He grabbed my thigh and squeezed it hard, a clear message that I was to go nowhere…
*Trigger warning – this fiction speaks to abuse and domestic violence*
“You need to stop embarrassing me like that in front of my friends. Do you understand?” Dex whispered in my ear as if English was not my first language.
He held me so tightly on the dance floor that I could barely breathe. The smile plastered on his face almost hid just how angry he really was. I had no energy left to fight.
“All you had to do was agree with what I said. You made me look like an idiot.”
“All I did was offer my opinion.”
“Well, no one was interested in your opinion. Stop looking so sour and put a smile on your face.”
We fell silent as we danced and I wished for the song to never end. The sooner the song was over meant the sooner we would return to the table and finish dinner with Laura and Mike. And the sooner dinner was over meant the sooner I would pay for my invisible crimes when Dex and I left the restaurant.
The song ended and we returned to the table.
“I was just telling Laura how stunning you are, Delaney. And intelligent too. You lucked out when you found this one Dex.”
I smiled at the compliment and picked up my fork to place a small slice of the cheesecake that we had ordered for all of us to share onto my plate.
“When are you going to “put a ring on it” Dex?” I almost choked on my bite but Dex didn’t flinch at Mike’s teasing.
“When she learns to get a little willpower and lay off the desserts long enough to fit into a future wedding dress.” His eyes went from mine to the fork in my mouth and back to my eyes. When the table fell into an awkward silence, Dex laughed it off with a wave of his hand. “Just kidding of course.”
I put the fork down and swallowed hard. Laura searched my eyes as if she were looking for a clue into my thoughts.
“Delaney is perfect just the way she is. You should know better than to say something like that Dex.” Laura was obviously annoyed.
“Oh come on Laura, chill. I was just joking around.”
Dex turned to me and nodded. “You know how I joke around, right?”
I knew better than to not agree. I nodded and averted my eyes from Laura’s stare.
“Delaney knows that I love her just the way she is, even with a few extra pounds.”
Laura eyes widened and I saw her take a deep breath before opening her mouth again.
“You don’t have an ounce of fat on your body,” Laura said directly at me. “Dex needs glasses or is just simply delusional. In either case, don’t you listen to him.” Laura’s statement was meant to be “light” but the vibe at the table had definitely changed. Mike shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he eyed his wife cautiously.
Laura patted the corners of her mouth with her napkin and placed it next to her plate. “I need to freshen up. Delaney, let’s go to the ladies room.”
Dex’s hand flew under the table. He grabbed my thigh and squeezed it hard, a clear message that I was to go nowhere. “Why don’t you finish your dessert?”
Laura got up and circled the table to where I was. She grabbed my hand and pulled me up. “Dessert means extra pounds, remember?”
Before I knew it, Laura had dragged me to the ladies room and I could feel Dex’s eyes piercing holes in my back.
Once in the ladies’ room, Laura took me to the far corner, as if she thought Dex would follow and try to eavesdrop through the door.
“I know that we have only met a few times and that Dex and Mike are really good friends. But I need to be blunt with you, woman to woman. Sweetie, you have a major problem that you need to get rid of and he is sitting right next to you at that table.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know where to begin. The room felt like there was no air and my eyes were suddenly burning.
“Delaney, it has been a while since Dex has brought a girl around for us to meet and there is a reason for that. If we are meeting you more than once, it is because he is more serious about you than the others we have met over the years. Look, this is not my first rodeo. You are too kindhearted and sweet for Dex. He is broken and can’t be fixed, okay? Like I told the last girl, don’t walk away from Dex. Run.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And I knew she was right.
“Do you understand me? You can not be with him.”
We looked at each for what seemed like an eternity until there was a loud knock at the door.
“Delaney! Laura! We are going to finish off all of the cheesecake without you girls. What are you two doing in there? Putting on entirely new faces?”
Laura never took her eyes off of mine and whispered, “Do you understand me, Delaney?”
©2017 Marquessa Matthews
Originally posted on April 14, 2015.