Marguerite and The Masked Lover
Marguerite had just been rejected as a suitable wife and daughter in-law by her would-be parents in-law, who lived on the other side of the globe, in Sydney.
They had told her they had a problem with her height, but she concluded that clearly, she was simply not good enough for them.
Marguerite was devastated. She bought a pack of menthol cigarettes even though she had never smoked in her life. She wanted the clouds of smoke to choke out the pain of her rejection. But it didn’t work. She only made herself choke, so after a week of trying to become a smoker, she quit.
Marguerite started seeing someone who she worked with. He was tall and handsome and had a great smile. He seemed sweet and eager to spend time with her. She allowed herself to be consumed by him, in every way. They saw each other before work, during work, after work and of course, all weekend. She was hooked the way she could not force herself to be with those skinny, minty cigarettes.
Marguerite was finally feeling at peace with herself while she spent time with Miguel. One day, Miguel asked Marguerite if she would be his girlfriend. Marguerite was a little surprised. She didn’t realize Miguel wanted to move forward so quickly. She told him she would think about it. Meanwhile, Miguel grew impatient. He told Marguerite that he wanted her to meet his family. Marguerite felt uncomfortable with this, because she felt it was too soon, but she thought to herself, ‘what could be the harm in doing this?’
So she met Miguel’s two elder brothers. Their significant others. Then she met his mother and his father. Marguerite was given such a warm welcome by them all that she automatically felt like she was a part of the family. Since she lived alone and her family lived miles away, she loved spending time with Miguel’s family and feeling like she was a part of something special.
On two separate occasions, both Miguel’s eldest brother and his father asked Marguerite a very serious question. A question Marguerite hadn’t given much thought to. They both asked her if she loved Miguel. She believed they were just looking out for their brother/son, and since she felt that she was put on the spot, she quickly and thoughtlessly said, “yes.” She knew deep down that she wasn’t in love with him. But it wasn’t a complete lie; she did love him and care about him. She did love spending her time with him. She did love his family. So she said yes.
A few short months later, Marguerite woke up with an unusual feeling. She knew something was wrong. Something felt different inside her. She felt sick and weak. She was tired and nauseated. She wrapped her arms around her middle.
She walked over to the nearby clinic and took some tests. A day or so later, the clinic phoned her and asked her to come in. The doctor told her what she was dreading and what she feared most, what she already knew had happened.
Marguerite was pregnant.
Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part II
Upon learning the news of his planted seed, Miguel did not embrace Marguerite with joy, nor did he offer her any comfort. What he did say to her was, “abortion.”
Hearing that word, Marguerite’s insides knotted up with despair. But she held up her head, took a deep breath and decided she could and she would do this on her own. She was going to have a baby. There was no greater blessing. When she was alone, she wrote Miguel a letter stating she in no way expected any involvement from him regarding the child they had conceived.
She thought of all the mornings and nights they had spent together, and wondered what moment it could have happened. ‘No more Spanish wine for me!’, she said to herself with a chuckle.
Miguel reviewed the letter Marguerite gave him. He met with his brothers for their advice.
One bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon, Miguel brought Marguerite to an Italian restaurant; Amore.
They sat across the table from each other and after ordering a gourmet pizza, Marguerite waited for Miguel to say something.
“I want to make you my wife”, he said.
Marguerite practically exploded with relief. This was it. She was going to get her fairytale. She was going to have a family of her own.
She placed her hand on her belly and smiled.
She had no idea what she was getting herself into.
Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part II.I
Wedding planning wasn’t quite what she had expected. Especially since she was terribly sick from the moment she woke up in the mornings until she fell asleep every night. The term, “morning sickness” definitely did not apply to her.
Because of the culture Marguerite grew up in, she couldn’t exactly proclaim to the world that she was with-child. She told her mother, her sister and her cousin. Everyone else was told that for the sake of their employment, Miguel and Marguerite had to get married immediately. But they all knew better. However, no one said anything. Marguerite’s pregnancy was the big elephant in the room.
