The Rose Files
True Scary Stories from Life
                                 Warning Signs

                                             ~ Rose Titus ~

 “Kill.  Kill.  Kill.”  He drove down the street, passively chanting in his usual dull
lifeless robotic monotone, “Kill.  Kill.  Kill…”

 “Like, what is wrong with you that you talk that way?”  I finally asked.

 “Nothing.  I’m just a normal guy.  I’m a man.  I need to kill.  Men need to kill,” he
quietly explained.  And he continued on, chanting the word “kill” while driving.   
There was no emotion in his voice, nor was he driving recklessly.  He simply
repeated the word “kill” over and over again, like his own personal prayer to his
inner darkness.

 I was nineteen and not very worldly, but I knew something must be wrong,
although I did not know what.  He wanted me to marry him.  He kept asking me to
-- no, he kept ordering me -- to marry him.  He would not accept no for an
answer and there was no discussion.  He had my future planned for me, without
my input or consent.

 I would quit college, and quit my job.  I would never work again, he told me.  I
was to stay home, and “just be a wife.”  We would move to Alabama, and live in
a trailer, and he would hunt, to “live off the land.”  Sometimes the plan was
different.  We would move to New Hampshire and have a farm, with cows.  
Whenever he talked of the imaginary farm that he would have in the future, he
emphasized that there would be “cows.”  And he wanted us to have twins, “twin
little girls,” he would say, with an odd look on his face…

 He suddenly stopped chanting “kill” and started it up again, about how we were
going to be married soon, and all about his plans.

 “I think I really should finish college first, okay?”  I would say that, figuring in the
time it took to finish college, he’d get bored with me and get interested in
something, or someone, else.

 “No wife a mine gonna go to no college.  You’re gonna do what you’re told, and
marry me.”

 “Yah know, if you keep talking to me that way, I might leave you.  I don’t like the
way you talk to me all the time.”

 He pulled up into my driveway, “You can’t leave me.  You need me.  You can’t
live five minutes without me.  You’ll just come crawling back.”

 “Need you for what?  My life was fine before I met you, and it will be fine after
you’re gone.”  I was getting mad, like I always did.  Looking back, I wonder if he
liked getting me mad.  I got out, slammed the door.  “I’m going to go to college,
and do something with my life, and you’re not gonna stop me!”

 “I told you not to slam the door on my truck!”  He suddenly exploded.  It was
one of the few times he raised his voice.  It surprised me.  He finally got upset.  
Over his cheap old truck.

 “Yeah.  Okay.  Bye.”

 I never had any intention of marrying him.  It was all his idea.  The entire
relationship, I began to see, was all in his head.  He was in a hurry to marry,
start a family, and in the process, stop the course of my life, or at least take
control of it.   He was determined to bend me to his will, change my personality,
to transform me into his fantasy of what I should be.  He sometimes called me
“Mommy” instead of by my name…  And sometimes, he just called me “dumb

 I didn’t know what drove him.  I didn’t know that much about him, other than
that he was adopted and that he was in the Army.   He loved the Army.  And he
loved guns.

 I knew it would never work out.  We always ended up disagreeing.  He had very
out of date beliefs, such as that women should not go to college, or drive cars,
or have careers.  Career women, he said, just used their bodies to get ahead,
because women have no other ability.  Most unusual, he wanted to go to war,
“to kill,” he said.  “I hope we have a war, so I can kill.  I want to kill.”  He promised
me that if he killed the enemy, “I’ll bring back his boots for you.”

 I was only nineteen, but I knew something just wasn’t right with him.  I had no
idea why he was in such a hurry to get married.  He wanted to get married
“now,” he would often say.

 He never talked much when he wasn’t talking about “killing” or “war,” but in
conversation he frequently repeated in his usual dull monotone that he “loved”
me.  There was never any emotion in these words, and his face would be dead
and cold and expressionless as he said them.  Anything else he would say to me
or about me would involve criticism, about my clothes, my hair, my jewelry, my
friends, my favorite music, my reading “stupid books,” or about “girls going to

 At one point he began introducing me to his friends as “the girl he was going to
marry.”  I would whisper, “I never said I would marry you.”

 “You will,” he said coldly, “Don’t worry.  You will.”
 After that day, after slamming shut the door of his truck, I decided to give up on
him.  He would never change.  And neither would I.  I could never become what
he wanted.  I needed to do something with my life, and make my own decisions.

 He kept calling.  I refused to answer the phone.  Friends criticized brutally, he
was “such a great guy,” they said.  I was stupid, they said, to leave him like that.  
They were never alone with him, like I was.  They didn’t know what he was
about, really.  They saw the flowers and gifts he gave me, but they never heard
the frequent criticism that eventually evolved into death threats.  They never
heard him say, “I have a gun, and I know how to use it.”  He never caused me
any harm, for which I am lucky.

 His words were terrifying enough.

 Decades passed by…   I got my associate degree, then went nights and got
my bachelor of science.  The war against terror began, and he probably got his
wish, to go to war, so he could kill.  More time went by and I had a career
change after being downsized, so I got a third college degree.  I am completely
financially independent.  I have a career.  I’ve traveled to the Rocky Mountains,
to Europe and North Africa. I control my own money, and basically live life the
way I choose to.  People say they feel sorry for me, that I’ve never married.

 If they only knew, I’m lucky to just be alive, to have escaped without having my
mind broken and my soul devoured.
 I think of him from time to time and wonder about him, and wonder if he had
some sort of undiagnosed mental illness, or some sort of autism.  His family did
not seem well educated, so perhaps, I wondered, he was never encouraged to
seek any help?  That maybe his adoptive parents would just ignore his
behavior, thinking his backwardness was somehow normal.

 Or perhaps those were just his attitudes.  But out of date attitudes do not
explain the cold dead sound of the monotone of his voice, the dull look in his ice-
cold eyes, his endless fascination with killing and death and war.

 I heard he got married, and worry that he might be abusive to his wife and
family.  But I will never know the answers.  Somehow, I really just don’t want to
 I don’t think about the past that much, but every once in a while I realize there
are many others who went in the opposite direction, and didn’t listen to the voice
inside, the voice that says, Get out before it’s too late...
 And sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I did quit college and do
what I was told, get married, stay home, just be a wife… ?
 I meet a friend for coffee.  She is going through a vicious divorce.  Her eyes
are moist and red, her face is pale, and she has lost weight.  Her hands shake
as she talks.  I take out my mirror and check my lipstick as I listen.  She wears
no make up, she says, because her husband would never allow her to have it,
so she’s not used to putting it on anymore.  She goes on about the

 “So…  you say he was abusive and controlling even before you married him?”

 She looks down at the table, “Y-yes.”  She wasn’t even sure if she loved him
when she married him, but she went through with it anyway.

 “So, like, why did you marry him?”

 “I dunno...  Someone to take care of me, to protect me…”  And all her friends
were married.  She was in her early thirties when they met, she said, and wanted
to be married before it was “too late.”

 “Sheesh.  Protect you from what?  You want protection?  Buy a big dog.”

 She needed to get a job, as she was now destitute because she let her
husband control her finances and he spent her inheritance.  She suspected all
along he was cheating, and now he was leaving her for the other woman after
using up all her money.

 “You knew he was up to no good, and you let him handle your money?  I mean,
there were plenty of warning signs with his behavior, right?”

 “I trusted him to do the right thing, and take care of it for me.”

 “Why?  Why did you trust him?”

 “Because…  because he was my husband,” she broke down into sobs,
quivering.  “I…  I thought he would do the right thing, because he was my

 I reach into my purse for a tissue, “I wouldn’t marry someone like that.”