(Writing 101, Day Twelve: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon
Today, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.)
When I went downstairs to greet my next clients, the husband stepped in front of his wife. Holding her right arm with his right hand, he introduced himself before I even got my mouth open. Then he brought her up beside him and said, “And this is my wife.” He did not let go of her arm; he did not tell me her name.
As I always do, I extended my right hand for a handshake and introduced myself. My eyes locked onto his, and his were hard to move away from. They were bright blue with a dark black center, the pupils dilated enough to be noticeable. He released his wife’s arm long enough to shake my hand. I released his hand right away and offered my hand to his wife. Again, his right arm went up across her body.
“She doesn’t shake hands. It’s a germ phobia.”
She hadn’t looked at me yet. If I’d had to describe her at that point, I could have told you about the part in her dark brown hair. I could have described her clothing and her purse. Not her face.
“That’s fine. I understand. At this time of year, it’s wise to avoid touching someone else’s hand, isn’t it? Let’s go upstairs, then, and we’ll talk.”
“I’ll talk. My wife is very shy with strangers.”
The door to my office was already open. It’s a pleasant room, warm and welcoming. I have several items hanging on my walls that are handmade. One, a counted cross-stitch piece picturing a teapot, cup, saucer, flowers on a lace cloth, is one of the last ones my mom completed. Another is a wonderful piece of calligraphy done by my son Ken, featuring the words “Be ye kind one to another.” I like my office. It’s comfortable.
I gestured to the sofa and invited them to sit. He pointed to the far corner of the sofa and waited for her to sit. Then he sat right beside her, placing his arm across her body and resting his hand on her far knee.
“So, I just want you to know that I will be the one controlling this meeting,” he said. “I tried to get a male counselor, but you’re the only one who takes our insurance so I had to settle for you. You need to understand that I don’t take orders from any woman, ever. We’re here because my wife needs help. I want you to help her understand what the Bible teaches about marriage and men and women. Our pastor suggested we come here, so we’re here. We probably won’t be coming back, so make this as clear as you can. What are your credentials?”
I paused, waiting for my temper and my fast mouth to settle down before I spoke. Gazing again into his intense eyes, I told him my credentials; I also told him about my strong faith in God, my belief that every word in the Bible is truth, and my lifelong experience of learning and teaching God’s Word. Just to sort of level the playing field.
“Good. Then you know the Bible says the man is the head of the home, and the leader in the church. This isn’t a church, so I guess it’s ok for you to speak even though I’m here. Just don’t be upset if I have to correct you.”
I lowered my eyes. My husband tells me that even if my face is blank, my eyes give me away every time. If this man saw the distaste and anger I felt toward him, there would be no point in our going any farther. By this time, my heart was heavy for the poor woman sitting caged behind his arm. I still hadn’t heard a peep from her.
“Well,” I said, looking directly at her, “I see on your intake sheet that your name is Susan. It’s nice to meet you, Susan, and I hope you’ll feel free to contribute to the conversation as we move along.”
“She’ll speak if I think she needs to. You’ll address all your questions or comments to me.”
This time I looked directly at him, making no effort to conceal my rising dislike. “You, Mr. B, need to get a couple of things straight. One, you are not and will not be in control of me. You may say whatever you think you need to say, but you will say it with the same respect I’ve given you so far. Two, you and I already don’t agree on whether or not Susan needs to speak. I would request that when I address her, you allow her to respond to me. I will never be able to help you if I can’t hear from Susan in her own voice, her own words.”
“One more outburst like that and I’m leaving. We’re leaving. I will not expose my wife to a woman who has no understanding of male authority. I thought this was a Christian office!”
“It is. I imagine that makes you feel pretty uncomfortable.” Turning away from his slowly growing outrage, I spoke directly to her. “Susan, I want you to know that there are places you can go to for help and shelter. I see no evidence that Mr. B has physically abused you, but I’m almost certain he has. If you have children, they also need to be protected. I can help you find a place that will shelter you.”
As I spoke, tears pooled and broke, pouring from her eyes in a flood. She finally looked up at me, dark brown eyes drowning in tears and hopelessness. She shook her head. Her fingers plucked at the sleeve of her husband’s shirt. Her body trembled.
“That’s enough! I’m leaving, and we won’t be back! No woman is going to interfere in my marriage or make my wife think of disobeying me! My wife is perfectly happy as long as she’s obedient. You are a Jezebel!”
He dragged his wife up by her arm, pushed her in front of him, opened the door and shoved her through. He turned for a parting shot: “You must have married a weak, spineless man!”
“You, Mr. B., are a weak and spineless man. I married a godly man.”
I don’t know how this couple turned out. I did call the police in their township, explaining my fears for her safety. They promised to follow up, but I never heard back from any of them.