Chapter Ten

     They were expected at Philip's parents for Christmas
Eve dinner, her first as part of his family.  But after what she
had seen the day before, she didn't feel much like celebrating. 
When Philip came home yesterday, she had been in the attic,
reflecting on her life with Sam.  She felt so good about those
times, she just couldn't bring herself to deal with Philip's
'indiscretion'.  Now, it was Christmas Eve, and she didn't want
to ruin it for his mother.  She knew that the older woman
would have worked all day to prepare the perfect meal and
would be heartbroken if everyone wasn't there.
     Philip had commented on her lack of enthusiasm,
considering the festive season, but she had made up some
excuse about having a headache.  She was sure, she had said,
that once she got to his parents, she would feel better.  He
seemed geniunely concerned, whether because he didn't want
her to feel bad, or because he didn't want to put on a bad show
for his parents, she wasn't sure.  She had almost told him to go
on his own, but knew he would never allow that.  So she
dressed in the outfit he bought for her especially for Christmas,
he had brought it home with him the day before.  She forced a
happy face over the one she really felt like wearing.  She had
placed the wedding ring set from Sam back into her jewelery
box.  If Philip had seen her wearing them, there would have
been a terrible fight, and she wasn't ready to handle that.
     She had wanted to bring something, contribute to the
meal, but his mother wouldn't allow it.  Christmas, it seemed,
was her time to cook all day and night, without any help from
anyone.  From what Donna had seen at the other family
gatherings this past year, that was all his mother did.  Cook,
clean, wait on his father.  Donna couldn't remember her ever
mentioning having a job outside the home, which is where
Philip probably got his idea that she shouldn't work.
     At first, she didn't mind, but now she was ready to do
more than just play 'happy housewife'.  She had a brain, a
rather brilliant one at that, and she wanted to use it again.  She
hadn't mentioned it to Philip yet.  First she wanted to see what
was out there for her.  She had begun to contact a few old
friends from Project Star Bright, to see if they knew if there
were any openings where they currently were, or of anything
coming up.  Although everyone wished her well, no one really
knew of anything.  Government cutbacks again.  Two people,
doing the job of five, at the salary of one.  At least, that's what
they'd told her in their letters.
     But after catching Philip playing at his new game, she
was even more determined to get back to work, and not just as
somebody's secretarial 'girl Friday'.  She wanted back into
scientific research.  Or was it the vision of Sam that had put the
living back into my life?
     They drove along the street that led to his parents'
home.  Donna watched the lights on each house, imaging the
joy within.  Children excited about Santa's imminent visit,
parents trying to hustle them off to bed, grandpas good
naturedly adding to the hysteria by inciting the youngsters,
while grandmas admonished them, everyone enjoying the
revelry.  Everyone, except her.  Before long, they turned into
the driveway of the home of Gene and Bonnie Brecknall.  This
house, too, showed an exterior of seasonal bliss.  What it held
inside, the outside world never saw.
     She stepped from the car, her feet touching on the
pavement of the driveway.  It was warm in San Bernadino this
Christmas Eve.  She hadn't seen a white Christmas since the
last time she and Sam had gone home to the farm, the year
before his mother had sold it.  She remembered how much it
pained Sam to know that he would never be able to run through
the fields of his childhood  not that he had actually been
home in the summer to do just that for a very long time  but
it still wounded him to see his childhood sold to the highest
bidder.  [Check timeframe of sale of farm to debt?]
     "Come on, Donna.  Mom's at the window watching us. 
Get it in gear."  So much for the compassion he had shown her
earlier when he thought she wasn't well.  Seeing that Philip had
already gotten the other gifts from the trunk, she reached back
into the car and removed the gift she had bought especially for
Bonnie  a cut glass crystal vase.  It was a gift just from her,
not Philip.  She had felt that everything seemed to be given to
either both his parents or just his father, so she had wanted to
make a special effort to centre her out.  She had also bought a
bouquet of flowers, knowing that Bonnie wouldn't have such
luxuries on hand.  Closing the car door, she started towards the
sidewalk that lead to the front porch.  As she glanced back, she
realized how strange Philip's brand new expensive car looked
in this middle class neighbourhood.
