Thursday, October 15, 2009

The very first fiction work I ever published was in my community college literary magazine. That was 15 years ago. Anyone that's been reading my blog will see I have carried the weight of losing my mom for a very long time. I wrote this piece with her in mind.
This post is dedicated to my mom, Patricia Ann Oberlander Gioia on the anniversary of her death at age 26: October 17, 1958                                                         
                                                                                                                                Lisa and her mom, 1957

The Women’s’ Circle

Battered, bruised, and weary, Trish moved forward on the arm of a woman close to her own age. The woman, who had identified herself as Carolyn held her protectively, murmuring encouraging words. They headed toward a circle of women, whose faces held sympathetic, yet welcoming smiles. Though Trish was nervous and hesitant, she allowed herself to be surrounded and coddled. She was shown to a chair and gently seated. The others took seats, forming a close- knit circle with everyone facing one another.

Carolyn introduced Trish to the others. In shameful horror Trish heard Carolyn describe her “situation.”

“Trish has come to us courtesy of her husband,” Carolyn said. “He beat her and as you can see, the damage was substantial.”

The women looked at Trish with pity in their eyes. They sighed and shook their heads. Some reached over and stroked her arm or took her shaking hands in theirs. To Trish’s amazement, no one looked upon her with disgust or blame.

Carolyn spoke once again, this time directly to Trish. “When you feel stronger you will speak of your experience. Yes, you will.” Carolyn nodded to Trish’s denying headshake. “It will take time. You will learn to trust us and you will see the need in purging yourself of your pain.” Trish heard the murmurs of agreement from the women around her.

Turning her attention to the others, Carolyn said, “It’s time for sharing.”

For the moment Trish was released from the scrutiny of the others. A sniffle to her right drew her attention. A petite woman with blonde hair and sad eyes wrung her hands as she spoke. “Today is my daughter’s tenth birthday,” she lamented. “This is the second birthday I have missed.” As she spoke of her memories of past celebrations the other women in the circle listened raptly. Consoling words and comforting hugs were generously offered. As time passed, Trish heard from nearly every woman seated around her. The stories they told were chilling tales of abuse and fear. Most compelling, however, were the expressions of longing for loved ones.

Trish sat in horrific wonder at the stories she heard. One woman, a brunette with an eye blackened and an unusable arm expressed concern for her eldest child, a son of eight years. She described that her son was present whenher husband clubbed her with a ceramic vase, and tried in vain to intervene. His cries for his mother, his wracking sobs, still haunt her. She wondered if he has been able to overcome the horror his young eyes witnessed.

Another woman, one of considerable age expressed a deep regret at not having left her abusive husband sooner. She spoke with a voice burdened with guilt as she told her tale. She saw the pattern of her tragic life played out through the actions of her offspring; her sons, she said, were physically abusive to their wives, a way of life their father modeled for them. Her only daughter, a gentle soul full of love and kindness married a man so like her father. Fear for her daughter’s well being conflicted with the thought that they may someday be reunited, together again among this circle of women.

Trish began to feel a kinship to these women. Slowly and hesitantly she acknowledged that their stories were similar in many ways to her own. Her voice, shy and hardly above a whisper caused the others to turn toward her.

“He, my husband, was so sorry that first time,” she began. “He said it would never happen again.”

All eyes were on her, encouraging words floated her way. Taking a deep breath to calm her inner shivers Trish continued. “But, he didn’t stop and he would yell at me and hit me for the littlest things.” She looked at the women with pained eyes. “I really did try to be a good wife, to not do anything that would set him off. But, it seemed I couldn’t do anything right.”

A woman across from her contributed, “Seems like they always just lookin’ for an excuse to pop ya one.” Another offered, “My old man, he was great, until he had his drinks, that is.”

Trish looked warmly at this group of new friends, formed through adversity and like experience. They talked, cried, and laughed with the sharing of memories. Trish’s feelings of isolation and shame were banished, yet she could not shake the urgency she felt. She stood, looked fondly upon the perfect strangers that she has shared her most intimate feelings with. She hoped the best for each and every one of them, but she knew she must go; her family awaited her. Her children needed her to be there when they arrived home; her husband would be expecting a clean house and food on the table.

Carolyn, observing Trish closely stood with her, an expectant look upon her face. With a nod from her that to Trish held some meaning, the others also stood. Trish thanked her new friends, wished them well then explained her need to leave. A knowing look Trish did not understand passed from woman to woman. Carolyn came to stand by her side, placing an arm once again protectively around Trish’s shoulders.

“We all reacted this way at first,” she said.

Confused, Trish looked about her and asked, “What are you talking about? I need to get home.” She said these words with conviction, yet they were laced with a hint of fear.

Carolyn looked deeply into Trish’s eyes as she said, “Honey, there is no going home. You are in Heaven now and no one will ever hurt you again.”

Battered, bruised, and weary, Sandra moved forward on the arm of a woman. Trish, as she had identified herself held her protectively, murmuring encouraging words. They headed toward a circle of women…


Sniffles and Smiles said...


This is beautiful!!! But so very tragic!!! Thanks for sharing such an authentic piece, and while it is fiction, it flows...obviously in memory of your mom!!! Writing from the heart is always so powerful!!! And this is truly a heart-wrenching, and thought-provoking short story! I am inspired!!!I hope that someone out here that is struggling will heed the warning of this superb writing!
I'll be back after I kick my pain killers...still a little groggy from my surgery yesterday!! But I truly wanted to thank you for your lovely comment!!! Love to you!! Janine XO

e said...

Your writing is poignant...

I thought I replied to an earlier messege you left on my blog re: linking...if not, forgive me. It is fine to link there.

I am interested in reading more of your writing and learning about your preservation work, too.

AmyK said...

Very powerful and very important. Unfortunately all too true. I hope someone listens.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Hello Lisa,
Thank you for visiting at my place.

You have an experienced way with words. The human condition is so vast.

glnroz said...

goodness,,hummmm,, thnx for letting me visit...

Drahdrah said...

Beautifully written. But such a sad reality for so many women. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Just checking in to see what you are up to!! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!!! ~Janine XO

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Your writing is haunting and beautiful...

I am looking forward to following your blog- glad I found you!

Glenda Council Beall said...

Well written story about a problem in the U.S. that is growing again. As women we must all speak out when we can because young women and girls are being abused by boy friends and husbands.
I like your blog and will be back.