I thought this time would be different. I thought I’d stumbled into the ideal life.  Don’t people always say to “go find yourself a nice farm boy.”

That’s what I did.  Brent was a sweet, handsome dairy farmer in central Wisconsin.  I thought the move to the country would be a nice change of pace.  I imagined peaceful days, sitting on our front porch watching the cows graze.

That’s how it started.  I felt at peace.  Happy even.  My doctor even told me I could try to manage my condition without medication.  Everything was so perfect.  But I knew it wouldn’t last.  Happiness isn’t an emotion meant for people like me.

Even now as I sit here having dinner with him, I feel an overwhelming sense of paranoia.  What if his kindness is just a ruse?  What if I’m not the woman he thought I was.

“Tanya,” Brent says suddenly.

I jump in my seat and jerk my head in his direction.  The grimace on his face is all too familiar.  He’s not the first man I’d seen wear it.

“You call this shit food?” he growls.

I shrink back in my seat, unsure how to respond.  I can’t provoke him.  If things get physical, his burly arms could break me without much of an effort.

“This steak is amazing,” he beams.

I am sitting at our table and he is happily enjoying his meal.  He doesn’t know I just saw a violent version of him in my head.   Brent has never given me any reason to think he would harm me, but I can’t let my guard down.  The moment I begin to trust him is when he’ll strike.  That’s how it happened last time.

“Thank you so much,” I respond. “I hoped you would like it.”

He smiles.  I begin to relax.

I watch as he picks up his glass of lemonade.  He pulls back his arm and hurls the glass against the wall beside me.  The glass shatters into tiny, irreparable pieces.  Glass and lemonade shower over me.  Some of the shards scratch my face and arms as they find their way to the shag carpet flooring. I begin to tear up, remnants of the glass cutting into my eyes.   My sight begins to get fuzzy.

“You knew I wouldn’t like it!” he bellows.  “I told you I hate onions, but you put them in the beans anyway.  A decent wife would listen when her husband speaks to her.”

“I know,” I say meekly.  I hope that admitting my failure will subdue him.

“What do you mean?” he asks.  His face shows a look of concern.

Oh no. He heard me respond to my nightmare.  He’s going to figure out I’m scared of him and ruin our tranquility.  I knew I was right. This was never going to last.  No one could ever love me.

“Oh, you must have caught me smiling,” he laughs.  “This lemonade is fantastic too!  Is it homemade?”

“It is,” I say.

“I tell ya’, I won the domestic lottery with you, Tanya,” he says.  “I can’t think of a better way to finish a hard day of work than eating a delicious dinner with my lovely wife.”

I attempt to smile back at him, but it comes out all wrong.  My face contorts itself into a look of terror.

“Is everything okay?” he asks.  “You seem a little off.”

“I’m f-fine,” I stutter. “Everything is fine.  You’re wonderful.”

I hope I’m not overselling it.  If he knows I’m faking my happiness, he will lash out.  I know this will all crumble apart any moment now.  It’s not like I’m the only one berating their partner with false flattery.  There’s no way he could actually want to be with me.

He reaches his hand towards my face.  I wince as his fingertips begin to brush my hair.  In an instant, he grabs a handful of my hair and slams my head down onto the table.  My face crashes into my plate, breaking it in half.  I feel each tine of my fork dig deeper into my cheek.

He yanks my hair back up.  Pinto beans are smeared across my forehead and the pain in my face is unbearable. 

“Of course you think I’m wonderful,” he grumbles. “Who else would take in damaged goods like you?  You’re broken, Tanya.  Just face it.”

I snap back into reality with the feel of his hand lovingly cupping the side of my face.  His blue, sympathetic eyes are begging me to tell him the truth.

“Babe, what is going on?” he asks gently.

I abruptly stand, leaving his kind touch behind.  I don’t deserve that kind of comfort.   He doesn’t love me. Love doesn’t mean feeling sorry for someone.

“I can’t take it anymore,” I finally admit.  “I can’t go on living like this.”

“What are you talking about?” he asks, clearly puzzled.

“I can’t keep waiting for the other shoe drop,” I explain. “I know you’re eventually going to realize you made a mistake marrying me and I’m terrified of what you’ll do when that happens.”

He stands up and squats down to look me in the eyes.  His kind eyes are pleading with me to open up to him.

“Tanya, I’m here,” he says.  “I want to be here.  Where is this coming from? I thought we were happy.”

“Of course you did,” I acknowledge. “Of course you did.”

The desperation had begun to creep into my voice.  There’s no way he could understand what I’m going through.  No one understands what I’m going through.

I can’t stand for him to see me like this.  I can feel the tears beginning to form at the base of my eyelids.  I race to our front door and throw it open.

