She was about to close the drawer when she saw it. A simple long-sleeved shirt that she had bought at one of those Big Box stores. It was made of thick cotton and was one of her favorite shirts to wear when the air turned cool and nippy. She remembered the day she had bought it. She had traveled up to Sam's Club with her family. The day had been warm and mild when she left her house and she had dressed for the weather, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Although the store was only an hour away, the weather was completely different. It was at least ten degrees colder, cloudy and blustery. She had been freezing and had bought the shirt in order to stay warm.
Her husband never let her forget it.
He complained endlessly about her buying that shirt, as if the shirt had cost $1,200 instead of $12. He always tried to claim it wasn't about the cost of the shirt but the fact that she hadn't brought a jacket with her. She knew better. Despite the fact that he was constantly sneaking in bags of clothing that he had bought for himself at Walmart or another clothing superstore, he resented her buying anything for herself. She didn't deserve it. After all, she was only a housewife, having chosen to stay home to raise their child. He was the one working and any money he made was 'his money' and he had the right to dole it out as he pleased. If she needed clothes or things for herself, she would have to buy them herself. Sometimes he would give her gifts but it was always on a conditional basis. He frequently threatened to take away the things he had given her if she didn't do what he wanted. She thought about all the times she had supported him, how she had been the breadwinner in the early days of their marriage. Apparently, none of that mattered now.
A year later, after they had separated, she confronted him about his attitude about her buying the shirt. Especially since his car had been filled to the brim with his clothes when she left. She said, "You constantly hung it over my head that I bought that shirt. And it was only $12." He stood there, staring at her with a smirk on his face.
"What do you mean 'I hung this over you?' Did I hold you up by the neck and choke you?" he sarcastically replied.
She had no doubt he would like to choke her. Their marriage had their ups and downs but threats were a frequent part of it. He never touched her physically but the threats and belittling comments had destroyed her emotionally. Instead of bruises on her face, it was her heart that was bruised and battered. She had wondered at times how she would ever break free of him. She didn't have the courage to leave. Finally, he chose to walk out himself, wanting the freedom to do whatever he wanted instead of being tied down to his family. She rarely heard from him and he sent her little money, leaving her scrambling to provide for herself and their child. He still flaunted the image of a happily married man and was considered to be an upstanding member of the community. Social media was full of images of his good deeds. He portrayed himself as very religious, regularly attending church and helping out at charitable functions. People spoke admiringly of him. On the outside, it seemed that he had it all together. She wondered if people would ever realize the truth. For her part, she chose to be silent.
She shook her head, coming out of her dream world. She looked at the shirt again, touching the soft fabric softly. Then she shut the drawer. That chapter had ended. There was still hurdles she had to jump over, obstacles that she would face. But she kept that $12 shirt as a reminder never to let him back in her life again. She would now wear the threads of freedom.