At first, Dan had been a wonderful husband. Kathy started dating him when she was seventeen and in her last year of high school. He was a year older than she and had graduated the year before.
After he finished school, Dan went to work for his brother who owned a grain company in the small farming community they lived in. The business was quite successful so Dan made enough for them to live on when they married two and a half years later.
Kathy did not work outside the home and was very content taking care of the house and entertaining Dan's buddies. They came over for all the big sports games and of course, there were the weekly poker games.
She did not mind his friends hanging around. She liked them and they were always very nice to her. Dan made a point of letting her know how appreciated she was for putting up with them. And when they did have time alone together, it was time well spent.
It was about six months into their marriage when Kathy began to have some worries. Dan started becoming jealous over every little thing.
Now when his friends came over, he would explode after they left, saying she had been flirting with them. She did not know what he was talking about. She usually left the men to themselves except for saying hello when they first arrived and preparing some refreshments.
She did not think much about his jealousy at first. She even felt a little flattered by it. Being with Dan was the first relationship she had been in; so she was naive about some things. She had always been so quiet and shy in school she hardly dated at all until she met him.
Another problem that seemed to be getting worse was all the time he spent at his mother's house. She lived alone in the house Dan grew up in only three miles away. His father died of a heart attack when Dan was still in high school and Dan became his mother's protector.
Even before they were married, Dan was unusually close to his mother; but Kathy naively assumed the problem would go away once they were married. It might not have been so bad if his mother liked her but she always ignored Kathy whenever she was around. Even at their wedding, his mother was barely civil to her.
Dan's sisters told Kathy that their mother, Patty, would not have wanted Dan to be involved with anyone, so the constant snubbing was nothing personal.
At first the visits to his mother occurred about every other day after Dan got off work. He would stop by and visit her for about an hour or so and be home in time for dinner.
After some time, though, the visits became a daily routine and sometimes he spent the weekend with her, nights and all.
Kathy was rarely invited on these visits, especially the longer they were married. She did not mind all that much, though, because she was ignored any time she did go.
About two years into their marriage, things stayed about the same. Dan still had his occasional jealousy spurts that Kathy no longer felt flattered by; and he still saw his mother daily.
The only change was the brewing competition between Kathy and his mother, Patty. Kathy sometimes felt like she did not have a husband anymore, especially since he also began regularly eating dinner with Patty instead of Kathy.
She tried discussing how this made her feel but Dan defended his mother to the end. It got to the point where Kathy finally gave up on the discussions because Dan would just storm out anytime she mentioned his mother.
Toward the end of the third year of their marriage, Kathy felt as if her prayers had been answered. Patty was moving! She was going to be two hours away. Kathy would finally have her husband back.
And she did have her husband back. After his mother moved away, things seemed to fall back into place. Dan had been talking about having a baby and now with Patty gone, Kathy felt like this would be a great time to start a family.
Two months later, Kathy was pregnant and extremely happy. Dan was taking really good care of her and spoiling her rotten.
They began planning for a nursery they would do themselves.
A couple more months went by and Kathy began to worry again. She had picked out the wallpaper and decorations for the nursery but Dan was stalling on actually getting it started. She knew soon she would not be able to be much help due to her pregnancy. Then she found out why her husband was stalling.
The dream she was in had suddenly turned into a nightmare. Dan found a new job and wanted to move away. He wanted to move to the same town his mother lived in.
Just when she thought she got rid of Patty, back she came crashing into their lives. It was Dan's fault, she told herself. He let this happen to them and she hated him for it.
He had been planning this move since his mother first moved away. His brother had told him about a guy who needed a partner in his grain company and the company just happened to be where Patty was.
Kathy felt trapped. She was expecting their baby and did not feel like she had any choice but to go with him. She also had the growing suspicion Dan had wanted her to get pregnant just so she could not say no to moving.
Dan and Kathy now lived in a small ranch-style house a few miles from his mother. Kathy knew she would be miserable in their new home and two and a half years after the move, she found her life getting worse and worse.
The only happiness she had was from their daughter, Jess, who was born shortly after they moved. She had turned two-years old a few months earlier and was a handful to take care of. Dan took no interest whatsoever in the caretaking and raising of her. He was too busy with his mother to care.
Just weeks after they first moved, Dan had resumed his visits with his mother. They were even longer than they had been before. Kathy figured Patty had something to do with Dan's distance from Jess. Patty would not want Dan drawn into his new family because it would take time away from her.
