Disclaimer: this is a work of fiction. Any names or characters, businesses or places, events or incidents, are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
I stepped out of my black 2017 Mercedes Benz G550 truck and adjusted my red and black Givenchy dress. I made my way into the studio, heading to my daughter’s dance recital. My red Christian Louboutin’s clicked on the floors as my 7A grade Brazilian straight virgin swung with each step. Men fawned at my confident stride while women calculated how much I was wearing. From head to toe, I was wearing more money than some people earned-at my husband’s insistence. I was used to the stares; I know they were secretly jealous of my life. The money my husband made, the cars we owned, our house, the name brand clothes I dressed my daughter in…I was the envied because I am married to Byron Myers.
Byron is a successful lawyer here in Atlanta but it hasn’t always been like this. We met in undergrad at Georgia State and Byron charmed me into believing in his dream of being a lawyer. I was so in love with him that if he would have told me the sky was green I would have believed him. After graduating, I worked two and three jobs to help get him through law school. Money was so tight, we ate hot pockets and ramen noodles a few times a week. Even after the first few years of him practicing law, we were still struggling to make ends meet. When Byron, won his first big case, word traveled fast around town. The next thing I knew, Byron was representing big names in Atlanta and became the go-to entertainment lawyer in the city. After that, money wasn’t an issue for us.
Since I supported Byron for years, he “rewarded me” with a fairy tale, larger than life wedding. We spent close to $350,000 on our day; my dress alone was cost more than some people pay for their entire wedding, reception and all. Because Byron represented some of the biggest names in entertainment, our wedding was a star-studded event and we had to make sure everything was top of the line. It was then that I recognize the change in Byron. Maybe he’d always been like this but I didn’t see it. Instead of the wedding being about how much we loved each other, it became a show. It’s been five years and people still talk about the glitz and glam of our wedding day. Any man that would drop that kind of dough to make his bride happy had to be in love, they reasoned.
Five minutes into the show, Byron finally arrived to his daughter’s recital. Without a doubt, he would tell me he was working late, which I learned not to complain about. I didn’t want to sit through another “my money funds your lifestyle” lecture. He leaned over to kiss my cheek. “Hey beautiful, sorry I’m late,” he announced. I wondered why this Byron couldn’t stick around for more than a few minutes.
I smiled at Byron before returning my attention to our daughter, Brynn, perform with her dance troupe. She looked so adorable in her little pink and purple dance uniform. I was so into the performance of seven and eight year olds and I was so proud of the solo she had. Although brief, Brynn did wonderful on her part. I glanced at Byron to see his reaction to her solo but instead of watching his daughter, he was on his phone. He didn’t even see it.
After the show, he donned his father of the year routine and presented Brynn with roses. Of course, she was excited with all the attention but I wish she knew that her father was late and didn’t even pay attention. I also knew better than to say anything like that out loud. Byron asked me to take a picture of them with his phone and I knew some lame post was coming.
Just as I expected, Byron posted the photo and tagged me in it. The caption made me want to gag.
Supporting Daddy’s baby on her big night! My princess performed like an angel and I couldn’t be more proud! If no one else supports her, she will know her Daddy is her number one fan!
Byron’s “followers” ate those posts up. In 15 minutes, he had 4,000 likes and 120 comments. I scrolled through a few of the comments and rolled my eyes at some of them.
We need more black fathers like you #Salute
This is definitely #Goals for when I have a daughter
Autumn Myers is so blessed to have a husband that loves her and her daughter. I can’t wait to find a love like this! #RelationshipGoals
I turned off the notifications in disgust because people didn’t really know Byron; they only knew what he posted.
At home, I got Brynn ready for bed and her father went to his man cave to watch Sports Center. I went to our room to take a shower and get ready for bed. I didn’t want to be awake if he wanted to argue tonight but I had no such luck. Byron stormed in our room and snatched the covers off me. I knew this act all too well: when he was in a good mood earlier in the day but wanted to get out of the house at night, he accused me of cheating to start an argument.
“Whose number is 555-125-6985?” he asked.
“I don’t know, honey. Why do you ask?” I said as calmly as I could while reaching for the covers.
“Don’t play dumb with me. You called this number three times today. Who is he, Autumn?” he raised his voice and my heart thumped in my chest.
I tried to remember who I talked to today but that number wasn’t registering. “I think it may be Brynn’s dance teacher. Let me check my phone so I can see.” My voice was shaky and I couldn’t hide the fear in my eyes. I grabbed my phone off the night stand and scrolled through my call log. “Yeah, that was Brynn’s dance teacher.”
I showed Byron my phone and knew that was big mistake. He knocked my phone out of my hand and was inches from my face. “WHY THE HELL ARE YOU LYING? WHO THE HELL IS HE AUTUMN?”
By now I was shaking and crying. “Who is he? I told you it was Brynn’s dance teacher!”
Byron grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet and without warning, he slapped me. As Byron’s palm connected with my face, I fell to the ground. Immediately he was on me, kicking and punching me. I balled up trying to defend myself against his blows. I learned years ago not to scream too loud because I didn’t want my daughter to see this. After a minute, he got tired and sat on the bed, breathing hard, unbothered by my moans and crying.
“I don’t know why you lie to me. I don’t know why you make me do this. But let me find out you’ve been cheating on me.”
And with that, Byron left the house, leaving me sore and bloody.
Most of the time when Bryon hit me, it was over something stupid, something that he convinced himself to be true. If I told anyone about the way Byron beat me, they’d never believe me. They would swear I was making it up. Byron was a family man. Byron was a loving husband. Byron and I were relationship goals.
People saw our house, the cars, the clothes I wore, his posts about how much he loved his family and wished they could be me. They saw the roses he sent me but didn’t know it was because he kicked my ass the day before. They saw the new truck he bought me but didn’t know it was because I found out about his affair. They saw my new iPhone 7 but didn’t know it was because he threw my old phone out the window. They saw our annual family pictures but didn’t know we had to postpone them by a week because he gave me a black eye the day before our session. They saw me post and tag him in statuses because if I didn’t, people would assume we weren’t happy. And above all, Byron was concerned with appearances more than truth.
Two months later, I ended up in the hospital with a broken arm and two broken ribs. He’d never hurt me like that before. I was tired of being his punching bag and tried to fight back. He didn’t take too kindly to me hitting him. No one believed Byron did this without being provoked. According to social media, I was labeled as unstable. I was surprised at the number of women that defended him, even though I was the one in the hospital. All because Byron said I attacked him. Since it was on the internet, it had to be true.
Lying in the hospital, I realized I couldn’t keep living like this. My daughter didn’t need to see me like this, abused by her father. When I was released, I took my daughter and ran with nothing but the clothes on my back. I moved to Augusta with my sister and tried to piece my life together. Being in an abusive marriage for years had taken its toll on me and I needed peace. I deleted all of my social media because I couldn’t keep reading about how I was a disgrace to black women; instead of supporting my man, I was bringing him down. I was criticized for not letting Byron see his daughter. I was crucified online by complete strangers. People that didn’t know me, people that saw a picture and read a post were now experts of my life.
Six months after I left him, my sister showed me Byron’s post about his new woman. I recognized her as someone that would always comment and like anything he posted. Looking at her standing next to my husband, I recognized the emptiness in her eyes. I recognized the fake smile. And Byron’s smug face told me he hadn’t changed at all. I wondered how long it took her to realize the grass is always greener on social media. Always.