This story was written for Thain in Vain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: Start a story with the following sentence: The first __________.
When I finished the story, I was thinking about it and those who are stuck in situations where their personal power is stolen every day, but not necessarily in a physically violent way. Sometimes abuse is a slow burn with hurtful words and silence, and it can be just as corrosive and painful as physical abuse. Those who manage to take their power back don’t always do it in one explosive moment. More often than not it happens in small moments of strength and it builds slowly to a level of confidence that allows them to finally stand in their power and make the decision that is best for them.
It’s a little over the word count at 513 words.
The First Time
The first time Maggie asserted herself in her marriage, their daughter was seventeen. It had been almost twenty years of living in the shadow of Elliot’s overwhelming presence and the verbal assaults he launched at her on a daily basis.
It wasn’t even something she planned. How could anyone possibly plan something like that? Especially someone who had shrunk to just a shadow of what she had been during the long years of hurled words that cut like knives.
She was in the kitchen when Cami walked in. Elliot was standing off to the side, his overbearing presence filling up every available space.
“Mom, can I borrow the car tonight?” Cami had been driving for over a year and had proven she was reliable and trustworthy.
Without thinking, Maggie answered, “Of course, honey,” at the same time Elliot said, “Absolutely not!”
It was exactly like him to say no first without pausing to consider why he was saying it.
Maggie looked over and saw anger creasing his brow.
“I said no and that’s final.” His voice was like ice, freezing the air around them.
“I heard what you said, but I told her she could.” She tried for a reasonable tone but realized her voice was shaking slightly.
Cami was momentarily forgotten as his glaring eyes slammed into hers. She refused to show fear even though her heart was beating a staccato rhythm in her ears and her palms were clenched in sweaty fists at her side.
“My word is final, and you know it.”
“Elliot, that car is in my name now, so the way I see it, you don’t really have a say here. I told her she could use my car, and she’s going to, whether you like it or not.”
From somewhere deep inside, she gathered bravery she didn’t know she had and held it up like an invisible shield. She turned towards Cami, effectively dismissing him and any retort he could launch.
“What time are you leaving?” Cami’s eyes were glowing with surprise and a hint of fear, but a slight smile curved the corners of her mouth.
“I’m leaving at six thirty. I was planning to be home by ten at the latest. Will that be okay?”
“Yes, honey. Where are you going?”
“There’s a concert at school and I told Beth I would come see her play.”
“Okay. Just be careful.” She smiled at Cami even though she could feel the anger undulating in waves from Elliot’s side of the room.
“Thanks, Mom!” Cami hugged her and retreated from the kitchen before her Dad could change anything.
Maggie finally turned back to Elliot but he was already storming out of the kitchen. She had no idea why he hadn’t said anything, but she was pretty sure she would pay for it later.
Somehow, in that moment, it didn’t matter.
She took a deep breath and a hesitant smile spread across her face as she busied herself in the kitchen. She felt a spark of something that had lain dormant for far too long.
She felt confidant.