Kathy desperately tried talking with her husband in hopes of resolving some issues. Yet that just seemed to make things worse. The more she tried to discuss things, the longer he stayed away from their home. He even began spending nights at his mother's house.
Kathy began to wonder if she had any marriage left at all. "Should we stay married just because we have a child together?" This question constantly nagged at her. It nagged her because deep down she knew what the answer was.
The only thing making Kathy believe he may still be interested in their marriage was that he still got jealous easily. Even though it was annoying, she reasoned he must still care about her if he still got jealous.
Kathy desperately wished she had someone to talk to. She had not made any friends in the new town and was not about to call her mom and dad and tell them her problems. Any time she did talk to them, she made sure things sounded as if her life could not be better. She would feel humiliated if they knew the truth.
She thought about calling her sister but they were not all that close. Instead, Kathy just let everything build up inside of her. Most of the time, she felt she would go crazy but taking care of Jess somehow kept her sane.
Five months went by and Kathy could feel herself slipping into a depression. She knew she had to do something. Dan was usually only around once a week now, but it was never overnight.
He no longer bothered to even take the time to be courteous to her. He just walked into the house, retrieve what he wanted, and left. If he did speak, it was always in a rude manner.
She was surprised he was still paying the bills at their house. She had no job and no schooling or training so she knew if he ever did cut them off, she would be in trouble. This fact was what finally made her realize she had to start looking out for her and Jess before it was too late.
Kathy came up with a plan. First of all, she would have to tell her parents. As hard as that would be, she knew she needed their help. Inevitably, she and Jess would have to move in with them for her to accomplish her goals.
Secondly, after she told them, she would ask if they would loan her the money to go to secretarial school. There was a six month program at the community college near her parents' house. She would work part-time somewhere after classes to help pay some of the bills. Her mother would love taking care of Jess during the days so childcare would not be a problem for her.
Finally, she would file for divorce. She still had a hard time accepting that her marriage had failed but over time, she would be strong enough to do it.
The hardest part of Kathy's agenda was getting started. In order to do this, she had to tell Dan she was leaving. She did not anticipate any real problems, since he totally ignored her and Jess; but anything was possible. Kathy was so shy that confrontation was not one of her strong points.
The day finally came to tell Dan she was leaving. She had not told her parents yet. She had decided to wait and see what happened with Dan first.
Kathy knew he would be stopping by that day because his business partner, Jim, was going to bring some papers by that Dan had to sign. Her nervousness was almost unbearable.
Finally, at four in the afternoon, Jim came by with the papers. She was glad to see him since it gave her a chance to push her thoughts aside about the upcoming confrontation.
Jim was a very polite and friendly man and Kathy offered him a cup of coffee in hopes he would keep her distracted for awhile. She was relieved when he agreed.
After an hour, he had to get home for dinner. Kathy walked him to the door and was feeling much better after the company.
She was a little startled when she saw Dan sitting in his car in the driveway. "I guess he just pulled up," she thought to herself.
Kathy went back into the house and waited for Dan to come in. Nervousness flooded her body all over again. "I have to be strong. I have to be strong," she kept repeating to herself.
After a few minutes, Dan finally entered the house. If looks could kill, Kathy would have been dead. She had no idea why he looked so angry. He stormed at her and began yelling uncontrollably.
"Why was Jim here? Are you sleeping with him? I knew you were nothing but a no good slut!" He gave Kathy no chance to respond to his remarks. She just stood there in shock.
"What are you talking about, Dan?" Kathy finally was able to say. "You asked him to come over here so you could sign those papers!"
"Don't give me that bull! I saw him pull up to the house over an hour ago, you little tramp. You can't fool me!" Dan was getting increasingly angry.
Kathy backed away from him. She did not know what to say. He had never acted like this. This was like no other jealous fit she had seen before. He had never called her names and cussed her out like this. "For christ's sakes, he sent Jim over here in the first place," Kathy thought to herself.
Dan continued yelling profanities in Kathy's face. She was not hearing what he was saying now because she instantly became enraged herself. It just boiled up and Kathy had no control of it, no control of the rage coming from deep inside her.
"How dare you come in here accusing me of things when you're never around as it is!" Kathy began. "You sent Jim over here and as far as I'm concerned, if anything was going on, it would no longer be any of your damn business. You gave up on this marriage a long time ago when you chose your mother over your own wife and daughter."