It seemed that everyone else happily posted their pregnancy news and made announcements proudly; especially in the day and age of social media. Everyone except her. She had to hide it, like the small bump under her clothes was a shameful reminder of her sins.
Miguel’s family was much more open. They were all fully aware that within the next eight months, there would be a new member of the family. They were overjoyed and congratulated Marguerite and Miguel; giving them their full support. This gave Marguerite validation that she was doing the right thing with the right person and his family. She was completely thrilled.
After formally asking her parents for her hand in marriage, Miguel planned a proposal for Marguerite. She pretended not to know anything about it, when he met her outside her apartment one Friday evening. He already had a key and he led the way, walking briskly ahead of her up the stairs to the second floor.
He pushed open the door to her unit and Marguerite held her breath. The floor was sprinkled with red rose petals. She followed the trail of petals to the dining table; which had a bottle of ‘Baby Duck’ champagne sitting on it and next to that, a letter. She picked up the letter and sat down to read it. She was completely taken aback by his letter, because she had written him so many over the last several months and hadn’t received even one in return. He expressed his love for her and wrote about how his parents and brothers all loved her too. When she looked up from the paper, there he was, down on one knee, holding up a beautiful wooden box. She held her breath and saw the shimmering diamond blinking it’s many eyes back at her.
“Marguerite, will you marry me?” Miguel asked quietly.
“Yes”, she replied, with barely a whisper of her breath.
The brilliant cut diamond was on her finger, and without her knowledge, the ring symbolized so much more than a promise of marriage. She couldn’t see it then, but a dark and evil fog cast over her at that very moment. A thick, black poison that slowly started to take her life, right from the base of her delicate little finger.
Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part II.II
Their wedding was a huge success, with the exception of a few hiccups (the priest saying the wrong last name, the Deejay playing the wrong version of their song, seating arrangement issues).
It felt like a real fairytale.
Marguerite was now a wife. And she was so proud.
She had moved into Miguel’s family’s home. The house was occupied by Miguel’s parents, his eldest brother and his wife and son, his middle brother and his girlfriend and now, Miguel and Marguerite.
The house was very small and very old. She sometimes felt like she lived inside a sardine can. But Marguerite was okay with it because she knew it was only a temporary living arrangement. Or at least, at the time, what she was told.
Almost immediately after getting married, Marguerite started noticing a shift in Miguel’s behavior and attitude. He was different. It was as if the romantic, sweet traits she loved about him, hadn’t even existed.
Miguel rarely spent any time with Marguerite, outside of their drive to work and home together. In the evenings, he sat in the living room with his brothers (and father if he was home) and drank rum while watching sports. Marguerite would sit with him and grow hungry, waiting for him to have dinner with her. But he preferred to continue drinking until late in the night, and ate his dinner alone when he was fully intoxicated.
Every night, Marguerite would eat dinner in solitude, and would go to bed alone. Miguel stumbled into the bedroom close to midnight. Every time she was woken by the sound of him slamming the bedroom door open and throwing all of his dead weight on to the bed. She would stay awake for most of the night, his loud snoring blaring next to her. Some nights she would have to sleep on the floor because he flung his arms and legs into her body and she feared it could harm the growing life inside her.
On weekends it was worse, because Miguel started drinking as soon as he got up in the mornings. It would start with a few beers and then gradually progress to rum.
Marguerite cursed herself. Why hadn’t she noticed how regularly Miguel drank when they were dating? She knew he liked drinking alcohol, but she hadn’t realized he was addicted to it. Him, his two brothers and their father. It was an endless circle of alcoholism.
Of course, none of them would admit to this. Marguerite told herself that there was no way Miguel would continue this behavior once his child came into the world. If he really loved her and wanted to be a responsible father and caregiver, she knew he wouldn’t continue on in this direction.
She assumed she could steer him in a healthier, more stable, more positive direction. But Marguerite lost control of her steering. In fact, she had no control over it at all. She was racing down a dangerous road, at full speed. There weren’t any brakes to slow down or a seat belt to protect her from the inevitable crash to come. And she wasn’t only fearing for her own life, but for life of her unborn baby.
But their lives were in the hands of Miguel, as he sped them into his selfish, dark and drowning world.
