Beverly Marshal, or Bev, as all her family and close friends called her, stood outside her newly purchased Hollywood Hills home. Despite purchasing it a few weeks ago, this was the first time she’d ever seen it.
For Bev, it really didn’t matter what it looked like, so long as she had four walls, doors that locked, and the basics; heat and electricity, then to her it didn’t matter. That was the beauty of having recently escaped an abusive relationship, her standards were low.
Parking in the driveway, Bev stepped out of her car and made her way to the back. With her arms full of grocery bags, and the few personal items she owned, Bev made her way to her front door. After making it inside, she set her things on the table in the dining room before stepping into the living room and sitting down on the couch.
The house was quiet, which made sense because she was the only one inside, but it was such a stark contrast to the shouting and sounds of dishes being smashed that she was used to.
The walls of her last apartment were paper thin, and despite not knowing them, Bev had learned that she and her next-door neighbor, had a lot in common. Casey was her name, and Bev only knew that, because Mark, Casey’s boyfriend, would often shout it between slaps and punches.
Casey worked at a night club, and Mark had a major problem with that. He didn’t like the attention Casey got from other men, which was odd, because for a man too lazy to get off his ass and make his own money, Mark sure did have a lot of opinions when it came to how Casey made hers.
In the middle of the night, when Mark and Casey’s fights would keep her awake, Bev often found herself holding her breath. Night after night, Bev would pray for the day when Casey would say enough was enough and leave him.
Every night, Bev would hope that Casey would escape Mark. Bev would often dream of running into Casey in a supermarket, and Casey would tell her that she’d made it out; because then maybe, just maybe, Bev would be able to escape her abuser too.
Prior to meeting her ex-wife, Bev swore up and down that she would never be in an abusive relationship. She was too smart for that; she had too many friends and family members who would catch onto what was going on, and swoop in and save her; just like in the movies. But what Bev didn’t know was that many of those Hollywood movies started in the middle of the relationship, not the beginning. So, when Kiara began her abuse by slowly taking over Bev’s funds, poor Beverly didn’t even realize.
“Why don’t we have a joint account?” Kiara, Bev’s girlfriend, randomly asked one night.
By this point, they’d been together for five years; they shared a bed, a home, a car, hell even a cellphone for a little while. So, what were a few nickels and dimes?
“That’s a good question. We have all our bills on autopay, and I have an auto transfer that goes into your account every month.” Bev said, looking up from her phone.
“Let’s just cut out the extra steps.” Kiara said with a shrug.
And that’s how it started, first with a joint account for the bills, then another for future life goals, then another for vacations, and soon every cent they made was tied together.
Kiara kept close watch over the money, not a single red cent got spent without her knowing about it, and in the beginning, Bev loved that about her wife. They were saving more than ever, and for the first time ever, Bev felt like an actual adult.
But once Bev had gotten her raise, and she and Kiara had more money, Bev decided to take up art. At first, Kiara supported her wife. She loved to show off Bev’s drawings and paintings to anyone who cared to look. But then when Bev started befriending other artists and started splitting her time between her and Kiara’s friend group, and a small group of artist friends, Kiara’s hold on the money tightened. Kiara began checking the account every day, questioning Bev about every red cent she spent. Then, the questions stopped, and Kiara began putting blocks on Bev’s card. For Bev, it was embarrassing to hear that her card was declined, when she knew she had money in her account.
Bev tried to talk to Kiara, but Kiara was out of it. All she kept saying was how Bev thought she was better because she made more money; that Bev was irresponsible, and her ‘little hobby’ and ‘no good friends’ were tearing their marriage apart.
The sudden change was startling, but Bev chalked it up to Kiara being stressed and childhood trauma. After all, Kiara never really had much growing up, and so Bev could understand how frequent trips to the store could freak Kiara out. To Kiara, money was finite, and once it ran out, you were fucked.
