Chapter 2: A Million Pieces

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One day, 7 months into our relationship, Mike* was yelling at me for something, the usual unnecessary nonsense, and at that point I decided that this was bullshit and I wasn’t going to put up with him anymore. I stood up for myself and yelled back at him. He wasn’t expecting that reaction and was taken aback. He asked me if I still wanted to be together, and I told him that I didn’t know. The normal reaction here would be for a guy to apologize and try to fix the issues so you don’t leave. Not for Mike, he got even more angry and told me I was selfish for stressing him out even more by telling him I didn’t know if I wanted to be with him. That was it, that was the last straw at that moment and I told him I was leaving in the morning. He went crazy. He called his Mom (who I hadn’t even met at this point) and got her to try to talk me out of leaving. Her first question, “Did he hit you?” He hadn’t, and I didn’t think he ever would, but this should have been a HUGE red flag for me. Unfortunately, I ignored it.

When he realized that his Mom wasn’t going to change my mind, he told me he was leaving to drive into a tree or an oncoming truck and kill himself, and that his bikie friends would be around shortly to kill me too. We only had one car, and we were in the middle of nowhere, so there wasn’t anywhere I could go. I was really scared. As soon as he left, I phoned a friend and she came and picked me, my cat Zoe, and some of my things up and drove me to my parents’ house. My phone wouldn’t stop ringing with him begging me to go back. The next day I went back to get more of my things and he was being really sweet and begged me for another chance. I felt terrible for hurting him, and I resolved that if he could do three things for me, I’d give him another shot: Do something sweet for me, not have a drink for one week, and read the book A Million Little Pieces (I thought this book could help him bring his drinking problem into perspective). He agreed and I moved back in just a few days after I’d left. He didn’t do any of these things, he didn’t even try.

A little while later I having issues with workplace bullying, and when I brought it up with management, I was told that nothing was going to be done, and that I should “mind my own business”. This led to my resignation, so our only income was my Centrelink benefits from being a student. Mike’s brother set him up with a job in demolition soon after, and he encouraged me not to work and to just focus on my university studies. This would have been an amazing gesture if he didn’t end up throwing it in my face for the rest of our relationship.

We got a second kitten, Tigger, and Mike’s friend, Paul, moved in because he had nowhere else to go. We were advised that the owner of the property was planning to sell, and that we needed to move, so we started looking at rentals. Paul and Mike both wanted to stay in Jimboomba, I didn’t, but I was outnumbered, and we stayed in the little hick town.

Paul began to see some of Mike’s behavior, but of course, the worst was for my eyes only. We were on tank water out there and used bottled water to drink. One morning, Paul put tap water in the kettle. Mike lost his mind. Paul tried to reason with him and told Mike that he’d empty it when he was done, but Mike just continued to yell and swear. Paul moved out shortly after.

Things continued as usual, Mike would lose his mind over nothing, he’d get black out wasted at home, and the only time I got out of the house was to go to uni. Over time I stopped seeing my family. Mike didn’t like them and refused to interact with them, but he also hated when I went to see them alone. He’d tell me that I was acting differently after I’d seen them. It became so much easier to just stop seeing them. Soon enough he was even angry at me for talking to them, and so that contact was also limited.

One day in December, about two years into our relationship, my sister picked me up and we went to the beach. On the way home I got a call from Mike. He screamed at me over the phone because one of the cats had knocked over the Christmas tree. I told him that I wasn’t home, and that there’s nothing I could do at the moment, but that I’d clean it when I got back. He told me when I got home that he wanted me gone. He yelled this loud enough that my sister could hear it.

When we got back, Katherine, my sister, came in with me because she was worried about my safety. He was still furious and yelling. He told me to pack my things and get out. It becomes exponentially more difficult to pretend that something like this hasn’t happened when someone else has watched it. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to just calm him down and go on the next day like it never happened. So, I packed my things. Mike was convinced that our cat Tigger had knocked over the tree and wanted me to take her with me.  Just a note, nothing had even broken, the tree was just on it’s side. A plastic tree, so not even a mess of water or pine needles. It literally just needed to be stood upright again. Katherine asked me where the cat carrier was so we could transport her and I told her it was in the garden shed. As she started to walk outside, Mike threatened her life if she touched anything.

He phoned me several times on the way to my parents house threatening me. I was distraught. My parents were happy that I was out. They knew things weren’t right, although they didn’t know the extent.

The next day my Mom and I went to the police station to ask them about where I stood legally to get the rest of my belongings. They advised that since my name was still on the lease, I had every right to go back and retrieve my things. Later, while we were in the grocery store, Mike phoned and told me that I wasn’t welcome back on the property. I told him that I’d spoken to the police, and that I was within my rights to get my things. He told me that he was “within his rights to put a bullet in my head” and that his bikie friends were on their way to my parents’ house to bury me and my family. So back to the police station we went. They told us not to worry, that it was likely bullshit, luckily they were right. We sat down with one of the police officers and a DVO (Domestic Violence Order) form. The cop told me to take it home and fill it out, but that I needed to take it seriously. He said that many women take out DVOs against their partners and then go back to them and call the police to have them charged whenever they feel like it. This cop told me that if I do this, the police reaction would be to tell me to “fuck off.”

I never filled out that form. Mike continued to call me. Sometimes he was threatening my life, sometimes he was threatening suicide, every time I hung up the phone crying and shaking. One day my Dad asked if he could take my phone. He could see how this was affecting me. I gave it to him, and I didn’t have to worry anymore.

About a week later I started applied to bar jobs. I took my phone back so that I could answer calls from potential jobs, and Mike had stopped calling. Out of curiosity I had a scroll through the messages he’d sent me. Lots of apologies, and a photo of his car with a hose running from the exhaust to a window and taped up. I felt terrible, but there were more messages days later, so he hadn’t killed himself. I didn’t respond to anything or answer any of his calls. Eventually he stopped.

I started working in a bar in Cleveland and made some new friends. Life was starting to look up, and I knew I was better off without Mike. A little more time went by, and his sister called me. She asked me to call him and tell him what was going on. Apparently he’d been calling her all confused, not knowing if we were getting back together or if it was over. I don’t know where the confusion was, but I told her that I’d call him and clarify.

I phoned him. He picked up and sounded like a completely different person. He told me that he’d been going to counselling, he’d cut back his drinking, and he was changing. He begged me to come back. When I hit call on my phone, I had every intention of telling him it was over, but now I was doubting myself. I told him that I needed to think about it.

After a couple of days I told him that I wasn’t going to move back in, but that we could start our relationship over again from the beginning. Start dating, and see where it went from there. I would regret this decision later, such a stupid mistake, but at the time I was hopeful that things would be better.

Laura

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