     Bonnie Brecknall opened the door with her usual
semi-enthusiasm.  She never seemed fully happy with her life,
even at times when everyone around her was, and at that
moment, Donna resolved not to let her life end up being like
this woman's.  "Philip, Donna.  Merry Christmas.  I'm so glad
you made it.  We were beginning to worry."
     "I wasn't worried.  Knew you'd make it just fine."  The
condescending voice of Gene Brecknall rang from the
livingroom, barely making it over the sound of the television. 
No matter what the occasion, the tv was always on in this
house.  Maybe tonight he'll turn it off, or at least maybe Philip
will, she thought to herself.
     "Merry Christmas, mom," Philip said, bending to give
his mother a kiss on the cheek.  "Dad."  He barely
acknowledged his father, even on holidays.  Philip walked into
the livingroom and placed the gifts they had brought under the
tree.  "What's on?  Anything good?"  He sat down on the sofa,
not even bothering to remove his jacket.
     "Nah.  Your mother likes to watch 'It's A Wonderful
Life' every year.  Not like she hasn't seen it a million times by
now, but I figure what the heck.  It's only once every three
hundred and sixty-five days."  How gracious of you, Donna
thought as she stepped in from the hallway.  Her gift to Bonnie
still in her hands.  "Wanna beer?", Gene said, draining the last
of what was left in his bottle.
     "Yeah, sure."
     "Bonnie!  Your son would like a beer, and get me one,
     Philip's mother immediately turned towards the kitchen,
but Donna cut in.  "It's okay, Bonnie, I'll get them.  You're
probably busy enough."  With Gene's back to her, Donna gave
him a look of exasperation, then followed her mother-in-law
into the kitchen.  The smell of the roasting turkey, together
with the stuffing, vegetables and pies, reminded her of when
she was a little girl and she and her mother would go to her
grandmother's for Christmas dinner.  There wasn't much back
then, but the love was plentiful.  Unlike this house.  [Check
againt "Star-Crossed" re: Donna's father.]
     She placed the flowers and the box containing the vase
on the table, then walked to the refrigerator.  Removing two
bottles of beer, she reached for a glass.  Philip always took his
beer, when he drank any, in a glass.  Drinking from the bottle
was so, 'middle class', in his words.  While her mother-in-law
began to fill the serving bowls, she took the beer into the
livingroom, handing the glass to Philip and the bottle to Gene. 
Neither one acknowledged the act before she turned and headed
back into the kitchen.
     "Bonnie, I brought you something.  It's a gift, from me
to you."  She pushed the box slightly, indicating that it was to
be opened now.
     "Oh, Donna, you shouldn't have.  Really.  You and
Philip already buy us too much."  The sincerity in her voice
sounded genuine, unlike that which she knew would come later
from Gene.
     "I know, but I wanted to give you something, just from
me.  Philip isn't a part of this.  Open it.  Please."
     Bonnie looked at Donna, as if wanted reassurance that
it was okay, then, wiping her hands on the bottom of her apron,
slowly stepped towards the table.  With hesitant hands, she
unwrapped the package, being careful not the tear the paper. 
When she finally opened the box and removed the vase, tears
began to form in her eyes.  "Donna, it's beautiful.  You
shouldn't have.  Really.  It's far too expensive."  Her voice
shook with restrained emotion.  You would think that no one
has ever given her anything before, Donna thought, but then,
remembering just who her father-in-law was, it didn't surprise
     "Here," she said, picking up the bundle of flowers,
trying to break the uncomfortable silence that was forming,
"let's put these flowers in it.  Then we can set it on the
diningroom table as a centrepiece."
