For Part 1 and Part 2 – links at the end of this post. (But this post is standalone, okay to read without going back to earlier parts!)
The same week that Jaime got a cat she started going out with Corey.
The cat’s name was Mr. Mittens, and he had been left at the local animal shelter without a collar or a tag, in a cat carrier that was a bit past its prime. That’s all they could tell her at the Humane Society, but Jaime knew he was a cat for her as soon as she saw him. He sat regally in the cat-cubicle they’d given him, white paws together, white blaze on his chest, with a white “Tee” on his face. She fell in love instantly.
Many cats have trouble adjusting to new places, but Mr. Mittens settled in right away at Jaime’s new apartment. She noticed he loved to climb into things: boxes, paper bags, even the laundry basket, at times.
She and Corey, the person she was going out with, worked together. Corey had just only started the job at Office Depot a couple of weeks before asking Jaime out “for coffee.”
Jaime wasn’t really looking for a relationship so soon after her marriage, but she thought Corey was cute, and Corey had asked her out right after she mentioned her bodybuilding hobby, so she thought maybe he wanted to find out more about that.
But when they went out for coffee, they only talked about the usual things: what jobs they’d had before this (office assistant, carpenter), where they grew up (Longview, Boise), what their boss Amanda was like (sometimes bossy but usually okay). They didn’t quite make it to “hopes and dreams,” but Jaime figured that was probably best to save at least until the second date.
On their second date (a documentary on a reggae band at the Cinerama downtown) Jaime wanted to stop by her apartment after work so she could pick up a warmer coat. Corey came up to the apartment with her, and Jaime went into the bedroom to grab her down parka.
When she came out, Corey said, “Something’s wrong with your cat.”
Frowning, Jaime looked at Mr. Mittens. He was sitting on the red plush chair. Glaring at Corey.
“Huh,” Jaime said. She went over to the cat and gave him a scratch behind the ears, something he loved. He arched up his head against her hand lovingly, as usual. “I think he’s okay,” Jaime said.
As she turned back toward the door she heard it. A feline growl, deep in the base of the throat, curling outward and into the room.
“Let’s go,” Corey said.
Jaime looked back at Mr. Mittens. He was definitely glaring at Corey. Something about the cat’s look made Jaime’s neck prickle.
Jaime knew. A survivor of domestic abuse always knows. Casually, she opened the door and stepped back, waiting for Corey to go out first.
Then she slammed the door and flipped the deadbolt.
“Hey!” she heard Corey say. “What’s up?”
“Changed my mind,” Jaime called. “You’d better take off -” and she added, “- or I’m calling the cops.”
Jaime heard Corey muttering something about “crazy bitch,” but soon enough footsteps sounded down the hallway and she knew she was alone again.
Except for Mr. Mittens, who was now purring up up against her leg.
“Time for dinner,” Jaime announced. “Just me and you.” She reached down and picked up Mr. Mittens, who purred even louder. “You’re safe with me, Mr. Mittens,” she said.
I had my encounter with domestic abuse in my first marriage. Married young (which I would not recommend as a Life Strategy), I mistook my first husband’s family for a close and loving family, but it turned out it was dysfunctionally close. We worked in my then-father-in-law’s business, and every chance he got my then-husband’s father would castigate my husband, yelling at him and criticizing him for not being good enough – even though my husband worked his butt off and did all the hardest and most unappealing jobs in the business. (It was agriculture.) After each time I would tell my husband, “Let’s go do something else. Let’s open a hardware store . . .” etc. At first he would consider it. But eventually he always shook his head and say “No, this is the best way for us to go, working in Pop’s business. We’ll own it someday.”
After eight years of marriage (I knew it was a bad decision after two years, but … you’re in your 20s and you think, I just have to work harder to make it come out right) I finally left. It took all my courage and nerve to leave that marriage, and even on the night I left, my then-father-in-law accused me of treachery and betrayal to the family business. I left anyway, but it was a hell of a hard thing to do.
The business failed one year later. Looking back, I think I must have been helping prop it up all those years, since we were continually one small step ahead of the creditors.
Having been through that, I would say there is nothing worth sacrificing your own self-respect and your own identity for. At the time, I went into the marriage to escape a conflict-filled home life situation – now I can see that – and that was a terrible idea.
But I didn’t have a Mr. Mittens to show me which people I could not trust.
I hope you are safe in your home situation, whatever it may be. If you are not, please, consider getting help. If either of my parents had offered to step in and help me escape this early marriage, I might have saved myself eight years of domestic psychological and emotional abuse.