Her name was Donna Weaver. His name was Trevor Bower. They first met at the Wawa where he worked, usually on the afternoon or evening shift. She stopped in for coffee sometimes on her way home from her job. One day when her car wouldn’t start, he jumped it for her with cables from the trunk of his car. “You probably needed a new battery,” he said. He offered to put it in for her if she bought one. “Stick it in your car, stop in around five when I go on break, and I’ll take care of it.” She said that sounded like an offer she might take him up on.
Donna had little experience with the opposite sex. She was cute in a nerdy way, a little on the chunky side, with shoulder length brown hair and glasses. In high school, she went to dances with her girlfriends since she was rarely asked to dance by boys. Once she was out of school she seemed to lose trace of any social life, which hadn’t been that exciting in the first place. She went to work and came home to her mother’s house. That was her life until she met Trevor. Somehow she sensed it was all going to change.
A couple days later Donna arrived at Wawa with the car and the battery and went inside. Trevor stood behind the counter and pretended he was busy while he sneaked peeks at Donna. Trevor said he didn’t know if he could get to it for at least a half-hour. Donna called her mother to come get her. Trevor got her phone number to call her when the car was ready.
When she came back to get the car a couple hours later it was dark. He handed her the keys, walked her out to the car, and asked her if she wanted to go out sometime for lunch or dinner. Donna was flattered. “Give me a call sometime.” He asked for her number. She thought that was cute. “You already have it,” she reminded him.
Trevor called her that evening and they talked on the phone. He said he was from the area, owned a house in Tuckahoe, had been working at Wawa for three years, and was an assistant manager. “I don’t have to get my hands dirty. I’m looking to move up the ranks to general manager. At that level I’ll have the entire store under my supervision.”
They asked the usual questions of each other and got the usual answers.
He was 28, she was 24. He lived alone, she lived with her mother who was divorced, as well as her younger brother and sister. She worked in a deli in Ocean City, slow in the winter, crazy in the summer. Neither was ever married. They actually went to the same high school. She mentioned a few people she knew and so did he, but there were no connections. They decided it was because he was four years older. When she was starting high school as a freshman, he was getting ready to graduate as a senior. They only spent a year in the same building, and they never even noticed each other.
They went out Sunday because that was Trevor’s day off. He was on a strict work schedule. They went to the Atlantic County Park because it was a nice day and it was free. Trevor said if things didn’t work out between them, all they lost was a little of their personal time. Trevor prided himself on managing his money.
Inside the Park Reception Center were several displays of various plants and animals native to the surrounding area. Donna liked the beehive. Trevor liked the stuffed raccoon and the hawk. There was also a summary page of information with each specimen. And there was an upstairs with plenty of open space. Leaning on the second-floor banister, they could look down on the lobby.
The lady ranger behind the desk was very sweet. She answered all Donna’s questions. Trevor didn’t have any questions. He said he already knew most of that stuff. Said he used to trap muskrat and fox when he was a kid, and he still went fishing and deer hunting every year. He liked the great outdoors. “That’s another reason I like coming to the Park Center.”
After their stroll through the building, they ambled outside and took the walking path through the property. It was late September, a beautiful month in that part of southern New Jersey, still pleasant during the day, temperatures ranging in the mid to upper 70’s. There was a fullness in the air, as if all species of plants, animals, reptiles, and insects had reached their zenith, racing from spring to fall in a hereditary rush, an urgency to feed and grow and reproduce in that time of plenty, and now it was nearly done, the glut was nearly over again until next year. And when the food sources were diminished there was nothing left but to hibernate, or live off stored reserves, or go to seed and decay and lay dormant. And what they were experiencing in the air was the residue of that abundance, that fullness before the lean time. Any day now it could turn cool overnight with the first chill of fall, followed inevitably by the frozen cold of winter until spring came again to rescue and renew the survivors.
Trevor and Donna held hands as they walked along. Some of the trails were paved, and some trails were just stone or dirt. There were woods of black and white oak, holly and pine, lion colored fields dotted with sumac, bayberry, and firethorn bushes, hedgerows thick with climbing vines of honeysuckle and wild grape, all dappled in rustic colors of fall. Farther on a slow moving stream eventually emptied into a small lake. The water was calm, reflecting the vegetation along the banks. Attached to one bank was a dock with a few wooden chairs. There was also a picnic area with tables and barbeque grills spread out under the trees.