Marguerite and The Sad Mouse
As her baby continued to blossom and grow inside of her, Marguerite became increasingly anxious. Besides her OBGYN and the ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book, she didn’t often turn to many people for advice.
One night, Marguerite heard a disturbing sound coming from the smallest of the bedrooms upstairs. She still lived with her husband’s family. Miguel and his brothers didn’t seem to notice or hear what she heard, because she waited for a reaction and received nothing. They all continued to watch football. She looked up at Miguel’s father, but he too seemed to have turned deaf to the sound she was hearing.
Without any of them questioning her or even acknowledging Marguerite leaving the living room, she slowly made her way upstairs.
She stopped in front of the middle room, the smallest of all the bedrooms in the house, where a gut-wrenching sound ensued. Marguerite swallowed the lump in her throat and knocked on the door. There was no response.
Marguerite held her breath and opened the door. The feeling inside her grew from gut-wrenching to heartbreak.
She stepped closer to the bed that took up the entirety of the room. The sound was coming from there; tiny bones being swallowed by the bedsheets and pillows. There lay Marguerite’s mother in-law. The sound of her painful moans and sobs. The thick, pungent odor of her sweat, tears, and as Marguerite got closer realized even urine, filled the air.
How long had she been in here that she wet herself in the bed?
Marguerite felt an aching inside of her. She willed herself not to cry alongside this poor, shriveled up flower, that was once young and beautiful like her.
What could she do?
“Are….are you….okay?” she asked her mother in-law.
Miguel’s mother shook her head, slowly. From one side of the pillow to the other side; no….no….no…..no.
“I don’t know what he want from me!” she weeped.
Marguerite noticed the water sitting on the night table next to the bed and offered it to her husband’s mother.
She calmed down and through sobs, took sips of water and said:
“I’m okay, darlin’. Don’t worry. Miguel not like this. He love you. I know he do”, and placed her hand on Marguerite’s bump.
Marguerite nodded in agreement but she wondered who her mother in-law was trying to convince; herself or Marguerite.
When she knew her mother in-law wouldn’t be crying any longer, she left her alone.
She went straight downstairs to Miguel who was in front of the computer monitor, placing a bet, and informed him, horrified, that his mother had been crying all this time.
Miguel’s face remained blank. It was as if she had said, “the sky is blue.” He was completely unfazed. He simply advised her to speak with their father about it.
Marguerite was afraid of her father in-law. More than she was of snakes or suffocation. And yet, she went to him and told him, softly, about the broken, lifeless woman upstairs, who had been sobbing loudly. So loudly that Marguerite seemed certain it was intentional. A cry for help. Literally.
Without looking in Marguerite’s direction, her husband’s father continued to watch the television and said, “I hope she didn’t upset you.”
“Upset me? No. No, of course not.”
How confusing. How infuriating.
He didn’t care. None of them did.
Marguerite trembled at her own thoughts. How long had this been going on that all three of her mother in-law’s own sons, and husband were able to block out her desperate cries?
Again, Marguerite swallowed the lump in her throat, but it did no good. The lump wasn’t going away. It was starting to feel like she had swallowed a brick.
At that moment, she felt something else. Something that reminded her: you are not alone.
A tiny, but powerful kick.
Marguerite and The Masked Lover: Part III
His fingers were wrapped around her neck, yet he was smiling.
He wasn’t exactly choking her, but he definitely had the intent to. At least, he was showing Marguerite what he could potentially do to her in the future.
“Who were you with, huh?” Miguel sneered, his eyes glassy and bloodshot.
“Stop it”, Marguerite asked him gently, trying to lift his fingers from her access to breath. “You know I was just down the street with my family.”
Miguel didn’t let go. He pushed her into the kitchen, out of earshot and eyesight. His parents and brothers were just around the corner in the living room.
“Whose cock was in your mouth?”
“Stop it, Miguel. That’s disgusting!” Marguerite argued, shoving his arm away from her.
“You disgust me”, her husband said back to her, as he looked directly into her eyes. He licked his lips and his mouth eerily turned up into a smile. Marguerite felt herself shudder. He laughed and stumbled away, through the kitchen, back to his circle of alcoholism.
