Ben and I were in a relationship for the next 2 years, right until I finished university and things went completely downhill. He was all I thought about the entire time. He still encouraged me to do well in school. In truth, he was the reason I made that much of an effort and passed with a distinction. I wanted to please him, I wanted to make him happy. I owe him that.
He was smooth. It took him cheating on me and leaving me alone to realize that what I had gone through in the last two years was not love…it was abuse…
“I… I don’t understand. I’m sorry Em. I can see how hard it is for you to talk about all this. But from what you’ve told me so far, I…” replied Henry after a pause.
She stared off into the distance, her mind in a place far away, a long time back.
She didn’t reply to his untold question. She went right back into the story. The memories were running back into her mind…
*One month before graduation*
My life in University had essentially revolved around Ben. I didn’t realize that then. Ryan was literally the only friend I had other than Ben, and that too, only because Ryan held on, with no intentions of leaving me behind. But even then, I knew Ben wasn’t very happy with me spending too much time with Ryan, so I didn’t.
About one month before our course was due to end, something changed. To this day, I have no clue what it was. All of a sudden, Ben started acting distant. He stopped wanting to hang out with me. He stopped meeting me. We would meet every day just as usual, but all of a sudden, we had nothing to talk about.
I’m not sure how to describe it, but I went into a very weird state after that.
For two years of my life, everything had revolved around one guy. And all of a sudden, he was missing. I tried talking to him, telling him how I felt, but those conversations were never what I wanted them to be. Ryan was constantly with me, but he refused to comment or discuss Ben with me. He stayed with me, being my friend, not letting me feel all alone.
I know now that up until then, even if I didn’t realize it, what I had gone through was emotional abuse. Ben had demanded to be the only thought in my mind. He got possessive the minute I talked to another person, boy or girl. We would argue, we would fight and he would always threaten me, he intimidated me. There were never apologies from his side and my thoughts and feelings were practically invisible to him. At that point though, none of this mattered to me. I thought every couple argued and that there was nothing different between us. I was so head over heels in love with him that I was fine with the fact that he took me for granted. By the end of the two years, my self-esteem had all but disappeared and what was left was a literal reflection of what he thought of me. I lived for the small happiness he gave me. I lived for him.
Things changed again.
What had up until then been emotional abuse, suddenly turned into physical abuse. Anything I said or did that upset him would get me a violent reaction in return. He… He slapped me a few time, he.. he did a lot of things that I can’t believe I let him.
She looked up. The expression on Henry’s face was none like I had ever seen before. He was livid with anger. She couldn’t help it when a sense of Deja vu took over. She still hadn’t gotten over what had happened the last time someone had been this mad at her. Her subconscious took over and she scooted to the end of the sofa, as far away from Henry as she could be. But that movement of hers changed his reaction completely. He was the Henry that she had always trusted, been comfortable with again. He was her Henry again.
He took a deep breath and slowly stretched his hands out towards her. He spoke slowly, softly, almost like he was talking to a scared animal or baby. “Em… Em, I’m not going to hurt you, I promise. I’m not Ben. I’m sorry I got mad. Baby, come here…”.
Her heartbeat returned to normal slowly and he gave her her time, not pushing her. She could see that he was almost afraid of how she would react at this point. She smiled at him, “I am okay, I am sorry too.”
“No babe, don’t say that, I should have controlled myself, especially considering what you were telling” He turned away, looking at the far end. “I can’t Em, I can’t take hearing what you went through. That… That guy…”
He looked back at her, stretching his hands out again. “Come here, please…”
She took a deep breath, she hadn’t expected him to react like this. She had thought he would be mad at her. “Are you mad at me?”
Her question seemed to almost shock him. “Why? Why would I be mad at you? None of this was your fault. You were the victim in that story Em.”
She looked away. This was something that she had heard Ryan say to her over and over again. But he had never been able to convince her. She had always felt like it had been her fault, for pushing Ben to that level, for not realizing sooner, for falling in love with the wrong guy and for so much more.
She heard Henry get up from his end of the sofa and walk over. She knew he was being intentionally loud, trying not to alarm her, but she didn’t turn. She stayed there, staring into the distance. He sat next to her and put his arms around her, enveloping her in a cocoon of warmth, safety and him, him and his understanding. “It wasn’t your fault Em.”…