Trevor said it wasn’t really a lake, it wasn’t big enough. “They call it a lake, but really it’s just a big pond. There are fish in it though, mostly perch and small mouth bass, nothing too big. I fished it before; several times when I was a kid.”
There were different trails to follow. They took one through the woods. Old stone ruins of iron works from the revolutionary war where they made cannons and cannon balls were visible through the trees. “Back then the revolutionaries were probably as hidden from the British as they could get, down in the Pine Barons in the middle of nowhere south Jersey, but still close enough to Trenton to keep the troops supplied.”
They stopped for a minute, Trevor started to speak, and Donna kissed him. She didn’t know what possessed her. She was just having such a good time she felt like telling him in a way he would understand. It was just a quick one but it was on the mouth and it surprised him. She could tell by the look on his face.
They walked back to the Park Center holding hands. There were only a couple of cars in the lot but nobody was around. Before they stepped around the corner into the public area in front of the Reception Center they stopped and she kissed him again quickly. Only this time he was ready, held onto her, and kissed her in return.
The relationship progressed rapidly and they started hanging out together. Trevor usually made the decisions, like if they were going out or just spending the night at his place, and if they were going out, where they were going and what they were doing, which was fine with Donna. She was happy to have somebody else take care of those details. It made everything else more relaxing, including the relationship. It was one less thing to worry about. She didn’t care what she was doing as long as she was doing it with Trevor.
At home with her Mom and her brother and sister, Donna was still more or less one of the kids. Her mother made most of the daily decisions regarding the household, from shopping to cooking to cleaning to doing laundry, though it was usually Donna who did the actual labor. She felt guilty still living with her mother after graduating high school and attempted to help her out whenever she was around, which wasn’t as much now that she was seeing Trevor.
She fell into the same role with Trevor as she did with her mother, even if he did overdo it sometimes. Like if they went someplace she wanted to go, or did something she wanted to do, he would act irritated, like he didn’t want to be there. Then he would pout and ruin it for her as well. He didn’t seem to understand how to relax and go with the flow.
If she objected to some activity or place that he wanted to do, he would get annoyed. “Stop acting like a baby,” he would say. Or, “Are you a baby, or what?”
If she persisted he would add, “You never do anything right.” Or, “You don’t know anything.”
If they were going to the pharmacy for something she needed and they had a flat tire, it was her fault for making him go. If they went to the movies and it was more than he expected to pay, it was her fault because they went. If they drove over to hang out with some of her friends and Trevor got into an argument with somebody, it was her fault because they were her friends and she asked him to come along.
It got to the point it wasn’t worth arguing about. If he decided everything, then he couldn’t be annoyed with her if something happened that he didn’t like. He couldn’t blame her if something went wrong. The only person he could blame was himself.
She began spending more and more time at Trevor’s house and less time at her mother’s. Part of the reason was she decided she owed it to her mother to find somewhere else to live. The two women got along all right, but there was always that motherly influence that Donna wanted to escape. She was old enough and she needed to be out on her own. She couldn’t live with her mother forever. Sooner or later she had to find a place of her own.
When Trevor unexpectedly asked her to move in, she accepted the offer. He helped her with her stuff. Her mother didn’t approve of her moving in with somebody unless they were married. She said Donna was setting a bad example for her younger brother and sister. But if this is what she really wanted, then she may as well go. She was old enough to make her own decisions.
Trevor promised Donna’s mother he wouldn’t let anything happen to her.
A few weeks later Trevor got into an argument with Donna about the phone. He punched a hole in the wall and threw the receiver on the tile floor and it shattered. He said they didn’t need a phone anyway. He had a cell phone, and so did she. Then they had another argument about who was going to pick up the pieces.
Donna began having second thoughts about this new relationship. Trevor was getting more and more possessive. He didn’t want her to run to the corner market without him going along, even if it was for something simple as milk or chips. He didn’t want her going anywhere without him. It was flattering and romantic at first because they did things together. They went grocery shopping together and that was fine. But when they got home he would accuse her of buying too much or buying the wrong brand or item, and he would berate her for it.
“Can’t you do anything by yourself?” Or, “Do you ever do anything right?” Or, “Sometimes you’re just so stupid.”