     "Would you mind doing it, dear?  I've still got plenty to
do and ..."
     "Sure," she said, taking the vase, then filling it with
tapwater, placed the flowers in it, arranging them slightly.  She
stepped out into the diningroom and placed the vase in the
centre of the table, which was already set for dinner for four. 
"I guess Ben's not coming.  Surprise."  She hadn't seen Philip's
brother since their wedding.  He always managed to find
something else to do, or have somewhere else to go whenever
family gatherings arose.  Today, instead of scorning him, she
envied him.  He protected his wife from this family.
     Brushing away her negative thoughts, she returned to the
kitchen.  Bonnie had already placed everything into their proper
serving dishes and was cutting the turkey.  "Anything I can
do?", she asked, knowing what the answer would be.
     "No, dear.  Everything's nearly ready.  All that needs
to be done is to carve the turkey, then get it on the dinner table
and call the troups."
     Donna began to take the bowls overflowing with
assorted vegetables into the diningroom, allowing Bonnie to
carve the turkey.  She felt useless in this house, Philip's mother
always had everything under control, but she always offered to
help.  Philip had once told her that it was his mother's job to
take care of everything, a statement that had shocked her.  'So
long as you don't expect me to do everything by myself,' was
her reply.  'Of course not.  I'll hire a maid.'  His answer to
everything menial ... have someone else do it.
     As she bent to light the candles, Bonnie appeared
carrying the tray of white and brown meat.  "There,
everything's finally ready.  Do you want to get the men?  Then
we can start.  I'll just get the wine."
     Obliging, Donna stuck her head into the livingroom.  To
her surprise, the television was turned off.  Then she noticed
that the remote control sat beside Philip, out of reach of his
father.  Philip hated watching television, unless it was
something he found interesting.  It seemed that he was the one
person who could control his father.  Perhaps his extra two
inches in height and younger, stronger physique had something
to do with it, but whatever the reason, she was grateful.  Philip
was telling his father about his latest big client.  Gene's face
held it's usual 'I'm bored' look, his eyes wandering the room,
looking everywhere but at his son, but Philip kept talking,
trying to impress him.  He worked hard at trying to impress
everyone, as if no one would like him unless he proved himself
worth liking.  "Dinner's ready."  Two male faces turned
towards her, surprised to be interrupted by another voice. 
"Everything's on the table."
     Her father-in-law stood up, obviously relieved to have
been saved from Philip's ongoing discourse.  "About time. 
Let's eat."  Gene Brecknall could turn a state dinner with the
Queen into a backwoods barbeque, she thought, but kept the
smile on her face as the two men rose from their usual positions
in the livingroom and sauntered into the diningroom.  Bonnie
was just pouring the wine when the three took their places at
the table.
     Gene immediately sat the head and placed his beer bottle
on the table with a thud.  Philip, ever the gentleman, pulled the
chair out, first for his mother, then for Donna.  Sometimes, he
just amazes me, changing from one mood to another without
even blinking.  Gene had already begun stabbing at the plate of
turkey when Philip spoke up.  "Shouldn't we say grace, first." 
His mother looked thankful, as she lowered her head.  "Mom."
     "For what we are about to receive, may we be truly
grateful.  Amen."  It was the only prayer she had ever learned,
and it was what Bonnie Brecknall said every time she was
called on to say grace.
     "Can I eat now?" grumbled Gene, not waiting for an
     "Everything looks wonderful, mom.  You've outdone
yourself again," Philip chimed, reaching for the potatoes.
     "Thank you, Philip.  I do so love cooking Christmas
dinner."  She held a bowl out to Donna.  "Carrots?"
     "Yes, thank you," she replied, taking the bowl and
placing a few on her plate.  She didn't feel much like eating
tonight, but would make some effort.  She didn't want Bonnie
to think she didn't appreciate all her hard work.
     "Where'd that thing come from?" Gene snarled, stabbing
the air with his potato-covered fork towards the vase, leaving
a trail of gravy splatters across the tablecloth.
