Brent loses it and Joellen runs.
“You kids stay out and play,” Brent told them even before they got out of the car.
Inside the house, Brent shut the front door and followed Joellen into the kitchen.
“What the hell’s got into you?” He attacked before she could say anything. “What bug have you got up your ass?”
“Don’t talk to me that way.” Joellen’s voice was shaky, but she stood her ground.
“I’ll talk any way I want in my own house.” He threw the keys onto the floor and stood blocking her from leaving the room.
“It’s my house too, you know,” Her voice sounded hollow in her ears, as if she was inside a tunnel. And she had that strange sensation at the edge of her vision again.
“You embarrassed me in front of everyone. In front of the entire church. You’re turning into quite the little bitch.”
He was sneering now. She hated that tone in his voice. She was tempted to pick up a glass and hurl it at him.
“I’m not the one who’s turning into anything,” she said and suddenly she was quite calm.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re the owner of the house; you figure it out.” She moved to the sink full of breakfast dishes.
“Just a damned minute.” He grabbed her by the arm and spun her around.
She tried to wrench her arm free but he was holding tight and she could see by the redness of his face, by the grim line of his lips, that this battle was not over.
“I’m going to ask you just one more time. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Not a thing,” she tried to turn away again. This was not the time she would have picked, nor the place, to hold this conversation, which she knew was going to end badly.
He held her arm and pulled her around so she was facing him again.
“I’m warning you, Brent, let go of me. I have nothing to say to you right now.”
“What do you mean by that? Am I supposed to wait around until you’re ready to speak?” He still held her arm and his grip had tightened.
She clawed at his fingers, trying to release them.
“I’ll let go when I’m ready.” He leaned towards her. She could feel little pricks of sweat at the back of her neck.
And then Joellen, under the pressure of the moment, unable to hold back one second longer, told him, “I thought you already did let go.”
Now he grabbed her other arm and held both of them and shook her so her head wobbled. It was as if she was talking in a code that he understood, but only unconsciously.
“No. See? I’m still holding on.”
“But not to me,” she screamed at him.
And then he raised his arm and backhanded her hard. He was wearing his class ring. It had a blue sapphire that cut her across her face. Her head spun sideways and she yowled from the shock of the impact.
At the same moment a small voice from the doorway said, “Mommy. I’m hungry.”
Brent let go of Joellen and she fled from the kitchen, vaguely aware that her little daughter was standing with her finger in her mouth, watching as her mother raced out of the room, her hand to her face to cover the blood that had started to run from the cut.