Chapter One:

Inside the Blue House

On a busy road, in a small town, there was a small blue house. It was neat and well kept. The roof had recently been re-shingled, and the driveway was clear of snow from the help of a neighbor's plow. From the outside, it looked very ordinary indeed.

A young woman stood at the window. Her thin silhouette was dark against the lace-filtered light from the curtains. She waited for him to come home eagerly.

Her thoughts drifted to the baby, asleep in her crib. She slept often. Like her mother, she too was thin. Tired.

A sign was hung near the mantel. It read "And they lived happily ever after."

The girl loved fairytales. She loved fairies, and she loved to dream. She could dance, and write poems, and sing well. She was a beautiful girl.

Finally he pulled into the yard. A knot rose instinctively in the girl's throat.

"He is so good to us." She told herself.

The girl's face contorted into a forced smile. He entered in through the kitchen, which was small, but often felt large because it was so empty.

The cabinets were quite bare. There was never food in the cabinets, in the refrigerator, or anywhere in the house. Rarely there were some bits of it. A box of crackers. A bag of carrots.

He owned claim to all of it. And his appetite was massive. He was a tall fellow, with a pale face and large purple bags under his icy blue eyes.

He had brought home the groceries she had asked for.

They used to get groceries together, before the baby. He would give her an allowance of sixty dollars.

"We'll make it a competition," he would say, his wide face a pale mask. "Who can get the most for their sixty dollars?"

She would buy what she could, and try to make it last.

She didn't understand what he would end up becoming.

It had to last, for he would give her no more money. Her entire paycheck was his.

Everything was his. Even the Chex mix she had made for herself with her meager allowance was a snack for him to sneak and eat. He would creep into the kitchen where she had placed it in her cabinet, and gobble it all up until it was gone. She remembered her lunches at work- having to bring a single mini jar of gherkins. It was all she could find. It was embarrassing. But at least there was some food then.

He placed a single bag of groceries on the counter. He brought home all the food now, she wasn't allowed to set foot in a grocery store.

All of her friends thought that was really weird. Their husbands allowed them to get groceries. Their huisband didn't have such a list of "allow" or "not allow".

She knew it was wrong, on some level. But she loved him so much. She made excuses.

"We just live differently" She would mutter.

Everyone loved the girl. She was sweet and honest. Her friends could not quite name what was wrong. Few suspected the abuse that was going on in the small blue house.

She used to be a teacher. She even had her master's degree. They had gotten it together, he and she.

When they finally graduated, she had bought some food to celebrate. Just a little bit.

He was livid. She was not allowed to buy food. Hadn't he made that clear? She came to work in tears that day.

He didn't understand that he was abusive. If someone told him that he was committing domestic violence, he wouldn't have believed them.

All he knew was control. He needed control. It made him feel powerful when she had to ask him for everything she and the baby needed.

It was an unwritten rule. If you need anything, ask him. He will get it for you, because he is the man, and the man is supposed to be the provider.

But he defined the roles of man and woman. And he was, in truth, a terrible provider.

She wasn't allowed to go anywhere. He convinced her that something might happen to the baby if she did. She especially wasn't allowed to be overly friendly with her family. They might suspect something. He made sure to keep everyone at bay.

No, her family must not know too much about what happened in the blue house.

She had a brother who she loved very much. He would buy her nice things for Christmas or her birthday.

"Oh, don't spend so much money on me" She would fret to her brother, who she worried about so much.

But the truth was, the brother was very worried about her. He wasn't sure why, but there was something strange in his sister's golden eyes the last time he had seen her.

He would reassure her. "I have veterans benefits. I have more money than God"

The husband didn't like this. "Veterans shouldn't get money. The mentally disabled should get money. Think of my sister! She needs money" The husband still considered his parents and siblings his family- and they were much more important than the girl, his wife, who he had met in college or the baby they had just had.

It was one of the reasons she fell in love with him. He had a sister with disabilities. He took care of her very well. He wanted to be a teacher for people with special needs. She found this heartwarming.

Really, he wanted to control women and children. The disabled were easy to control. He cared very little. He had very little emotions at all. Some might call him a sociopath.

The girl was good, so she hid her feelings. She was obedient. She made excuses for the man. She visited the man's parents often. At least it was a place she was allowed to visit.

"Our plans for the future," he had commanded one day "Are that you will have another baby in November, and when you have stayed home with that one until he is in school, then you must find a job near my parents. We will move nearby to them."

He was quite a mama's boy at heart, but the girl loved the man, so she obeyed.

At least when she went to the home of his parents, she got a decent meal. They never had to scrounge for food. This made the girl feel; privileged. They were elite people, so they must be right to hang around with. They worked hard, owning a small hotel and caring for their disabled daughter.

No one was sure whether or not the parents realized that their son was abusive. They had other sons. Maybe they treated their wives well. Maybe they did not.

Maybe abuse is caused by your upbringing. Sometimes it can be. Sometimes it happens when there is something in the self, deep down inside, that you can't control. Something feels off. You try to fix it. It doesn't go away. Control becomes the obsession then.

The abuser needs to feel in control- craves it in every aspect.

This man worked with disabled children. He could have control over them, much to his delight. Perhaps even his tiny daughter, frail from malnourishment, would develop disabilities due to the lack of nutrients in the brain. Then he could really control her- just as he controlled his students, his sister, and the shy, obedient girl who was his wife.

Perhaps this was his intention in starving them both. Perhaps it was not.

Money. Money made a good excuse.

The girl couldn't get her hair done. Money. The girl wasn't allowed to get groceries. Money. The girl wasn't allowed to give the baby anything except breastmilk, because breastmilk was free. Money. The girl wasn't even allowed her own money. It was all his.

People who knew the man joked about him, "________ can pinch a penny so hard that a booger pops out of Abe Lincoln's nose"

But he had trouble making friends. People were uncomfortable around the man. He was usually silent, staring at people. When he did speak, it was very quietly. He wanted them to lean closer, straining for every word off of his illustrious tongue. Control. How he needed control!

The man had brought home just enough food for that night's meal. He would consume the majority of it- always taking a massive portion for himself. After all, he was hungry.

But the girl was good, so she did not complain. She had been hungry for so long now it just felt like part of life. It was as unchangeable as never having enough anything. No paper towels, often no shampoo. Life was pale and wan, a cheap hollow thing, just like him.

But she loved him, so she obeyed and learned to make the best of life.