My 28th birthday. A day that should have been spent celebrating by having lunch with co-workers and going to the drive-in movies with friends turned out to be one of the most horrific days of my life.
As I was getting ready to leave his apartment for work on the morning of May 14, 2003 my ex-boyfriend told me he had a surprise for me for my birthday. (Yes, I said “ex”—you can read more about the story in my memoir.)
I immediately felt guilty. I had ignored Nick on his birthday, and yet even while on house arrest and in the midst of more emotional turmoil than I could imagine, he found a way to get me a surprise for my birthday.
I must have looked anxious because he suddenly blurted out, “Are you ready for your surprise?”
“I guess”, I replied sheepishly, “but you really didn’t have to do anything for me.”
“Ok, well turn around and close your eyes,” Nick said this in the same way that an older brother might say, “Close your eyes—I’ve got a big surprise,” just before pouring something nasty over your head. This wasn’t new for Nick. He was the master of surprises, some fun, and many surprisingly romantic and sweet. I wasn’t sure which way he’d go this time.
I obeyed him and turned around, closing my eyes.
“Now, no peeking.”
“Ok!” I responded.
“I mean it! Keep your eyes closed!”
A Fresh Start … Or So I Thought
I was looking forward to a fresh start of a new year without Nick in my life. I felt guilty for these thoughts, anxious as I was to leave, but still curious about the surprise. I couldn’t help it though. I’d had enough of him, his mood swings, and the flip-flopping between nice guy and flake. Whatever emotional hold he had on me would finally be broken. He would be in jail and I would be a free woman—able to start my 28th year with a clean slate.
“Ok”, he was directly standing behind me now, “are you ready for your surprise?”
Before I even had a chance to respond, an enormous, painful blow was delivered to the back of my head. It resonated throughout my body with such great force that I didn’t know what hit me. (I later learned from police it was a hammer.) The raw velocity of the blow forced me forward but before a scream could escape my mouth, Nick grabbed me in a choke hold from behind. This had to be an accident of some sort, I immediately thought. Surely, he’d lovingly lift me to my feet and set things right.
I was dead wrong. The next thing I remember was the two of us falling to the floor, me on my back, and Nick on top—both of his hands wrapped tightly around my throat.
I lay on the floor, completely in shock of the horror unfolding before me. Nick was straddling me, squeezing my throat with an ever-increasing fury with one hand, and silencing me with the other over my mouth. I felt enormous pressure building in my head. My eyes bulged and my temples throbbed. I desperately gasped for air, trying in vain to suck in what little precious oxygen I could.
Hysteria overtook me as my instincts kicked in. I jerked and thrashed my legs and arms, reaching out to hit, claw and tear at any part of Nick I could reach. I violently twisted my head from left to right, trying to loosen Nick’s hold. When I saw a black, thick liquid spreading out on the carpet from behind my head I wondered what it was. With a gut wrenching, sickening realization I knew—it was blood from my own head oozing out, slowly staining his carpet.
With a frenzied terror overcoming me, it finally struck me that I was fighting for my life. My screams remained silent however, unable to escape past Nick’s hand holding my face and mouth firmly to the ground. I knew I would die if something didn’t happen soon.