Charlotte sat on the wide, white windowsill, silently watching the rain. All she could hear was the soothingly rhythmic drumming of the raindrops which then continued running down the glass, uniting to streams of water, identical to the traces of tears on the young woman's face.
She lowered her head in shame as she wiped away the tears with the corner of her scarlet cover. New ones kept flowing unintentionally. Charlotte did not even notice that she cried, nor would anybody else.
She had grown used to shedding tears in silence.
This was one of the few hours of rest that were left in her life. In these hours he would be gone, to his poker night, the bar, his golf club. Earlier she had used these hours to put on loud music, listen, sing and dance and forget, until the day he had come too early.
In an unwanted gesture Charlotte's hand travelled to her lower lip.
When she closed her eyes she could still feel the thick, ugly bruise, taste the blood on her tongue. Even more than usual his kisses had pained her back then.
Ruthless, without paying attention to her crushed lips, bones or defence he would push her onto the bed to serve as a quick pleasure between two Skype sessions. The pleasure, however, was always for him.
She wondered if he knew that she was a human being with feelings similar to his.
No, she corrected herself, that she was a human being with feelings. What kind of monster would she have to be to feel the things he did?
She was a puppet for him, a mere toy. Once ago it would have comforted her that she was his irreplaceable toy, but meanwhile she knew that she was not even that.
He had tons of other toys, yes. Strippers, whores, wives who were desperate for change in their lives, if only for one night.
Once upon a time Charlotte would have asked herself why he kept returning to her.
Once upon a time she would have told herself he loved her. Once upon a time she would have told herself that she was special.
Today she knew better, and for this knowledge she cursed herself.
Out of all his toys, she was the most naive.
She kept believing he loved her truly.
She kept believing he would change.
She kept believing that this was love.
She had tried. She had tried so hard to be free, but through every single lie he made her believe again.
How many last chances had she given him before finally accepting that she would never be able to let go of him?
Charlotte pressed her heated forehead onto the cooling glass of the window and watched the blurring shapes of trees outside.
In the branches of the limewood tree she could spot the blur of White that formed the swing, softly swaying with the breeze: the swing they had used to sit on together.
Each memory was a painful sting inside her heart.
If she concentrated she could still hear his pearling laughter that made shivers of excitement run down her back, feel his thumbs gently massaging her back in between her shoulder blades, feel his breath and his lips brushing over the skin of her neck and hear her own giggling laughter.
She could taste the strawberries and cream he had fed her and feel the rawness of his unshaved chin on her face when he kissed her.
She could remember herself rejoice when he lifted her up, swung the swing high up into the sky.
When she had flown carelessly.
Charlotte noticed that her body was rocking back and forth. Abruptly she tore her eyes away from the blurry swing and firmly wrapped her arms around her knees. With her head buried the silence was deafening.
She removed the covers and looked around in the beautiful house - the house of her dreams and the scene of her worst nightmares.
Onto the white walls nestled marble pillars which bore the high stucco ceiling. In the beginning she had adorned all the emptiness with her favourite art prints, but in an action of intervention against the 'horror' of these images he had torn all of them down.
On bare feet she wandered across the endless wasteland of white tiles, always accompanied by the sweet sounds of the rain that was still falling continuously.
It was moments like this in which her brain and heart screamed for music, one of the many desires that were not granted to Charlotte.
It was on tours and during studio recordings that she could catch a glimpse of what made her soul survive. He always watched out that it would only be her own creations that she heard, isolating her from what she desired, himself being the only one to grant her wishes, a behaviour that had, over the years, become more seldom.
Yet she smiled when she thought of him. Remembered all the times they'd spent together, the love and kisses and fruits on the swing, and was certain that this was not forever.
One day, maybe today, he would return with a smile on his face, spin her around and make her fly into the sky with a cream hood on her nose.
And if she couldn't wait she'd never witness that day.
Charlotte shivered. She was always freezing, lately.
Like a ghost she kept on wandering through the colourless marble halls while the rain kept falling slower and slower, counting down the seconds until the next round of her nightmare started.
"Chari? Are you there?"
She flinched when the door fell shut, was clearly able to distinguish the sound of him getting out if his - presumably - wet jacket.
"Chari?" His voice sounded increasingly angry already and she took a deep breath, straightening her shoulders before appearing at the balcony above the entry hall.
"I'm here, darling."
A smile took over his lips and he walked up the stairs quickly to wrap an arm around her waist while his other hand crawled underneath her pullover's sleeve to stroke her shoulder.
