Finding Home

He was tall and strong and handsome and when he built her the house, she felt "no, thank you" wasn't a phrase she could say in response.

But she hated it, almost from the start, though it was lovely from the outside.

Inside, the windows were blocked off and he locked the doors at night, and most of the time during the day, too.

In the beginning, he told her it was for her protection, so that peering eyes or harsh words from strangers could never disturb her. But she knew that for a lie after the first time he told her, with booze on his breath, that he'd keep her eyes on him and him alone or else.

And with the windows and doors essentially missing, it didn't matter as much when he began to control her tasks and her words in addition to her eyes and her body — there was no one to see or object.

She bore his children and prepared his food and slept in his bed and wore his clothes (though they fit her, he was the one who chose them) and as she did, more and more of what he'd first loved in her drained away until there was too little for him to see.

But, still handsome, he found the spark in another, and then he told her she was trapping him and that she, and the house, must go.

He insisted that all of this was her fault, too — but in one way, she was lucky; he'd never cultivated a taste for violence.

So instead, he dismantled the house around her while she watched.

First he took the doors and windows she never looked outside or ventured through, and she trembled.

Then he began removing the walls, brick by brick, until four pillars holding the roof were all that remained.

"You'd better be gone by the time I'm back tomorrow to take down the roof," he told her as he swung into his truck and drove off to the new house in the new subdivision that he'd built for the new wife (who seemed a lot like the old one in a strange way he didn't want to consider too much).

In her habituation to her surroundings, she'd forgotten how much she disliked her life between the four walls of the house. It wasn't until the rain started falling that she remembered.

The earth smelled green and fresh, and it beckoned her. She left the pillars and the roof and what remained of her life and went walking into it.

She wore no shoes, but the ground was soft with grass and mud, and the air was crisp and clean, and she walked until she could see no lights but the stars overhead.

When the moon rose and shone its light on a cave entrance, she knew it would be there. Inside was a space for her body to rest in a rock hollow, and she curved into it gratefully.

"You never needed him to build you a house," the cave whispered to her as it cradled her, "because I have always been here to shelter you."