The plates lay on the earthen ground, in a thousand different pieces, her feet bloodstained

She desperately wanted to pick them, so the baby would not crawl over them and get hurt

But her hands were shaking, her head not steady, her heart heavy enough to touch the ground

What is a woman to do when the vows are broken? When the very hands that should shield her

Are the very hands that almost kill her; when her defender is her prosecutor, her accuser

He came in staggering, a bottle in hand, as if the twenty before had not sufficed

He showed the door no mercy, as he nearly broke its hinges on the way in

The house was tiny and his voice filled every corner, including the corner of the neighbour’s house

He started with his usual complaints; where is my food, where are my slippers, why is the house so dirty

The food was right there in a hotpot, the slippers by his feet, the house spotless

She dared not say a word, but obediently did as he asked; she was a good wife

With every move she made, she prayed; that the beast would not come out that night

That instead, her king would share her company, that he would ask about her day

She was too busy building up her perfect man in her head that she did not hear when he spoke

He was now hurling at her, because he wanted a glass of water

She quickly got up before he could lay a hand on her, to fetch the glass of water

Her hands were shaking when she placed it on the stool beside him

Some of the water spilled to his feet

Before she could get over her shock, his hands were on her face, again and again and again

Until she could not see properly, she could barely hear his raging voice over her beating heart

Her nose and her jaw felt out of place, she was bleeding but she did not know from where

Tears covered her face and their warmth soothed her burning cheeks

She had learned not to complain, not to scream, because the beast’s punishment would only worsen

But punishment for what; what was her sin; what wrong had she done that deserved this

Surely not even an animal’s misconduct could warrant such wrath; such ferociousness

He pushed her aside when he was done with her, and she fell over the few plates they had left

As the sound of breaking plates filled the tiny house, her heart broke in already broken places

Her body was weak, her mind tired, her will beaten down

But she needed to clean up, lest the children awoke; though she knew they were already awake but were too scared to get out of bed

Then the thought crossed her mind, a thought that had been clawing at her for weeks now

The more she thought about it, the more she realized that this was the time

Something had to give; it was either her or him

He always took a heavy nap after his beastly activities, before the sun shone for the new day to begin

She would prey on him then, when he was weak, when he would feel her wrath

Her mind was racing and her hands and feet found new strength

Her heartbeat was strong, it now had a purpose

At the back of her mind, she thought of her children, would they grow without a father?

Who would buy their food, their clothes, their precious books; who would be their protector?

She did not have enough time to answer all these questions because his blood was now on her hands, it felt warm and soothing just like the tears had on her swollen face, for as long as she could remember

She had stabbed him with the kitchen knife, the knife that had prepared all his food

Food for which he had never shown an ounce of gratitude, never said thank you

Food that had on most nights ended up on her face or some other part of her body

As he threw the plate at her; she was now smiling, her check hurt like hell but she was smiling

She had forgotten what it felt like to smile; when joy moved from the heart to the rest of the body

She had seen the life go out of his eyes, heard him choke to his death as blood filled his lungs

His tobacco-filled lungs that always seemed to have a large enough capacity to hurl insults

Insults that lasted the whole night, along with other beastly activities

She did not move but stared at his lifeless body, a body that just a few moments ago had seemed strong enough to kill a tiger

But now she could have the last laugh, because people do not laugh in their graves

Her teacher once told her that he that laughs last laughs best, but it was she that was laughing

And now she thought of her children, how she would care for them, love them, nurture them

She needed a job, she needed money; she would finally put her education to use

With a Masters degree from a university abroad, she could have worked for the government

Bitter memories began to choke her but she swallowed that saliva, that terribly bitter saliva

She was not going to pity herself, nor dwell on the past; it was time to move on

As the sun was coming up, it reflected into the room through the windows by the corner

She knew exactly where she was going to start and what she was going to do

She had found her light! But she needed to clean herself up and tidy the living room

Then she would wake the kids and get them packed; they did not have much anyway

They were going to leave on the first bus out of the village, leave that wretched life

Besides, nobody liked the smell of a rotting body!