Marguerite’s heart raced. How could he so easily say these things to her? To his own wife?
The baby was due to arrive soon, and life at Miguel’s family’s home had only gotten worse.
The house was literally rotting. Water leaked from the decaying ceiling on the ground floor, underneath the bathtub upstairs. And the bathtub up there was lined with mold, bacteria, fungus. It smelled awful. The staples from the carpeting on the stairs were loose and pierced through Marguerite’s feet every time she went upstairs. The kitchen sink was falling into the rotting wood and was being held in place with different knives and paper towel bunched together.
They all made very decent salaries. Miguel and his brothers and father always had money for liquor. Expensive liquor. They all drove expensive, luxury vehicles. Yet no one stepped forward to acknowledge their house needed serious renovating. How was she supposed to raise a baby here?
To top it all off, her father in-law smoked cigarettes inside the house. In the same house where his pregnant daughter in-law resided.
She didn’t have Miguel’s support at all. If he wasn’t accusing her of ludicrous infidelities, he either neglected her completely or complained to her about how much money was spent on their wedding and her engagement ring.
One of his famous and regular lines soon became, ‘as long as that ring is on your finger, I can do whatever I want to you.’
Marguerite placed her hands around her stomach and silently prayed for her baby. Sometimes she just prayed for the day the baby arrived so that she could have a friend, someone to love and who would love her back.
She quietly headed up the stairs to bed, alone as always, while her husband reached the point of being inebriated. She felt his eyes on her back, and saw from her peripheral vision as she turned up the staircase that he was watching her every move. There was no love in his eyes. There wasn’t even hate. In order for him to feel hatred towards her, he would first have to feel. And Marguerite knew he felt nothing.
No, in his eyes was something much more frightening: emptiness.
She stopped going into her mother in-law’s bedroom to check on her. Every night was the same. Marguerite went into the bedroom she shared with Miguel and shut the door.
She lay in the bed, on her right side, feeling her baby swoosh and kick and stretch. She lay in the bed, in the dark, with her eyes open and put a pillow over her ear to drown out the sound of her mother in-law’s sobs.
Marguerite and the Bruised Beauty
She didn’t speak much. She didn’t seem interested in anything fun either. She wore a frown on her face and seemed to generally be in a serious mood.
“Why is she always so upset?” Marguerite’s grandmother asked her, while they waited for guests to arrive at her baby shower.
Marguerite sighed and gazed at Miguel’s sister in-law, Selena, from across the room. She looked cold and aloof, uninterested in her surroundings.
Selena didn’t participate in the baby shower games and activities. But she was a great help when it came time to clean up.
Marguerite didn’t have many opportunities to speak to Selena alone when they were at home, because Miguel and his brothers and father were always circling around them, like vultures. But Marguerite soon discovered that her mother in-law was not the only one shedding tears under the roof they all lived in.
One afternoon, Marguerite ran into Selena in the kitchen while she scrubbed the dishes piling up in the sink and onto the counter.
“Let me help you”, Marguerite offered, quietly.
“No, no. You go rest. You shouldn’t be lifting these heavy pots”, Selena replied, glancing over her shoulder.
Marguerite knew there was no arguing anyone these days about her doing anything, with her nearing the end of her pregnancy.
“Okay. I’ll keep you company then”, she tried.
Marguerite made small talk with her husband’s sister in-law, hoping that soon they could actually be friends. She knew Selena struggled to express herself in English, and wondered if maybe that’s what kept her so silent around the family.
Soon, their small talks turned into more meaningful conversations. But the closer Marguerite got to Selena, the colder the atmosphere became in their household.
On an evening after her dinner, Marguerite decided to take her mind away from work and her upcoming maternity leave. She sat down in the living room, ready for relaxation mode. There were muffled voices coming from the foyer, and when Tina glanced over to see what was happening, she felt a wave of fear wash over her, prickling over her entire body.
Selena was pushed against the wall, cornered by her husband, Santiago. Marguerite could practically see the words firing out of his mouth, violent, red, large, attacking Selena with each letter, with every annunciation.
