(An excerpt from A Heart of Steel.)

If David had chased after her with barbells again, Steele would never know. The tires of her car spun circles and threw gravel as she accelerated out of the driveway. She anticipated hearing the sound of the barbells crashing through her back window at any moment but didn’t pause to glance behind. She sped off as fast as she could and continued to drive for several miles without slowing down. Steele had no idea where she was going but took a left turn out of Rebel Meadows and drove north toward Nashville. Her muscles began to relax while respirations slowed to a normal rate. Her mind reflected on a past incident that occurred just a few months before David moved out of their home.

dumbbell-pair-299535_1920Steele had been sleeping in the spare bedroom after her husband cheated on her again. One night another heated argument erupted when David came home from work drunk. He verbally assaulted her, called her names and accused her of cheating on him. As Steele cried, David balled his fist and punched her in the stomach. He slapped her until her cheeks were crimson and stung.

“Where have you been today? Who have you been with?” he asked.

Steele ran out the back door and onto the deck which was elevated above the ground. Snow covered the deck, and Steele carefully descended the slick steps but couldn’t run fast. David followed her and held a heavy barbell over his head.

Before Steele reached the bottom step or a safe distance, David screamed,

“You better stop or I’m gonna throw it.”

With her back to him, Steele stopped dead in her tracks. There was no doubt in her mind he would bash her skull in.   She stood perfectly still and held her breath while her heart pounded.

“Now, turn around.” He instructed her.

Steele slowly turned around. David looking down at her from the top of the deck.

“Come here.” he said while holding the weight high above his head.

Slowly, Steele took one step up and then another. When she reached the top stair, David instructed her to drop her car keys at his feet, which she did.

“Now, I want you to tell me I’m the best thing you’ve ever had.” He said.

Steele’s feet stung from the cold snow and her eyes burned from the mixture of tears and mascara, her face now stained.

Steele repeated his words in a monotone voice, her face expressionless. Her spoken words appeared like smoke as it swirled in the frigid air. She hated him with a passion.

With her keys in his hand, David went back inside the house and locked the door. Steele was left standing on the snow-covered step, barefoot, and wearing nothing but lightweight pajamas. She sat in her car for a couple of hours and finally knocked on the back door. Steele begged David to open the door and let her come in out of the cold. After three hours outside, he unlocked the door.

Steele understood the danger and knew there was no limit to what her husband might do. A few months earlier, David had shattered the windshield of her car with a barbell when Steele attempted to leave.   Fortunately, the weight did not penetrate the glass, and Steele felt lucky she was not seriously injured.

Steele made it to Nashville but didn’t have a plan. She had no purse, no money, and no ID. Her car’s gas gauge was close to empty. Steele didn’t consider calling her parents as she tried to not bother them with her problems. She heard her mother’s voice saying,

“You could work your marriage out if you wanted to.”

Her mother’s comment was indicative of how many women of her generation tolerated marital abuse.

Steele spotted an outdoor pay phone at the Krystal Burger and directed her car into the crowded parking lot. Borrowing twenty cents from a male customer, she inserted the coins and dialed her girlfriend Sandy.

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