Charlotte, firstly tensing upon his touch, felt a warm shiver run through her body and let out a sharp breath when she rested her head against his shoulder. With closed eyes she parted her lips when his mouth brushed over them and his hand wandered down to grab hers.
"Come with me," he whispered and she opened her eyes to catch a look into his eyes. Eyes were the windows of the soul, they said, and his were like the stormy sea.
His arm let her waist loose and she followed him away from the balustrade, down the high corridor into their bedroom. Not once did he let go of her hand, nor did he squeeze it to a point where it became painful.
Charlotte had just shut the door when he already pressed her against it, locking their lips in a passionate kiss.
Her hands ran through his black hair, through the gray strands that looked like silver, and the taste of his mouth was familiar.
His dark jacket had already been taken off when he had come home, her creamy white cashmere jumper was oversized, without pants to bother her.
He swept her up gently and carried her over the short distance to put her down onto the bed, where he kissed her again. His finger travelled over her naked skin and she felt her breathing becoming ragged and impatience rising up within her.
It was not much later that she pressed him down with a hand to his neck, to feel his skin right on hers and push further.
When the night had fallen upon the house, the rain had ceased. What remained was only silence, more deafening and gruesome than before.
Looking at herself in the mirror Charlotte wanted nothing but to cry, but she had run out of tears so long ago.
Her arms were bruised again, black and blue and violet. Her lips slightly swollen, her shoulders covered in bites and marks. Her back was aching and burning, even after the cold shower the blood had kept flowing.
Why had she given in again?
In retrospect she always knew that it was wrong. That what he did to her was not supposed to happen in a relationship. But as soon as he touche her all those doubts would be wiped away on an instant, as foolish as it was.
One touch was enough to make her blind to the obvious. One look was enough to make her deaf to the screams of reason. One breath was enough to make her dumb and oblivious to what was happening and the consequences of it.
She would never be free from this.
In the delirium of lust the world around her would blur, she would feel his fingernails digging deep into her flesh like the sweetest caresses. The bites would feel like the softest kisses and the crushing force of his fingers like a gentle hold on them.
Afterwards it would hurt, on the inside and on the outside.
Charlotte always cried when he was done with her, sometimes more and sometimes less.
Today she had pleased him, which meant less tears, less hate of herself. Tomorrow could be different, she knew. Tomorrow she would maybe not be enough, and when she already was bleeding and aching he would add to the pain if she hadn't pleased him.
She could only wonder what it would be.
A kick into her stomach while she was lying on the ground? Biting her neck awfully close to her carotid artery, making her numb of fear that it would kill her? Chaining her to the bedpost, pushing her off the bed with force, hurting her, insulting her, strangling her?
Everything was possible, and she knew. But while they were doing it she would never be able to stop.
She didn't enjoy the pain. But she enjoyed him, with every fibre of her body, to the point where she wouldn't feel the pain until it was over.
Nobody else could ever make her feel the way he did.
And she hated him. And she hated herself. And she loved him.
When the lust had been over the first thing she had done was to put everything into the wash that he had touched. The white pullover and her scarlet lingerie vanished in the machine and the innocent white underwear came, along with the scarlet pullover that would make the blood invisible.
Just when she had poured herself the first mug of tea and was stirring honey into it the ringing of the phone distracted her.
It was her task to answer it, but undoubtedly he still would appear at the top of the stairs, coaching and controlling her answers as he always did.
"Charlotte Wessels here, who's there?" she asked quietly, instantly causing him to gesture wildly.
"Charlotte, it's good you're there!"
Under his stare it was easy for Charlotte to hide her smile as she greeted Marco with relief.
"Ah, Marco, how nice that you call me. How are you doing?"
He frowned and she gestured him to not worry about the guy on the other end. He didn't seem pleased, but did nothing to intervene.
"Fantastic, how about you?"
Knowing that he was watching Charlotte forced herself to a smile.
"Great, except for the rain. It's a little depressing."
"Ah well, nothing to do against that," Marco sighed and continued.
"I was just meaning to ask, we've talked about doing something for your new album together again, right?
Do you guys have any plans on when and how the recording sessions are going to take place yet?"
"Yes, actually, we have!"
Charlotte's face lit up but she hid it again immediately when she reminded herself that he was still watching.
"We've already written some songs, actually. I think Martijn meant to contact you sometime soon?"
They continued their talk about business for a while, and when she hung up he vanished from the top of the stairs again, without a word.
Charlotte sighed and wrapped her hands around her mug as she cuddled into the blanket on her windowsill. The rain had against started to fall, little drops dripping constantly in a calming rhythm.
It wouldn't get easier.