'When An Angel Cried'
A short story by Country Singer-Songwriter and Author Scott Coner
Based on his song and video about domestic violence, "When the Angels Cry"
"I didn’t know for sure if I even wanted to record the song 'When The Angels Cry', much less write this accompanying short story, 'When An Angel Cried'. I had carried the song with me for the better part of 20 years before I ever recorded it. It’s a dark theme, and I didn’t want people thinking I considered myself some kind of authority on the matter, because I’m not. Although like most of you, I do have some pretty strong opinions about the subject." -- Scott Coner
* Please read this story and pass it along to help others.
She sat alone staring off into space wondering what to do with her life. She had slowly come to the conclusion that the world she had tried to share with her husband had finally fallen violently apart. The empty feeling was more than she could describe or measure. All that was left now for her was the deployment of an escape plan. She didn’t want to take anything from the marriage. The clothes on her back would suffice. Every piece of furniture and every item of clothes she had to her name were soiled with a bad memory. She simply wanted out. She wanted to feel what it was like to go through the day without verbal or physical abuse, without feeling like such a fool.
Life had been simple enough and very promising 15 years ago. She was on her own path in college. Her junior year had started as planned. Lots of class work, lab work, and general homework were the rule of the day. Fall had barged in more quickly that year than usual with aggressive frosts. She remembered the sky being a perfect blue challenged only by the red and golden leaves across campus. It was on one of those perfect, sacred days that he walked into her life. He had the whole program with the pearly white smile, the casual demeanor, and wow was he ever smooth. She fell for him quickly, and before she realized it, he was the center of her universe. Late nights in the library were replaced by entire nights at his off-campus apartment. Her own dreams that she had held and protected with her entire being were placed on hold. Instantly, it was obvious to all that were close to her, that she was not only losing focus, she was giving up on her dreams. Her parents and sister were rightfully concerned, but she was oblivious to their chatter. This young man had stolen her heart, and within weeks of the whirlwind romance, she was too far- gone to talk to. She had systematically closed the rest of the world off and had willingly given herself to him.
Looking back through the years, she couldn’t quite remember any truly good times with him. He had somehow cast a spell on her and her good judgment, and all had been lost. Her support for him and his dreams never faltered though, and she followed him down one rabbit hole after another. College hadn’t worked out for him, so they both left campus life for one pointless and mundane job after another. She had been able to hold down a job with good benefits, but he had bounced around too many times to count. He just couldn’t handle authority, couldn’t handle the drive to work, and when it came down to it, he couldn’t hold down a job. She knew more about his dark and misguided heart than she wanted to know. She knew he was angry with the world. She also knew that he was angry with her, but she didn’t know why. It wasn’t correct to say that he had battled with alcohol. Truth be told, he hadn’t battled it at all. In fact, he welcomed his alcohol with open arms. When he was happy, he drank. When he was sad, he drank. When he needed to stop, he just drank more....
In her mind, she knew her entire marriage had been built on sand. She had been the foundation of the marriage because she had been given no choice. She had paid the bills, bought the groceries, taken care of the house. She had listened to his endless barrage of excuses as he regularly failed at his life and landed beside her in their bed drunk. She had laid there in the darkness with open eyes as he drifted off into a dead inebriated sleep without a care in the world. It was during those countless nights that she had silently prayed to God Himself to just come down and take her life. But that would be too good for her. She deserved this customized hell she was living in. She had shut off everyone and closed all the doors with a pathway leading out. She had shut herself in with this misery, and it appeared that if she wasn’t truly in hell, she was at least in purgatory.
Early on, if she had been honest with herself. She had seen the first signs of his violence years ago during college. But at that point, he still had her believing he was her savior. It had been his convincing Southern accent along with his youthful antics that had won her heart. These days, those very qualities had turned into acidic attacks on her soul. Being a Midwestern girl, she knew that life could be hard, but she had been raised to face life’s storms. She had believed in the American dream. She had believed that consistent hard work would prevail. But the path that she had chosen offered her no solace, no choices, and no happy end. As the alcohol had taken over, his violent abuse seemed to grow more and more prevalent. He had become accustomed to feeling comfortable with attacking her. Somehow, he felt exonerated if he apologized the following day. She had finally come to the conclusion that his apologies meant nothing if he wasn’t willing to change. Sadly, his only changes were for the worse, and she had only one option left.