Kathy was out of control and could not stop herself now, did not want to stop herself. "As a matter of fact, I was waiting for you to come home because I am taking Jess and we are leaving you as soon as we can! I cannot handle your neglect and that crazy mother of yours anymore; I will not handle them anymore!"
Before Kathy could get another word out of her mouth, Dan bolted toward her and the last thing she saw was his arm raising. "You stupid bitch!" he yelled.
With no time to react, Kathy flew to the floor after Dan's fist slammed across her face. The intense pain in her jaw flashed through her entire body.
Somehow she managed to stumble to her feet when she saw him coming toward her again. She had to get past him in order to get away from him. The fear overwhelmed her.
Just as he raised his fist again, she threw her body into his, slamming him against the wall and then she ran to the back of the house into Jess' room. She quickly locked the door as she heard him running down the hallway.
"Open this damn door!" Dan yelled as he banged on the door. "Open it! Do you hear me? Open it, you bitch! Don't make me bust this damn thing down!"
Kathy sat huddled behind the door, terrified. "Could he really bust through the door?" she asked herself. She began looking through Jess' room for something to protect herself with.
"Oh my god!" Kathy screamed. While hunting for some sort of weapon, Kathy saw her daughter hunched behind her toy box crying. "How did she forget about her little girl? What if she had come out of her room when Dan was hitting her?"
Kathy forgot they had been playing in the family room while Jim was there. Jess had gone to her room to look for some other toy just before Dan entered the house. "What if she saw the whole thing?" Kathy thought to herself.
Kathy picked her daughter up from behind the toy chest and sat down on the bed holding her. "I am so sorry," she said, rocking Jess. "Everything is going to be alright." But nothing Kathy said could slow down Jess' tears.
Dan gave up on the door and went back down the hallway. Kathy did not hear him leave the house, though. "Oh god, what if he's gone to get something to break down the door with," she began thinking frantically. A new fear came over her. Not fear for herself but fear for her daughter.
Kathy carried Jess to the door as she insured that it was still locked. She had to do something.
Finally, she put Jess down on the bed and began pulling anything she could in front of the door: the toy chest, the dresser, and even the bed. All the furniture in her daughter's room was so small. Kathy feared it would not do much to stop Dan's getting through the door, if he really tried.
She picked Jess up from the bed and sat on the floor hunched against the back bedroom wall. Jess was not crying so hard anymore and Kathy continued to soothe her until she was finally silent.
Thoughts about what to do next were racing wildly through Kathy's mind. There was no window in the bedroom. That meant no chance to run to the neighbors for help. She figured they were going to have to wait until Dan settled down and left. She just hoped he actually would leave.
"Mommy, why Daddy so mean?" Jess said through tear-stained cheeks. Hearing her daughter's voice brought Kathy back from her runaway thoughts.
"Sweetie, don't you worry. Everything is going to be alright. We'll just stay in here for awhile and play, okay?" Kathy tried but not very successfully to make herself sound cheerful.
"I'm scared," was the last thing Jess said before she snuggled herself as close as possible to Kathy, as if the closer she got, the safer she would be. Somehow Kathy managed to sing a song to her in hopes of calming her fears. After about twenty minutes, Jess fell asleep in her arms.
Kathy remained stiff-backed against the wall. She was not about to let her guard down now. Not even the painful throbbing of her swollen jaw was going to get in the way. She was listening to every sound hoping the next would be the front door closing behind Dan.
Kathy suddenly jolted forward. Dan was banging loudly on the door again. She had not heard him come back down the hallway. "Where had he been? What had he been doing?" Instantly Jess was crying again.
Kathy sat her daughter in the corner and got to her feet. She did not know what she was going to do but she needed to be prepared. She grabbed some of Jess' toys, ready to throw them at Dan if he got through the door.
All of a sudden, there was silence. But she knew he was still there.
"This isn't over yet, you damn bitch!" Dan screamed through the door. With that, she heard him stomp down the hall and out the front door. Kathy turned and picked up her daughter. Now they both were crying.
After about fifteen minutes, Kathy slowly opened the bedroom door. She poked her head out and looked down the dark hallway. She had been locked in that room for hours; and it was now dark outside.