He opened all the mail, checked her phone for messages, checked the mileage in her car, called her five times a day to make sure she was where she said, and accused strange cars that drove down the street of belonging to past boyfriends. When she told him he was making her uncomfortable, he said he was only looking out for her welfare.
One night he accused her of looking at some guy at the mall. “Am I supposed to walk around with my eyes downcast? How can I not look at people when they are right in front of me?” By the time they got home Trevor was so angry he ripped the phone off the wall. It didn’t matter because the receiver was already broken. Then he punched a hole in the bathroom door while she was in there taking a shower. It scared her. She wanted to run away but she didn’t. She was too afraid of what he might do.
A few days later he made up to her, apologized and took her out to dinner at a tavern. He had a couple of beers. She had a glass of pink wine. They had sex later when they got home. It was just like when they first started going out, only better.
They had sex regularly, usually a few times a week. She had no problem with it. Most of the time it was a release. He wasn’t mean or anything. Sometimes he wanted it and she was having her period. She didn’t mind if they went ahead and did it. It was more like he didn’t want to. He said it was too messy. He didn’t like the sight of blood all over him. Then he would pout. “I guess I’ll just have to jerk off,” he would say. “I guess I’ll have to wait until you’re off the rag. Or find somebody elsewhere.”
Trevor had an older brother named Marvin who was getting married. The wedding took place in a Reform Church and the reception was in a big room on the second floor of a volunteer fire company, of which Trevor’s brother was a member. The wedding and reception was located about two hours from where they lived. Because of the reception and the drinking, Trevor decided they should get a room at the local Holiday Inn for the night, which seemed to make good sense.
The ceremony at the church went smoothly. It was pretty with all the flowers. The bride looked beautiful. Everyone seemed happy. Any crying done were tears of joy. Everyone filed out and stood on the sidewalk until the bride and groom came out. They passed down through the middle of the guests and they all threw rice into the air. Trevor got some in his mouth when he looked up to throw his rice. Donna thought it was funny. Trevor thought it was disgusting. Somebody had that rice in the palm of their hand before it landed in his mouth.
At the reception, there were tables marked with little name tags and a few tables that weren’t. Trevor was family, so he and Donna shared a table near the front. She got to meet his mother and father, though they seemed rather distant. There was also a DJ. Donna wanted to dance but Trevor didn’t dance and everything was going along so well she didn’t want to irritate him and ruin it so she danced with some of the other women instead. When one of the single guys asked her to dance, she kindly refused.
When she got back to the table, Trevor asked her what the guy wanted. She told him the truth, but she could tell he didn’t like it. He kept looking over at the guy, acting like he was annoyed, but the guy ignored him. He was too busy having a good time.
Everybody was on their best behavior until a young man from the bride’s family got drunk and for no apparent reason threw the remainder of a drink on a cousin from the groom’s family and there was an altercation. Of course Trevor had to get involved, which only escalated the overall mood. The bride and groom had to intercede to restore order. At least there were no outright punches thrown. Nothing was actually resolved, however, and it was more like a standoff with most everybody taking a side according to family.
The tension lingered throughout the remainder of the evening.
When the reception was over and the guests were leaving, a couple that managed to remain neutral discovered the rear window of their car had been smashed out. Since it was not anybody who was directly related to either family or involved in the quarrel, there didn’t seem to be any motive in it other than a random attack. As such, no one person could be singled out since it could have been anybody. There was little the owners of the car could do but drive home and call their insurance company.
When they got back to their room at the Holiday Inn, Trevor started hitting her in the arm real hard. It hurt, she told him to stop, but he didn’t. He thought it was funny. He kept calling her a “Bitch.” “You should have gone ahead and fucked that guy who asked you to dance.” Then he got her on the bed and squeezed her arm so hard it left black and blue marks from his hand print.
They’d been together about eight months when that happened.
A few days later she was still debating whether to move back in with her mother and siblings when she discovered she was pregnant. She thought she had taken care of the contraception, but apparently not. Somehow it had failed. She was afraid to tell Trevor for fear he would leave her. But when she finally told him he was very reasonable about it. Trevor said he liked the idea of a family, and if she wanted to get married, he would do it.
