Excerpt of Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
(Page 8 of 9)
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It made me want to sit on his lap the rest of my life. He talked about getting a tattoo on
his shoulder, a rose and the word Frances. I said I'd get Yosemite Sam on my upper thigh.
"The hell you will," he said. It turned out I didn't need it; Bobby tattooed me
himself, with his hands.
"Red hair is too conspicuous," Patty Bancroft had said on the phone. It had been
the only conspicuous thing about me, all these years. Smart, but not too. Enterprising,
but not too. Friendly, but not too. The kind of girl who becomes a nurse, not a doctor.
The kind of nurse who becomes assistant head, but not head nurse. The kind of wife--well,
no one knew about that.
"There's still some good years left on her," Bobby would say when his friends
came over, and they'd laugh. It was the way they all talked about their wives, and I
wondered, looking at their flushed and friendly faces, if they were thinking of bones that
had not yet been broken, areas that had not yet blossomed with bruises. And they looked at
me and saw a happy wife and mother like so many others, a working woman like so many
others. Fran Flynn--you know, the skinny redhead who works in the ER at South Bay. Frannie
Benedetto, the cop's wife on Beach Twelfth Street, the one with the little boy with the
bowlegs. Gone down the drain that morning.
Transformed, perhaps forever, by Loving Care No. 27, California Blonde. Hidden behind the
glasses. Disguised by the flapping folds of the long dress. California blonde Elizabeth
Crenshaw, with nothing but thin milky skin and faint constellations of freckles on chest
and cheeks to connect her to Frances Ann Flynn Benedetto. A bruise on my right cheek,
faded to yellow, and a bump on the bridge of my nose. And Robert, of course, the only
thing I'd had worth taking with me from that tidy house, where Bobby liked to walk on the
carpeting barefoot and I cleaned up the blood with club soda and Clorox before the stain
set. Beth. I liked Beth. I was leaving, I was starting over again, I was saving my life, I
was sick of the fear and the fists. And I was keeping my son safe, too, not because his
father had ever hit him--he never ever had--but because the secret inside our house, the
secret about what happened at night, when Daddy was drunk and disgusted with himself and
everything around him, was eating the life out of Robert. When he was little he would
touch a bruise softly, say, "You boo-boo, Mama?" When he got a little older he
sometimes said, narrowing his big black eyes, "Mommy, how did you hurt
But now he only looked, as though he knew to be quiet, as though he thought this was the
way life was. My little boy, who had always had something of the little old man about him,
was becoming a dead man, too, with a dead man's eyes. There are ways and ways of dying,
and some of them leave you walking around. I'd learned that from watching my father, and
my husband, too. I wasn't going to let it happen to my son. Frances couldn't. Beth
wouldn't. That's who I was now. Frances Ann Flynn Benedetto was always watching and
waiting, scared of her husband, scared he would turn on her, hit her, finally knock her
out for good. Scared to leave her son with no mother to raise him, only a father whose
idea of love was bringing you soup after he'd broken your collarbone. Frannie Flynn was
gone. I'd killed her myself. I was Beth Crenshaw now.
Beneath the rippling skirt I could feel my legs trembling as an announcer with a sonorous
voice called out the trains. But I could feel my legs, too, feel them free. No slip. I'd
left that goddamn slip behind.
Frannie Flynn--that's how I'd thought of myself again, even though my last name was
legally Benedetto. The name on my checks, on my license, on the embossed plastic name tag
I wore on the breast of my nurse's uniform. Frances F. Benedetto. But in my mind I'd gone
back to being Frannie Flynn. Maybe Bobby knew that. Maybe he could read my mind. Maybe
that was part of the problem, that he could read my mind and I never had a clue what was
going on in his.
Use of this excerpt from Black and Blue by Anna
Quindlen may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or
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Copyright© 1998 by Anna Quindlen. All rights reserved.