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The Awakening

By Trudy Stiers

As I looked in my mirror, my upper lip was bruised and swollen. When I touched it, it felt warm. “How am I gonna cover this?” I thought, “If I can just get through today without anyone noticing my lip. I am sure that it will look better tomorrow.”

I had gotten pretty good at covering my bruised and swollen face, but it was even harder to hide since I had started working. Work meant that I had to go out and face the world, even when I looked bad. But everyone always seemed to believe my stories about how I got hurt and no one even questioned me anymore about my bruises. In fact, the questions about my injuries had just about stopped completely. Shortly after the first few bruises appeared three years ago, it was something that I lived with at least several times a month.

Covering my bruises was hard because I hardly used makeup. I was a tiny, young woman. Only twenty-two years old and I only stand four-foot ten inches tall. I looked like I was still about fifteen years old. In fact, in Jr. High, when my friends started to wear lots of makeup, I plastered mine on too. But instead of looking mature and sophisticated, like my friends looked to me, I just looked like a little girl dressed up like a whore.

So my job this day and many days was not an easy one. I got my covering tools out and began to use my yellow concealer stick, next a little foundation. “That’s not good enough, I think, “I’ll try a little powder on it….Okay, now I have a pretty face with a big patch of spackling on it. Maybe I should powder my whole face. Should I do my eyes too? I guess not….I feel like enough of a spectacle, I’ll just wipe some of it off and put some water on the edges. I can try to blend it in…Well, that will have to do. I’ve got to get the babies ready to take to mama’s before I go to work.”

My two precious absolutely perfect babies. The oldest, Heath, was three years old and Quentin was only six months old. as I clean and dress them, I thank the Lord for giving them to me for me to love and to be loved by them.

On the long drive to my parent’s house the boys sit high in their car seats, as high as they can, stretching their little necks so they can see out of the window. They are always excited and happy to go to Nanny and Pappy’s house.

On arrival, as I get Quentin out of his seat, Heathie scrambles to get out of his little seat. My mother was always at the door waiting to see her little angels. She gave Heath a big hug and a kiss, then reaches out to take Quen from my arms. She glances at me, but Quen needs his morning love from his nanny, so she goes right to her business of getting the boys coats off and settled.

“See y’all this afternoon.” I holler over my shoulder as I hurry back to the car.

“Okay” answered both Heath and mama, little Quen just smiled at me as I turned to get in the car.

“Well, mom didn’t seen to notice, maybe today, my face looks okay.” I thought hopefully as I drove the three miles back to town. I began to feel better, even kind of forgetting about my face.

When I am at work, I am busy, with no time to think of my home life. Work to me is like another world. As long as people have a full cup of coffee and the food comes out fast enough, they are in a good mood. Anyway, I am a good waitress and all I let my costumers ever see of me is my cheerful, spunky side.

As I park my little car, I think of what a pretty clear cool October day it is. The leaves from the big oak tree are gently blowing across the parking lot. I really love the fall leaves. How can something that has dried up and fallen from their high lofty homes, still be so beautiful to me? They even make a comforting sound as I walk through them. And when people burn piles of them in the ditches by their homes, those same leaves give off a wonderful aroma.

Sometimes I feel like I am one of those leaves, slowly drying and getting smaller. I can only hope that after I die, and leave my boys, the memory of the pleasant parts of me keep blowing around in their minds and that I leave them with the aroma of hope.

As I approach the restaurant I can smell the biscuits cooking and the bacon frying, as Agnes does the prep work for the breakfast crowd. I step in the back door, I let the screen slap behind me. Agnes looks up and gives me a cheerful greeting. Then she looks at me seriously for a minute, her eyebrows raise a little as she asked, “How was your night?”

“Oh, it was okay. How was yours?” I reply.

She mumbles a few sentences about her kids and such as she looks down and continues her work.

“Do you want some biscuits and gravy for breakfast?” Agnes asked me.

“Girl, you know I do, unless you are fix in’ cinnamon rolls today.” I answered.

Now Agnes knows that I love biscuits and gravy, but her cinnamon rolls are my favorite. She looks up at me and puts her floured hands on her hips, shakes her head and smiles. “I’ll fix it.” she said, ” now you get yourself outta this kitchen, you’ve got coffee to make.”

We both laugh as I push through the big swinging doors into the dining room of the The restaurant. Early in the morning it always feels to me like Agnes and I are the only two people awake in the whole world. Agnes gets to the restaurant first, about thirty minutes before me, she turns on the lights and starts her prep work.

I head to the wait station and start the coffee to brewing, as I begin to pull the chairs from the tops of the tables. I start to think about the day, about the customers that I will probably see today. As I work, I am slowly able to close my life at home out of my mind.

It wasn’t long before I hear the doors from the kitchen swing open and around the corner came one of the restaurant owners, Stephen.

Stephen is a small, handsome man, of about thirty-three years old. He has a very dark complexion and black hair that is beginning to grey at the temples. He has a black mustache and brown eyes that seem to look right through me. Stephen carried himself with a smooth confidence that made his walk to me look like a choreographed dance. Stephen is always friendly and courteous to his employees. He had really never talked to me much, he and his mother owned the restaurant, his mother was the one who directed the wait staff.

Stephen’s father had died about ten years earlier and Stephen just fell into his father’s place in the family business.

I was a little intimidated by this handsome man who carried himself with such confidence. I would sometimes catch myself watching him out of the corner of my eye.

But this day was different…..

This particular morning, Stephen sauntered over to the coffee machine. He spoke to me as he began to fill his mug with the fresh hot coffee. As he looked up from his mug, he seemed to be studying my face. Looking at my longer than he usually did.

“What happened to your face?" He asked.

Whoa! I felt like a ton of bricks had just hit me. It had been a long time since anyone had seemed to notice my face. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Everything that I had blocked out earlier came rushing back to me, like a flood, like a hard spray from a fire hose, nearly knocking me off my feet.

When I regained myself and slowed my heart as best I could. Stephen was still standing in front of me as he waited for my answer.

I felt like I had stopped breathing, so I filled my lungs with a long deep breath, knowing that I was not very good at lying. My heart again began to pound in my ears again and everything started to whirl about me.

“Quentin fell over onto me in the car.” I blurted out.

Stephen stared into my eyes as he slowly sat the coffee put back down firmly on the burner.

“If you think that anybody believes that your baby falls over and hits you hard enough to bruise your face as often as I see bruises, then you are not as smart as I thought.” he said, “your husband is hitting you and no woman deserves to be hit no matter what she does.”

My head suddenly stopped spinning and at that instant, it seemed like everything just fell into place. If it was so obvious to this man who I hardly talked to, why had no else suspected the abuse?

And why had I let it go on?

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