She decided it would be best for the baby if they did. They immediately set a wedding date so she wouldn’t be showing too much in her wedding gown.
The day before the wedding the sky was overcast and the air cold. The wind was gusting— howling in the gutters, shaking the window screens, rattling the door of the metal shed in the back. When Trevor came home from work he seemed agitated. He started pushing her every time he passed by. It began playfully enough, but quickly turned rough. She was afraid she’d fall. She told him to stop but he didn’t.
When she complained he mocked her. “What are you, a baby? You’re getting fat. Do you want to leave me?”
He shoved her one last time, caught her off guard, and she fell and cracked her head against the coffee table in the living room. When she got up he smacked her in the face really hard with a couch pillow. It didn’t leave any marks, but it hurt her neck all through her wedding and for about a week afterwards. She never said anything about it to anybody. What good would it do? Why make waves? At least they were married. She wanted to stay positive. She wanted the marriage to work. Maybe Trevor would calm down after she had the baby.
Turned out Trevor didn’t really own the house they were living in. It belonged to an aunt who finally passed away in a nursing home. The estate was up for sale and they had to move. Trevor said he didn’t care, the house was old. “I’m tired of always fixing everything that goes wrong. I’ll get us a better house, maybe a condo down on the beach in Ocean City.”
They ended up living on one side of a duplex near Woodbine, out in the sticks of South Jersey. It was even more isolated than the aunt’s house, except for the people living in the other side of the duplex, which excluding their car, were pretty much invisible anyway. The only sound of their habitation was from their music, which they played a little too loud sometimes. Then Trevor would pound on the wall and yell at them to turn it down.
To save up money before the baby arrived, Donna was working as much as she could. She would need supplies for the baby and she didn’t trust Trevor to come through with money every time she needed it. Doctor bills and diapers, formula and baby food. He was kind of funny about his money. He didn’t like to give her any, for anything, even things they both used like food and electric and gas for heat.
Then Trevor lost his job at Wawa after an argument with the general manager and suddenly they had only her income to live on. That put a real financial burden on the relationship. There was a lot of stress. It got so she would rather be at work than at home listening to him complain.
A month went by and he eventually got unemployment, but they were already behind on the bills. Then he finally got a job at WAL-MART. She was so happy. She would get up every morning with him, even though she didn’t have to get up until later, make his breakfast and lunch for him, and see him off to work. Maybe the hard times were behind them and their relationship would have a happy ending. Donna told herself there were always rough roads to travel in life. Sometimes you just had to ride along until they smoothed out.
One night Trevor came home in a bad mood because somebody in another department played a joke on him and he didn’t like it. He started hitting her in the shoulder until she had a bruise. She called her mother, and Donna’s mother called Trevor’s mother. Donna and Trevor were sitting on the bed next to each other when Trevor’s mother called back and asked Donna if he was hitting her. Donna said no because she was afraid he would beat on her more when she got off the phone.
When she was six months pregnant they went for a walk on the beach in Ocean City. Everything was fine until some guy walked past and checked her out. Trevor got annoyed, started grumbling, and calling her names. “Bitch, why don’t you go running after him and fuck him? You should have been a whore, then you could fuck all the guys you wanted.”
She didn’t even answer. She thought the foul mood had passed when suddenly he punched her really hard in the stomach. It hurt. Bad. She had trouble walking back to the car. When she got home she went straight to bed.
The following day she called her mother after Trevor went to work. It still hurt and she was afraid something might be wrong with the baby. Her mother took her to the doctors. The doctor asked how it happened and Donna said she hit her belly against the table and made a joke about being too fat.
The doctor said as long as she was okay, the baby seemed to be fine. And though she was not a church going, bible reading, hymn singing Christian, that night Donna thanked God the baby wasn’t hurt and she only had a belly ache to worry about.
When Donna’s water broke her mother drove her to the hospital in Somers Point. The baby was born a couple of hours later just before noon. It was a girl. Trevor wanted a boy. He wasn’t very happy when he found out. He was at work at WAL-MART and never made it to the hospital. Said he couldn’t afford to take off, he’d visit her after quitting time.
He never showed up until two nights later during a storm. He said he was out both nights celebrating with the guys.