He was threatening her. Now he was headed toward the living room, and as quickly as Marguerite had glanced in their direction, she had just as quickly looked away, pretending she saw nothing.
Her heart was pounding against her chest, telling her to go. Go, go, go, get up and do something. But she was frozen in her seat and her tongue was as dry as sandpaper.
As Santiago approached the living room, Marguerite turned her attention to the television. She could see Selena’s shadow flowing up the stairs from the corner of her eye.
She didn’t want to make it too obvious, but she excused herself from the living room, and quickly made her way to Selena and Santiago’s bedroom, they they also shared with their two year old son.
Marguerite whispered through the door to Selena, “can I come in?”
When she didn’t hear a response, she turned the door handle and peered inside. She saw a suitcase on the bed, in which Selena was depositing all of her clothing.
Selena turned around to face Marguerite. And she finally saw it. Marguerite finally saw what everyone else ignored. Pain. Deep within Selena’s eyes, Marguerite could see and feel her pain, so intense like a raw and open wound.
How could someone treat such a beautiful, kind person so poorly? Marguerite supposed, well, the same way someone can also inflict pain upon their own mother.
Marguerite watched, helplessly, as her husband’s sister in law, her friend, pack her things and leave the dark house they all lived in. What she didn’t know was that this wasn’t the first time, or the last. What she didn’t know was, it wasn’t only his words that attacked Selena, that she had many other bruises and scars, invisible to everyone around her.
Marguerite and the Poisonous Snake
She wondered how many hours it had been now. Six? Eight? She’d lost track. Their laughter and banter vibrated through the vent into her bedroom. She could hear the ice bucket being refilled. Over and over and over again.
Marguerite rubbed her hands over her stomach. One more month, and her baby would be in her arms. Maybe then, Miguel would actually spend time with her, instead of neglecting her, keeping her cooped up in this bedroom, while he sat downstairs, drinking. She remembered several months back, when she was in the living room down there with his brothers, basking in their approval and love for her and their soon to be niece or nephew.
Sal, the middle brother, said, “this is the best thing to happen to this family,” and Santiago, nodding his head, added, “absolutely.”
Sal also said to her, eyes focused and serious, despite his rum consumption that night, “Miguel has a lot of growing up to do. The drinking – it’s gotta stop.” Of course, Santiago agreed and added, “it will. Things are gonna be different when the baby comes.”
Marguerite could no longer control her sobs. How long had she been up here? She was tired, so sick and tired, of always sitting down there, watching them drink, watching them watch TV, watching their mother serve them. Watching them ignore her. She was invisible.
She began to cry harder. Silent crying had yet to resolve anything. She was going to explode. She held on to her belly, thoughts of her mother weaving in and out of her thoughts. “Mom!” she said, crying, “mommy!”
Even louder now, her sobs filled the room, hoping to push the walls back, away from her as far as possible. Otherwise, she would suffocate and die.
She heard Sal’s voice on the stairs, “Yo! Miguel! Marguerite’s crying.” This was followed by the sound of his steps descending back to the living room, and then more steps coming closer.
The door burst open. Marguerite hid her face in the sheets of the bed, her heart pounding in her ears.
“I know… ’bout your kind of people,” Miguel slurred, from the doorway, “spent over twenty grand on that wedding.”
She lifted her head and looked up at him, where he stood at the foot of the bed, arms folded across his chest. His eyes were red and glassy. Wasn’t he going to come closer? Hug her? Hold her? Wipe her tears? He frowned down at her, disgusted. She could clearly hear the Super Bowl playing now, with the door open.
“Better not harm that baby,” he said, without moving any closer to her. Then he left the room, slamming the door behind him.
Marguerite propped herself up. Her head was spinning. She looked over at the crib next to their bed. He was right. She was only bringing harm to the baby by sitting up here, weeping. Poor little baby. Miguel was right.
Only a month to go, little one, she thought, pulling herself up from the bed, looking into the crib. And you’ll be here.
She wiped her face and slowly made her way downstairs.