     "Donna gave that to me, in the kitchen."  Bonnie spoke
in low tones, as if not wanting to answer, but knowing she had
     Donna came to her rescue.  "I wanted to give a special
gift to my charming mother-in-law, just from me to her."
     "Hrmph," was the only reply elicited from Gene.  She
saw that Bonnie's head was dipped low over her plate.  Poor
woman.  She can't even enjoy a gift without that man making
some sort of comment.  The table fell silent as they ate,
silverware making contact with china being the only sound.
     "So, where's Ben and Marcia?" Philip asked, knowing
exactly what the answer would be.
     Bonnie opened her mouth to reply, but Gene beat her to
the punch.  "Seems he found something better to do tonight. 
Probably at her parents again."  The hurt showed in Bonnie's
eyes.  She kept her head low so no one would see, but Donna
knew without looking at her she felt wounded by her younger
son's absence.
     "He called this afternoon to wish us, and you two, a
Merry Christmas.  He said he'd try to drop by tomorrow, for
sure," she said weakly.  She's always trying to defend her
children to that man.
     Gene Brecknall snarled, "It'll be a different kind of
miracle if he does.  Maybe if I go out, he'll come by."  You
can't even be civil on Christmas Eve, you miserable bastard.
     "Gene, please, it's Christmas Eve."  Donna was
surprised to hear her mother-in-law speak these words, her
manner usually being subservient.
     "Please, what.  You know damn well that the only
reason Ben ever shows up here is because of you.  He'd
probably come around more often if I wasn't alive."  His eyes
turned towards Philip.  "Same goes for you."
     Donna could see Philip trying to maintain control. 
"Dad, I, we come to see both of you.  Don't we, hon?"
     "Uh, yes, of course.  We love to see both of you,"
Donna added hastily, only just realizing she had been included
in the impending argument.  Keep me out of this.
     "Yeah, right," Gene sneered.  "Then why is it we only
see you on holidays ... Easter, Thanksgiving."
     "Because I'm very busy in my law practice, dad.  I have
to devote a great deal of time to it.  Any spare time I do have,
I spent with Donna.  After all, she is my wife."  Spare time
with me?  When was the last time we even went out to see a
movie?  But she kept her thoughts to herself.  His parents home
was not the place to air her hurt and anger.
     "Would anybody like some coffee?"  The plaintive
sound came from Bonnie.  Donna had actually forgot the
woman was even in the room, she was so quiet.
     Donna, thankful for the break in the heated exchange,
removed her napkin from her lap and pushed her chair from the
table.  "I'll get it."
     "No, it's okay, dear.  I'll get it."  Bonnie also stood.
     "Then I'll start to clear the table.  Everyone is done,
aren't they?"  Her voice was strained, her attempt at holding in
her amotions almost a losing battle.
     "Not yet," Gene grumbled, stabbing at another piece of
turkey.  "Now, I'm done."
     Donna picked up a few bowls and followed her mother-
in-law into the kitchen, placing them onto the table.  Bonnie
busied herself preparing coffee, not making conversation or eye
contact with Donna, who had returned twice more with the
remnants of the evening's meal.
     "Bonnie, I'm sorry.  Philip shouldn't be prodding Gene
on like that.  He knows what will happen, especially when
Gene's been drinking."
     Bonnie half-turned from her position at the counter.  The
coffeemaker gurgled, the first sounds of coffee dripping into the
pot.  "It's alright, dear.  Philip is the only one who can control
his father."
     "Bonnie," Donna began hesitantly, "I need to ask you a
question.  Something's happened that I need to discuss with,
well, with another woman."  She wrung her hands into a tight
     Bonnie's face showed her concern.  "What is it, dear?"
     "I ... oh, just forget it."  She turned away, but Bonnie
touched her shoulder.
     "Donna, what is it?"