Donna didn’t really care. She was so physically and emotionally drained from giving birth, she didn’t miss him. She had carried the child inside her, and now it was outside her, and it needed her care. She felt completed lying in bed, listening to the distant thunder and the rain against the hospital window, holding the child in her arms. It was better that Trevor didn’t see her looking so washed out until she had a couple of days to recover. He would just make fun of her looks anyway. She wouldn’t have cared if he didn’t come at all if he didn’t see the baby until she brought her home. It was like he wasn’t there anyway.
They had a name picked out for a boy, but not a girl. They thought up a bunch of names. Finally, Trevor said he didn’t care. Girls were always trouble, and expensive. Donna could name her whatever she wanted. Donna decided to name her Lindsey.
One evening when Donna’s mother was over visiting with the baby, Trevor got into a tiff with Donna. Donna’s mother took her daughter’s side and Trevor became enraged and the three of them got into a bigger quarrel. Trevor shoved her mother against the wall and was hitting Donna while the baby was crying in her crib.
“Do you want a divorce? Huh?”
Donna told him he needed to leave before he hurt one of them.
“You’re just a bitch. I never want to see your ugly face again. You want me to leave? I’ll leave and I won’t come back. You and your mother can take care of that little brat by yourselves. See how far you get.”
“You need to leave until you cool off,” Donna said.
He smacked her in the back of the head a few times and laughed. “Why don’t you get out of the house and I’ll stay, since I pay most of the bills, now that you don’t work anymore.” When he finally left he yanked the door closed so violently he broke the doorknob.
Her mother said she should leave him, but where was Donna going to go that he wouldn’t find her? He already threatened to beat her senseless if she ever tried to divorce him. Besides, if something happened to her, who would take care of Lindsey? Her mother said she would take care of the baby. But Donna was afraid Trevor would get Lindsey instead of her mother if he went to court. After all, he was the father, and she was only the grandmother.
But like every other previous explosion it passed and things calmed down and resumed their former routine just like nothing had happened. And Donna experienced that false sense of security when she began to think that maybe things would work out now, and she stayed with him instead of moving back in with her mother and siblings, telling herself it wouldn’t be fair to them with the baby.
It was in November, around Thanksgiving, they had to call a repairman to fix the washer. Trevor said it was her fault the washer broke and her fault they had to spend money to get it fixed just before Christmas. While the repairman was in the kitchen working on the washer, Donna and Trevor were fighting in the bedroom. Trevor was holding the baby away from her with one arm and hitting her with the other.
Trevor was saying mean things like, “Fuck you.” “You’re ugly.” “You don’t know anything.” “You need to stay out of my life.”
The washer repairman could obviously hear the shouting, the apartment wasn’t that big, but he never said a word. He kept working on the washer as if nothing was happening. Donna realized he was just doing his job, but she also wished he would step in tell Trevor to shut up and stop punching her. That didn’t happen, but he fixed the washer and left the bill on the kitchen table. When Trevor saw the bill he had a little fit. “Now I have to spend all the money I saved up for Christmas presents. You ruined Christmas for everybody.”
They were out grocery shopping. Lindsey was in the back in her car seat. Trevor started hitting Donna for no reason. When they got to the grocery store and got out, Donna took out the car seat with Lindsey still in it so they could put her in a grocery cart. She was still a baby.
Trevor grabbed the car seat and started swinging it around. He was doing it too high and too hard, around and around with apparently no regard for the baby. One shopper coming out to her car with groceries saw it, and when Trevor finally gave Lindsey back to Donna and went on into the store, the woman said Donna should call the police, that what he was doing was a crime. He was endangering the welfare of that baby. When Donna hesitated, the woman offered to call the police herself.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Donna said.
“Why not?” said the woman, gripping her cart with both hands.
“It might make things worse,” Donna replied.
There was a sad look in the woman’s eyes. “Well, if that’s the case, then I won’t say anything. What you do yourself, that’s up to you. But you better be careful where that child is concerned.”
Donna nodded her consent. The woman was right. Donna just didn’t want any more trouble with Trevor, especially in a public place.
