Gentleman’s guide to Dinner Etiquette “A gentleman is one who puts more into the world
-The Devil you know
Catch up on episode 5 “Flipped” here
Danny can be the most adorable husband when he is at his very best moment. From the outside theirs was a perfect marriage, yet Julia left no one in doubt with her carriage and poise that hid the pains behind her dual life.
For Danny, emotions were something alien to him, he barely understood his own let alone anyone else’s. Julia was the echo his ego wanted but didn’t need- like eating cake every day. Danny barely showed emotions and it suit Julia just fine.
Their relationship in the first ten years of their 18-year marriage was mutual and respectful. But that was how long the dam held before it broke!
The first slap, seven years ago, had been the worst!
The argument grew from nowhere into a tornado. She hadn’t expected him to be so strong but there was weight and strength enough to stun. Though his hand was empty, it was like being hit with a hunk of meat nonetheless.
Afterward she would endure his words of hatred, all spilling from a man that struggled to profess so much love in his quiet moments of regret.
It was over an argument about their joint savings which was getting depleted faster than it was replenished.
He had challenged her audacity to spend from that account heavily without seeking his consent. She however had no recollection of spending recklessly. The bills rang up, but there was nothing tangible to show for it.
He couldn’t find an explanation for her behavior and so quickly had the house wired up with hidden cameras even in their bedroom. In the end he had over a dozen cameras all over the house. At first he suspected infidelity, but later found no evidence whatsoever to justify his suspicion.
Julia was so stunned by that first slap that she felt all shades of emotions in a flash; Shock, fear, sadness, pity, anger, rage and then finally hate!
She felt that every facet of her personality had been denigrated and shunned. She felt less than nothing, not even as loved as an object to be used. And with this they both turned blind to each other’s good hearts and started laying the works for building “communication” barricades instead of bridges.
It was like being a child all over again for Julia. She had watched her mother go through a similar situation in her growing years.
As Danny continued the emotional and physical abuse mostly when he returned from work and during the few times he was home during the weekend, Julia found solace in whiskey. The same brand her dad had taken the day she ended his misery.
The physical abuse came in droves, sometimes twice a month, but many times every week.
At first she had the whiskey bottle stashed away in the kitchen cabinets and then later disguised innocently in her children’s disused water bottles and then concealed in several locations in and around the house- smack in between the settee, sometimes in the guest toilet, right inside the abandoned washing machine and even underneath the bath tub.
The emotional stress and anxiety coupled with her unusual history of alcohol abuse was all it took to trigger her alternate personality.
Her transition into Stephanie was at first quite temporal and she would have a change of voice tone, a penchant to dress up, an aggravated sexual behavior and a totally carefree and outgoing personality.
She would take long walks to the mall, have drinks with strangers, visit the salon to have her hair done, shop for exotic lingerie and dine in the fanciest restaurant downtown dressed up as a pretty-faced young 29 year old lady.
With every passing week, her personality state transition happened for longer periods. Months down the line, the personality split occurred more often even when she took less alcohol.
As Danny fussed about her spending habits, it deepened her stress and forced her into more daring spending tactics, till he cut her off the joint accounts and she had less cash to play around with.
She seldom had any memory of whatever transpired during that state. That itself was a fortunate relieve for her.
She didn’t have to bother about how she behaved or what she did. She would get away with just about anything same way she did years ago but with bloodied hands.
When Danny found out about his wife’s “alter”, he was totally confused. He had returned from work to find Julia asleep in the bedroom but dressed up like a “slut”, her face bearing all shades of an over-done make-up, her nails painted in the most daring colors and her feet nicely tucked into the finest high heels he had ever seen on her.
For a moment, he thought she looked far prettier than the Julia he remembered, but this here must be an impostor. Her breath reeked of alcohol and she appeared to be in deep slumber.
He woke her up violently with a combination of slaps using both his hands while yelling her name repeatedly. She opened her eyes slowly and appeared incoherent for a moment, as though snapping out of a trance with absolutely no clue what she had been about.
The next few weeks had her undergoing psychotherapy with cognitive behavioral therapy at the teaching hospital in Ikeja. Danny was not taking chances.
She was also placed on a dual treatment of drug therapy to stop the personality fragmentation.
Danny showed genuine concern and stayed by her side through the months of treatment. He only wanted his wife back. He preferred her default personality that was passive, conservative, prim and proper and well organized. His life was already in turmoil as her treatment progressed each week.