She began the humiliating process of reaching out to her parents and her sister. She needed to let them know how she felt, how she hurt, and how much she needed them. She had a deep seeded need to appeal to God, to actually get down on her knees and cry out for His Devine assistance. She knew that the only passage out was to actually allow her marriage to die. It was on life support anyway, but she needed to pull the plug once and for all. She needed to tell him it was over. She would offer no apology because she didn’t owe one. She had to find the strength to begin to be the women she had once aspired to be. She had to find her soul again. Her decision had been made for her. After all, she was at a dead end, and there were no other options.
The August heat blanketed her as she sat on the lawn chair in the backyard. It was peaceful there across the countryside. She could hear a dove cooing on top of the roof, and for the moment anyway, she could think clearly. She had been reluctant to allow her mind to actually considering breaking out on her own. Her self-worth was at an all time low, and she sat there crying quietly looking around the overgrown yard. There were empty beer cans strewn around the storage shed, and his tools sat in the tall grass where he had carelessly left them. Outside of his fixation for maintaining a buzz, nothing was worth taking care of. This included his home, his tools, his truck, and his wife. She adjusted her weight on the arm support of the lawn chair and felt pain from a bruise on her forearm from last week's tirade. She mindlessly caressed her arm as she considered what lay before her. Was she even competent at this point to start a new life? She wasn’t sure, but she would rather die than continue on without meaning and purpose.
She heard the truck door slam and its engine fire up as he headed into town for another night of drinking and laughing with “friends”. It was Thursday, so that meant several of his drinking buddies would have been paid from the factory and they would double down on the cold beer. She didn’t know that his friends secretly coveted his life. From their foggy perspective, he seemed to have the world on a string. He had eluded at least that he did some work on the side, but he didn’t bother with a 40 -hour week. He also had married way above his pay grade. His woman was beautiful, and everyone in town seemed to be aware of it but him. There had been countless nights of his chatting up the local bar flies that hung around the same watering hole as him. And he had been successful with more than a few throughout the years. He would unsuccessfully feign an attempt at being a better and more interesting man than he actually was, but deep down he knew he was at his personal worst. The trouble with a man that lives a life of lies is that ever once in a while he accidently passes by a mirror. When a man actually looks into his own eyes, there is rarely an escape from what is true and real. But the mind is a peculiar thing, and his mind had the need to cast blame upon the little woman waiting at home. He would often come home to a clean house, his meal left lovingly on the table, and it would enrage him. It didn’t make sense, so he tried not to think about it. She just seemed too faultless, too squeaky clean for his liking, and it often brought out his worst. Throwing the little “wifey “around the house made him feel strong and empowered. It usually started with a shove on her shoulder when she had failed to properly acknowledge his presence. The feeling of power would shoot through him like lightning, and he had a physical need to backhand her pretty face or throw her into a wall. As she lay there crying, he had laughed and told her she had it coming so many times she had started to believe it.
She put together her scant belongings and put them in her old suitcase from another life when she had had a future. She sat down in the kitchen and listened to the noises the old house made struggling with the late summer heat. It seemed surreal to her that no matter how heavy her heart was, the world and all of her beauty kept turning and churning out another day. When you are broken inside, it’s funny how much the whistle of a bird or the buzz of a katydid can mean to you. It hadn’t been so long ago she had sat in the same chair at the same empty table and truly considered taking her own life. It actually made sense to her, and that was what scared her into the decision to finally leave him. She didn’t have much fight left, but she could still visualize what it would look like to see him in her rear view mirror as she sped off into the evening. What would freedom feel like? What harm could possibly come from giving life one more chance before she checked out into the darkness? All things considered, making it all stop once and for all truly did seem appealing though.