Then a single night changed it all. It was a Friday, and all week, Bev had been working tirelessly; so she decided to treat herself. There was a new art exhibit in town and Bev decided to go and see it with a couple of friends. Bev told Kiara it would be a quick in and out, they’d look at some photos and paintings, and then Bev would make her way home; Bev was even giving Kiara play by plays of the entire night, but then she started drinking, and the text slowed before stopping all together.
Bev didn’t get too drunk, but she wasn’t comfortable driving either, so she left her car with a sober friend, and made her way home.
“Bev, where the hell have you been? Do you know what time it
is? I have to be at work in a few hours!” Kiara shouted; the second Bev walked through the door.
Bev was a little tipsy, the room was spinning, and she was unsure why her wife was shouting.
“Then why didn’t you go to bed?” She slurred.
In the blink of an eye, Bev was crashing into the wall; Kiara had put her all into that slap.
Bev looked up at the other woman, who was red in the face.
Kiara’s breathing was so heavy, Bev thought the other woman would begin breathing fire soon.
She should have left right then and there, but she didn’t; like a fool, she made excuses, and told herself that her girlfriend was just stressed.
It took the death of one of Bev and Kiara’s closest friends to really wake Bev up.
Hailey Marz was a smart and delightful woman; she was the life of every party she went to, and being the life of the party naturally came with a lot of attention; attention that Hailey’s wife, Marissa didn’t enjoy very much.
Bev had always suspected that Marissa was abusive. But one night, after Bev and Kiara had been hanging out with a few friends, Bev foolishly mentioned how uncomfortable the way Marissa treated Hailey made her feel.
Kiara had been driving them home from the get together and pulled over after hearing Bev’s statement.
“You know Bev, you really need to learn to mind your own business.” Kiara said as she slammed her fist into Bev’s face.
After that day, the beatings progressed, and Bev quickly forgot about Hailey. Bev was a battered woman herself, who was she to stick her nose into other people’s business? It’s not like she could help Hailey; shit, she couldn’t even help herself. But after learning that one final fight ended with Hailey losing her life, Bev knew that she had to get the fuck away from Kiara.
So, Bev began to form her plan. With the help of some friends, she opened a new account, and slowly began depositing the money she made from her art, and various odd jobs into that account. She started talking to her family and friends again, and despite the fear she felt, she confided in them about her situation. Much to Bev’s surprise, all her closest friends, and her family were eager to help her. They help Bev get in contact with therapists and plan her escape. And when the day finally came, Bev’s father was waiting for her, at the bottom of the hill she lived on; and after running down the street in only her night gown, Beverely jumped into the car and never looked back.
Looking around the apartment, Bev thanked all that was holy that despite Kiara forcing her to cut off all outside connections, Bev’s family were still standing outside the high walls, hoping and praying that one-day Bev would be able to make it to the other side of those walls.
And when she did, when Bev finally made it over that wall, all whom Bev loved, were waiting on the other side with open arms, and lists and lists of resources to help Bev get her life back together.
“Beverly, where should dad put these boxes?” Her mother asked.
Bev turned to look around the living room; the boxes were mostly things that needed to go into her room, but her father had been working all day. He needed to rest, but Bev knew he wouldn’t do that until everything was inside.
“Over there, I’ll go through them and put them in their proper rooms later.” She said.
Her mother nodded and went back outside to relay the message.
Meanwhile back inside, Bev smiled and sighed, finally able to breathe for the first time in a very long time.
“Home sweet home.” She said to herself.
Then, as she made her way outside, she prepared herself for an argument with her father. That man was stubborn, and thought he was made of steel; but he wasn’t, and if Bev laid down and let him move all the boxes, she’d never hear the end of it from her mother.
But Bev liked that, getting to bicker and argue with her parents. Being alive and able to see them. Many women that were still in Bev’s previous situation wouldn’t get that privilege, and so Bev wouldn’t take it for granted; not anymore.