Soon their kids caught on the issues and struggled to understand why their mum was unusually docile and sickly. It was a trying time that Danny couldn’t wait to get over with. The burden of work, the kids and her treatment was irritable enough to keep him busy for a lifetime.
With the treatment, Julia treated everyone like they were too frightening to get close to. She interacted of course, she laughed and joked sometimes, she would even make nice gestures from time to time. But ask her a personal question and she would recoil faster than a snapped high-tension spring. After that you’d be in her no-friend zone for a while, isolated until you learnt your lesson.
Soon, they both had fewer friends and the ones that dared come close enough thought there was indeed something strangely off about Julia. The persons she met with or interacted with depended a lot on who Danny was comfortable with and never in his absence.
She attempted suicide; twice slitting her wrist but not long enough to bleed out before Danny found out from his view of the camera coverage in the bedroom on one occasion and then sent medic over to the house ahead of his arrival from the office. The second time was in his presence during another of their many spats.
Within six months, her mental health was deemed to have improved markedly. Her doctors reduced the frequency of her visits but continued her drug therapy. She was never to miss her pills- at least not for prolonged periods.
In no time, she was now her bubbly old self and her life returned to “normal”. Danny found respite thankfully and then channeled his energy back to his job.
Then Julia started missing her pills.
At first she had some sort of genuine excuse which she offered herself- mostly forgetfulness. She would then reproach herself for missing her dose and keep to the routine for a few more days.
When she tasted whiskey again, she told herself, “It could have been water in the glass cup” It wasn’t and she knew it.
The whisky turned down the volume on her thoughts. It brought memories of the good times not so far past. Memories that had her living her life with reckless abandon. And in that moment she was there and yet not there, existing in two perfect moments. It was an exhilarating feeling, one that she let herself dwell in rather than think.
It wasn’t long before Stephanie found her voice again. Only this time, she had learnt to be better discrete about her episodes when she snapped out of it.
Danny had no clue what she was about. He was buried deep in work and failed to notice the signs this time.
Only this time, Stephanie had morphed into a lady with an exaggerated sense of self-preservation. She had come to stay.
Stephanie found warmth, not just in Alex’s arm, but healing for her troubled self while in his company.
After the entanglement at the resort months earlier, Alex and Stephanie had continued a secret relationship that was fueled by primal sexual yearning, so strong that in 6 months, it felt like they only just met.
Unlike their first encounter, she was Stephanie when they met and Stephanie when they kissed goodbye.
Stephanie found Alex’s sexual prowess so irresistible.
His body and muscle tone were carved beautifully for lovemaking. His eyes were like two rare gems, each time more beautiful with every glance. She would get lost just staring at them. His touches were like soothing notes, making every cell in her body tingle and pop with excitement. Being with him felt like a refuge from all the years of abuse she had lived through her entire life.
With him, her heart beat erratically in her chest, so hard that she thought it might just fly out. There were butterflies – no, lions – in her chest, but it felt good.
Alex was everything her husband wasn’t. He was ever charming, with a smile that disarmed her and she was attracted to him with the kind of heady trance that brings a butterfly to nectar.
What Alex had not envisaged was how it soon blossomed into not just a full romantic but emotional relationship. He understood perfectly that Stephanie was everything Julia was not and he felt no guilt being with her, despite knowing she was married to his closest friend.
She was different. Not anything like the women he had always been with even in the States. He liked her. Strangely so. He felt a need to protect her from herself and most especially from his friend who was not tolerant of Julia’s alter.
She was everything he wanted in his women.
He noticed the dark patches under her eyes and the occasional eye bags she hid underneath her sunglasses. “Danny is a beast and a coward!” Alex concluded.
“What kind of man beats his wife to pulp over anything?”
He promptly got Stephanie a mobile handset and she was only to use this when she had a pressing need to contact him. He didn’t want her taking chances and getting careless. She was to call him only and was to send no text, SMS or social media. All she was to do was to reach out to him whenever she was chanced.
They met almost every other day of the week when Danny was busy at work. Never at either of their homes. They were far too discrete to give away the slightest inkling of anything between them.
For the second time in her life she found peace again. And it was with Alex. The first was when she courted and married Danny almost two decades ago!
As their relationship blossomed, she started to confide more in Alex. Her fears, her worries and her wish. It wasn’t long before she started to share the sordid details of her life with Alex. Every detail. None spared.
And Alex knew he had to take a position. He couldn’t stand to watch her suffer so much pain. She deserved better.
When he thought about it later, he decided it had to be a carefully hatched plan and nothing could go amiss.
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