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Why?

How easily it all went wrong.

"Whore!"

The words spilled from his mouth and stabbed her heart like knives. "Filthy slut!"

The first blow sent her stumbling backwards, but she kept her balance. "Pete, love -"

His fist smashed into her stomach - she folded and crumpled onto the floor, smashing her head against the counter. Her vision blurred and dimmed, and she had an uncontrollable urge to vomit.

The door slammed shut behind him.

Grace turned her head and retched up blood onto the tiles. The room was spinning, stars dotted in front of her.

Two blue eyes peeked out from behind the table, and then toddled forwards to give her mother a clumsy hug. Grace swallowed hot tears, refusing to cry in front of Tessa.

"I don't know why you stay with him, I really don't!" False friends faked sympathies in coffee breath, regarding her battered eyes with sighs and tuts.

"It's because he loves me," Grace would mutter, but they never heard. They didn't want to know.

But the same lies would not spill for her daughter. "Why, Mummy?" The two tiny words she dreaded to hear.

"Shush, sweetie. Bedtime."

No bedtime story; it would have broken Grace's heart into tears. She stroked Tessa's soft curls and kissed her doughy cheek until her baby's breathing became soft and regular.

She eased herself into the hot foam, soothing away her pains. The warmth oozed into her scalp, yet it refused to warm her heart, frozen from loneliness. She examined the rainbow of bruises which decorated her hips: yellow, green, purple.

Beneath the sheets, the curves of her breasts and hips pleased him, but outside the door they were on display for whoever would take a look. He would trace his tongue across them, murmuring love words, but when another stared too long, he would stamp them beneath his boots.

As she rose from the foam, she caught a glimpse in the mirror. A new heart-shaped bruise blossomed on her cheekbone, almost pretty. Her hips and ribs stuck out from skin as fragile as paper. She had lost weight since her marriage barely a year ago; the gold band was loose about her finger.

"Why?" Her daughter's words still echoed in her ears; she longed to give them an answer. But how could she tell her the truth? How could she explain that it was all for her? Pete's job put food in Tessa's mouth and clothes on her back; she would not, could not, leave him.

She remembered the day she had first taken him home, afraid of showing him Tessa the way all men were afraid of single mothers. But he had kissed her hand like a princess, and a musical trio of laughter had echoed for them to dance.

The first blow had hurt him more than her.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry baby," he had crooned into her hair, taking her in his arms and kissing away her blood and tears. The bruise soon faded, soon forgotten. Soon enough repeated.

Grace slipped between the cold sheets, her tears wetting the pillow. Maybe he would come home in the early hours of the morning to cover her in whisky kisses and drunken apologies. Or maybe he would stay out all night, exploring the curves of other women in the worst parts of the town.

How easily it had all gone wrong. How quickly. She took out her diary and added a string of words under the day's date.

From friendship to fucking to flying fists and fighting furious filthy fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

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