     "Philip ...".  She didn't know how to tell her that her
son was an adulterer.
     "Donna?"  Bonnie's eyes became her own mother's eyes
 loving, caring.  She began to cry.  Mothering arms
surrounded her.  "Whatever it is, it can't be that bad.  You've
only been married ten months."
     She gathered herself, more upset at her outburst than
Philip.  Bonnie released her hold on her long enough to reach
across the countertop to the box of tissues that was always
there.  She handed it to Donna.  Sitting in a chair at the kitchen
table, she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, slowly stemming the
flow.  Bonnie sat and waited patiently.  She placed her hands
in her lap, her eyes centring on their task of pulling at the
     "Yesterday, when I was at the mall, I saw ... Philip. 
He was ... with ... another woman."  There, she'd said it. 
Looking up at her mother-in-law, she was surprised at the blank
look.  "They weren't just out for lunch.  I overheard them
talking.  They're having an affair."  She couldn't say anymore.
     "Well, dear, you know it's very common for a man to
seek ... comfort ... outside the home."
     Donna looked up into the face of the older woman. 
"What?"  It was a whispered question and a statement at the
same time.
     "It's quite natural, really.  You shouldn't let it upset you
this much."
     "What?"  Her voice became louder.
     "Gene's always stepped out on me.  I never let it bother
me and you shouldn't let it bother you."  Bonnie stood,
stepping away from the table and returning to the counter.
     Donna couldn't believe what she was hearing.  In this
day and age, this woman fully believed what she was saying.
     "You can't seriously believe that it's okay for any
married man, or woman for that matter, to have an affair."
     Bonnie looked back to her.  "Certainly, dear.  My father
did it.  My husband does it, or at least did.  It's only natural." 
That phrase again.
     "It is not 'natural'.  My father never cheated on my
mother.  They were so in love.  That's the kind of marriage I
should have."  The kind I did have, with Sam.  [Confirm re:
     "Well then, I think they were the exception and not the
rule.  It's been my experience that most people marry because
it's better than being lonely for the rest of your life."  She
turned back away, her hand reaching up into the open cupboard
above her head and removed four cups and saucers and dessert
plates.  As Bonnie's dress hem rose, Donna was sure she saw
faint purple spots on the backs of her mother-in-law's legs, one
on each at the exact same place.  Before she could be sure,
Bonnie's arms came back down, lowering the hem to its proper
     "I've made apple and pumpkin pies.  That should be
enough for dessert.  Why don't you get the whipped cream
from the fridge, and I'll get the pies.  They're warming in the
     Donna knew that she would get no support from her
mother-in-law.  She had lived her entire life believing that men
were supposed to, expected to, have affairs.  She dropped the
subject.  Standing, she reached towards the refrigerator and
opened the door.  Bonnie moved towards the stove, bending as
she opened the oven door.  As she turned, whipped cream bowl
in her hand, Bonnie's back was towards her.  It was then that
she saw the bruises on the backs of Bonnie's legs.  Not just
one, but several large ones.  They were all in the exact same
place on both legs, as if she had been shoved hard against
something.  Donna placed the bowl on the table, then
approached her mother-in-law as she stood up, closing the oven
     "Bonnie, what happened?"
     "About what?"  She could tell by the tone in her voice
that Bonnie knew exactly what she was talking about.
     "About the backs of your legs.  What happened?"
     Bonnie gave a small, cautious laugh.  "Oh, that.  I was
vacuuming the livingroom and didn't see the footstool behind
me.  I tripped over it and fell into Gene's chair.  That's all."
     Donna didn't buy her answer.  "Bonnie, those bruise
patterns aren't consistent with your story.  They're too high to
be the footstool or Gene's chair.  What really happened."  It
wasn't a question, it was a statement.  She wanted an answer.
     "I told you, I fell.  Just leave it at that, will you." 
Bonnie turned away and reached for the knife sitting beside the
     Donna approached her, standing so close that Bonnie
had no place to go.  Bonnie cowered slightly, causing Donna to
step back.  "Bonnie."
