I Had To

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A blurred police car in the background behind yellow crime scene tape.

My name is Lani and many people think my life is perfect. I have a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Alania. I live in a nice neighborhood. I have a husband. I’m skinny with clear skin and big lips, and beautiful curly hair. I have all of this and I’m only twenty-two. All of my friends are jealous of my life. They want theirs to be like mine… yet I pray they never have to go through that.

 

“I tell everyone I met my husband when I was seventeen years old at a party and that is the truth. ‘Hi, I’m Jonah’ were the first words he said to me. I replied with ‘Hi, I’m Noelanii’- this was my real name before I  was forced to change it. I tell everyone how we talked for a while on the porch of a mutual friend’s house and got to know each other a little bit before exchanging numbers. That is also the truth. I go on about how the next time I saw him after that was a week later at a bar near his apartment after I had gotten fired from my job, not knowing he lived so close. That was also the truth. I tell everyone how he lifted my spirits and made me forget what had happened. What they don’t know is how he did so. He invited me to his apartment after buying me an unknown number of drinks and putting who knows what into my drink when I went to the bathroom. By the time he brought me to the basement- or his man-cave as he liked to call it- everything was blurry and then the world was spinning and then my head was throbbing and then… everything went black.” 

“When I woke up I was in the back of a truck. It was dark but I could still see the walls of my steel prison due to the crack of light coming through the bottom of the truck door. I could not move. I was hogtied, laying on my stomach. I tried not to panic. I could barely remember what had happened before I woke up here. I did not know how long I had been there. There was something in my mouth- maybe a sock. I tried to move and struggled to breathe through my nose, while tears rolled down my face. I was helpless. I watched the light coming through the door until it began to dim, praying that it would not leave me, and as the light faded so did the hope I had of saving myself.” 

“I woke up again in the basement of what seemed to be a nice house, tied in a plastic chair now. Jonah was sitting across from me in an armchair. ‘Good morning, beautiful,’ he said to me. I was dumbstruck. I could not believe how calm he was as if he had done this before- had he? ‘Where am I? What did you do?’ I asked. ‘I can’t answer that first question just yet, but what happened is I brought you here… and you’re not leaving’ he answered. My heart dropped. My face got warm and red. My eyes started to well up with tears. ‘No. Don’t cry gorgeous. I brought you here because I loved you from the moment I saw you. I knew we were meant to be. I just had to get you to trust me so I could show you the life we could live together, and that’s what we’re gonna do- as long as you behave.’ Tears fell from my cheeks to the floor. I hoped I was dreaming and willed myself to wake up, but I was stuck in this nightmare.  He stood up from his hair and walked towards me slowly. I began to panic and he put his finger on my lips saying ‘No crying. Crying will get you punished,’ and slowly moving his hand to wrap around my throat, slowly getting tighter. I wanted to scream, but I could not breathe and I figured if crying would get me punished, what would screaming get me? He kept his hand there until I thought I was going to lose consciousness and when he let go of my neck, I gasped for breath and coughed over and over again.” 

“As time passed, I would try to get away and he would catch me every time, making me regret trying. He would choke me, scream at me, hit me everywhere: my arms, stomach, legs, back. After he hurt me, he would wait to see if I was going to scream or cry and if I did he would start all over again. As further punishment, every time I tried to leave, I would get put back in the basement for hours or a full day. Years went by and I stopped trying. I accepted that this would be my life now. He would still hit me when I cried about missing my family telling me ‘I’m your family now.’ I was trapped and began to get used to it.“

“He would punish me in other ways as well, ways that no female should have to go through, and by the time I was nineteen I had a daughter, Alania, and my new fear was her being hurt. He never hurt her though, he treated her like any father would treat their daughter. I knew that if he ever laid hands on her I would die- from him punishing me, of course, because I would attack him in the same moment. The abuse became less frequent with time, as I stopped trying to leave. Jonah would take Alania and I out with him to stores and restaurants, but I never tried to escape him. He would tell me that if I ever left he would find and kill me and our daughter, I never wanted to take that chance.” 

“Eventually, he would let me go to the library alone, where I met most of my friends in a book club. I thought of leaving every time I went to one of the meetings, but he never let me take Alania with me to the meetings and I would not leave her with him. He would kill her. I knew he would. I began to want to get away more and more. I could not take this dress-up life anymore: pretending to be a perfect family. That’s when I began to plan his death.”

“One day I came home from book club and knew it was time. He was napping with Alania. I picked her up and put her in her room. I returned to our room with a knife from the kitchen. I got closer to him and his eyes opened and he yelled. Immediately I drove the knife into his chest and he reached for my neck. I ducked and ran the knife down his chest, telling him not to cry because he would be punished, just like he did with me. I took the knife and ensured he was gone: I stuck it in the same wound again, and again, and again… There was blood everywhere and I panicked, thinking ‘now what?’ I ran to Alania and kissed her forehead. Then I finished the plan. A plan that would have worked just fine if our new neighbors weren’t so nosy.”

“Anyways, now, as I sit here in this interrogation room I know it had to be done. So, there is a reason, Officer Smith. That’s why I did it. That’s why you found his dead body tied to a chair in the basement, but you have to understand: it had to be done. I was losing my mind. Officer, please understand. I had to. He made me. He drove me to this point. And I did it with this shirt on. This my favorite shirt and now it’s stained with blood. Shouldn’t that, alone, tell you I absolutely had to. Why would I sacrifice my favorite shirt for fun? I had to. I had to, don’t you understand? I had to! I had to! I had to! I had to! I…”