my apologies for the length of the piece....
It Is What It Is
"He's done this before?" Caroline asked, trying to suppress her anger. Penny swallowed hard and nodded, pushing cold scrambled eggs around on her plate. She couldn't face her friend. Not because of the bruises, but because she felt disgraceful. Caroline inhaled sharply then gazed out the window, "I can't believe you didn't tell me. I mean, I thought we were friends." After watching a few passers-by, her eyes fell to the manilla envelope on the table, then Penny.
"What did he say after you told him?"
"He said, 'it is what it is'
. Then left."
It was a beautiful spring day. After Adam left for work, Penny opened the windows to welcome the sun and gentle breezes. She washed up, then went right to work in the kitchen. Next to the bathroom, the kitchen was her favorite room in the condo. Ceramic tile floors, see through kitchen cabinet doors, granite countertops with plenty of space. And the love of her life, a stainless steel professional oven. A wedding present, he says. But Penny always felt that it was a gesture of pity because Adam didn't nurture her dreams of becoming a personal chef.
In this economy, do you really think it's wise to be someone's cook?
What happened to studying to become a physician's assistant?
You know I've told you a million times that I can bring you into pharmaceuticals with me.
These were all statements he often made that precluded futile discussions. She reflected on the incident that started it all....
One night, when she thought it was safe, Penny brought up the subject. She tried to make a compelling argument about the type of clientele she would be preparing meals for, but Adam had heard enough of this personal chef business.
"I said no, Penny! No wife of mine is going to be someone's cook!"
His hands were around her neck, and her back was against the wall, "But? There is no but you stupid bitch, I SAID NO!" A squeeze accompanied his growl and Penny struggled to bring some air into her lungs. Just as she thought to fake passing out just to get him off of her, he released his grip.
Coughing, Penny slid into a sitting position. When she found the strength to push herself up, his foot, like a piston, came down on her thigh. He left her there, crouched against the wall. Later that night while an ice pack rested on her leg, she decided never to mention her desire to be a personal chef again. The next day, when she returned from her errands, Adam met her at the door. He instructed her to close her eyes and kissed her tenderly as if the previous night never occurred.
"I have a surprise for you," he stood behind his wife with his hands over her eyes, guiding them both toward the kitchen. "Open," he whispered in her ear, peeling away his fingers. She slowly opened her eyes. A big red bow was wrapped around a stainless steel, six burner gas stove. "the guy at the store said it was top of the line," he continued as Penny walked in a trance-like state toward the new appliance.
"Do you like it?"
, I love it." Penny nodded enthusiastically.
Adam cupped her shoulders and pecked her softly behind her ear, "I'm sorry about last night. Will you cook for me? Make something special." And she did. That evening Penny presented her husband with Osso Bucco garnished with Gremolata and served over polenta.
After that things continued to get worse. Over the course of a year, Adam became possessive and jealous. He began controlling conversations, accused her of cheating. Penny started taking classes online because his jealousy became too much to bear. When they attended dinner parties, she timed her glances and smiles at other men so he wouldn't think she was being flirtatious. She started choosing her words carefully so as not to provoke a fight, made sure to answer the cell phone when he called to check up on her. She was careful when applying her makeup, because too much eye shadow made her 'look like a whore.'
When running errands, her head always seemed to be in a downward position; not wanting to reveal her shame to anyone.
Then there was the hitting. It started out with chocking and kicking, then transitioned into slapping. Once, he backhanded her and the side of her face stung for an entire day. She remembered when he used his hands to tickle the thin flesh across her wrist. Or how he would lace his fingers with hers when he climbed on top of her in the middle of the night to show the moon just what lovemaking is. Anymore sex was an alcohol induced quickie over the sink while she washed her face. He would apologize, but he'd said it so many times that the words I'm sorry
fell on deaf ears.
She became withdrawn, an empty shell of herself. She threatened to leave. He begged her to stay. She felt like a stranger in her own home. But then something happened.....
The aroma of wine, veal shanks, chicken broth, tomato paste, fresh herbs, and vegetables delicately lingered in the air. In the oven, a beautiful union simmered inside of a Dutch pot. After making the Gremolata and polenta, Penny sauteed some baby turnip leaves to serve as a side dish.
