Lance swept me off my feet. His strong stature reminded me of a logger or a mountain man. Little did I know the hidden secrets this man held deep inside. Lance revealed the darkness, not long after we said, “I do,” and I regretted it not soon after. If I had known, I wouldn’t have said, “Yes.”

I met this towering man at the grocery store where I worked. I was a small meager girl in my twenties, and held many jobs, from cashier to customer service to stocking shelves. That is where my deep brown eyes spotted Lance, stacking soda boxes. I shied away and peered at him through my long brown bangs.

A few months later, Lance smiled at me and said, “Hello.”

Lance’s strong deep voice vibrated through me. I returned the greeting with a slight smile. The two of us talked about the weather, music, and work. A few weeks went by, and he asked me out. It had been years since anyone asked me out on a date. My mind was racing, and the words poured out of my mouth, “Yes.”

I dashed off to see my best friend, Peggy, who worked behind the scenes. She monitored prices and did price changes. She sat at the computer, checking on prices when I popped up behind her.

With my hands in the pockets of my red smock. “Hey, Peggy.”

Peggy turned around, the light reflecting off her blonde hair. “What is it?”

My body swayed back and forth. “You know that guy, Lance, that works for the soda company?”

Peggy’s forehead wrinkled, and her head tilted to the left.

I raised my arm. “Lance is the tall guy.” I brought my arms to shoulder length, “With the broad shoulders.”

Peggy nodded. “Yeah, okay.” A smile washed over her face. “I know who you’re talking about.”

I did a little hop and smacked my hands together. “Lance asked me out.”

Peggy stood up, and we jumped with excitement.

On the first date, I found out Lance was the son of a preacher. Good values. He never missed work. Good work ethics. As time went on, I met his mother and his family. I saw how Lance doted on them. A good family man. I started going to church. Lance showed nothing but the good in himself.

My heart was full of love. I couldn’t wait to start a family with this man and grow old.

Lance said the four magic words, “Will you marry me?”

My heart beat faster, and my eyes answered Lance before the words rushed out of my mouth, “Yes!”

We got married in a court of law. It was not outlandish, and a high school friend was the maid of honor. I floated on a white cloud that was about to turn gray, filled with thunder and lightning. It was a month later when Lance’s secrets started to wiggle out from deep inside his soul.

Lance came home drunk every night. His friends came first, and me last. He talked to other women online and ignored me. Whispers floated on the wind to my ears of Lance’s flirtations with women at all the stores in town. My head was in my hands and tears streamed down my cheeks, and I couldn’t believe this. Why would he do such things?

One night, Lance came home drunk. He grasped my arm, pulled me to the bedroom, and threw me on the bed. He clutched my hips and flipped me over. The man I married disappeared. A demon seeped through his skin and ripped my pants off as I struggled to break free. He was too strong for me.

“Lynn, have two choices: take it up the ass, or watch me fuck another woman in our bed.”

I caved in and gave Lance what he wanted. When he finished, he passed out on the bed, and I curled up in a ball. It shocked me at what happened, and I prayed it would never happen again. I was wrong.

While Lance was at work, I found out he told the women online that I was his sister. My research into his dark side led me to a world I did not want to be a part of. His drinking got worse. His infidelity, he boasted about it to all who listened.

One day I gathered my courage to ask him why.

“You are doing what I say. I’m your husband.”

This whole time I thought we were equals. How could I have been wrong?

“I want an open marriage, and thought you did too?”

I froze in my tracks at those words. My heart broke, and all I wanted to do was die. I never said I wanted an open marriage. I don’t believe in such a thing.

Lance left for work, and I drove to my friend’s house. There, where I thought I would find safety, I found something else.

“Don’t knock it until you try it.”

I drove off in dismay. My friend from high school, how could she say such a thing?

My mind went to a dark place. I believed everything was my fault. Deep in my heart, I felt I deserved the beatings, the rapes, and the emotional put-downs.

The man I loved was not the man I thought he was. Nothing we tried would bring Lance back. Not the church, not his mother, and not me. Once again, I caved in to save our marriage.

I failed; I couldn’t go through with it. How can I betray my vows, my beliefs, and my soul? I told Lance this, and my face met with the back of his hand. Days after I got a restraining order against him, the phone calls came.

