
She started drifting further and further apart from her friends and family members.

Then came the little little complaints.
She had to learn to compromise he said.
“Stop wearing red lipstick”, “those heels make you look too beautiful”, “change that skirt please, your legs look seductive in them. I don’t want anyone looking at my wife-to-be like that”, “This your hairstyle sha, don’t you think it is too flashy?”

And yet she went on with the wedding plans.
Those were not red flags she thought.
He was just a jealous man.
That was cute, she reminded herself

Then even more changes after the wedding.
“Do you have to work, I can open up a shop for you”
She disagreed vehemently when he suggested that. She loved her job. It was what she had always wanted to do.

And that was when he first hit her.

She never expected it.
Her right cheek felt like it was on fire. She could taste the blood from her burst lips.
She remained at that spot for a while. Too stunned to utter a word. Stuck in a reality that didn’t look like hers.

He left that night.
And came back in the morning begging.
He brought her favorite flowers and chocolate.
He was sorry.
His eyes were red and swollen.
Evidence that he had probably stayed up all night crying.
He definitely looked sorry.
He said he couldn’t believe he did that.
The devil had come on him.
He would never do it again.

And yet he did.

Again and again.
And every single time he came back begging. Crying. Obviously disappointed at his actions.

She couldn’t tell anyone.
She didn’t have close friends anymore.
Her parents saw him as the perfect husband.
No one would believe her.
Even she didn’t believe it herself.
She couldn’t believe this was her reality.
She had heard about domestic abuse. Had talked about it. Had blamed women that stayed in abusive relationships.

And yet, here she was.

Stuck.

Here she was,
Picking herself up from the floor her husband had pushed her to a few minutes ago.
Angry with her that she dared to wear red lipstick on her birthday

Here she was, picking herself up for the umpteenth time. Trying not to cry.
Trying to put on a brave face.

She picked up the car keys. She had to leave the house. She needed to think. And so she started driving. Aimlessly.
She had to put an end to this she thought.
It had gone on for too long.
It was time she ended the cycle.
This evening she would say something.
No more second chances she decided.
The cycle had to end.

The decision made her drive back home more giddy. The relief from her resolution giving her a renewed burst of energy.
She got back and met a large bouquet of roses on the kitchen table. The smell of supper filled her nostrils.
He had prepared dinner for them.
Her favorite food.
The table was partly set. 2 wine glasses and a bottle of champagne in the middle. Soft music was playing in the background. While she was taking it all in,  he walked in from behind her and gave her a tight warm hug. The smell of his cologne filling her senses.
He whispered softly into her ears “I am sorry dear, it was a mistake.
I promise this is the last time.
You know how much I love you right? Allow me make it up to you this time. Don’t let this small mistake ruin your birthday”

She melted in his warm embrace.

Maybe he deserves one more chance she thought.

********

1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse from their intimate partner.

Domestic abuse includes physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse.

The COVID 19 pandemic has led to a surge in the rates of reported cases of domestic and intimate partner violence.

Every day, 137 women are killed by their partners or relatives.

Seek help if you are experiencing domestic abuse.

Know the warning signs.

Heed the warning signs.

SEEK HELP

If you are worried about a family member or friend that may be experiencing domestic violence, reach out to them. Offer your unconditional support and help. Understand that leaving might not be the easiest decision to make. Empower them to make that decision.

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