Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Crimes and Punishments

Crimes and Punishments
By Michael Cannata

            She sat in the dark cell and whispered once again into the silence, "Why?" What had she done to deserve such punishment? When did loving someone become a crime?

            She worshipped her husband. She loved him from the day they met. And she believed he loved her just as much. He worked hard to provide the home and family she dreamed of as a girl. He made her happier than she had ever felt in her life. She felt he deserved a wife that worked just as hard at making him happy.  In their fifteen year marriage, she believed her job was pleasing him.

            The violence came from out of nowhere. She didn't know what sparked it but she took the blame. The first time he beat her he was so drunk that he swore he couldn't remember doing it. He begged her to forgive him, and she did. She worked even harder after that at loving him.

            Four years passed before it happened again. And again, she forgave him. The stress of working so hard and the drinking made him crazy. At least that was what she told herself. She just needed to do more to keep the love and passion they had known when they were young lovers alive. But she couldn't satisfy him anymore.

            His demands for sex became more perverse and twisted. She began to question his love for her. When she refused to do what he wanted and asked him why he needed her that way? The questions enraged him even more and the beatings got worse. She knew when their 10 year old daughter came to her and told her what he'd done to her she had no choice.  Finally, she found the strength she needed to leave him.

            She stayed at shelters and at the home of friends as long as she could but he was never far from her. He persisted in reaching out and never stopped begging for her forgiveness. Finally, despite her better judgment, she forgave him. After a year of counseling she decided to give their marriage one more chance.

            The last night they spent together she made him his favorite dinner and had everything waiting for him when he got home. When he came through the door she could smell the liquor on him. She knew what would happen and she became frightened. When he couldn't find the salt on the table he began to get angry. By the time she found the shaker it was too late.

            The first blow broke her nose, knocking her to the floor. The kick broke a rib as she struggled to get up.  It was when he struck their daughter who had run to help her that she knew what she had to do. She didn't wait for him to hit her again. She turned and ran up the stairs to the bedroom and got his gun from the nightstand.

            She didn't recall pulling the trigger. The only sound she heard when the gun fired was her daughter screaming. When she saw him dead, she cried with her own pain and rushed to his side, trying her best to stem the bleeding. As he died, her life, her family, everything that made her who she was also ended.

            As her daughter hugged her tightly, she put the gun to her own head and pulled the trigger. She cried even harder when all she heard was an empty click. She could still remember the look of anguish on her daughter's face as they took her away. She has never seen her since. That moment was when the punishment for the crime of loving someone truly started.

            No one believed her story about defending herself. She had never reported any of his violence to authorities. She had no evidence to prove her claims. They felt that her daughter would just say anything her mother wanted her to say and couldn't be of use as a witness. Her public defender didn't object to anything the prosecutor claimed in court. It only took the jury four hours to find her guilty of murder.

            As the door to her cell slammed behind her, in a voice of utter despair and confusion, she screamed out the same question she has screamed every day since.

             "Why?! All I did was love him!"