     "Donna, it's nothing.  Really."
     Grabbing her by the shoulders, Donna spun her mother-
in-law to face her, but the look of physical pain on the older
woman's face made her release her grip.  "Where else, Bonnie. 
Your arms, shoulders, back.  Where else."
     "Where else, what?"  She didn't want to speak out loud
the words she knew Donna wanted to hear.
     "Where else are you bruised.  Where else has Gene hit
     Bonnie feigned surprise.  "Gene doesn't beat me.  What
in the world would make you say such a thing."
     "Because a good friend of mine is a psychiatrist.  She's
told me about the signs of physical and mental abuse.  I've
wondered about you and Gene, but until now, didn't have any
proof.  How long."
     Bonnie turned away, lowering her head, speaking in
whispered tones.  "For as long as I can remember."  Her head
shot up.  "But never in front of the boys.  Never.  And never
when I was pregnant or where anyone would see."
     "That doesn't make it alright, Bonnie.  He doesn't have
the right to beat you, or anyone."
     "He's my husband."
     "That doesn't give him the right!"
     A voice from the diningroom cut in.  "Hey!  Where's
that coffee."  Gene.
     Bonnie started to turn, a pie in each hand.  "Bonnie,
we're not finished."
     "Yes, we are," came the low response as she left the
room.  Donna stared momentarily at the door, a look of
disbelief on her face, then reached for the coffee cups, dessert
plates and whipped cream.  She took them into the diningroom,
grabbing the remaining dinner plates for her return trip into the
kitchen for the coffee pot.
     Bonnie had begun to serve the pies.  Philip dropped a
generous dollop of whipped cream on his own two slices, a
small one of each, then diving into it.  He ignored the slice for
his father.  She could feel the tension coming from Bonnie. 
When they briefly made eye contact, the older woman implored
her to keep silent.
     Donna placed the cups in a line, then began to pour
coffee into each one.  Gene reached for a cup almost before she
had finished pouring, causing her to trail a small amount of
coffee from the pot onto the tablecloth.  The brown stain
spread, matching the colour of the gravy he had splattered
earlier.  He then reached across in front of her, grabbing the
whipped cream and a large slice of apple pie.  Donna's eyes
followed his movements, every inch of her wanting to, at the
very least, slap his hand.  At the very most, she wanted to
inflict on him what he had been inflicting on his wife for too
many years.
     "Donna.  Donna?"  Philip was calling her back.  She
turned and looked at him, as if only just realizing he was there. 
"Are you going to sit down, or eat your dessert standing?"
     "Huh, oh, sorry."  She took her seat while Bonnie
finished serving.  The group finished their meal in silence, the
only sounds coming from the occasion car passing the house
outside.  Despite the season, no festive music played in the
     "Well, I've had enough," Gene said, sitting back in his
chair and patting his stomach.
     "Everything was great, as usual, mom," Philip added in
his usual 'trying to lock in the client' voice.  "Wasn't it, dad."
     "Of course.  She's knows it.  I don't have to say it." 
But it wouldn't kill you to.
     "Yes, Bonnie.  Everything was wonderful."  Donna
stood, pushing her chair back and began to collect the dessert
     "You don't have to do that, Donna.  I'll get them,"
Bonnie said, standing and trying to take the dishes from
Donna's hand.
     "No, really.  I'll do it."
     "Let her do it, Donna.  It's her job."
     She took a deep breath, then spoke through gritted teeth. 
"I said I'll do it.  God knows, she doesn't get anywhere near
enough help around here as it is."  Snatching up the dishes, she 
stomped into the kitchen.  She didn't see the horrified look on
Bonnie's face.  Setting them on the counter with a thud, she
placed both palms on the counter's edge, leaning forward,
trying to control her anger before she had to face that man
again.  She heard the door swing open behind her and turned,
fully expecting to see Bonnie.  It was Philip.
