Our marriage had been arranged by our lord. It was my right to hit her when she disobeyed. But I found Mary didn't disobey, not once. In our first year of marriage I never raised my hand to her.
One night, some weeks after our first child was born, she made a remark against my mother. My mother! Mary called her a wench and a slut. She claimed she made my father a cuckold. My mother was as close to a living saint as anyone good get. His Holiness Pope Boniface VIII wasn't more pious than my dear, dead mother.
I remember so clearly. The wind was blowing from our fields, bringing the icy rain into our house. Asleep in his crib set close to the hearth our son slept. Our little straw mattress was in the corner. Our one bedroom home had done well for us in the past. I remember how small it seemed then, when I struck her.
Mary recoiled, picking up our baby to use him as a shield should I wish to strike her again. I told her she best not speak against my family again or I'd make her smart, baby or no. She kept her mouth firmly shut after that.
A year and a half passed. We had been able to tolerate each other before, but now we were in a tension filled hell. Another baby was born, that made me happy. But Mary, she came in from working the land and sat by the fire, ignoring me most nights. I found out soon after she bedded another man.
I screamed and carried on at her when I discovered she'd made herself a slut.
"If you strike me I'll go to the church court and tell them you hit me too much and too hard!" She screamed back. "They'll watch you and see to it you mend your ways!"
"I've not hit you since you let that filthy tongue wag about my mother!" Her face blanched. She couldn't lie to the courts and tell them I overstepped my bounds in punishing her. Stupid woman had believed otherwise.
That's when she threw the kettle at me. It hit me hard in the forehead, sending me down. When my vision and my senses returned she was standing over me. Seeing me awake Mary began to hit me with her fists. Such power was behind the punches. She knelt on my legs and beat me until she was tired. I had tried to deflect her punches, but most landed. My skin had been tender and bruised for days.
"Go, see who'll believe you!" She sneered. "Admit your wife beds other men and beats you! They'll all think you a filthy coward!"
She continued to hit me. And worse still she brought other men into our bed. I burned with a rage. I couldn't kill her. I'd never have the money to pay the pardoner for such a sin. I couldn't go to the courts and shame myself. And if I beat her like I longed too she could well turn me over to the courts saying I was too rough and hit her more than she deserved. I knew what to do, though it'd be horrible for my children.
I left the manor one morning. I made for the nearest town, some eight miles away. From there I made my way to the next town, sixteen full miles from the manor. The wench would never be able to catch me. I left the second town a few days later. I settled five and twenty miles from my home.
I was strong, muscled, and skilled with a hammer. I needed only survive a year and a day then I'd be a freedman. I lived happily in the town, knowing Mary was searching the towns closest to the manor, trying to find me. Today it has been a year and two days, I am free. Mary will be saddled with the fines of my disappearance. Her lovers won't help pay. She'll be pressured to make sure our children our fed, how I miss them, and go hungry herself. I smile at her misfortune.