Dinner is served

by Patricia A. McKnight

'Crash' the plate of food landed just above my head against the wall, busting apart and making a mess on the pale rose carpeting. As I spun around Matthew caught the front of my shirt and shoved me backwards against the wall. His eyes focused in on mine, in his low growl he said, 'Just who do you think you are; coming in there to take the car. You embarrass me. Are you stupid?' Looking to my right I see my kids, their eyes wide with fear, frozen in the moment from eating their dinner. He threw me to the floor and shoved me over with his foot. 'Get this damn mess cleaned up now before the carpet stains.'

Patricia A. McKnight

I could tell the kids were too scared to chance walking through the room to get upstairs, get away from the fight they heard so often. I quickly climbed up and grabbed one of the broken pieces of plate to help gather the food. As I walked to the trashcan, I took a moment to calm the kids, 'Its okay, Mommy's fine. I'll just get this cleaned up. You three go ahead and finish your dinner. It's almost time for bed.'

As I returned to his mess, Matthew grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me up, throwing me against the couch. His anger and alcohol fueled each other, and his words splashed against my face with sputter. He held me still, pulling my head backwards with a handful of hair; his language vulgar and threatening. Nothing new, but what was different was this sudden gut knowledge that soon one of us was going to die and I was most certain it would be me.

Hurriedly I cleaned up the mess and returned to the table with my kids. My girls had tears in their eyes; hearts pounding as I hugged them. I wanted to go back to the moment before we heard the footsteps on the porch, but of course nothing would erase the moments of what they'd seen. One by one I started warming up our dinner plates. Matthew was already snoring so I knew he had passed out and wouldn't be bothering us again tonight.

As I sat my son's warmed dinner in front of him, I reached my arm around his shoulder. He looked up at me with a heavy look of concern in those big blue eyes, then I heard his boyhood voice. 'Don't worry Mom', he said. 'I'll take care of him. I'll cut him up with my new pocket knife'. He opened the little one inch dull bladed knife from the gumball machine; holding it tight with his small hand, while speaking sternly in a show of protection. Looking into his big blue eyes, I knew I had to get us away from this toxic home. If I did not get us away from Matthew before he killed me, would my little boy kill him?

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