The following is an excerpt from Paper Doll Lina by Robyn Lucas. In it, Lucas, a survivor of domestic violence, shares an honest and moving portrait of life as the victim of abuse. The book is a story of survival and second chances.
“We need to talk,” David announced, ascending the stairs.
Lina carefully tucked the paper doll card into its envelope after skimming the last few lines again.
Please keep loving me the way you do. I promise we will be better and stronger than ever because that’s what I prayed for and you know God’s never let us down.
I love you with all my being and more.
“I didn’t expect any talking in the bedroom.” She grinned, giddy about all the things he was about to do to her.
“Why did you cancel Dr. Huang’s appointment this week?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why, Lina?”
She would not back down this time. She would not let him bully her into something so major. She steeled herself. “I can’t go through that again.”
“We agreed we’d try one more time. You promised.”
“I’ve had three miscarriages, and you remember what happened with . . .”
“Say his name.”
She couldn’t say his name. It’d been 17 years, and she still couldn’t say his name.
“Why do you keep lying to me?” David shuffled over to the fridge and reached into the small cabinet above it. He took out a bottle of bourbon.
Lina gawked. “Unbelievable. I knew I wasn’t going crazy. You HAVE been drinking again.”
He scoffed at her and poured himself three fingers, downing it all in one gulp.
“I’m sorry about Dr. Huang, but that’s no freaking excuse to break your probation.”
“Just like you’re sorry about LA and sorry about whoever gave you that nightgown from the gym.”
“I’m not doing this again. I told you I bought it.”
“I don’t know what’s true with you, Lina.” He poured himself another glass.
“I’ve told you everything. Can we go talk about this somewhere private? The kids are in the next room.”
“All you had to do was go to one appointment, and you couldn’t even do that. What did you do instead?” He grabbed her ass and squeezed hard. “Are you seeing someone? Is that why you’ve wanted it more often?”
“Stop it.” She swatted him away. “I’ve never been unfaithful.” Her words dripped with enough accusation to make him stagger backward.
Two years ago, he’d had an affair with one of the PTA moms shortly after Lina’s last miscarriage. He’d confessed only because the woman had been in the car with him when they were pulled over for reckless driving in another county. Lina’d had to arrange bail for them both—him for driving under the influence and reckless driving, her for drug possession. David had managed to blame his affair on how sad and alone he’d felt after the miscarriage.
Lina glared at him now, knowing he was remembering the same thing.
“Who have you been talking to, because this isn’t like you?” He downed the second glass. “Who convinced you that you didn’t want to be pregnant again? What friend is it now? Where’s your phone?” He pawed at her, slipping her phone from her back pocket.
“No one told me or convinced me of anything. Listen to what I’m saying, David: I don’t want to go through IVF again. I don’t want to be pregnant again. I’m forty years old, and you’re forty-seven, for Christ’s sake.”
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” he muttered, scrolling through her phone.
“Did you hear anything else I said? I don’t want to. It’s my body.” Lina felt like she was talking to a brick wall.
“What’s this number here?” He pressed the button to call.
Lina rolled her eyes, sure he was calling one of the sponsors for the school’s 5K. She had nothing to hide. There was nothing going on with her and Noah except for friendship, but still, she’d deleted their chats for this very reason. In their house, privacy was an illusion.
David continued thumbing through her phone, calling numbers and asking her about text messages from PTA members until he was satisfied. He poured a third glass, shaking his head. “I can’t believe you. I seriously cannot believe you.” Glass in hand, he headed toward the garage.
Lina crossed her arms and leaned against the island. It’d taken less than 20 minutes of him being home for the drama to start. When was enough going to be enough? “Where are you going?”
“Wherever the hell I feel like. Isn’t that how this works? You do what you want and I do what I want, right?”
“You’re being so melodramatic, David.”
The glass tumbler slipped from David’s hand, shattering. Lina flinched, watching the bourbon splash across the baseboards and puddle on the floor. She immediately wanted to shrink from David’s crosshairs when he scowled at her. After marching over to her so close she could smell the liquor on his breath, David leaned down so his mouth was near her ear.
“Do you want me to show you melodrama?” He placed his hands on either side of her, corralling her in.
Lina dared a glance at him.
“You had one job that you couldn’t even do right. One appointment.”
Spittle misted her neck.
“If you didn’t want more kids, you should’ve told me from the start. You made a promise.”
Lina pressed her palms against his chest and pushed against him. “I’m going to stop you there. You’ve made so many promises you don’t—”
His fingers clamped around her arms so tightly she winced. He shook her once. Twice. “You don’t work. You don’t clean. You barely cook.” His voice boomed now. “You just started wanting me to fuck you again, and that’s mediocre at best, so what good are you, Lina? Why do I even bother?”
“Cut it out.” She tried to wriggle free. “That hurts.”
“Mom?” Mimi asked from the opposite end of the kitchen.
“Go to bed, Mimi. Your mother and I are talking,” David said.
“Are you okay?” Mimi asked.
“Go to bed, Mimi!” David clamped down harder on Lina’s arms. Tears welled in her eyes. She blinked them away to keep Mimi from seeing them.
“Mom?” Mimi asked.
“Go to your room right now!”
Mimi started toward them.
“That’s it; your car is going back first thing in the morning. Keys. Now.”
Mimi hesitated before taking her brand-new key from her pocket. She slammed it down onto the granite and ran to her room, crying.
“See what you made me do? Was that your plan? Turning the kids on me? Is that why you kept their site from me? Is that why you’re doing everything without me? You just want it to be you and them?” He was shaking her again now. “Are you trying to take my kids away from me?”
“No. No, I’m not. Stop it already! You’re hurting me!”
“I’m hurting you?” His words strung together.
Why couldn’t he be a happy drunk instead of a mean one?
“Have you considered how you’ve hurt me? How you keep twisting and turning the knife you stabbed in my back?” He narrowed his eyes. “You will go to your next appointment, if I have to drag you in there myself. Do you understand?” He shook her again. “Do you?”
Lina crumpled to the floor when David released her. He stormed out of the house, a trail of terror in his wake. Moments later, his engine sounded; then the garage door opened and closed.
Another DUI tonight? Or worse, she thought.