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Tainted Love

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Everyone wishes you were dead.” Raindrops chased each other down the windowpane, mocking the warm tears that fell softly down my cheeks. His harsh words ricocheted in my mind. I tried to fathom my chilling reality. A mask covered my shattered heart. His words hovered over me like a dark, tempestuous rain cloud.

Reaching over, I grabbed my cell phone: 60 missed calls and more than 40 new text messages. I can’t take this anymore! I flung my cell phone across the room and buried my tear-stained face deep into my pink-and-black-polka-dotted pillow, drawing the blankets up as if they could shield me from the emotional agony. I thought back to how it had all started.

He had seemed intense as he silently observed the soccer game alone. Being a new kid in school, he appeared a bit timid. I strolled over to him and offered him a brownie and Sprite. Anthony smiled at me, and I returned the gesture. We talked a bit before I headed back to where I was sitting.

Two weeks later, he started sitting by me at lunch. That was how our friendship began. Anthony liked me. However, I had no intention of dating him. Anthony sought to win my heart by buying me my favorite foods: Cinnabons and a seven-layer burrito from Taco Bell. Although the gestures were appreciated, they did not sway my mind. Distance grew between us; I did not want to string him along.

Over March home leave, I woke up to my phone ringing.

“Hello?” I slurred into the phone, trying to clear my throat.

“Hey. I was just thinking about you, just making sure you were OK,” said Anthony.

We talked all morning until 12 o’clock. We shared jokes and talked about everything from school to family. Arriving on campus the following Sunday, I could hardly wait to see Anthony. We started hanging out all the time.
This guy became my best friend and someone I could confide in. Humor and kindness were qualities Anthony possessed in his charming personality. During fitness class, he would surprise me by showing up and working out with me. If I was in bed sick, he would have someone slip little notes under my door.
One day at supper, I drew out my chair to sit down. There was an astonishingly beautiful pink rose laying there and, of course, a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Although I did not want to be in a relationship, I treasured his friendship and remained close to him.

One quiet night, while tutoring in the girls’ dorm, my friend Beth handed me a colossal-sized Hershey’s chocolate bar. It was from Anthony. Peeling back the wrapper, I discovered a small note folded up inside. I unfolded it:

Hey you,
I really love the time we spend together. You are an amazing girl, very beautiful and very special to me. As you know, I have liked you for a long time. You are funny and really sweet to me. One thing that I fell for was your sparkling eyes when you laugh and smile. Will you make me the happiest guy alive and be my girlfriend?
Love, Your Boyfriend-to-Be

I smiled, retrieved my phone out of my backpack, and sent him a simple text: “Not through a note.” The next morning he asked my dad, who said yes. Then he asked me and, of course, my answer was yes. Anthony and I had a blissful first two months. Little did I know that the next eight months would take a drastic turn for the worse.

One hot July summer day, I had just returned home from a long, exhausting day at work. My phone started ringing just as I was changing out of my uniform. I knew it was my boyfriend, and I was pretty excited to talk to him after a tough day at work.

“Hey, babe! I missed you!” I answered happily.
“I was texting you all day! Why didn’t you answer? I’m really getting fed up with your games. Seriously, cut your mess!” Anthony’s voice blared through the receiver.

“I’m sorry. This morning I woke up late and just could not find my nametag. I was rushing so much I left my phone at home. I’m rea . . .” my voice trailed off as he cut in. “No! You don’t deserve my time. Since you can’t make time for me, I can’t make time for you. If you really loved me, you would’ve remembered to bring your phone to work,” Anthony interrupted.

“You know what? This is stupid. I’m sorry. I just forgot. I woke up late. I cannot go back and change it, OK? Let’s just stop talking about it,” I told him, laughing it off as I tried to think of something to change the subject.

“You always have that stupid attitude of yours! Seriously, if you don’t change, I will leave you,” Anthony’s voice blasted through the phone.

“What did I do?” I said, bewildered by his outburst. “I said let’s not argue about this, please. OK?”

“Whatever. You know what? I could do so much better than you,” this person who now seemed like a stranger exploded. He went on and on about what a horrible girlfriend I was, calling me names, completely degrading me, and destroying my character.

“You’re a filthy liar. You should be glad you’re with me because no other guy would take you. I don’t even know what I saw in you. You’re so ugly!”
I plopped down on my bedroom floor, my eyes widening with disbelief. He made me feel as low as dirt. The way he said everything, I slowly began to believe it. This was me.

