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Speechless

Silent Subversion

By Harmony KentPublished 7 months ago 7 min read
12
Speechless
Photo by Camila Quintero Franco on Unsplash

The cold, severe marble flooring matches our mood. We each stand five feet apart with arms crossed over our chests as tightly as possible. Frost and tension thicken and freeze the air between us, and the atmosphere suffocates. I don’t need to see his clenched jaw, taut neck, and raised shoulders, or the ugly scowl that creases his chiselled face to sense his wrath. Worst of all, his dark eyes have grown wide and black—evil and threatening. For the first time in my life, I fear my husband. Already, without further words being spoken, I feel as though he has physically assaulted me. Everything around us, including his closed, stone posture, is a slap in the face. The clicking of my stiletto heel tapping the hard floor ceases when trepidation stills me.

I need to pace but can’t move. Never mind fight or flight, what about freeze? Terror and horror and a stunning sense of surrealness all glue my feet in place, even though my heart races. Unfortunately it remains in place as if it runs for its life but is stuck on a dreadful, endless treadmill instead. Yes, I need to calm down and try to lower the threat of violence that lurks in the shadows around us in this dimly lit, chill foyer. I must escape this too-silent darkness, which sneaks forward and drapes my head and shoulders as soon as I turn my eyes away. The trouble is, I can’t tear my gaze from David. Dare not. Because, as with the violent entity hiding in the shadows, I’m convinced he’ll lunge at me, fists flying, as soon as I look away.

What a joke. It’s his fault, not mine. My mistake is to have married this monster in the first place. He’s angry that not only have I discovered his infidelities, but also that I’ve had the audacity to question him, and—more damming—to decide he doesn’t have the right to behave as he wishes. For years, now, I’ve kept my head down and my mouth shut. But this is too much. I’m broken. Burnt to hot ashes. Is the phoenix a myth? Or do I have a way to rise from the dying flames? Can this charred bird climb from under this wreckage of a life?

As far back as I can remember, people have told me that I overthink things, that I’m too sensitive. It’s taken me decades to understand I’m an empath, which makes me acutely perceptive to energy and mood. Now, at last, I know why I’ve struggled so in crowded places and loud, social gatherings. The suffering of playing the elegant hostess at my husband’s frequent business soirees. ... It’s not me. It’s not that I’m weak. Not that I’m useless. If anything, I could be valuable and beneficial in so many ways, given the opportunity and acceptance. Some belief in me as a viable human being.

Despite the heat of shame and apprehension, goosebumps prickle up my arms and down my spine. The soft, fragile hairs at the back of my neck raise in mimicry of my own fragility. This staring contest is killing me, but if I break eye contact first, he wins. A sneer remoulds his features. He believes he’s conquered me. Ice stiffens my spine, and steel girds my nerves. My eyes must show the sudden shift from meek wife to warrior, as David blinks and takes an involuntary step backward. I have to bite down hard on my tongue to keep my lips from curving into what would be a disastrous, if well earned, smile.

The grandeur which surrounds us feels like a mausoleum rather than the entrance to one of the grandest mansions on the block. In a fraction of a second, all the rich décor and in-your-face, I’m-the-top-dog furnishings and fittings dissolve into the lie they are. Now, now the truth shines in the merciless moonlight which slides in through the tall, floor to ceiling, large-paned windows. The atmospheric, soft yellow lights in the high-up wall sconces fail to promote the tycoon’s power and largess, and melt to nothing within the silvery full moon glow, which glints on the shattered wine glass at my feet. The spilled vintage Pluribus Cabernet Sauvignon pools like blood in accusation at the carnage wrought. Here, now, in this semi darkness, the truth shines clear and bright.

Into the space created with his backward step, I stride forward twice and allow my arms to fall by my sides, open and un-cowed. Strong and ready. Let him come at me now. For once, his security team will work against him if or when I scream. No more constant surveillance from a chauffeur/bodyguard. Our tenuous balance has shifted in my favour, and David knows it. Those strong men, hired by him or not, won’t stand for wife beating. I can see his recognition in the droop of his shoulders, the narrowing of his eyes, and the slackening of his jaw. David lowers his arms and wraps them around his torso, mouth opening and closing but producing no sound.

Moments pass. No words come. My husband’s hands drop in front of his body, palms out in supplication. Those hard eyes have softened to placation. His whole posture is one of reconciliation. I’m not fooled. I know him too well. Here’s where my hyper perception comes to my rescue. As soon as I cave, as soon as he has me on his side, he will have me in his power again. And I won’t get from under him after that. I’ll be finished.

