Really, the first clue should have been when he shoved me in the chest until I fell over. But it wasn’t until much later that I realized the traps my Master had been setting.
“We’re all out of small spoons,” I said, handing over a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Master is particular when it comes to utensils. Small spoons are good, small forks are abhorrent.
“Why are we out?” He pounced at the opportunity.
“B-because I need to do dishes?” That wasn’t true. My other husband’s chores were dirty dishes. He had been grading all weekend and hadn’t had time. A few nights before, Master had begun putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher in order to be helpful. However, it triggered some powerful memories in me of my parents angrily doing the dishes. I asked him to just let me do them.
“Why couldn’t you hand wash one?” His face was stone cold.
“I’m sorry. I can go get one now.” I turned to go but he put out one hand to stop me.
“No.” He handed me his controller to the videogame he had been playing.
I held back tears while I completed whatever task he asked of me. Looking back, I assume it was to make sure I was okay enough to leave his presence.
After making a beeline for my office so I could cry in peace, I got to work. I started a load of dishes, cleaned the cat pans, put up laundry, and mopped. It didn’t matter what I did, I still felt a heaviness in my heart. I was in the kitchen making sure we had all the ingredients for pork chops when he left his office. He didn’t once look at me as he got his own drink from the fridge. A task normally left to me. Uh-oh.
Tentatively, I followed him back to his office. I stood outside his door, listening quietly as I shored my resolve. Knocking twice with one knuckle, I opened the door and smiled as widely as I could.
“What are you feeling for lunch today? We have a few options.” I showed him the recipes. As we discussed, I noticed his clipped tone. His dismissive attitude. He chose the pot pie.
“Are you okay?” I asked, my hand on the door knob ready to leave.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Yeah.” He crossed his arms and frowned, “Why are you so lazy?”
My heart dropped and my eyes filled with tears.
“Why couldn’t you have taken the 3 seconds to be exceptional and washed the spoon?” He continued.
“I’m sorry.” I choked out. “I’m sorry. I just- I didn’t think of that.” I broke down in a sob.
“Come here.” He held out his hand.
I shook my head and took a step back, fearing his wrath. “Please, I’m sorry, I’ll remember next time.”
“Come. Here.” He repeated.
Stepping forward, hot tears left streaks on my cheeks. I took his outstretched hand.
He removed my glasses, a move usually reserved before blows to the head, and I shuddered. But he didn’t strike me. He pulled me into a hug. I sobbed against his shoulder, repeating his words in my head. Lazy. Good for nothing. Disappointment. I needed to run. I needed to get away. I ne-
“I need to go,” Came out unbidden through wet gasps of breath, “I need to go, I need to go!”
My default response mode. Flight.
“You’re not going anywhere. I’m fucking with you.” He admitted with a smile.
“Not real?” I asked, disbelieving.
He invoked our safe word to show the seriousness of his words, “I’m just fucking with you. I’m being cruel.”
Despite his words, I began sobbing in earnest. Master had known how deeply his words would cut me.