"Look at me!" Unwillingly, you bring your eyes to his. His face is a mask of rage, and it is all your fault. Why can you never do anything right?
He points at mess all over the floor. You can't quite remember whether it was him or you who swept your favorite vase off the counter in a moment of passion, but now you focus on the broken shards of blue as he continues to scream. You are glad that you dumped the wilting flowers and the dirty water outside just this morning. You don't need dirt on his floor as well.
His fist connects with your jaw, and your head snaps back. Stars burst and swim in your eyes. "Listen to me when I'm talking, bitch," he growls. You nod and shrink into the wall in silent supplication. Hopefully he will not strike again if sees how fervently honest you are in your regret.
"I asked if you understand why I'm angry," he says, suddenly soft. The transition takes you by surprise; he reaches out a gentle hand beneath your chin to raise your eyes to his, and you do not struggle. "I just don't understand why you can't see how much you hurt me," he continues, and his eyes are pleading. You feel shame wash up your spine, hot and smothering. He does not let you break eye contact, however. "I love you so much," he says. "I never want to hurt you. I do everything I can to make you happy. So what I don't understand is why you mock me by talking about getting a job of your own. I provide you with anything you want, don't I?"
You bite back tears and nod as best you can with your chin still firmly in his grip. He does give you everything you could want. Because of him, you have food, shelter, pretty trinkets, and unconditional love, so long as you are good. You are selfish and cruel to ask for more, but all you can ever seem to do is take. You don't deserve someone as good as him; he makes sure you know that every day.
A few tears fall, and he jerks back his hand. He hates it when you cry. Indeed, he turns away as more tears leak from your traitorous eyes. You just know they're catching in your mascara, carefully applied as always this morning, and dragging the black down your cheeks. It's fitting that you should look ugly right now, to match your insides.
"Go clean yourself up," he says, still turned away. "Once you're presentable, you can take care of this mess you made during your tantrum earlier." You keep yourself standing until he has left the kitchen, unable to give him any verbal confirmation through the strangled lump of shame in your throat. Once he is gone, your knees buckle and you slide to the floor. A few sobs choke their way from your mouth, and you realize that you sound hideous, too. Everything about you is ugly, ugly, ugly. He's a saint to put up with you.
You cannot stay long on the floor, though. You at least have strength enough to make your outsides pretty for him, like he asked (even if your insides will never be clean). You pull yourself up and head to the bedroom. He has closed himself into his library; he is probably reading one of his favorite books, the ones you are not allowed to touch with your unclean hands. He loved your shared love of books when you first met. Now he knows how you always break things. Why, just a few moments ago, you proved that not even your favorite things are safe from your clumsy hands, when you broke your own vase.
You pass through the bedroom and notice your phone, lying where you left it by the bed, blinking at you with a new voicemail. It is from your mother, with whom you haven't spoken in several months. You have been busy, and you are still busy today. Her message can wait till later.
In the master bathroom, you open the medicine cabinet over your sink. Inside, all of the powders and paints with which you make yourself pretty for him every day are lined up neatly in rows. You wash the mascara streaks from your face, then pull out various jars, tubes, and applicators to cover up the signs of your shame. Foundation is applied a bit more heavily than usual along the left side of your jaw line, where angry reds and blues are already beginning to bloom. Dabs of it go over the blotches of red on your cheeks and around your eyes, where your tears inflamed your skin. New mascara is applied, along with spots of color on your cheeks, eyes, and lips.
When you are finished, you place each item carefully back in its place, then wipe down the counter with a wet cloth. He doesn't like a mess.
The door to the library is still closed when you pass it on your return to the kitchen. He will likely be in there for a while. You made him very angry with your ungrateful ideas.
You grab a broom from the hall closet and enter the kitchen, glad for the chill in the air today that made you put your slippers on this morning. There is broken blue glass scattered across the floor, and you do not feel like picking it out of your feet tonight. You sweep into every corner, shoving the broom harshly against the wall to get every last bit of glass when the tears threaten to fall again. You pause, take a deep breath, and resume your task. You are weak, but you can at least stop yourself from crying twice in one day. The soft swish-swishing of the broom against the floor and the chink-chinking of the glass shards against each other muffle your quiet sniffles and dry, quick sobs.
The light through the window grows dim as you work. By the time you empty the last dustpan's worth of dark blue glass into the garbage under the sink, it is nearly dark, and fully evening.
When you return the broom to its closet, you glance once more at the library door. It is closed, but he will probably come out, soon. His stomach is one of the few things stronger than his anger, most days. You smile fondly, even as you sniffle back a few more tears.
Later that evening, when the smell of cooking steak fills the small house and you are putting the finishing touches on your special recipe for mashed potatoes, you feel arms encircle your waist as a strong chin rests on your shoulder. You lean into him, accidentally adding a bit too much butter to the potatoes. You can feel his face next to yours smiling, though, so you smile as well. What's a little too much butter to a man, anyway? "I love you," he whispers in your ear, and you giggle, turning your head to kiss him.
The timer dings for the meat, and you duck out of his embrace and pull it from the oven. When you turn back to him, he's got his finger in his mouth and a guilty look on his face. Indeed, when you look into the potato bowl, you notice a finger shaped dent in them. You roll your eyes and lean up to kiss him, pulling the offending finger from between his lips with one small hand. He grins against your mouth and uses his clean hand to grip the back of your neck, holding you in the kiss for several moments. Happiness wells up from your toes to the tips of your hair. He is so wonderful to you when he is pleased.
You flit about the table, setting it on feet as light as air. Laughter and smiles brighten the small kitchen when the two of you sit down to eat. The food is perfectly cooked; you let pleasurable jolts of satisfaction run through you at having done something right. He catches your foot beneath the table with his own and runs teasing toes up the inside of your leg. You think that he must be feeling extra guilty about earlier (he is only ever playful when he's feeling guilty) and so you make sure to smile brighter and throw him soft glances through your lashes to let him know that you know it was not his fault, that you have learned your lesson and are over your silly fancies.
He kisses you again that night before bed, after you have washed your face, changed into a nightgown (his favorite), and slipped in beside him. It has been a few weeks since you last touched while sleeping, but tonight he holds you close, and you snuggle into him as far as you can get.
You have forgotten to check the voicemail from your mother. Your phone went dark hours ago on your nightstand. It will lay dormant and unchecked there until the next time you ignore her call. For now, you are happy to be held, and loved.