Lance wanted to save the marriage and apologized over and over. He got his mother involved. She would call every day, asking me to take Lance back.

Lance started to go to AA meetings for his drinking. I trusted my husband and took him back. I went with him for support. Then he stopped going, and his dark side returned in full force. By December, I feared I would not live in the coming new year. I saw myself in my mind’s eye, six feet underground. The marriage killed my emotions and my mentality. Soon my body and soul would join them.

With the help of my father, I got the courage to kick Lance out. He called me every day, and his friends monitored me. They reported everything I did back to him.

I was yet to be free of this demon.

The day of the divorce came in 2002, and Lance did not show up. I did not tell the judge the real reasons. It was a deal Lance, and I made. He would go through with the divorce if I didn’t bring up the abuse. I wanted to be free, yet I felt Lance still had control, and I did it again. I caved in and did what he wanted.

I was now working at a fast-food restaurant. I worked my way up to an assistant manager.

A handsome man in a long black leather jacket walked in. A co-worker was working at the grill when he said, “Hi, Bruce.”

I dashed to the back. My cheeks turned bright red.

For a few months, the co-worker kept talking to me about this guy he knew named Bruce that lived in Kentucky. I kept saying no to him. I told him, “I am not ready for another relationship.” Deep inside, I told myself I needed time to heal.

The co-worker did not give up, and now there Bruce stood, and he was there to see me. My shyness kicked in, and once again, I peered at him through my bangs. We dated, and two years later, we married. By then, I was feeling the effects of my first marriage.

Lance kicked me with steel-toe boots in my back. The pain increased as the years went by. My mental health got worse, fear that he was around the corner.

Lance kept calling and knowing everything that was going on with my life. When he couldn’t call me anymore, Lance reached out through Facebook and tried to win me back. He talked about divorcing his wife for me if I ever went back to him. Why would I go back to a demon? I blocked him.

Now, I am in therapy for my mental health. The doctors diagnosed me with PTSD, chronic depression, and social anxiety.

I have nightmares about Lance. He comes to me as a black form with his voice and threating me.

When Bruce and I wrestle around, my PTSD kicks in, and I flinch. I know we are playing, but I cannot help myself. It is an automatic reaction. I don’t want to leave home, in fear, my ex-husband will be there, or someone he knows will see me and report back to him. I peel the dead skin from my arms to keep my mind quiet. Stabbing pain slices through the left side of my back and down my thigh, making it hard to stand, walk, or work.

I tried to regain, at least a part of my life by going back to school. Now I have an AA in Communication from the University of Phoenix. A BA in English and Creative Writing and an MA in Creative Writing. Plus, I am finishing up my MFA in Creative Writing. All three degrees are from Southern New Hampshire University.

My heart races knowing the end of my education is near. I have used the schools as crutches, and it will be ripped out of my hands soon. I am not ready to let go. I don’t want to let go.

Bruce thinks I am ready to face the world. I disagree with him. I am scared to death of other people. Afraid I will screw up big time, and that I am not good at what I do, even though people say I am.

Bruce told me, “No matter what, I will be at your side.”

My second husband has stood by my side through thick and then. Not saying we did not have our problems. We separated for a few months, but it did put our lives in perspective and strengthened our marriage. He is a beautiful man, and I would be lost without him.

We have our future to look forward to. The plans are a good-running truck and a trailer to live in. Travel the world until we find our way to our new home. A place where the grass grows green, the birds sing, the trees dance, and we become one with the universe. Where he can teach people to protect themselves, and I write stories that scare them into hiding. Where I can view out the window the wilds of nature playing in the backyard, I can lift my eyes to the sky to view the glow of the Northern Lights. That place is where I will become healed.


Published by T.L. Hicks

Tracie Hicks is a Speculative Fiction. You can read her work at Coffee House Writers, where she is an editor. Tracie has an Associate of Arts degree in Communications from UoPX. Bachelor and Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing (focused on fiction and screenwriting) from SNHU. She wrapped up her education with an MFA in Creative Writing from SNHU. She is working on two books and one short story collection. You can read her work at

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