He slaps me as I reach for him, his face a mask of fury. I don’t believe he means it. He never does. Every night, when he hits me, throws me to the floor, screams at me and calls me names — he never means it. Afterwards, he always apologizes, takes me out to dinner, walks me home.

I have to remember he doesn’t mean it. That he actually does care about me. I remind myself of this even as I go sprawling across the couch under another violent shove, a tiny part of me flaring up in anger – I have to resist the urge to fight back. I’m not supposed to fight back.

“You stupid cow!” he roars, and I tip my face away in anticipation of the next slap as his big hand, normally so gentle, comes sailing toward me. I see stars briefly, catch a glimpse of his brow furrowed in worry before he’s all angry monster again. “I never want to see your face again!” he snarls as he storms off.

I lay stunned for a moment, then rise to my feet slowly. The house lights come on and the audience breaks into thunderous applause.

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