Daisies and Deceptions
Intended audience: 18 and up
Genre: I need help for that one, but Dark something.
Length: 100k to 125k
What it’s about
A young woman goes through the cycle of abuse with her boyfriend-then-fiance-then-husband, leading her all the way to her death by his hand.
Johanna, naive and romantic, meets the love of her life in college. Jacob is smart, attractive, and also madly in love with her. She is blinded by what they share and ignores the red flags about him. He is controlling, and keeps demeaning her, arguing that he only wants the best for her.
They move to the other side of the country, and she loses contact with all her friends. She meets Adam, a charming 3rd-grade teacher, and they hit it off. When Johanna and Jacob start drifting apart, because of how busy he is, she uses Adam to make him jealous, and remind him how much he loves her. Jacob goes further than she expected and slaps her.
They enter an unhealthy cycle. Every time they grow distant, she pushes him to the edge, often using Adam. The pattern is always the same: weeks of perfect idyl, arguing period, and inevitably, a beating. He is an expert at manipulation, and Johanna thinks she deserves to be punished for what she does. He is coaxing her into believing she isn’t worth anything without him. She thinks no one can ever love her as much as he does. Despite her tendency to be easily manipulated, she is strong, and she doesn’t let him break her spirit.
In between Jacob’s regular fits of violence, he’s perfect. Gifts, breakfasts in bed, romantic trips… She has a seemingly perfect life. The pain he I inflicts is a small price to pay for everything he’s given her. He only loves her too much to control himself. It even goes to the point where Johanna ignites those fights, to get to that period of bliss. No one, family or friends, suspects a thing. Johanna is too good at hiding it, and too afraid to talk to anyone about it.
Despite his expert manipulations, she becomes severely unhappy with her life and decides that they need a child to save their marriage. Jacob doesn’t want one, so she secretly stops taking her contraceptive. A year passes, and she’s still not with child. All is good on her end, so it’s Jacob who’s sterile. Desperate, she decides to cross a line and goes to Adam. They have an affair.
After six months of seeing Adam, she’s pregnant. They have feelings for each other, and he’s figured out that Jacob is abusive. He wants to help Johanna, but she breaks things off with him, deciding to try one last time with her husband. She knows that the baby will change things with Jacob. She tells him the news, and he gets in a rage greater than ever before. While he’s beating her, she learns he’s had a vasectomy before they met.
They struggle, and as she tries to escape, he pushes her down the stairs. While she’s lying on the floor dying, a desperate Jacob holding her tight, she wonders if half a life of happiness counterbalanced half a life of misery. Her last thought is for Adam.
There are a lot of notes, but the subject is too sensitive and complex to leave it at 500 words. I don’t want to be called insensitive or offensive just because one can’t fit a plot and subtle things in a pitch-length text.
The main thing about this will be to make it as true as possible. I will pay great attention to work through the psychology of it, to show how a woman can remain with someone she knows may eventually kill her. Johanna is your average woman, from a loving family, smart, with a healthy mind and body. It aims to show that it can happen to anyone. Any woman can die from her companion, and any man can kill theirs.
Jacob will have to seem redeemable to the readers. The abuse will grow slowly over 7.5 years they have together, from the tiniest remarks to eventually killing Johanna. The hard part will be to make the readers understand and accept why she is staying. Yes, it’s a terrible situation, and everyone knows she should get out of it, but can we understand why she’s staying, dismissing good sense and logic? I want to avoid victim shaming and make people understand that there is way more behind the scenes than meets the eye.
During the whole story, Adam will be a beacon of hope. His affection for Johanna will be her exit card, the way she could leave Jacob. He almost saves her, and she realizes during her last moments that she should have gone with him. But it’s too late.
During the entirety of the story, Johanna has moments where she questions her marriage with Jacob. She’s lost herself along the way since he’s subtly changed her into the woman he wanted, instead of who she was. People notice it too, but she discards her worries, thinking that she is the best version she could ever be. As for the physical abuse, he’s managed to convince her that it hurts him as much as her, but she keeps making him do it. In her mind, it is more her fault than his.