A tear fell with every brutal word that escaped his mouth.
“Good, cry. Nobody cares if you cry. You know what? Some people just wish that you weren’t alive. Nobody likes you. They all wish you were dead!”
Casting my phone on my bed, I dashed outside, went across the street to the park, and wept.

My mom sent my little sister to find out what was the matter.
“I am fine. I’m just stressed preparing for college and everything,” I fibbed, wiping my face with my shirt.

The emotional abuse and harassment endured for four months. One late night in September, I called Anthony.

“Hey, listen. I have put up with this for too long. If you are not going to respect me, then I am gone. I love you, but I cannot date someone who is disrespectful.”

“I never loved you. You mean nothing to me! I hope no guy ever dates you. I will make sure of that. Every guy that you like will know what kind of girl you really are. I will make your life a living hell! If you block me, I have ways to contact you, so don’t think you can hide. Now bye, I’m going to go talk to another girl––one better than you!” He hung up the phone.

My weak body slumped to the ground. I hid my face in my hands as the tears flooded them. Why is he doing this? I don’t know what to do. You know that I love him a lot. I cannot do this anymore, I silently pleaded with God with a heavy heart. Tears pelted the cold, hard floor of my dark dorm room. It seemed like not even God cared.

One September weekend, Anthony came to visit me. He was still calling me names, putting me down, and lashing out at me.

“Anthony, if hurting me is all you are going to do, then I’m just going to head inside,” I cried.

He grasped my arm roughly, his fingernails burrowing painfully into my skin. My eyes widened with horror. He gradually loosened his grip.

“I’m so sorry, Mikaela,” he started. Before he could finish his sentence, I darted as far away from him as I could. Though away from him, I felt like an innocent prisoner trapped behind cold, icy prison bars.

The next few days, I tried hard to stay strong and hide my despair. I kept myself busy. I tried not to think about the nightmare that lay before me when I rested my head on my pillow at night.

Everyone I loved kept telling me to get away from the relationship. I did not listen. I hoped for change and reconciliation that never came. I sat there for eight months letting my boyfriend define the person I was. My grandmother called me one night and asked about Anthony and me.
“Are you two still together?”

I told my grandmother the whole story. As I spoke to her, the fear and anxiety that had been accumulating inside of me was released.

“You don’t need that. If he really loved you, he wouldn’t have even thought of hurting you the way he did. God’s trying to tell you something. This is one of those times that you may be ignoring Him. You do not let a man disrespect you. You are a beautiful girl, my granddaughter. I love you. Your whole family loves you, Kay Kay. Do not let some guy tell you who you are. You are who your mother named you and what God created,” my grandmother stated with sincerity.

The next morning, I dialed Anthony’s number.
“Hey, beautiful!” Anthony exclaimed. “Honey, I have something great to tell you!”

“Um, OK. What is it?” I probed hesitantly, holding my breath.

“I know I haven’t been the best to you. I decided that I need to change for us,” Anthony said for the tenth time in the past four months.

“Anthony, we need to talk.” I exhaled softly into the phone.

“I know. I’m going to change everything about our relationship. I’m going to make it up to you, sweetheart, OK?” Anthony replied tenderly.

“Anthony, I can’t be with you anymore. I’m breaking up with you,” my voice cracked, choking back the tears. “This just is not working for me. I cannot continue to put up with the disrespect. I am sorry it ended this way, but I think this is what is best for us. We are better apart.” I uttered the words I thought I could never bring myself to say.

“There’s someone else, isn’t there? So you used me? Well, I’ll show you. I’m gonna post on Facebook just the kind of person you are. I hope you die in hell! So, while you’re rotting, I’ll find me a new girl,” Anthony charged bitterly. “I hate you, Mikaela!”

I realized that day that no man can deprive any woman of her beauty, confidence, or self-worth. No woman should let any man strip away her character. God says in Psalm 139:13, 14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (NIV).* Emotionally and verbally abusive relationships can leave tremendous scars and a damaged self-value. These kinds of relationships are hard to escape and can easily lead to physical abuse. Although many red flags appear, most people do not recognize the danger until they are already in hot water. It is best to seek out someone you trust, like a family member, friend, teacher, or other trusted adult. Do not attempt to go through it alone. You are beautiful and cherished . . . a masterpiece that cannot be destroyed.

In severe cases, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

* Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Mikaela Washington writes from Lincoln, Nebraska.

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