Trevor had a bad case of road rage when he got behind the wheel. When he got mad at Donna for something, he would take off his sunglasses and throw them on the floor or in the back seat. She was always afraid he would hit Lindsey. Sometimes he would throw anything he could get his hands on. Sometimes he would punch the dash board. Sometimes he would just start driving like a lunatic even when Lindsey was in the car. He would get mad at other drivers, actually go out of his way to chase them, then try to get them to step out of their cars so he could fight with them. One time he got out of his car and slammed the door so hard that he broke the car door and had to take it to a body shop to get it fixed. Then he lied to them about how it happened, so he could get the insurance company to pay for it.
Another time when he was yelling at Donna he pulled over on the side of the road, got out, and walked away from the car. Donna waited for him to come back, but eventually drove her and the baby home because it was time for Lindsey to eat and she was getting fussy.
About three hours later he walked into the house. Not one word about where he’d been or what he’d been doing. Thought he could come and go without telling her a thing if he liked. But what could she do about it? At this point, she almost didn’t care. She was glad when he wasn’t around. It was less stress.
On Christmas day when Lindsey was two, he started an argument with Donna. He called her fat, ugly, and stupid. “Why don’t you just leave? Do you want me to leave? Maybe you want a divorce?” He left the house and didn’t come home for several hours. She listened to a station on the radio that played continual Christmas music and tried to forget about him.
Trevor didn’t do well with holidays. It was like he didn’t want to be bothered, or he just wanted to be left out entirely. He said Christmas was for kids. It was just a big commercial holiday designed to get people to spend a lot of money needlessly. She said the spirit of Christmas was for everybody and that he was as bad as Mr. Scrooge.
When Lindsey turned three they all went to Great Adventure for her birthday. It was sunny and warm, at least when they left the house, but it could have been a little less windy. The parking lot at Great Adventure was huge and there was paper blowing along the ground and caught in the weeds. Trevor said they were going to have trouble finding their car at the end of the day if the lot filled up because there were so few markers.
It sounded like a fun amusement park on the brochure, but it was very spread out. They had to walk a good distance from one ride to another. The price of admission covered all the rides, but there were always long lines and they had to wait sometimes thirty minutes or more to get on. So it wasn’t exactly as they imagined, going on ride after ride.
When they decided to get something to eat, Trevor had a tantrum because the booth didn’t have what he wanted. For no good reason, he started arguing with Donna. He got so wound up he stormed off and left her and Lindsey alone in the park.
In the afternoon it clouded up, the wind was still blowing, and it wasn’t so warm anymore. Donna and Lindsey walked and sat, walked and sat. Finally, it rained very hard and then stopped. She and Lindsey found shelter along with several other people under the overhang of a food stand. The sun came out again but it was getting late and everything was wet. It wasn’t as easy to find a dry spot to sit and rest.
They didn’t find Trevor again until three hours later. He claimed he was looking all over for them and that she had him worried sick. He was just about ready to alert the park police. “Why didn’t you just stay in one spot? Why did you walk all over the place? No wonder I can’t find you.” She didn’t argue with him. It wasn’t worth it. It had been a long day and she was tired. She was just glad she and Lindsey could go home now.
When Lindsey was four years old they took Trevor to work one morning because Donna needed the car to take Lindsey to the doctors. Her car needed a fuel pump and Trevor hadn’t fixed it yet. On the way to work, he started hitting Donna and Lindsey while they were in the car. After they dropped him off, Donna drove to the hospital to get checked out.
When Donna told them what happened one of the nurses took her and Lindsey into a room to talk. She told Donna she should go home right now and pack and leave immediately. The hospital had social services that would take care of them and find them a place to stay.
But Donna was afraid. She was afraid of Trevor and she was afraid for her daughter. She was afraid of what might happen to them if they left. She was afraid Trevor might threaten her mother and find them again and she would get a real beating. She was afraid the support system would fail her. She was afraid of being on her own with Lindsey.
Donna told the nurse she wasn’t ready to do something that drastic. It wasn’t like this all the time. There were intervals when everything was fine.
The nurse gave her a card and told her that she should go home and pack a suitcase anyway, and the next time it happened she should call this number, and leave him. Because it was going to keep happening over and over again because domestic violence was cyclical in nature and therefore covered the same ground. The buildup, the blowup, the reconciliation, and then the buildup all over again, often on various time tables and at various levels of abuse, running the gamut from verbal to physical. It was all about fear and control. And the abuse was progressive. It wasn’t going to get any better. It was only going to escalate, and get worse. The more she let him take advantage of her, the more he would think it was acceptable behavior.