     "What the hell was that about?"  He stood with his
hands on his hips looking every bit like his father.
     "What was what about."
     "You know damn well what I mean."  And she knew he
wouldn't repeat himself.
     "Your mother works herself to the bone around here on
a daily basis, not counting things like this," she motioned
around the kitchen to the remains of their meal.  "And that man
doesn't lift anything but a beer bottle.  All I did was offer to
help her clean up, so that she could have a Christmas as well."
     Deep masculine bellowing came at them through the
walls from the diningroom, cutting off any response Philip
might have made.  "You what?!"  They both turned towards the
door, as the sound of something heavy hitting the wall and
shattering resounded.  Philip was through the door in a split
second, closely followed by Donna.
     "What did you tell her?"  Gene had forced Bonnie up
against the wall, his face so close to hers she had to turn her
head to have any breathing room at all.  "I said, what did you
tell her."
     "Nothin'.  I didn't say anything."  Bonnie's entire body
trembled with fear.  A bright red patch was starting to form on
her left cheek.
     "You lyin' bitch.  I know you said something.  She
wouldn't have said what she said if you hadn't."  A hand
raised, poised to make contact again, when Philip grabbed it.
     "That's enough!"
     Gene looked back in surprise.  "What the ... what the
hell do you think you're doing?"
     "Stopping you from hitting my mother, that's what I'm
doing."  Gene tried to force his arm free, but Philip's younger
and greater strength won out.  He could feel his father giving
up, his body relaxing as the anger ebbed.  Bonnie quickly slid
out of harm's way.  Donna stepped towards her.
     "Bonnie, are you alright?"
     "Fine.  I've, uh, gotta get these dishes done."  She
busied herself by gathering the remaining cups and saucers on
the table.  It was then that Donna noticed the vase was missing. 
There was a large wet spot on the wall adjacent to the kitchen,
parts of flower petals sticking to it.  Her eyes followed the
damp trail, finding the destroyed vase on the floor.
     She turned on her father-in-law.  "What did you do that
     "Because she doesn't need you to give her anything nice. 
Anything she needs, I provide.  That's enough."  Gene left the
room as she tried to digest his words.
     "She doesn't ...," but she couldn't finish the sentence,
her outrage so intense.
     "Donna, control yourself.  This isn't our fight.  Get
your stuff, we're leaving."
     She looked at Philip.  "Leaving?  We can't leave.  He
might try to beat her up again, or worse."
     "No, he won't."  His voice was louder than it needed to
be.  Loud enough for Gene to hear him.  "He knows what will
happen if I find out he's started beating her again.  Now get
your stuff, our you'll have to find your own way home."  She
was so dumbfounded she couldn't move.  She had never
encountered such violence, and it shook her to the core. 
"Donna.  Now."  His commanding voice penetrated her stupor.
     "Just let me say good-bye to your mother, then I'll be
out."  She turned, walking into the kitchen.
     Bonnie was scraping the food remnants from the dishes
into the garbage.  The red spot on her cheek was brilliant now,
and palm-shaped.  She turned her back towards her daughter-in-
     "Bonnie, I ..."
     "Just go, Donna.  Please."  Her voice came in a
tear-choked whisper, as if speaking louder was painful.
     Donna turned and left the room.  Gene had returned to
his usual place in front of the television, the last of the bottle of
beer from before dinner in his hand.  Philip waited at the front
door, her coat in his hand.  He helped her into her coat, then
held open the door as she reached for her bag.  With one last
angry glance at Gene, she stepped out into the chilled evening
air.  Philip followed, slamming the door shut behind him.  He
passed her, his open coat flapping behind him, and headed
straight for the car.  Pushing the automatic doorlock on his
keychain while he charged ahead, he reached the car and got in
before Donna.  He left her to get in by herself, any gentlemanly
behaviour he had used inside the house had been left there.
     They drove home in silence.