From the Inside Flap
To understand what happened after, you have to know what came before.
I don't remember a time when I didn't dream of being a wife and mother. My earliest memory is of playing 'wedding' in my parent's backyard. As the bride, I was draped in my mother's antique white lace tablecloth, my head covered with a homemade veil and my arms laden with the roses she grew in her garden that summer.
In my mind's eye, I can see myself as I was then. A thin, serious looking child with long brown hair and big brown eyes walking slowly up the garden path like it was a cathedral aisle, toward my groom, the love of my life, the man that would take care of me forever.
By the time I turned 19, I knew that my real life groom would be Steven Flynn. He was the perfect man; he would be the perfect husband. I still remember the first time I saw him. A freshman in college, I ran into my psychology class 15 minutes late on the first day. Breathlessly, I took a seat in the last row and started madly arranging myself, my books, and my notepad; when I looked up I saw Steven.
As the teaching assistant, he was standing at the front of the class passing out the syllabus. After a moment, he caught my stare and smiled at me. He waved me to the front to get a syllabus and I slowly approached him taking in every inch of his stunning good looks, from his dark brown hair and intense blue eyes, to his perfectly chiseled body, on down to the tips of his elegant shoes. He was dressed conservatively, in a neatly ironed button down shirt and gray slacks. He looked like he'd walked off the cover of GQ magazine.
As I got closer to him I could feel him watching me approach. His intense gaze made me feel naked. I couldn't believe the other students weren't staring at him. To me, he looked like Prince Charming. The other students swarmed around, talking and laughing but my eyes never left him. When I reached out my hand to take the syllabus from him, he handed it to me but didn't let go. I stared at him and he looked back at me with a knowing smile. In that moment I knew; my life would never be the same again.
When Steven decided he wanted me too, he courted me recklessly; never taking no for an answer, never leaving me alone for a moment. After that first day, I don't have a single memory from that time that doesn't include him. He brought me red roses to make me smile, took me to see movies that made me laugh, and when we were alone he took me in his arms and made me tremble with desire. For the first time in my life I felt loved.
It makes me squirm with shame to think of it now. My childhood was a cliché, a joke. Abandoned by my father before I was even born; I was a shy child raised by a busy single mother. I didn't have a lot of friends, preferring to spend my time in solitude reading and day dreaming. My classmates thought I was strange and they left me alone. I was ripe for a man like Steven. I see that now, but then, oh but then all I felt was desire and love to the point of obsession. He was my fantasy. I needed him to love me more than I'd ever needed anything else.
I loved him, but I felt so unworthy of his attention. I tried desperately to reinvent myself into the woman he wanted me to be. I was in awe when I looked at him. Steven was everything I wasn't. He was handsome and successful, while I was average looking and quiet. When we met, he was a senior graduating at the top of his class with a degree in Psychology and a full scholarship to Harvard Law School; I was a freshman without a clue as to what I wanted to study. He was on his way to becoming a master of the universe, and all I wanted was to be at his side.
His first request changed the way I dressed when we were in public. Instead of the unofficial jeans and t-shirt uniform of my classmates, I eagerly agreed to upgrade my wardrobe to dresses, heels, and pearls. When he told me I looked lovely and gave me a smile, I knew I had made the right decision.
His second request was more complicated.
Steven needed me to be the perfect woman in the bedroom as well as in public. He would settle for nothing less. He valued my virginity and blind trust because they made me pliable - there was nothing I wouldn't do to bring him pleasure. As a child, I'd lived in my imagination without many friends and a mother who didn't have time or interest in teaching me about the world. Sex was a mystery that I didn't have a clue to solving. Steven's limitless needs and desires were my secret to carry alone; I didn't have anyone to discuss him with, no girlfriends to gossip with about his need for blindfolds, whips, and endless sexual punishment. All I had was my obsession to make him happy, to earn his praise, to maintain my place in his heart. For those reasons I would do anything he asked - and he asked a lot. I became the essence of the properly dressed lady in public and a sexual slave in the bedroom.
When he asked me to marry him the night he graduated I felt triumphant. I felt as proud of myself as if I'd been the one accepting a diploma that day. His proposal made me feel that it had all been worth it; the meticulous attention to my wardrobe and the sometimes painful "lessons" in the bedroom - I was going to be Mrs. Steven Flynn. I eagerly quit school and moved with him to Boston. My only ambition was to be a good wife to him.
I maintained that blind ambition for seven long years. I stubbornly insisted to myself that Steven's fierce control, his rigid standards for my dress and appearance, and his increasingly cruel sexual desires were normal, just his way of dealing with the pressure he was feeling as a lawyer with one of Boston's most respected firms, Bradenson & Arthur.
My only job was to be the perfect wife and partner. In my mind there was no limit to our success, I was enveloped in my dream of a secure and happy life with my husband and that was all that mattered.
Until the day I woke up.