Donna nodded like she understood, thanked the nurse, and she and Lindsey drove home.
When Lindsey was five Trevor started saying he was going to kill Donna and Lindsey. Now there was constant daily verbal abuse towards both of them as if they were somehow in cahoots against him. That’s when Lindsey started saying her father hated her. Up until then she just accepted the meanness and abuse as a regular part of her life.
When Donna would pick Lindsey up from kindergarten, no matter what else they talked about on the way home, there was one conversation they had every time. Lindsey would ask if her father was home. If Donna said no, then it was okay to go back to the house. But if Donna said yes, Lindsey would tell her mother not to go home.
“Let’s go somewhere else for a while,” she would say in her little voice. “Let’s go see grandma.”
Then they would play a little game of where to go.
Donna talked to Lindsey about getting a divorce. She explained what would happen and asked if she was alright with it. But Lindsey didn’t want to go back and forth between the two of them for visitation if they separated. She was afraid of being alone with her father. Donna was conflicted. Donna finally decided to stay in the relationship to protect her daughter.
One night they were invited to Trevor’s brother’s house for a party. They took Lindsey over to her mother’s place to babysit her while they were gone. On the way to his brother’s house, he squeezed her arm and hit her several times for no reason until she was black and blue.
Everybody at the party was asking her what happened. But she never told anybody the truth because she was afraid he would beat her when they got home. She told everybody that she fell at the house and hit her arm on the kitchen chair. Trevor laughed and said she was just clumsy.
They were sitting in the living room watching TV. It was always whatever program Trevor wanted. The only time Donna and Lindsey got to watch what they wanted was when he wasn’t home. Trevor started an argument about guns. He was good at starting arguments. He would suck her in with some comment, ask for her opinion, and if he didn’t agree he’d pick a fight. He was the only man she knew who could start an argument with himself.
“You stupid, fucking bitch,” he said. And he threw the clicker at her. It missed her, bounced off the wall, and fell to the floor with the back broken off.
Luckily it didn’t hit Lindsey by accident.
Donna thought it would be nice if they could get some prices at the local swim club for the summer so Lindsey could learn to swim. Also, it would be a chance for her and Lindsey to get out of the house and away from him for a while. She told Trevor the exercise would be good for both of them. He seemed to be okay with it, at least initially.
They drove over to the club to find out about prices, but when they approached the gate Trevor started getting really loud, and by the time they parked in the lot he was yelling at Donna and Lindsey as if they had done something wrong. When they got inside and the woman behind the counter told him the prices, he started an argument with her. A couple of other staff people came out when they heard the noise, a man and a woman, and Trevor got into an argument with them as well.
When they got back outside to the car and got in, he started yelling at Donna and Lindsey as if it was their fault for ruining his day, making him come out to the swim club. He hit Donna on the arm really hard, got out of the car, slammed the door, and walked away.
Donna and Lindsey waited for about half an hour, then drove the car home. Trevor ended up walking back to the house on his own. It took him almost two hours. Donna was dreading his return the whole time, frightened he would start in on her again. But he came in the house and never said a word as if nothing had happened.
The abuse that Donna had been experiencing was now aimed at Lindsey as well. It was time to share. At home, Lindsey had her mother as a buffer, but she hated going anywhere alone with her father because that’s when it would get bad. Trevor liked to bully her, pinch her arm, and call her a sissy girl. He would ask her if she was ready to cry yet. She would get black and blue and yellow marks on her arms from his pinching, but he warned her not to tell her mother or he would make sure she got more than a couple of bruises.
One day they were in WAL-MART shopping for groceries and he squeezed Lindsey’s arm like he did to her mother. It made her want to cry, but she didn’t. She didn’t want him to think he was getting the best of her.
He did the same thing the time they went to the New Jersey State Aquarium. Lindsey was standing next to the shark tank watching the way they swam and moved their tails underwater and Trevor grabbed her arm and squeezed it real hard and said, “That’s what a shark bite feels like.”
Next, he started ordering her around, treating her like his little slave. Go get this, go get that. Go do this, go do that. She hardly had a life of her own. She had to drop whatever she was doing and immediately do what he wanted. If she didn’t feel like doing it or even if she was busy doing something herself, he would yell out, “Don’t make me get up or you’ll be sorry.” That meant he was going to kick or slap her, depending on whether she was sitting up or lying down.
