She made The Mistake five years earlier. She learned of it when he carried her across the threshold and stood her in the arctic entry and she still in her full wedding regalia. The first blow landed on her left cheekbone because he is right-fisted. A few inches in one direction would have fractured her eye orbital. In another, her jaw. In another, her nose. But her zygomatic bone held up. That’s what a cheekbone is called, zygomatic bone, she looked it up later.
That first blow felled her like an inanimate thing—a log, a fence post. She hit the floor hard, on her belly, sliding until she hit the wall. He grabbed her by the hair and the bustle of her gown and in one sweep pulled her away from the wall and flipped her on her side. Down on one knee, he grabbed the gown’s lace bodice with both hands and pulled her upper torso toward him. At first her head lolled and rolled. But her neck was not broken and when she was able to hold her head up she looked into his face.
“Everything will be different from now on,” he said. His voice was matter of fact. His facial expression serious. “Know this. From here on, nothing will be the same.” He stood up. The first kick hit her in the groin. The second on her breast and was hard enough to slide her back against the wall again. Struggling onto all fours. Vomiting. Trying to crawl. By the hair again, this time he pulled her to her feet. Her legs buckled. He let go of her hair and used two fistfuls of her wedding bodice to press her back into the wall, holding her upright. He repositioned his hands so that his left hand grabbed her right bodice and his forearm leaned across her chest—pinning her back into the wall while holding her upright. With his right hand around her throat and under her jaw, he held up her head, forcing her to look at him.
“You ever tell anyone, and I will kill you.” His voice was calm.
Her one eye was already swollen shut. Through the other she could clearly see his face. He was emotionless.
“The police can’t protect you from me.” He was barely winded. She was gasping for air.
“You tell your cunt of a mother and I will slit her throat in front of you,” there was no anger in his voice or on his face.
“You behave yourself and this need not happen again. We will never speak of this again, you hear?” he tightened his hand around her throat.
“Now tell me you understand what I’m saying to you. You don’t tell. You behave yourself. And you’ll be alright. You tell, you make any trouble, and you and everyone you love is dead.” He released the pressure on her throat and then tightened it up again.
“Tell me you understand.”
“I understand,” her voice a hoarse whisper.
“Good.” He let her go and stepped back. She slid down the wall, landing in a seated position, back against the wall, legs splayed out before her.
“Good, then we’re clear. Now clean up this mess,” he waved his hand carelessly toward her and the vomit and blood, and walked away.
Thus she learned of The Mistake.