When she is lying on the marble floor at the foot of the stairs, mourning her child never to be born and her own life, she understands that all her beliefs were wrong. That Jacob wasn’t the only one who could love her. That no matter what she did, she didn’t deserve to get scars, broken bones, and bruises. It takes her to die to see all of it clearly.
The story ends with everything going black, and nothing else. Johanna dies, that’s the story, but I can’t help readers who will get their hopes up. I’m not concluding with her burial so if some want to think she survives it and ends up with Adam, they can. But, Johanna will know she’s dying.
Adam knows that Jacob is abusive. He’s seen the signs on her body, as well as her reactions. Between his testimony, old bruises on her, the multiple scars, and broken bones, as well as another man’s child inside of her, Jacob is sure to end up in jail. This will not be disclosed either, but the readers will have all those elements and will be able to get to that conclusion on their own.
A sensitive subject:
Women being killed by a current or ex boyfriend/lover/fiance/husband/fling is a terrible reality. Domestic violence is appallingly common, and affects millions. I will go through it with sensitivity readers, find as much info I can, and make it as sensitive yet realistic as possible.
Since I realize how complex the subject is, and because I couldn’t get into it without laying out the bases, I am adding a complementary summary, that details all the storyline. It can of course evolve, but it’s to better understand how the story will go.
Johanna is a young woman in senior year when she meets Jacob. She is a Graphic Design major, and he is finishing his psychology PhD. They meet in college, it’s instant love. They both graduate the same year and move in together. There are tiny signs of emotional abuse. He manages to make her stop talking to her best friend. He manages to make her change her nickname, Joe, because he thinks it sounded foolish. Small things that completely make sense to her, because he is smart, and he is right. All she can see is him because of how much they are in love.
6 months mark.
Things worsen slowly, she struggles to find a job, and he makes her feel terrible about it. But he’s kind of right because they need the money. She goes on to work in a different field, teaching art to kids, and he keeps insisting that she should have stuck to graphic design because she was good at it, and it’s a waste of her capacities. He gets an offer to open a practice on the other side of the country, where he is originally from. It means she’ll lose everyone she knows, but she can’t complain about it, because he’s the one bringing the food to the table, and it’s his dream, while she is only a teacher.
1.5 year mark.
In their new city, she finds another job in a school and becomes friends with one of her colleagues, Adam. He’s flirty and charming, and she’s liking the attention, which Jacob is slowly giving less and less of, given his recently started practice. Things grow tense between them, because Jacob is stressed, and Johanna is feeling like she’s losing him. She knows he’s the jealous type, and she decides to use her new colleague to ignite something in her boyfriend. She invites Adam over for dinner, and she displays just enough flirtiness to anger Jacob. When Adam Leaves, they have a massive fight. It’s not their first one, but for the very first time, Jacob slaps her. Stunned, she realizes that she has pushed him too far. On his side, Jacob shows immense remorse, and he’ll do anything for her forgiveness. She knows it’s her fault for bringing Adam, so she doesn’t blame him.
2 years mark.
For months, things are perfect again. They get engaged, and they are as happy ever. Jacob keeps showing small signs of psychological abuse, calling her fat, pushing her buttons, separating her from new friends… But she doesn’t take it as such. In her mind, he only cares too much. When they grow distant again, Johanna knows what she has to do to get Jacob to be attentive again. Still using Adam, she sends her boyfriend in a fit of rage. He forces himself on her, and while it hurts and it’s not what she expected, she’d glad he wants her again. This becomes a habit. Every time they grow apart, she pushes him to the edge. She knows it’s wrong, and things get more violent each time, but she’s willing to pay the price. She’s ready for it. It doesn’t change even after they get married. Without her realizing it, Jacob has coaxed her into believing she isn’t worth anything. She is an underachiever who couldn’t find a proper job, and who doesn’t know how to keep people around her.
3.5 years mark.
