**Trigger warning: Domestic violence **
Lyn, momentarily stunned, didn’t get up right away and the scene in front of her spun. In the entire 30 years she’d spent with Charles, he’d never hit her in front of anyone, certainly not in front of his best friends. He had an image he liked to uphold and wife beater didn’t really coincide with that.
Dave was at her side in an instant, helping her to her feet. His skin was cool against her own as he linked his arms through hers and pulled her up to face him. She risked a look up at him and saw a barrage of emotions flick across his face, one after another. Panic, shock, concern, confusion, and finally… pity.
Charles yanked Dave’s arm from hers. “Leave her alone. She needs to learn a lesson. Who does she think she is? The clumsy git, spilling juice over our guests like a damn child.”
Finally Lyn found her voice. “I’m… I’m sorry,” she managed to stutter out. “I’ll go and get some cloths to clean this up.” She grabbed the saturated linen placemats. “I’ll put these straight in the wash.” She took off towards the laundry room to the sound of Charles’s mocking laugh.
“She’s so clumsy. Sorry Dave. Go and tell her to get you some of my pants so you can get cleaned up.”
Lyn let the door shut behind her and shoved the placemats into the machine before sliding down onto the floor and crying. It never got easier. Only harder. The more of her life she wasted and the worse the beatings got, the more she started to hope that he’d just kill her so she could finally escape him.
The back door squeaked and Lyn flew to her feet. It would be worse for her if Charles saw her crying. She wiped her tears on the back of her hand and waited for the laundry room door to open.
When it did, she let out a breath of relief. It was Dave. He rushed to her and pulled her into a hug. Seeming to melt into him, she felt safe and secure for the first time in thirty years and she never wanted it to end.
“Are you alright?” he whispered.
She nodded. Not trusting her voice.
“You can’t stay here.”
She shrugged and shook her head. What option did she have after all?
He pulled her back from him, leaned around the door and glanced through the window to where Charles and Sue were laughing and drinking like nothing had happened.
“How long has this been going on?” His voice wavered.
“Forever,” she managed.
“Oh Lyn. Sweetheart,” was all he could say before wrapping her up in his arms again. They stood like that for what seemed to be an age. All the hurt she’d experienced over the years got pushed down. For now she wanted to enjoy a rare moment of kindness that was, for once, directed at her.
Finally he pulled back. “You know, I can’t stand by and watch this happen to you.”
“You can’t?” She stared up at him, her eyes filling with yet more tears.
“No,” he whispered as he wiped a tear from her cheek. Their gaze met and she couldn’t look away. To stare at this face forever was surely too large of a wish to make.
He stooped and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. She turned her face so his lips met hers and in that moment, battered and bruised in the laundry room, surrounded by dirty towels, her heart sang.
It was the most intense and passionate kiss she’d ever had. With it, came the realisation that Charles had never loved her. Not even at the very beginning. He had never kissed her with such tenderness. Why had she wasted her life on him?
Everything around her dropped away, including the fear of getting caught. The man she loved so deeply and desperately was kissing her. In case this would be the only true moment of pure happiness she ever experienced, she wanted to enjoy it and consequences be damned.
Their kiss seemed to last for hours but was still not enough. When they finally broke apart Dave shrugged. “Well I guess I’m not as good at hiding my feelings for you as I thought.”
Lyn’s head spun. What did he just say? His feelings? He had feelings for her?
They managed to get cleaned up in between stolen kisses and Dave made an icepack for Lyn’s swollen cheek. Charles and Sue hadn’t even noticed how long they were gone; they were so wrapped up in their conversation.
Lyn squared her shoulders as though preparing for battle and stood in the doorway mentally preparing herself. Dave stood right by her side. She turned to him.
“You know this can never happen again? We’re both married and I never thought I would be this type of person.”
Dave’s shoulders dropped and Lyn’s heart lurched in the knowledge she’d hurt him. “What type of person do you mean? The type that finally sticks up for themselves and reclaims their lives? Lyn, we’re 50 years old. I’ve been in love with you for the best part of 30 years but my blind loyalty and society’s convictions have kept me from really living. From going after what I really want.”
She gulped back the lump in her throat and shook her head. “Dave. I’m sorry. I just can’t. I’m not that sort. This is my life.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” his voice pleaded.
With tears in her eyes she shook her head and strode down the path, back to the table, and back to Charles.
To be continued…
Adelaide author Suzie Jay grew up within walking distance from the beach, dreaming of life as a famous author or Johnny Farnham’s back-up singer. After a stint as a teacher and stay at home mum, she decided to make her dream a reality, writing romance- not singing, because she can’t hold a tune. She didn’t give up on Johnny all together and in her spare time sings along to 80’s hits, bakes and binges on Netflix with her own knight in shining armour- who’s more likely to wear tattered footy jumpers than chainmail.