Anna is willingly enslaved.
"He's always enjoyed...rough stuff...in our private life. But, I never dreamed he'd become a-a wife beater," she whispered. "He'd smacked me on the behind, little things like that, but he never really HIT me...until just a few years ago. The change was very gradual. With the stress of having a son on trial for multiple felony charges, two other sons enlisting in the military when we're in the middle of two wars, and a daughter who decided she was a lesbian...I think both of us lost it. I became a submissive, and he became a monster. Our home became a toxic hellhole."
Lily squeezed her daughter close, again. "Please don't interpret what I just said as blaming you, or your brothers for any of that! I didn't mean it that way at all!"
"I know, Momma, it's okay," Elizabeth said, soothingly. "But you need to tell them the rest. Tell them what you told Fleur and I last night, okay? About what you're going to do to move forward."
Aunt Lily nodded her head and took a deep, cleansing breath.
"I'm leaving him," she said, simply. "I can't live like that anymore. I can't believe I went along with it for so long. I can't believe that I let him push my children away! I can't explain why I was so weak! Maybe if I'd been stronger, Jeremy and Craig wouldn't have been driven to join the Marines just to get out of the house, and Jack wouldn't be in prison-"
"Mom, stop it!" Elizabeth said, cutting her off. "It won't help anything to go down the 'what if' road, now! What's done is done, and it can't be undone! What you need to do now is move forward, and work as hard as you can to fix things. I love you! Fleur loves you! Kevin, Grace, Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Micheal and Aunt Catherine, Uncle James and Aunt Teela, we all love you! You are surrounded by people who love you!"
"What Elizabeth said is true, Lily," Grandma agreed. "However, your leaving Trent will just make him that much more dangerous."
Aunt Lily looked stricken, and Grandma hastened to her side to reassure her.
"Oh honey! I didn't mean that it was your fault! Leaving Trent was the best decision you could have made for yourself. In fact, you probably should have done it years ago, I'm sad to say. Nevertheless, it's going to make Trent even more angry at a time when he's already been thwarted once. It could be enough to push him into doing something that he might ordinarily hesitate to do."
Grandma eyed Elizabeth and Fleur this time, Fleur in particular.
"That's something the two of you need to keep in mind as well!"
"Oui, I have it very firmly in mind!" Fleur said. She lifted the hem of her T-shirt up just a little, showing the smooth curve of her abdomen...and the grip of the handgun she had tucked in a holster inside the waistband of her jeans!
"I will not let any harm come to my loved ones!" Fleur declared. "I have not forgotten the welcome most of your family offered me after my own cast me out! I will not let anyone take that away!"
Grandpa smiled, chuckling breathlessly. He clapped his hands together once in approval, and embraced Fleur. Fleur was startled, but returned the hug.
He signed, but Fleur hadn't learned sign language well enough to understand.
"He says you are a good grand daughter-in-law, and he is glad to see you are ready to protect others," Grace translated for her. "He's happy Elizabeth has someone like you!"
"Oh!" Fleur said, deeply moved. "Merci beaucoup, Pepere!"
"Well," Grandma said, after a few moments. "Your Grandpa and I should take off. The last few days have been pretty exhausting for us. All five of you watch your own backs, and each others' too! And don't forget to stay in touch!"
"We won't forget!" Grace and I said together.
Grandma laughed. "I probably shouldn't say this, but Lord help me, it's the truth: you two are such an incredibly beautiful couple!" She hugged us both once more, and then she and Grandpa departed.
I leaned back in the chair and sighed painfully. Grace quickly knelt at my side, resting a hand on my arm.
"The pain meds are definitely wearing off, but I'll be alright, my love," I said,