Now, now I allow my smile to emerge in all its bright glory. I stand akimbo and shake my head, both in sadness and in mockery. It’s about time he tasted his own bullshit dressed as medicine. I’ll not swallow anything from him anymore. My stare unmans him, and he drops his head and gaze to the unforgiving marble tiles. As soon as he glances up at me, I raise a hand and flap it in a shooing gesture. A definite demand for him to go away. With a soft sigh and single, slight nod, David turns away and drags himself step-by-step, left hand gripping the rail, up the risers and to the broad landing.

Without waiting for him to come to stand at the banister and look down on me, I turn and take forceful steps, which propel me into the empty kitchen. It’s a novelty to pour a good measure of the thirty-year-old Macallan that’s all for me. The burn of the liquor in my throat, and the heat as it hits my gullet, are confirmation enough that this phoenix has, indeed, risen from the ashes.

For ten minutes, I stand in the silence of the kitchen and listen to the tick-tick-tick of the longcase clock by the door in the hall, which I keep to my back, and the hum of the walk-in fridge and freezer. A lonely drop of water plinks into the stainless steel basin. One hand rests loosely around my flat waist, while the other holds the baccarat crystal tumbler to my lips. Each sip of the forbidden nectar offers fortitude and resolve. Finally, I hear a steady thump-thump-thump as David drags a suitcase and his heavy body down the stairs.

While I don’t turn, I feel him standing in the doorway and staring. I refuse to acknowledge his presence. To me, he no longer exists. Sad though tonight is, I’ve found my core strength. Nobody will ever take advantage of me again. Finally, he gets the message and trudges away, dragging the case that’s also a noose, behind him. Until I hear the thud of the door closing and the click of the latch catching, I don’t move. Alone at last, I gulp down the last of the whisky, place the glass in the sink, turn, and lean against the granite counter.

This whole mansion was built around cold hard edges to match David’s character and project invincibility. A grim smile stretches my lips and cheeks. It’s about time I redecorated. Yes, lots of softness to reflect who I am. And I dare anyone to mistake the soft for weak.

🦋🦋🦋

Thanks for reading, everyone! I'd be delighted if you could heart and/or comment. If you'd like to share to X (formerly known as Twitter), my tag is @harmony_kent.

Hugs and gratitude 🤗💕

This piece is an entry for Vocal's Unspoken Challenge ...

Short StoryPsychologicalfamily
12

About the Creator

Harmony Kent

The multi-genre author who gets write into your head

I began writing at 40 after a life-changing injury. An avid reader & writer, I love to review & support my fellow authors.

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (13)

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  • Donna Fox (HKB)6 months ago

    This shifted from heartbreaking to empowering so quickly!! I love this!! Great work Harmony!!

  • Novel Allen7 months ago

    Cowards usually fold in the face of strength. Well done on showing who you are and standing up for yourself--even fiction can ring through as truth. This is so well done.

  • Cathy holmes7 months ago

    Wow. Raw, powerful, and you could cut the tension with a knife. Excellent entry. Well done.

  • David Prosser7 months ago

    silent confirmation that men who hit women are genberally cowards at heart. Very well written Harmony, though I'd expect nothing less of you. Huge Hugs

  • Test7 months ago

    This piece of writing is a masterpiece. I must admit that I was captivated by it and truly enjoyed every word.

  • John W. Howell7 months ago

    So well done, Harmony. The shift in strength was amazing. She took hers from fear, and he lost his through fear.

  • Sarah Stuart7 months ago

    Harmony, I couldn't begin to guess how you were going to tackle this challenge at all, never mind "estimated 7-minute read." It's the cleverest piece of writing I have read, by anybody, ever.

  • Joan Hall7 months ago

    Powerful story, Harmony!

  • D.L. Finn7 months ago

    A powerful moment as strength breaks through from control and fear, Harmony.

  • Vadim Kagan7 months ago

    Powerful text, made even more so by the great photo selection.

  • Mattie :)7 months ago

    Your cover photo is intense! Great post, Harmony.

  • Jan Sikes7 months ago

    This is an incredibly powerful story, Harmony. You are inside her head in such a real way that I am there too, and I am cheering for her to find her hidden strength. She is DONE!! Love it!

  • Kymber Hawke7 months ago

    I was there with the character, and I am so glad she was triumphant at the end, finding her strength. This is an excellent story, Harmony.

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