Kate drew her palms across the cool, smooth surface of the oak table in her mother-in-law's kitchen, spotless except for the perfect circle left by her mug of tea.
She stared at her mother-in-law's ridged back as she busied herself scrubbing at the spotless sink, her bony fingers bright red at the knuckles.
Kate's head ached and her split lip throbbed, tears stung her bruised cheeks as they rolled uncontrolled down her face.
'Tell me what I should do' her low voice quavered and she felt uncomfortably weak. 'How many times can I walk into the door or fall down the stairs, Mom?'
'People are already beginning to believe him. He has told everyone we know that I am an alcoholic and that I stumble and fall down drunk every night. No one will believe me now. You know how he comes across the kindest most loving husband on earth in company. No one will believe me!'
Her shoulders shook uncontrollably and she hated herself for her weakness.
'What must I do Mom, tell me, he is your son!'
Her mother-in-law stood silent, for a moment Kate thought she saw the ridged shoulders drop slightly but she returned to her scrubbing abruptly and said. 'He is your husband.'
Kate was devastated, perhaps her husband had got to his mother as well, she was oddly distant today. Not that they ever got on like a house on fire but there was always a polite regard for each other.
'He is getting more aggressive Mom, please you have to help me!' Kate rose from her chair, every muscle in her body ached.
'He is like his father Kate' she almost whispered.
Kate never knew her father-in-law and was surprised that she had mentioned him.
'He lived his life with dignity and he died with dignity, yes with dignity' she chuckled. 'Everyone loved him of course. He was the life of any party. The best lover, the best husband, the best father in the world ... in everyone's eyes I was the luckiest woman in the world, yes I was lucky..' Her face became set
and when she looked into Kate's eyes, for the very first time, she felt a bond with the mother of her husband.
'Mom, I know you would love grand children' Kate stammered but I can't, I just can't put an unborn child through this misery, you have to understand that!'
It was as though she had slapped her mother-in-law in the face.
'Dear Lord Kate wake up girl there is strength in weakness and I would suggest that you put that to good use!'
Kate's whole world came tumbling down around her. She was really on her own in this nightmare situation.
As Kate turned to leave she felt her mother-in-law's hands on her shoulders. She winced with pain as her mother-in-law spun her around. Her eyes were wide with fear as she tried to gauge her mother-in-laws' intentions.
To her surprise Kate saw her eyes were filled with tears as she reached into her apron pocket and pressed something into her hand.
The tiny phial felt cool and smooth in Kate's palm and the look in her mother-in-law's eyes told her a truth she would never forget.
Kate gasped 'He's your son!' She said quietly 'He's your husband'. 'He's like his father.'
Kate said 'Live with dignity, die with dignity?'
'Yes', she said 'It takes a strong person to show their weakness, let this weakness be your strength! And, yes, now you are the luckiest woman in the world!'