Soon after their wedding, she wants a child. Jacob refuses, without talking about it. He argues that she already works with kids all day, so she doesn’t need to have one at home. And he knows the stats: childless people are happier. She realizes that he’ll probably never want a kid, and it breaks her heart because she’s always wanted one. Still, thinking she can change him, she decides to stay. Johanna starts to wonder if maybe, that little game she initiated of making him jealous wasn’t going too far. Jacob now goes off easily, more and more violent each time. But he is always apologetic and swears he’ll never do it again. She thinks that no one can ever love her as much as he does. What they have is special.
Inbetween those regular beatings, he is the most perfect of husbands. Gifts, breakfasts in bed, romantic trips… He is becoming a renowned psychologist, she has friends who envy her loving husband, they have a perfect life… He loves her. He would never truly hurt her. It’s always superficial, bruises and scratches. That is until one evening, he takes it too far, breaks her arm, and cracks two of her ribs. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t bring herself to blame it on him. He did find her and Adam kissing in the kitchen. He had every reason to react like this. They explain her injuries as a fall in the stairs.
5 years mark.
Ever since Jacob had gone too far, things have changed. He behaves for longer periods of time, but then the relapses become harsher. It’s always the same cycle. Perfect idyl, arguing period, and then a beating. Johanna accepts it. It’s a small price to pay for everything he’s given her. It’s ten minutes of hurt, a few days of getting better, and then over a month of happiness. And she sees how sorry he is each time. He suffers from it just as much as she does. He just loves her too much to control himself. The more he hurts her, the more she knows he cares. It even goes to the point where Johanna ignites those beatings, just to get to that period of bliss. Sometimes, when she takes it too far, he does too, and he breaks something. They switch hospitals because they know what it would look like otherwise. Her friends think her clumsy, and no one ever suspects her incredible husband to be the cause of those bruises and broken bones. He is too smart and successful to beat his wife.
6 years mark.
Johanna realizes that her life is a scam. Yes, they are in love, but she knows deep down that this is toxic. It can’t end well. What if one day, he goes even further, and she ends up in a wheelchair? What if he accidentally kills her? What they need is some tenderness. Yes, they need something that would make their relationship reborn. Like a fresh start. They need a child. She secretly stops taking her pills, going to extreme length, since Jacob is always making sure she takes them. Weeks, months, a year pass, and she’s still not with child. Can she not conceive? Is Jacob the problem? She goes to see someone and learns that on her end, everything is fine. So it’s Jacob. He can’t have a child. Desperate, she decides to cross a line and goes to Adam. He has married since they met, but he likes her. They have an affair, and Johanna realizes that maybe Jacob wasn’t the only one who could love her. Maybe Adam can love her just as much. Clearly, he’s not passionately in love to the point he’d go crazy when she’s with another man, but it’s still something.
7.5 years mark.
After six months of secretly seeing Adam, she’s finally pregnant. This will help salvage her marriage to Jacob. The only problem is that she also has feelings for Adam now. Her heart torn, she breaks things off with Adam, and decides that she’ll stay with Jacob, knowing that the baby will change things. Change him. During one perfectly organized evening, she gives him the fantastic news. She knew he didn’t want a child, but the surprise would make him change his mind. It doesn’t, and he actually gets in a rage greater than anything she’s ever seen before. He starts beating her before she even has the time to explain. She tries her best to protect the life growing inside of her as he kicks and hits. Through tears and pain, she hears that he’d gotten a vasectomy before they even knew each other. He knows this is someone else’s child. If he broke her arm for kissing Adam, she knows the punishment for having sex with him will be death.
Survival instinct kicks in, for her and her unborn child, and for the first time, she fights back. They struggle, and as she tries to escape, he pushes her down the stairs. From the moment her head hits the cold marble floor, she knows she’s going to die. As she lays there, staring at the ceiling, her hand over her womb, images of her life with Jacob flash. The good and the great, the bad and the worse. While she slowly loses herself, the metallic smell of blood filling the air, as well as Jacob’s desperate cries for help as he holds her tight, she asks herself if it was all worth it. Did half a life of happiness counterbalance half a life of misery?
Right before everything goes dark, her last thought is for Adam. He wouldn’t have caused her that much misery.