Yolanda Clarke struggled to stand, but her wobbly knees failed her. She grabbed the bottom right corner of her white Laura Ashley comforter, sprinkled with pink handmade roses, and now her blood. Knuckles burning from grasping tightly, she pulled herself onto the bed.
Her husband Timothy bellowed out orders and commands in the background. "Get up! Don’t turn your back on me when I am talking to you.” His arms were swinging wildly; his face was contorted into that of a madman. Yolanda hardly recognized Timothy; a handsome man who everyone said resembled Harry Belafonte. She remembered when she first met him how his smooth brown skin, soft hair, chiseled chin, and twinkling eyes caught her attention. She closed her eyes and tears fell.
Yolanda wondered how she had arrived at her current state of hell, tormented day and night by someone who pledged, in front of God and man, to love her forever. Before her thought process could be finished, Timothy grabbed her by her hair, pulled her off the bed like a rag doll, and dragged her into the closet.
“Timothy, please, no!” Hoping her weight would keep him from shutting the door, she pressed her body against it.
“Timothy, please stop!” She pleaded with her husband to have mercy.
The door flew open forcefully, and Timothy kicked Yolanda so hard it sent her flailing against the back wall of the closet with a thud. Yolanda’s mouth filled with blood and she screamed in pain, not knowing which hurt worse; almost biting her tongue in half, or the kick in the stomach. Praying his savage attack had ended, Yolanda curled into a fetal position. Timothy slammed and locked the door. Her whole body ached, and it felt like someone had hit her in the stomach with a two by four. She struggled to catch her breath, while also trying to suppress the cough in her throat. Yolanda cried quietly, her eyes struggling to become acclimated to the blackness surrounding her. The salty tears and nasal drainage trickled in and around her mouth, mingling with the blood from her tongue.
“I hate to treat you like this Yolanda, but it’s really all your fault! All you have to do is just conform to the person that I am trying to mold you into. I have given you every pointer I know on how to be a perfect wife. I have printed out material for you to read, I have purchased books, and I have even sent you to workshops. But, you still don’t seem to get it. You still don’t know how to be a Proverbs thirty-one wife.”
Yolanda could hear that Timothy’s voice had dropped a couple of octaves, and surmised that he had calmed down a little—a good sign for her.
“And, this is the second time I’ve spoken with you about your loud breathing." Timothy continued, "I work hard everyday, and when I go to bed, I expect to have a little peace and quiet, without someone breathing heavily down my neck. It’s probably because you are so fat. Not one of my friends’ wives is as big as you. If you wonder why our sex life is suffering, look in the mirror. Your body disgusts me.” Timothy’s voice sounded like it was beginning to crack from the yelling earlier. “I’m still a man, and a man has needs, Yolanda. So, I sleep with you from time to time, just to satisfy my manly desires, but I don’t like to. By the way, being overweight is also why you can’t get pregnant. If you would read something besides your shrink magazines, you would know that.”
Yolanda wished that Timothy would die, and wanted to kill him herself. At that moment, being intimate with him was the last thing on her mind. She stared into the darkness, watching the light that crept in under the door fade in and out as Timothy paced. Although she wanted to scream, she knew better. Any outburst would have unleashed a new round of brutality from Timothy. The first blow to her ear earlier certainly came out of nowhere. The pain was so intense it felt like someone was holding a fire poker against it. Yolanda was horrified when she felt the blood trickling down. The next blow was a tooth-rattling uppercut to the jaw. The final kick did her in. Even if she’d had the courage to fight, which she didn’t, it was all over after the final blow. All she could do was listen and pray that the ordeal was over.
“And don’t try to talk about how tall you are, or that you are big boned! You are just fat, F-A-T, and you need to loose some weight. You are going to learn to be a respectful, submissive, lady-like, slim wife, even if I have to beat you everyday. The choice is yours.”
Yolanda waited anxiously, afraid to breathe, hoping that Timothy would not open the door. Yolanda was perplexed at how the little things seemed to set Timothy off. Still holding her breath, she strained her ear, listening intently. When she didn’t hear a sound, she exhaled sharply. Even though she was locked in a closet like a caged animal, Yolanda felt safe, finding peace in the darkness. The hem of her nightgown became a washcloth to soak up the blood from her tongue and her ear. All too soon, the click of the key in the lock signaled that she could come out of her supposed prison and get ready for church- after she cooked breakfast. Yolanda crawled out of the closet, dreading standing, knowing with certainty that a headache was on the way. She yearned to sleep, but it was now six in the morning, and the first service started at nine. She walked gingerly to the shower, and stepped in, allowing the warm water to flow over her body. She winced as she touched her ear, which felt grotesquely swollen, and gently washed the dried blood away as best she could. As she washed her abdomen, she noticed the large bruise right above her navel. Her body was full of old and new bruises, and Yolanda cried as she looked at the map of shame covering her body.
After cooking a full breakfast, which consisted of grits, scrambled eggs, toast, and turkey bacon, Yolanda knocked on Timothy’s office door to let him know his breakfast was ready. She went upstairs to get dressed. Timothy would usually eat breakfast in his office downstairs on Sunday mornings, and wouldn’t come out until it was time to leave for church. She was safe for the moment. I hope you die in there, she thought.
Like many Sunday mornings before, Yolanda methodically went through her routine of putting on her makeup and church face, taking care to hide her battle scars. Her appearance was meticulous. The peach St. John crinkle knit suit fit her to perfection, and the Louboutin pumps topped the ensemble off. Once she arrived at church, Yolanda made sure that her amens were on cue, and that she appeared enthusiastic during the sermon. During the service, Timothy had the gall to draw attention to her.
“I want everyone to look at the beautiful Mrs. Clarke. Isn’t she a ray of sunshine today? She puts the pep in my step. She’s my apple dumpling, my sweetie pie. I tell her everyday how lucky I am to be married to her.” Timothy continued to brag to the church about what a wonderful wife she was, and the congregation erupted in amens and go-on-Pastors. Timothy looked Yolanda squarely in the eye.
“You really got a hold on me, baby.” Yolanda smiled. She knew that not smiling meant another altercation once she got home. But inside, she was nauseous, and hoped Timothy would stop his charade, and let everyone see him for the devil he was. No one would ever believe that Pastor Timothy Clarke was a wife beater.