The night that her stepfather bashed in her mum’s face, Delilah learned more about Ann Catherine than she did during the rest of their seventeen years together.
Domestic violence is not always what you’d expect. And Delilah’s memory of sitting with her mum, staring at her colorful, swollen face, is oddly a sweet one.
Husband number two was German.
The wedding? A disaster.
Delilah couldn’t be located and when they finally drove to the church, they found her passed out in the car lot. She refused to brush her hair, did not want to participate in the ceremony. Surprisingly, Ann Catherine maintained her composure. It was the maid of honor that ended up slapping Delilah across the face, in full sight of the congregation.
Husband number two wasn’t necessarily bad. Sure, he moved all of them out of the country almost immediately after the vows were exchanged, and maybe any of them should have wondered at that. But he was very generous with Ann Catherine and her kids.
He even bought Delilah a new car.
“The steering wheel is on the other side,” he told her, as though this were something she might not otherwise have noticed.
Delilah took the keys with a shrug of her shoulders, kind of an “easy come, easy go” expression, had he but known that idiom.
By then, rudeness was her habit. She was willing to start a new life in a new country with new friends, but she had no intention of registering this man’s existence.
For someone so unnoticeable, the man could sure pack a wallop.
Perhaps such is often the case.
Delilah came home late that night. She was unprepared for the sight of Ann Catherine’s face when she flicked on the light in the kitchen and found her mother sitting on the floor crying.
“Mum?” she asked, not even sure of her identity, almost.
(Delilah and her mum weren’t close.
That’s the important part of this story.)
Ann Catherine, a former debutante, didn’t even straighten her posture. She balled up her hands inside her robe and wiped snot on its silk sleeve.
“I provoked him,” she told Delilah.
Delilah took a deep breath, and sat down on the floor next to her mum.
It was the closest in physical proximity they’d been to each other in years.
Delilah took her mother’s hand in hers, and Ann Catherine willingly leaned against her daughter’s shoulder.
“We have to leave him,” Delilah whispered.
“He’s a good man.”
“No, Mum, he’s not. Dad would never have done this to you.”
It was late. Husband number two was asleep.
“You’re young, Delilah. There’s so much you don’t know.”
Both females sighed in unison, a slow lifting and falling of the shoulders and chest, each body’s movement a mirror image of the other’s.
“If your father were alive, he wouldn’t love me, anymore.”
And just like that, Delilah realized that things with her mum were a lot farther gone than she’d known.
And then they got worse.
“I know that you wish I would have died instead of him,” Ann Catherine said, sounding so very tired.
Delilah had loved her father. Of course. Aside from being funny and loving and wise, he was also the one that made her mother’s coldness and instability more bearable.
But despite that, she couldn’t even make it halfway through the thought of swapping her mother’s death for his.
“That’s a horrible thing to think!” Delilah hissed at her mother.
Ann Catherine shrugged.
Easy come. Easy go.
* * *