“Where are you going?” he yells.

“I need to clear my head,” I say. “Just give me a few minutes.”

I step outside and slam the door behind me. I walk to the edge of our porch and look over the edge.  I see the gravel in our driveway and consider if jumping the one story down will be enough to end this feeling.  I conclude it would only break me.  Break me even more than I already am.

I walk down one step and hopelessly resort myself to sitting on the porch alone.  I sit in a fetal position, letting my face rest against my knees.  I let the emotion pour out of me.  Tears flow out of my eyes and fall into the pleats of my flannel skirt.

“Hello,” I hear my husband say from inside. “Thanks for answering Dr. McCormick. . .”

He called my therapist.  He thinks I’m crazy.  I even think I’m crazy.  I’m crazy to think I could trust someone else after my last husband turned on me.  I’m crazy to think I could live in the same house as a man and not fear for my life.

I stand up and sprint down the steps.  I run across the open farmland.  One good thing about moving to the country is the abundance of places I can go to be alone.

I stop at the edge of our property where there is a cliff overlooking our neighbor’s cornfields.  The sun is beginning to set.  I usually love it here.  I stand motionless, watching the clouds flow across the sky.  The clouds are a mix of deep blues and purples, leading to the warm orange of the setting sun.  It feels wrong to be looking at something this beautiful when I feel so fractured inside.

My eyes drift to the cornfields below.  This is much farther up than our porch back home.  Jumping to make it all stop is a real possibility.  I dangle my left foot over the edge of the cliff.  It could end so quickly.  This is high enough that I may not even feel it when my body hits the ground.

I hear a voice behind me, but the rest of the world feels so far away right now.  I lower myself to sit with my legs hanging over the cliff.  It would be so easy.  I could just slide off.  It would be just like getting out of a large truck.   I rest my hands in the grass on either side of my body.  I brace my arms to push against the ground below me.

There is no ground beneath my feet.  The weight has been lifted off my shoulders and finally, I feel free.  I feel my body slip off the cliff.  

But only for a moment.

I feel two strong hands catch me under my arms.  They are shaking.  I hear a voice above my head.

“Tanya,” Brent pleads, “please help me pull you back up.  Please don’t leave me like this.”

I suddenly realize it was real.  I really tried to jump off the cliff overlooking our neighbor’s farm.  I reach my feet back and find purchase on the mountainside.  I scramble against it as my husband pulls me back to solid ground.

“Tanya, thank God,” he says. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

“I don’t know if I am,” I manage through my tears.

“You are,  babe, you are,” Brent assures me. “Dr. McCormick said that if you missed a few doses of your medicine, you might start to have delusions.  I think that’s what was happening.”

“But she told me I could go off them,” I remind him.

“I asked her about that,” he says. “She said she told you that you might be able to lower the dosage and eventually be able to stop taking them.  She said she was worried you might have misinterpreted her.”

“So I’m still crazy,” I retort.  “You may as well give up on me now.  I’m a crazy,  suicidal, delusional maniac.”

“Tanya,” he says, putting his hands on my face.

I can feel my mind trying to tell me he wants to hurt me.  It takes everything in me to stay in this moment.  His touch helps to keep me here.

“You are not crazy,” he promises. “You are a person who has a disease.  You have a disease that we can work through together.”

I’m not convinced.  I reflexively step back.

“You know I’m crazy,” I argue. “You knew that when you married me.  Oh, you’re just in this to feel like you’re saving someone.  Am I right?”

“I know that you lash out sometimes when you’re like this,” he says comfortingly,  “Take a deep breath.  I’m telling you.  You are not crazy.”

“But I just jumped off a cliff,” I remind him.

“I know,” he agrees,  “We’re probably going to have to take you into a mental health facility and get you checked out.  Suicide attempts like this are nothing to mess around with.”

“Okay,” I relent.

I know he’s right, but I just moved here.  I don’t want to be known as the crazy woman who tried to kill herself.

Then I remind myself. I’m not crazy.  When I put myself down like that, it isn’t me.  It is my disease that is forcing me to spiral.

I’ve been using these mental tools for most of my life, but I didn’t have to use them as much with the medication.  I can’t help but feel like I’ve regressed.

“Are you sure I’m going to be okay?” I ask.  I need someone to tell me.

We’re going to be okay,” He offers. “We’re a team, babe.  We’re in this together.”

He places his arm around my shoulders and I settle into his embrace as we walk back towards our house.  I begin to feel his arm getting tighter around me and I begin to worry he will hurt me.

Then I remind myself that feeling is the illness talking.  I still feel broken, but I allow myself to believe I might be able to put myself back together.


These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!


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