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Narrative Sample -- Life, Liberty, and Kanafa (Nonfiction) -- First 2 pages

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Life, Liberty, and Kanafa:

How an Immigrant's Daughter Escaped Abuse and Found Her Destiny



It took me about a year to realize that I had married a cult leader. There were some dead giveaways. He was almost three times my age. He was the pastor of a “free church” that wasn’t registered with the IRS. He kept tens of thousands of dollars worth of silver stashed in his bedroom closet. And he owned six firearms. But I knew all that before I married him.

            When I stopped attending his church, he spoke to his attorney and came back to me with a property settlement agreement. I opened my own bank account and started to take any part time work I could get and squirrel away money. Nine tense months, and several tense drafts, passed before we both signed two copies of the property settlement agreement in the presence of a notary. I put my copy in my office. He gave me a check for $10,000. Then I went on a two-week mission trip to Uganda.

My husband seemed fine when I returned. My first day back, we went to Starbucks together, and I drank a Pumpkin Spice Latte while reading. I went back to work the next day. That afternoon, I came home from work to find my husband sitting in the large, green armchair in his study, reading the New Testament. The lights were off; he was able to read by the light coming in from the two windows on either side of the armchair. This was usual, for him. He did a live AM radio broadcast four days a week, and he spent the afternoons preparing for the next day’s show. He greeted me and continued reading. I went into my study and put down my bag. I noticed that the check was gone. Then I opened my folder and realized that the property settlement agreement was gone.

At first, I said nothing. My heart pounded and I felt a sudden urge to use the toilet. I rifled through my folders, my planner, opened and closed my desk drawers and filing cabinets. The property settlement agreement, which had been there when I left that morning, was definitely gone.

I walked into my husband’s study.

“Ray,” I said. “What happened to the check that was on my desk? And my signed copy of the property settlement agreement?”

Ray continued reading the New Testament.

“Give them back to me,” I said.

“I can’t give them back to you,” he said.

“I need you to give them back to me.”

“I can’t give them back to you,” he repeated. “I burned them.”

What?” I shrieked. I had known for some time that my husband was abusive—but I hadn’t expected this.

Ray continued reading.

“Give them back to me,” I repeated. I couldn’t believe that he had actually burned them. I felt so much blood rushing to my head that I began to feel dizzy.

“I can’t,” he said again.

“Why did you burn them?” I asked, tentatively calling his bluff.

“Because we need to re-negotiate,” he said. “We need to start over.”

We already negotiated. Your attorney wrote the property settlement agreement. We had two copies notarized.” I was sweating. My mouth was dry. If I got any more upset, I might actually faint.

“We need to start over,” he repeated. I stared at him, and inside my mind I saw and felt all the hope for my future collapsing. Nothing was left by rubble and darkness.

By now I was very close to his face. He had laid the slim black leather testament down on his lap and was looking at me.

“If you don’t give it back to me, I’m going to call the cops,” I said.

“I can’t give it back,” he said calmly.

“I’m calling the cops, and I’m going to sue you for everything you have,” I said, and darted into my study. I had reached the point of barely being able to hold a thought together. The corners of my vision seemed to be folding into darkness. I locked my door and called 9-1-1.

I was hysterical when the operator answered. I was hyperventilating and crying. I honestly cannot remember what I told them.

“Are you in a safe place?” the operator asked.

“I’m in my study,” I said. Just then, the knob on my study door turned. Ray managed to force the door partway open. I slammed it back shut while I was on the line.

“I’m in my study, and I locked the door, but he’s still trying to get in,” I said.

“The police are on their way. Stay separate until the police arrive.”

It didn’t take long for the cops to show up. I was still crying, my heart was still racing, and I still felt like I might faint at any moment.

The doorbell rang. I unlocked my study door and peeked across the hall into Ray’s study. He remained in his large green chair, acting perfectly calm.

I walked to the front door and opened it. It was dark out, now. Two tall, young, and well-built police officers stood on the porch.

“May we come in?” one of them asked. “Please,” I said. I was crying by this point.

“We’re going to talk to each of you separately,” the officer said.

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