Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.
by Tess Willoughby
It was 1995. Nate’s grandmother’s basement was orange. It was wallpapered in a fifties motif with little vinyl record albums. My husband, the newly minted Christian attorney, had been in this basement on his laptop computer, hooked up to the internet, for six months.
I sat and looked out the basement window, the bottom of which was level with the dirt, and begged Nate for the thousandth time to disconnect and spend some time with his wife and three babies. Nate would come out of the basement only for food, sex (I had the wrong lingeré still), evening TV, and excursions to the grocery store. And to sleep.
Nate’s grandmother seemed perfectly content to have her beloved grandson remain in her house, eating and procreating and tying up the phone line, for the remainder of her natural life.
Nate would not get off the computer. He would not get a job. We lived in his grandmother’s house, sponging off his grandmother, for most of Moriah’s infancy. I nearly went mad with boredom and loneliness. Even my usual job of waiting on Nate hand and foot had been usurped by Grandma. Nate left his dirty dishes by the computer and television and Grandma cleared them away.
Nate was depressed for weeks at a time. Then, it was as if aliens had kidnapped him and injected him with super-caffeine. He would talk me to death long into the night, night after night. He had a brilliant idea that would make him millions of dollars—“wait until you hear this, baby”—building cool cars! No, he would write a book about true Christian faith, setting down once and for all proper biblical doctrine, the book of theology to end them all, and it would be called. . .”
I struggled to stay awake and listen to these wild schemes. Then Nate would lapse into a funk again and retreat back into cyberspace. The boys were beaten with Nate’s belt far less, because their dad was always in the basement, and besides, now there were two women—me and Grandma—to keep Daniel and Jack quiet and out of Nate’s hair.
Daddy did. I went to my parents’ farm, where the boys were very happy among the sheep and chickens and I could rest and enjoy my infant daughter. Nate called four or five times a day to read me Scripture and “exhort” me about my forsaken duties, with special emphasis on my sexual duties.
In three weeks, my husband was a changed man. I could not believe the transformation. He had a law job in Virginia Beach, and we were moving to Norfolk, and I would have a big house of my very, very own because God had answered my prayers at last. I went back to Nate because I loved him, but when I got to Norfolk the rented house was 800 square feet. It had green paneling. I detested it on sight.
Nevertheless, my choice was obvious. My husband was trying very hard to make a good life for us, and my job was to make a good home for us in a green-paneled shoe box. Also, it was my job to increase the population of the shoe box. So, in spite of still having the wrong lingeré that did not turn Nate on at all, he often took five or ten minutes out of his busy legal schedule to attempt to impregnate me. Nate insisted I had been nursing Moriah way too often, probably trying to use his child as birth control, which was wicked behavior. Did I need the verses read to me from the Bible about how children are a blessing from the Lord and blessed is the man with a “full quiver” AGAIN? No, that should not be necessary. Not if Nate had a godly wife.
Nate often complained that I was “frigid” and “hated sex.” He was 100% correct on both counts.
Almost immediately after cutting back Moriah’s feedings, I got pregnant. Six months into the pregnancy, Satan got into me again, and I “backtalked” my husband in the car. As punishment, I was forced out of the car in a dangerous part of Norfolk and made to walk the three miles home.