Once on the road, I suddenly blurted out, “You’ve got to get me out of there.” I had intended to give him a lot of details and facts so that when I got to this statement he would have to agree with me, but once we were rolling I think I was in a panic that if I didn’t say what was on my mind I never would.
He, however, seemed nonplussed and business-like as he asked, “Does he, has he ever hit you?”
“No,” I replied quickly. It had, after all, been almost a year since the beating and Chuck had made no move to repeat the offense since then. And the slap was just a slap, and more than a week old. I was wishing he had asked if Chuck ever beat me, present tense, but I figured at the time that my answer was mostly truthful. In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I added, “I’m afraid he will, though. I’ve thought he was about to a couple times.”
“Over what?” he asked. It was a reasonable question, I guess, but I didn’t want to answer it. I hated Chuck, but I also couldn’t get past the idea that Mom had loved him. And he had kept me basically fed (and smelling remarkably well).
“I didn’t get the dishes cleaned up in time a couple nights ago. Another time he wanted me to clean up where he’d broken a bottle of whiskey on the carpet and I told him he broke it he should clean it up.” I had forgotten that incident right up until the moment I mentioned it. It had been a couple weeks before and it wasn’t like he beat me. Not much of a slap, either. Still, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before.
I still didn’t want to paint him to look like an awful person, so I quickly added, “He hasn’t always been like this. When he married my Mom, he was this great guy. I loved him. I really did. And he was sweet to me, too. But then …then Mom died. She had cancer for over a year and it was hard on all of us. After she died, he started drinking.
“He used to have a beer now and then, you know. But I never saw him drunk. The night she died, though, he got so drunk he passed out. I couldn’t blame him. Thought about joining him. He sobered up the next day, apologized, and everything was good for a while. Told me he would take care of me, and he did. He was starting to drink more, though. It was probably six months later before I saw him drunk again.”