Kathy quietly crept down the hall toward the front door. She secured the lock and looked out the strip of window beside the door. She did not see anything.
For the next few minutes, Kathy went to every room and locked the doors and windows. She knew Dan had a key but this still made her feel safer. The only good thing was that both the front door and kitchen door had a deadbolt and chain she hoped he would not be able to get through.
Jess had calmed down after awhile and was asking for something to eat. "She's probably starved," Kathy thought, trying to remember how long they had been in Jess' room.
She fixed them both dinner while she decided what she needed to do. She was going to have to call her parents and tell them. They were the only ones she could turn to.
"What about my face," she kept thinking. "If they see my face, they'll go crazy." A big, dark bruise had formed on her jaw from Dan's blow. "I have to wait until it heals."
She was scared to stay in that house with Dan still in the same town but she could not possibly face her parents looking like this. It would be too much to handle. She and Jess were just going to have to make it for a couple of weeks until the bruise faded.
She knew she was stupid for staying but she could not find the courage to deal with her parents. She did not know where she had found the courage to deal with Dan but there definitely was not enough to deal with her parents too. She would call them as soon as her face healed and then she would go live with them.
Ten days passed and Kathy's bruise finally faded. It had gotten so dark she began to wonder if it was ever going to go away. She knew today she would have to call her parents to get their help.
Even though things got out of control with Dan, her overall plan still remained the same. She and Jess would move in with her parents, she would get her secretarial degree, and she would save some money for a place of her own. Now if she could just muster up the nerve to call home.
Luckily, since that dreadful night, Dan had not returned to the house. She prayed every night he would leave them alone. "I guess there is a God," Kathy told herself.
Of course, his absence meant no money to pay the bills but they were all in his name and she would be out of there before the bill collectors came calling. She had to stretch what little money she did have in order to buy food for her and Jess but so far it had all worked out.
The day turned to evening and Kathy was clearing the dinner table. Jess was in the living room, content with playing with some of her toys.
As she was washing the dishes, Kathy went over in her head what she would say to her mom and dad. She decided not to tell them about Dan hitting her but would say she was afraid he might.
She knew her parents were not thrilled with Dan as a husband so her being afraid of him would be the clincher she needed to get them to come get her.
As she was finishing the dishes, the telephone rang. She had not been expecting anyone and hoped it was not Dan. She would just hang up if it was.
"Hi, honey," the voice came over the phone. It was her mother. "It's now or never," Kathy thought to herself.
"Hi, Mom. It's good to hear from you," Kathy replied.
After the usual formalities and small talk, Kathy became quiet. She suddenly forgot how she was going to manage the conversation.
"Why are you so quiet, dear?" Miriam asked. "Is anything wrong?"
"Yes Mom, something is wrong," Kathy answered. After taking a long breath, she began her detailed description of the last several weeks.
First, she told her mother how much worse Dan's neglect was of her and Jess. She described her plan of moving in with them and working on a degree. And somehow, as the conversation led up to her confrontation with Dan, she let it all out.
Her nerves were running wild and she had to tell someone about what happened and although she promised herself it would not be her mother, Kathy told it all to her anyway.
When she finished telling about her bruised face and being locked in Jess' room, Miriam sat at the other end of the line speechless.
The next thing Kathy heard was the phone dropping. "She dropped the phone!" Kathy said to herself in amazement.
She could hear some mumbling that included her father's voice. Kathy nearly began crying. She realized her mother was telling her father what happened. She was almost frozen in place by fright. She knew her father would be furious.
"Kathy, are you there?" she heard her father say.
"Yes," she murmured.
"Now listen very carefully to what I'm going to say. I will drive up there to your house tomorrow with a truck and we will move you down here with us." He paused but Kathy remained silent.
"I want you to pack up every single thing you can. Possession is the key. The more you have with you, the less he will end up with. And whatever you do, keep the chains on the doors and do not let him into the house, no matter what. If he calls, hang up. I do not want him to know you are leaving."
After a few more do's and don't's, her father finally stopped talking.
"Dad, I'm sorry about all of this," Kathy mumbled. She could barely feel her lips as she spoke. Her father said nothing at first.
"Well, are you alright?" he finally said.
"Yeah Dad, I'm just so glad I have you to help me."
"I better let you go so you can get as much packing done as possible. I'll call you in the morning before I leave. Your mother isn't feeling so well now so she'll see you tomorrow."