At first, I liked it.

Surprise visits at work with flowers. Unexpected knocks on my door with a box full of soft tacos. What woman doesn’t want to feel thought about?

I loved the way he gave me money. At first, it was here and there, until I didn’t have to work anymore. “Here and there” turned into a weekly allowance, which meant he loved me.

I loved the way he bought me a new house, new cars every year and took me on vacations.

“Where do I find a man like your’s?” my friends would ask. I enjoyed the sound of jealousy. “Does he have a brother?”

He did have a brother, paralyzed from the waist down from a gunshot wound. He beat his wife into oblivion so she grabbed a gun, pointed at his nuts and the rest is history. I never told anyone that story. Maybe one day I will.

His desire for me should have landed him in an asylum or prison. I loved him too much to tell anyone about the day he choked me. He thought I was cheating. My feet lifted 5 inches off the ground, his hazel eyes suddenly unrecognizable, we were eye to eye.

“I will fucking kill you if you ever leave me.” he said.

I couldn’t breathe.

I think I died that night. I remember waking up with him over me sobbing. “I thought you were gone.” he said barely able to get the words out. “I promise I will never do that again.” I believed him. I loved him. After it happened a few more times, I left.

The most dangerous time for a woman? Right after she leaves. My apartment was 100 feet away from his house. We agreed it would be best, for our son, to live so close to one another. Living in a gated community, I felt protected. After two months of building a routine of separation, I was happy, praying he found someone else so he could stop loving me. Or find Jesus. Whatever worked.

That night was different. Our son was watching Elmo in the living room. He insisted we eat dinner like a family. I obliged because I am a mom.

“Can I talk to you in the bedroom?” he asked.

“Sure, no funny stuff” I joked. I thought nothing of it.

I stepped in the bedroom and heard the door lock behind me. “Oh shit” I thought.

Before I could turn around, he grabbed the back of my hair with one hand and choked me with the other. “Shut up before our son hears you scream.”

“Take off your pants” he whispered.

“No” I said. I spit in his face. “Let go off me.”

He squeezed my throat even tighter and I felt life leave my body. “Oh no you don’t” he said loosening his grip. He balled his hand into a fist and punched me in the face. “Wake up bitch”.

By the time I realized what was going on, all I could see was his fist going up and down punching different parts of my body.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked, sweaty, as he unzipped his pants.

“Get the fuck off me” I sobbed. “You are sick.”

I started to yell our son’s name out loud because I knew that would make him snap out of it.

“Don’t make me fucking kill you.” he whispered staring into my eyes, using an open hand to mush me in the forehead.

“You thought you were going to leave me?” He laugh hysterically. “You thought after 7 years I was just going to let you go? I know about your boyfriend. I see him coming to your apartment every night. Your car tells me everywhere you go. Your computer sends me every stroke. Is there something you want to tell me?” he asked. “And you better not lie” he said, his penis hard in his hand.

Dead silence. All of a sudden he dragged me from the bed by my hair clear across the room and grabbed the gun. “I must look like a fucking chump to you. Tonight, we all die. First I am going to kill you. Then our son. We are going to die like a family.”

“Why our son?” I screamed with a sudden shock that only his words could bring.

“Because” he said calmly with the gun in his hand, locked and loaded. “No one wants to grow up in foster care.”

He put the gun to my temple. I was blank.

“Then I’m killing myself because that would be better than jail.” he said so matter of factly.

“Snap out of it.” I screamed, dropping to my knees, sobbing, rubbing his penis, putting it away. “I love you. I will leave my boyfriend. I only want to be with you but I didn’t think you loved me. I promise I won’t call the police. I promise. Let’s work it out.”

In this moment, I said anything to survive.

“You are my life and I can’t live without you. I will do anything for you. We can make this work.” I looked him in his eyes, silently praying to God, begging Him to hear me.

“I love you baby. It’s just you and me.” I said desperately.

Just like that, he snapped out of it. He lifted me on the bed and he dropped to his knees, sobbing in my lap. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds.” he said.

“Who?” I wondered but I was too afraid to speak. His eyes weren’t black anymore, they returned to the beautiful shade of brown I fell in love with.

“My flesh and heart fail but God is my strength and portion”, he said, picking the gun back up and pointing it at me. He placed a Bible in my lap.

I blacked out in the moment. I could see his lips moving, his hand moving between pointing the gun at me, then himself. I felt blank. I thought I was dead already.

“Get out.” he screamed. “Get out before I change my mind and fucking kill you.”

I jumped to my feet, opened the door and went to grab our son. He grabbed my arm, bent it behind my back and whispered in my ear, so our son wouldn’t hear him.

“He’s not going anywhere. If you take him, we all die.”

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