She was setting the table when he came home. "Mmm, is that what I think it is? It's been a long time
since you've made Osso Bucco, what's the occasion?" Adam grabbed two glasses from the cabinet and quickly kissed his wife on the cheek.
"I was going to wait until after dinner to tell you. I'm pregnant."
"We're going to have a baby?" his face beamed like a child on Christmas morning. He scooped her off of the ground in a loving hug and spun around. Penny smiled expansively, not just because of the news about the baby, but because for the first time in a long time he hugged her.
For the next few months, there was no hitting. Adam returned to the charming, kind, sensitive man that Penny fell in love with. Each night, he would kiss his wife's stomach and often fell asleep with his head there. He painted the spare bedroom himself, and even put a crib together. Then her nightmare came back to haunt her. One night, Adam came home reeking of alcohol. Penny embraced the idea that he wouldn't do something so stupid as to hit a pregnant woman -- his pregnant wife. But she was wrong.
Trying to sound upbeat, she crossed the living room to greet her husband. "Hey. You want to have dinner out tonight and catch a movie?"
"I can cook something. Fried chicken. And we can just stay in and watch a movie."
"Jesus, what are you deaf? I said no!"
"Sorry, I just thought...."
"That's your problem, Penny. You think too fucking much!"
"Adam, you don't have to ye..." heat rippled across her cheek. Strands of chocolate brown hair swept over her face.
"Are you serious!? Since when do you tell me what to do!?" Adam shoved her, and she fell into the cushions of the couch. He slapped her again, this time she tasted something metallic. He grabbed her and pulled her onto the floor.
"Adam please don't. The ba...." she sobbed, but it was all in vain. By then the piston had come down on her stomach. Three times. She screamed like a banshee but still heard the words stupid bitch
over the shrill cry. Adam left her lying there, a quivering helpless mass.
Penny pushed herself off of the floor; she didn't know how long she'd been there. As she walked to the bathroom, she cradled her stomach, hoping the life inside of her wasn't harmed. She braced herself for what the light was about to reveal.
Half of her face was bruised and swollen, blood had dried where her lip was split. Those things weren't important. She needed medical attention.
Adam was sitting in the bed when she entered the bedroom, "I need to go to the hospital." Her throat was dry and her voice creaked.
"So go." He replied callously, without giving her the satisfaction of looking at her.
Before she could let herself out of the front door, one of Adam's hands stopped it from opening. The other hand was tightly curled around the front of her neck. "If you tell anyone what happened, I'll kill you. Understand?" Penny knew enough to know that Adam never issued idle threats, so replied with a trembling nod.
When she entered the house, Adam was coming down the hall; jacket on and keys in hand. "I lost the baby," Penny offered morosely, hoping this would be the intervention he needed to stop his abusive habit.
"It is what it is," he pushed past her, brushing her shoulder. She was numb, and blinked back tears as she thought, he took life from me, and all he has to say for his actions is, 'it is what it is'?
Penny packed two bags that night. She had about two thousand dollars to her name but figured it was more than enough to put some considerable distance between the two of them for the night. Before she left, she made one phone call.
Caroline picked up the manilla envelope, "Is this it?
Full statement and pictures?"
, it's all there. Caroline, can I go...I mean when you."
"You'll have to stay in the car."
Like lioness, Caroline closed in on her prey just as he came out of his building. Penny watched from the car across the street as her friend manhandled her husband. Her knee was in the middle of his back, "Adam Sherman, you're under arrest for domestic abuse and fetal death," Caroline hissed through her teeth, trying, and with difficulty not to get personal.
"That stupid bitch!" Caroline put all of her weight on his back, "Ahhh! Shit! I think you broke a rib!" Adam cried. Caroline grabbed a handful of his dark brown hair and slammed his head into the pavement. She then yanked him to his feet and Mirandized him. After she cuffed him, she called her partner.
It didn't take long for her partner to arrive. When he did, he jumped from the car and jerked Adam away. Before he was shoved into the back seat, he looked at Caroline and whimpered, "I think my nose is broken."
"My friend is broken. So I guess it is
what it is, sunshine." She puckered her lips and blew him a kiss.
Caroline slid into the driver's seat and pulled the seatbelt across her chest, "He won't hurt you anymore, Penny."
"Thank you, Caroline. For everything." Penny offered a warm smile.
"You're welcome. For everything," she winked.