When she was in second grade he got mad at her for not putting her clothes away. He dragged her down the steps by her ankles and she banged her head and got rug burns on her back and shoulders.
He started hitting her on the head when she was watching cartoons on TV. He also started hitting her on the head when she was trying to concentrate and do her homework. He wouldn’t help her out, either. All he’d say was, “You don’t need to know that crap.” If she had a question about schoolwork, Lindsey had to ask her mother.
One time at the grocery store Lindsey bumped the cart into a display as she was rounding the corner. He took over the cart and in the next aisle he pinned her against the shelves with the cage and squeezed her real hard until it hurt.
Another time at the food store he was arguing with Donna, Lindsey spoke up in defense of her mother, and he started arguing with her as well. When she tried to ignore him he suddenly shoved the front of the food cart into her chest. The impact knocked her down. Her mother helped her up. Trevor laughed like it was a big joke. That was one of his latest twists; everything he did to them was somehow funny.
When he walked away from both of them and exited the store, Lindsey and her mother were left alone with a cart full of groceries and no money to pay for it since he had all the cash. After waiting for a few minutes, they just left the cart full of food and walked out.
He was waiting for them in the car in the parking lot. All he said was, “It took you long enough.”
He took them home, dropped them off, and went back and did the shopping himself.
Lindsey had a dentist appointment. She wanted to take along the portable CD player she received from her Mom at Christmas. Trevor said she didn’t need it. She took it with her in the car, but when she wanted to take it into the dentist office he snatched it away from her and slammed it on the steering wheel.
“There, it’s broke,” he said. “You happy now?”
When she was in third grade she was lying on her bed listening to the radio and Trevor called her. He was in a bad mood and she didn’t get up fast enough. He went into her room and found her on the bed. She tried to move farther away but he grabbed her by the feet, pulled her across the blanket, off the mattress, and she landed on her back on the floor. Then he picked her up by her wrists with both hands and held her in the air and started squeezing until Lindsey was screaming very loud and yelling that he was hurting her. Donna tried to stop him but he put his finger in her face and told her to shut up or he would punch her teeth out. Donna didn’t care. He was obviously hurting Lindsey and she screamed at him to stop. He told her to shut up or he would kill her. Then he told Lindsey he would punch her in the face and kill her too. Then he squeezed even harder and twisted her wrist and Lindsey let out a loud scream and started crying.
Lindsey said her wrist was broken and Trevor let go and she fell back on the bed. He walked out of the room and left Lindsey laying there sobbing and Donna went over to her and Lindsey repeated that her wrist felt broken.
Donna decided to take Lindsey to the hospital but Trevor wouldn’t let her have the keys to the car. They only had one car now. They sold Donna’s car because they needed the cash. He said there was nothing wrong with her, that she was faking it. Donna gave her some aspirin. Lindsey finally cried herself to sleep.
After Trevor left for work the next day, Donna called her mother and she came over and they took Lindsey to the hospital to get her checked out. They took an x-ray and sure enough, the wrist was broken. Lindsey got a cast and all the kids at school signed it. Donna’s mother wanted her to tell the truth, but Donna told them Lindsey fell off her bike when she hit a curb.
Soon after Lindsey got the cast off her wrist, Trevor hit her in the face so hard it was swollen and left a mark. When she got to school she was still crying and the teacher asked her what happened and Lindsey told her the truth and the teacher gave her a hug and said she would take care of her the rest of the day, and also not to worry, that she was going to make sure it never happened again.
For Lindsey, it was the beginning of a wonderful childhood.
Frank Geiger currently resides on the Delaware Bay in Cape May County, New Jersey. His beautiful surroundings, hobbies, and wide-ranging experiences over the years give color and depth to his stories, which run the gambit from off-beat and quirky to mainstream commercial and literary. His story, BOOTLEGGER, was selected as a Featured Post in July 2019 at Spillwords Press. Another story, A WONDERFUL CHILDHOOD, was selected as a Featured Post in October 2019. A non-fiction piece entitled "Interview with Myself" was also selected recently for publication on Spillwords. Frank's novel "Out of Control" is available on Amazon and Kindle Direct.