He entered the room, thundering across it, knocking into a large, potted plant and sending it toppling to the floor. “Damn it, woman, look what you made me do!” He didn’t stop to pick up the plant. In fact, the falling of the plant only seemed to fuel his rage. He reached out, grabbing her by the hair and yanked her toward him. She barely flinched but reached up to grasp her ponytail close to her head. This was nothing compared to what he could do and usually did. Lacy had been after her to cut her hair, citing the fact that it would be difficult for him to yank it if it was short. She didn’t dare, though. On some days, she wished she had the courage to chop it off at the root, if for nothing else but to defy him. What might Peter say or do if she cut it without his permission? Lacy had shown her several adorable styles that she loved, but it was better not to incite his wrath.
“My shirt,” he commanded.
“I’ll have it ready in five minutes.”
“Make it two,” he said, but she knew he’d give her the five.
He released her hair and strode from the room. She rushed to retrieve the ironing board and iron, knowing he would be watching the time. She set it up quickly, her hands moving rapidly, experienced as they were from years of practice. She watched the clock—two minutes down with the setup. She ran to the laundry room, grabbed his shirt, and returned to the kitchen, one minute. Good time, she thought. Peter returned to the kitchen in exactly five minutes.
Brenda had the shirt waiting on the ironing board while she stood at the stove finishing the eggs. Peter hesitated, hoping to find something wrong. When he didn’t he said, “Well, all right, then, how about some breakfast.”
No sooner had he said the words, than the toaster popped. She slid his eggs onto a plate, grabbed the toast, and placed the plate in front of him at the dining room table. He would slather it with butter and jam on his own.
She poured him a cup of coffee, poured another for herself, and joined him at the table. “You’re not eating?”
She shook her head. “I’m not feeling well this morning.”
He eyed her, a look of sympathy ever so slightly touching his eyes. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
He reached up to touch the damage. Instinctively she pulled back. He didn’t try again. You could try not using me for a punching bag, she thought. “No. I’ll be okay in a little while. I think it’s the change in the weather. It has messed with my system.” She lowered her eyes, opening and closing them to clear the tears forming in them.
He dismissed the conversation for another one. “What’s on your list today?”
She sighed. “I have a PTA meeting this morning, then a dental appointment, and then I’m home to tackle that hall closet. It hasn’t been cleaned in ages.”
The conversation was strained and awkward, typical of the morning-after chatter. Each time he moved she flinched involuntarily, and he would stare at her with a questioning look.
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