But weeks later jealousy rears his temper again. He assaults me with more than just words and I feel the sting of his calloused hand against my fragile face as the two come into collision. I steady myself against the wall, against his rage, against his voice as he spits vile words at my face. They bypass my face, intercepted by my heart, and the imprint of words is deeper there than the fingerprints upon my face will ever be.
Yet I still have another cheek to turn, and when I see the glow of a cigarette outside later that night, when I know his anger is appeased, I approach him. Timid hands rest upon rigid shoulders before I wrap myself around his chest and lay gentle kisses upon his back. He softens, turns to me, and in the gleam of the streetlight I search fragmented eyes. My face reaches closer to his and I grab handfuls of wild hair and as our mouths touch I taste nicotine and we kiss until we suffocate in one another. He awakens me and we grip each other’s bodies there under incandescent light and I know I cannot walk away. He needs me. He needs me.
But too soon fallen leaves are replaced with grey sleet and the pastel light that once illuminated us disappears, and we too exist in shadow. I have turned both cheeks so many times there is no longer any cheek left unmarred, my body now embellished with bruises from the very hands that once caressed me. My heart is rife with verbal bullets and I try to stitch the wounds with hands that tremble but the cotton is threadbare and won’t hold under the weight of his cruel tongue.