Emerging Writer. Contest 2 Winning Story.
Winner of the Hummingbird Emerging Writer Contest 2.
The Promise, by Susan Perretti.
The woman behind the window yelled through the hole in the glass that separates her from the people who queue up on the other side. It was my turn.
“Why are you here?” she barked.
“For an order of protection,” I murmured.
“Against who?” she asked.
“My husband,” I answered, just above a whisper.
I sat down and began filling out the paperwork. I kept thinking, “I don’t belong here.” The pledge I had made the night before was fading. I was close to leaving, but something made me stay.
Later I am before a probation officer. I tell her about the hands around my throat, tightening, tightening. I show her the bruises. The ones on my neck, on my wrist where he grabbed me as I broke free. The scratches on my cheek where my face hit the rug when he tossed me to the ground.
The officer sends me back to the waiting room. I stare at the colorful poster on the wall. There are drawings by children who have watched people in their families hurt other people in their families. Children like my daughter, my son.
I wait for a judge to decide whether I need protection. The other women in the room pace or talk on phones. Some chase after toddlers. Some like me just sit quietly, thinking deeply.
I am remembering the look on my son’s face last night. His eyes were wild with terror, like the children in the family violence poster. He was standing there in his pajamas, trembling.
“Mommy!” he was screaming. “Mommy, are you gonna be okay?” “Yes,” I struggled to comfort him as his father snatched him away. “You’ll see.”
It won’t be easy but today I begin. I promised.
About the Author: Susan Perretti is a member of Herstory Writers Workshop, where she has been working on a memoir about breaking cycles of violence in the family and in the world as a peace activist. She and her husband Chuck live in Setauket, NY, and together have four children and two grandchildren. Susan is active in Building Bridges, an organization that fosters relationships and alliances among the diverse communities of Brookhaven Town.