We stayed a few days in Tupelo, visiting family through Christmas. He put on like everything was okay, like he was the model husband, and we pretended we were happy. My family could see through the facade. During the time there, he decided he wanted to work it out and stay married. When Christmas was over, we left together and made our way back to our home. But my mind wouldn’t quiet down, as that short detour to my first adult home opened my eyes to the truth about this marriage.
Before the new year, I got a phone call from my Nana. She said, “You know I don’t usually get into your business, but I have to say something.” She told me when my son had stayed with my parents overnight, he had been smiling and laughing and having fun with everyone. Then, I called to tell them we were on our way over from the hotel.
She said, “Amanda Jewel, his demeanor completely changed. He got quiet, and he sat still on the couch looking down at his hands. Once you got there, every time I asked him a question, he would look at [your husband] as if he needed approval to respond. Now, I don’t know what’s going on, but I know it’s not good. And I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I thought you should know what I saw.”
Everything she said solidified for me what I already knew. Enough was enough. It was time to get us out of there, before things got even worse. The trick was to not have an explosive situation when the time came. For that to happen, I had to somehow convince him it was his idea.
It was the second week in January, and he had been helping to lead classes that week. I remember, I didn’t want to affect his work, but he could tell something was up. He asked me what was going on. I squirmed a little and apologized for bringing it up during his busy week, that I knew it was bad timing.
“I’ve been thinking about it ever since you brought it up before Christmas. I think you were right, that we should get divorced.” He argued that he thought we had worked things out, and I said we did, but I couldn’t stop thinking that he had been right initially. It was time to call it. Finally, he left the room, and refused to talk to me for a few days.
I took my son home to my parents’ house in Tupelo a couple of days later. It was most important to me that my son was safe. Before leaving, my brother expressed concerned about my safety. He said, “I’m afraid he’s going to kill you.” I told him that I was sure my husband cared too much about his career to throw it all away for little ole me. After all, hadn’t he often downplayed my importance in his life compared to his career?
I then returned to pack our belongings. It took about a week or so for me to get things done so I could move home to Mississippi. We filed for divorce, and listed our reason as irreconcilable differences. (In retrospect, I think at this point he was afraid I would file for divorce and declare abuse as the reason, which definitely would have ruined his career.) He also wanted to go ahead and file our taxes while I was there. When he gave me part of the return, he said he wanted to make sure I knew he was a provider, and he had always taken care of me. I told him money was never the issue.
The night before I was going to leave, he had helped me move some of my things, but a couple of pieces of my bedroom furniture and a few boxes still needed to be loaded into the U-Haul trailer I had rented. It was getting late, so I suggested we go out to dinner, my treat.
The entire time at dinner, he kept going on and on about how he couldn’t believe I was leaving. Hadn’t he given me everything I wanted? Hadn’t he been a good provider? Hadn’t he taken care of us? He promised I would miss him, because he was such a good husband and had been so good to us.
After several minutes of this, I slammed my fist down on the table, leaned forward, and growled through clenched teeth, “You should have never laid hands on my son!” He looked at me with eyes wide and mouth open. Then his face became calm and dark. In that moment, I had a gut feeling that staying overnight could be dangerous. I decided not to wait until morning to leave.
When we got back to the house, he would no longer help me load anything. I did the rest myself. He had bought a puppy after Christmas, I guess as a last ditch effort to keep us together, but when I decided I was leaving, he didn’t want her. So once the U-Haul was loaded, I put her in her kennel in the back seat. I turned to look at him and told him I was sorry it didn’t work out. I felt so guilty for leaving, I even asked him for a hug. He scoffed and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
I got in the car, and put it in drive. “Hold on,” he said. I thought maybe there was something else he wanted to say, that maybe he was sorry too, that maybe he would explain how it all went wrong, and how we got to this point. Instead, he leaned over the driver’s side of the windshield, and scraped off the sticker that allowed me entry onto the base, then he turned and walked away.
As I pulled onto the road and out of the neighborhood, I called my mom and began sobbing. I felt guilty for leaving and relieved that I got out. I mourned the death of my marriage and rejoiced it was over. I was thankful to no longer be a prisoner in that house, but instead I was going home where I was safe. No more walking on eggshells. No more feeling like I had to earn love. No more worrying about being belittled and degraded.
Instead of affection being withheld, I would gladly be given hugs and kisses. Instead of being hit with words of anger and fists of rage, I would be comforted and held. I was finally free to be myself again. I was finally free to live my own life.
What I didn’t realize was how much I had changed, how fear would continue to run just below the surface, how much healing I would actually need, and how long it would take to even recognize the impact of my abusers was far from over.