I could feel my hair fly with the wind as my feet traded places on the ground. My dress ran up my body as my pace quickened. To reclaim my dignity, I tried pulling it down. I tried to speak up so he could hear me call for him to slow down and leave me alone, but my voice failed me. My throat was dry, my eyes were swollen and my heart rate accelerated, then my lower limbs gave up. I hit the ground face down, my tears landed on my bruised knee. He caught up and carried me inside the house.

Saturday came and Lindsay, my best friend, was the first person to call and wish me ‘Happy birthday’. After her phone call I got up and left him lying on the bed, for I was afraid to wake him: that would be the start of World War Three. I showered, then went downstairs to prepare breakfast, but Justin beat me to it. He’d prepared a special birthday breakfast for me and my heart rejoiced. Later we arrived at the venue for my party that Lindsay had been trying to prepare in secret, but failed. During the speeches, she pulled on his hand so everyone could see him. I let her, but immediately felt a tight grip on my waist. My eyes widened, and my body gave in. I shifted in closer as he pulled me, then quickly smiled.

“Look at them”, Lindsay says standing in front of us, showing us off. Again, everything was about him: “He is respectful, successful, charming and, of course, handsome!”

My mother quipped: “You’re lucky my child! I hope you’re taking good care of him.” She continued admiring his suit and tie. He locked his eyes with mine and threw a huge smile at me. It was real, but somehow awkward for both of us.

“Babe, I love you. I love you all the time, but especially in the morning,” he confessed. “Ah, in the morning…” he closed his eyes and placed his hand over his mouth: “You should see her in the morning; she is at her most beautiful,” he nodded.

That is when I realised that his conscience is at ease at those times, because in the morning all the tears from last night have dried up, the bruises have disappeared and the cries have died down.

After his little speech, I swallowed hard, biting my tongue and let out the words: “I love you to death”, for he will be the death of me.

Monday, at 14:40pm. I had my weekly appointment with my psychologist, Dr Thompson, but that day I was late because Justin and I had a huge argument. I arrived thirty minutes late and she understood. In between our conversation, she had me evaluating my relationship.

“You’ve suffered it all, honey, from beatings to miscarriages and forced drug abuse. Why, after all this, do you still stay?”

I found myself fiddling with the buttons of my blazer and after a good couple of seconds, I answered: “I once heard him say he’s never loved anyone like me before”. I let out a deep breath: “I’ve never loved anyone like him either.”

“So that’s why you’re still with him?” she interrupted.

I bit my bottom lip “Not exactly. I’m still with him because I never understood what he meant. Sometimes I think he meant that he’s never loved this deep, other times I feel as if he meant that he has never loved this poorly, this little or this messed up.”

She handed me a box of tissues “So have you found your answer?”

“No, that’s why I’m still hanging on”, I said wiping at tears that never fell.

“Is the love still there?”

“Sometimes. Most of the time I feel the love has faded, and what hurts the most is my failed attempts to grab hold of it as it slips through my fingers and disappears into thin air.”

“Your family?”

“They think he’s the best thing that ever happened to me and so do my friends” I reply.

“Abriana, 26 years old is very young, you can still start over and so can he. 29 is good,” she said walking back to her desk.

“You know he is listening to our conversation. Why do you have to ask questions that will leave me in bruises tonight?”

She ended the session and unknowingly ended me.