I heard the door close, and his footsteps echo in the hallway, but I did not turn.


I didn't reply, just marked my place in my book and closed it softly.

"Mari! Didn't you hear me?"

He was crossing the room now, his shoes thundering on the floor like they always did. Once I'd thought it manly. Now I just thought it another aspect of his coarse self.

He grabbed me by the shoulder and jerked me off the bed, standing me up to face him. I gasped involuntarily and tried to balance, cursing myself for letting out even that sound. I looked at him defiantly.

He leered at me. "Oh, sweetie, I've been waiting all day for this moment."

"Then you would have come home earlier," I said sharply. I could smell the alcohol on his breath, radiating off him in waves. It made me feel sick.

"I couldn't, Mari, sweetheart." The hand on my shoulder began to inch downward. "But now I'm here, aren't I? And we're alone."

He'd just stated the thing that made me the most afraid. I shivered and stepped aside, away from his touch.

"No, Peter, I'm not in the mood."

"Of course you are." He grabbed me and spun me around, so forcefully that it took away my breath. "You're always in the mood for me, aren't you?" He had his arms wrapped around me now, and leaning forward, he kissed my jaw.

"Peter, stop! I said-" I struggled, trying to get my arms free so I could push him away. Husband or not, he had no right to do this to me, did he?!

"Wait, darling. Be patient." He laughed harshly. "We'll be there soon enough."

His hand began trailing down my body until it reached the hem of my shirt. Kissing me the whole time so I couldn't see straight, he slid his hand under... and up. I gasped.

"Stop it!" I kicked and struggled, but it did no good. My mind was racing desperately. I couldn't let him do this to me.

He forced me around and on to the bed, and then he was on top of me. His head began trailing down my neck, kissing it, kissing my collarbone, and down... Oh, God.

Then I saw my opportunity. His arms had loosened slightly on me. Wriggling my arm free, I placed it on his chest and pushed as hard as I could.

He reeled away, the shocked expression on his face almost comical. Quickly, it changed to anger.


Free at last, I gasped for air, trying to regain my strength. Then I stood shakily. "I'm not your plaything, Peter! I don't like it when you come home late, drunk as hell- and what you did today isn't even-"

He raised his hand and slapped me.

I didn't even see it coming, or I might have dodged. He slapped me so hard that for a moment, I saw stars. I fell back with a cry.

He let loose a string of curses and advanced, his face a mask of fury. It was one of the last times I ever saw him, I reflected later, and through the anger and drunkenness I could still see a bit of the Peter I'd loved with all my heart- but he couldn't realize that bit, himself.

And he advanced, and hit me again- this time so hard that I blacked out almost instantly, just after my head hit the engraved steel bedpost on its way down.

They said later that Mrs. Wayland, our elderly neighbor, was woken up by an incessant loud knocking at her apartment's door. When she opened it, she saw Peter slumped against the opposite wall, a wild look in his eyes... "It terrified me. He looked like he'd seen a ghost, or worse."

She said he'd pointed up the hallway to our apartment, whose door lay wide open, and said in a broken voice, "Mari..."

Then he'd stumbled down the hallway, fallen into the waiting elevator, and disappeared from Mrs. Wayland's sight. She, worried about me, had come in and found me lying on the floor next to the bed, blood pooling rapidly around my head.

From there, it wasn't much of a story till when I woke up in the overcrowded hospital with my head bandaged, my sister Angela holding my hand and crying. I'd been in a short coma, during which my parents had sicced the authorities on Peter and had him jailed on crime of domestic violence.

The next few days were a blur. His trial was held... in a daze, I testified against the person I had used to hold closest to my heart... I saw him for the last time as he was led away, pronounced guilty, a haggard look on his face...

I was looking through my old albums later, back in my old room at my parents' house, when the phone rang.

My mom had gone to the apartment to pick all my things up, rightly guessing that I never wanted to go back there, and she had brought the albums with her. They were the only physical reminder that he'd ever existed in my life- they contained his sweet little notes to me, back when we'd been dating, all the pictures we'd taken together, all the cards we'd bought each other...

Some people might have thought it would be torture. But I still loved the old Peter, just as much as I hated and feared the new ones... so it was fond remembrance, only tinged with darker shadows that I chose to ignore. I closed the last one, and tears dripped down on it suddenly: hot, uncontrollable ones.

"Mari?" Angela yelled from somewhere in the house. "Phone for you!"

I sneezed, blew my nose, willed myself calm, cleared my throat, and picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Hey, Mari," my best friend, Carly, said quietly.

Soon, I was crying again- much harder, because even when I was alone, I restrained myself so carefully... but her words seemed to break down all my defenses. Every minute of the time I'd spent with him, those albums containing so many memories, every truly sweet word we'd exchanged, when he'd proposed to me on my birthday, when we'd kissed at our wedding... It all came out, like water flowing out of a hole in the dam.

Later, Carly said, "I have an idea, Mari."

"Idea?" I said tiredly.

"Yeah. See, there's this thing I think you might enjoy- not enjoy exactly," she amended, "but it might distract you, and that could help, huh?"

"What is it?"

"Maria's Mosaics. It's an art-and-crafts group kind of thing, run by a friend of my aunt's named Maria. All about mosaic art... It's only for this month- three weeks, I think, two days a week. First meeting's this Monday... You might like it. I daresay the people frequenting it will be rather old, but you should see the description. Wait. I have one of its ad posters in my room... Here. 'Use the pieces of things broken to create art... everything's built slow, piece by piece, here.'"

"Wow," I said. "Things broken... that's pretty cool, you know."

"I know. What do you say? I think you might like it. You used to love art so much..." she said, a little sadly.

Maybe it was the words on the poster, or the sadness in her voice, or the recurring image of Peter's brilliant green eyes, all scattered with flecks of gold and brown and gray- quite mosaics in themselves. I don't know which, even now.

"Yeah, I'll see. I think I'll do it. Thanks, Carly, love you."