A storm rumbled in from the West as darkness fell. She wouldn’t have paid much attention to it, but on this night, she couldn’t help but believe that the hard rain was a foreshadowing of what was about to take place. Her plan was to state her case and leave with what little dignity she had left. Even she knew that her plan was flimsy at best, but she had spent the better part of the last 15 years trying to find a way to get his attention, touch his heart. Even though she had been defeated long ago, the bitter taste of loss and brokenness was almost overpowering, at least until she heard his truck door slam. At that moment, fear set in, and she began to tremble uncontrollably. She steadied her hands, stood up, and waited for him to come through the side door leading off of the garage. His eyes went from the meal on the kitchen table she had waiting for him, to her. She tried her level best to look defiant and strong. She needed for him to know that she was leaving on her terms and that she was tired of an empty marriage. She wanted him to know that she had been beaten and disillusioned, but she had not been completely conquered. She needed him to know she was strong enough to start her life over and piece together some kind of future. After all, even broken shards of glass could be put back together if you tried hard enough.
He seemed to read her intent as he looked at her with a mocking smile. He was going to enjoy this. He stepped right into her as he landed body blows and grabbed her face with his large hands as if she was a rag doll. She tried to hold her ground and endure the barrage of hits and obscenities. As her knees began to buckle, she could taste her own blood mixed with tears as she looked up to him quietly begging for him to stop the hitting. She winced in pain as he slammed his boot down on top of her hand. He told himself that if this was going to be her last lesson, he had better make sure she remembered it. A fog took over her mind, and she couldn’t even feel his abuse any longer. She went somewhere else instead, somewhere quiet and peaceful. As she lost consciousness, he had become winded and left her limp body lying on the floor like a throw rug.
After some time, she began to come to. She couldn’t open or close her right hand, and her eyes were nearly swollen shut, but she was alive. He had gone to the back of the house and more likely than not passed out. She tried to stand up but took a knee to rest. She felt like she had been through an awful car accident, but she knew in her heart that she would make it. She steadied herself on the arm of the couch and stood up and opened the front door. Her car keys were under the floor mat just in case he had gotten any ideas. The car was in a fluid-like motion as she pulled out into the road for the last time. She had already planned this moment. As a matter of fact, she had charted her escape course out of town. She wanted to be certain that if he attempted to follow her, there would be no way he could find her. Her radio was off, and she could hear the night bugs chattering as she drove through the puddles across the countryside. This new world seemed calm and serene compared to where she had just come from.
She drove through the night in silence while lightning flashed across the sky. As her mind and her heart processed what she had just been through, the rest of her body ached with pain. The swelling around her eyes and mouth had only gotten worse, but she needed to put as much distance between her and him as possible. She wanted to run straight back home to her parents’ house, but she knew she needed to pull herself together and come up with a decisive plan before she talked with them. Her car was pointed due west, and every headlight that appeared in her rear view mirror startled her. A cool rag with some ice would have been helpful, but for now she only wanted to keep moving. Her car had been full when she started her escape, and she hoped to be 400 miles down the road before she stopped for fuel.
She began to relax after several hours following the big trucks through the night on the interstate. As she allowed her grip to loosen on the steering wheel, she realized that she could actually breathe. Far too many years had been wasted on a life without a future. Too much water had been allowed to run under that bridge. The youthful look in her eyes that had held so much promise had been replaced by the glazed-over look of a woman with more than she could handle. She had finally decided to stand up and fight for her own dreams. She fought back tears as she grieved for the years she had given up to be with a man that had resented her very existence. This would be her time now. She had something to offer, things to give. She longed to smile again and be able to laugh at life. What would it be like to not have to live in constant fear? She had been in such deep thought that she had failed to realize that the rain had finally stopped. The car was headed west with a destination not completely known. But the sky was clear, and all she had to do was drive. She was her own woman now that she had finally caught a glimpse of the light.