The Art of the Swallows
As evening approached I walked down the familiar lane that lead to a warming smile and a glowing fire. I watched the golden, fiery sphere descend into the candy-floss clouds. The swallows flew swiftly to their nests, how I wished I could join them. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There in that moment I felt safe, I felt like nothing could get me, it was just me under the watchful eye of my God.
It was the first time I had felt satisfied with my life in a long time. I used to be happy, but that was before Steve. This year had been a blur, I put myself in a bubble of isolation. I was silent.
It was a beautiful summer’s day and I had worn my hair up, the way he liked it. He said it brought out my eyes. He sat across the room from me and I knew he was watching me, making sure I didn’t ‘step out of line.’ As I spoke to Jen, I knew she was concerned, she wasn’t good at masking her emotions. Finally she plucked up the courage to vaguely ask the question I had heard a million times, “so, how are you and Steve?” And I gave my rehearsed answer, “never been better, thanks for asking.”
The problem was we had been better. He was so controlling. I couldn’t speak to another guy without being in constant terror that he would explode with jealousy. Maybe it was a good thing, it showed how much he loved and appreciated me, right? This was the lie I told myself on a daily basis and every time I convinced myself it was the truth.
That day was so striking and Steve and I looked like a perfect couple, his tie matched my dress and we walked together in perfect rhythm with our arms interlocked together. To many people this was a sign of security, but not for me. I felt like a caged bird dreaming of breaking free, but I knew it would only ever be a dream. Let’s face it, I was trapped.
The wedding had been beautiful, Steve and I had sat beside my parents during the ceremony. Everything was going well so far. Then came the reception.
After my catch up with Jen, I began to walk back to Steve to ask him to dance, I didn’t want to, but I knew I would pay for it later if I didn’t. Suddenly a man was running towards me with his arms open wide. It was Keith! I hadn’t seen him for years, he had been my best mate for years, but we had gone our separate ways after school.
I couldn’t believe he was here. Steve had moved to the back of my mind as I began to glide around the dance floor with Keith. Of course I was asked the usual question, “how are you and Steve?” and as usual I gave my habitual response, “never been better, thanks.”
I left the reception with a grin on my face, the only problem was Steve. His grip was tighter than usual as we advanced to our room. He opened the door for me, like any gentleman would do, but Steve was anything but gentle. Before I knew it I was moving through the air towards a wall and then THUD! I landed on the beautifully woven carpet so hard I could have sworn the floor was about to cave in. But it didn’t. Never have I prayed so hard in my life, “Lord, make him stop, please Lord make him stop.” I was silent on the outside, but inside my lungs were exhausted from screaming. I knew from experience silence stopped his fist advancing at a faster speed.
He was yelling now, “What the hell were you thinking Erin!” I felt like I was miles away from him as he roared, “You slut! The only man you should have been dancing with was ME!” I was soon reminded of how close he was as his knuckles crashed my temple and… blank.
Dazed and in a lot of pain I squinted as the sun shone into the bright room. Where was I? Quietly I tried to get up, I didn’t want Steve to hear me leave or I would be a dead, but I couldn’t. Every time I sat up I fell right back into my pillow. Finally a woman in a white coat came over and told me everything was ok and that I must have been hit pretty hard to earn the lump that was now settled on my forehead. I urged her to be quiet, I didn’t want her to wake Steve, but as I leant forward the penny dropped- I was no longer in the hotel room. I was in hospital.
Suddenly Jen came barging through the doors, a newspaper in her hands. “Are you all right?” she cried, “When I saw this I came straight here.” A large image of Steve was now directly under my nose and the headline read, “MAN SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS AFTER HOTEL ASSAULT.” I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know whether to feel overjoyed or embarrassed. All I knew was that I was free.
As I sat and watched the sunset from the small hospital window, I saw the swallow’s fleet freely to their nest and I eventually knew that I was now free. I had mastered the art of the swallows.
The Art of the Swallows