"So you don't have a problem letting Karen go out?" There was incredulity mixed in with genuine curiosity in Helen's question and the look on her face matched as well.
Unfortunately for Helen, Karen's husband Russell was a bit of a clown and he gave a response befitting his personality. "Letting go out you say? Well I didn't know I bought a dog when I got married."
Karen returned just in time to hear the end of Russell's comment and she knew he had not meant to be mean, but by the look on Helen's face, she knew that Russell's comment had touched a nerve.
Later that day when Helen was gone, Karen had a chat with Russell to explain the particulars of Helen's situation with her husband, Jason, and why she probably asked him that question. It was because Helen's husband was everything Russell was not. He did not believe in personal freedom; he did not believe Helen had a right to go and come as she pleased. He was in fact a very controlling man and that was Helen's reality.
This reality would come to the fore a week or so later as Helen and Karen made their way through the corridors of the big mall.
It was Karen's idea but it was Helen's decision to go. Although she would not admit it, Russell's comment had weighed heavily on her for the last few days.
To think that Russell and perhaps Karen, her best friend, saw her as being dominated, left her feeling uneasy.
Helen needed to do something about that unease and as she looked at the increasingly beautiful items in the stores her courage grew. But when Karen ducked into a store to pick up some ladies undergarments, her yearning for her sense of self fell away. It was replaced by genuine fear.
"Jason would never let me buy these panties."
Complete shock on Karen's face foreshadowed her bold statement.
"Are you crazy?" "What does that mean?" Karen could not believe what she was hearing and would have usually been more diplomatic with her comments but what her friend had said made her angry, especially since she could not even fathom something like that in her own relationship with Russell.
Helen repeated her statement and then went on to explain to Karen the secret details of her relationship with Jason.
It was much worse than Karen knew. Helen explained that it started pretty early in their relationship but she did not realise the hole she was in until it was too late as it had begun with what appeared to be genuine concern for her safety.
This then extended to "wanting the best for her" which soon led to Jason "telling" her how to live her life. Eventually Jason had his tentacles in every aspect of her existence. Every decision, every action must have met his approval. And even when he "gave" her the freedom to choose, it was much more about him setting up a scenario to penalise her for making the "wrong" decisions than genuine freedom.
As Helen poured her secret life out to Karen right there and then in the corner of the store, she could see the shock and anger washing over her friend's face with each new revelation of how her life was totally controlled in every aspect by Jason.
"So you can't even buy a panty for yourself?" There was the same incredulity mixed with genuine curiosity in Karen's question and it reminded Helen of the one she had asked Russell earlier. But it had a positive effect as it allowed the pain of her reality to break free of its restraints.
"You're a young, beautiful, intelligent woman." "You make your own money" "And God knows we work very hard enough for it, I just don't get it"
With each step closer and closer to the mall exit, Karen's words echoed in Helen's head and her sense of defeat grew. The reality of Jason controlling her entire salary was bad enough but now Karen knew the truth. As she pushed past the exit door in Zombie-like fashion, her eyes welled up.
Sitting alone in her car, tears burst from their ducts and Helen cried like a baby. But baptised in her tears, Helen experienced the rebirth and promise usually associated with actual baptism.
With renewed strength she marched back into the mall and bee-lined for the underwear store.
Full of triumph for standing up to Jason's control, Helen's heart raced as she pulled into their garage. She had learned to think like Jason and rationalised that he would believe that her purchasing new underwear was because she was cheating.
For this reason she tucked her new purchase deep within the bowels of her handbag, in a secret compartment.
It was only later that night whilst she was having a shower when Jason rummaged through her purse to find the hidden undergarment that she realised how that might have looked; as if she wore them for someone, then took them off and hid them so Jason could not see that she owned them in the first place.
He had hit her many times before, but hadn't in years, mostly because she "had learnt to behave." But as he stood before her, fire in his eyes, chest heaving, fists clenched, she knew he was going to once again.
But this wasn't the same Helen Jason had come to know. This was the born again Helen. So when he slapped her across her face, she hit back.
Helen's funeral was two days later and Russell could not console an inconsolable Karen. Her only comfort being that Helen's hell with Jason was perhaps replaced with her ascendance to a better life in heaven.
CONTROLLING BEHAVIOUR is often masked as concern by the perpetrators. Genuine concern for our partners for the most part is normal and acceptable. But trying to control every aspect of their existence is not.
Timothy Christopher P Nokio is the author of A Man's Guide to Good Cheating…What Most Men want to Know…But What ALL Women Should Know and he can
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