Years after leaving an abusive man, Penny Frost published a short story about her experience.

AUBURN – Penny Frost wanted to tell her friends that her boyfriend beat her when his dinners weren’t hot enough or the floors weren’t shiny enough, but she wasn’t allowed to leave the house and she didn’t dare spend too much time on the phone.

So, whenever her boyfriend was at work, Frost wrote in her journal.

She recorded nearly every beating, every secret – the incident when he nearly ran over her in his truck, the two occasions when he broke her ribs, the time when he held a gun to her head.

“My journal was like the friend I wasn’t allowed to have,” Frost said.

Frost never thought about hiding the notebook – until the day he found it.

She sat on the bed as he paced the room and read passages aloud. He interrogated her about every incident, he threatened to rip every page, then he walked outside and buried it in the trash.

Frost found the journal the following morning. But writing in it was never the same. It didn’t relax her. It didn’t make her feel strong.

‘Half full’

It was years before Frost was ready to sit down again and write about the death threats, the broken ribs and the empty apologies.

This time, however, she didn’t do it in her journal. She sat at her computer to start typing a manuscript for a Massachusetts publishing company compiling a book of short stories about people whose hope and faith carried them through tough situations.

Frost, now 39 and living in Auburn with two friends, found out about the book in an e-mail from a friend. Printed last month, the book is called “Half Full,” and Frost’s story is titled “No More Fear.”

Parts of it were so hard to write that they made Frost vomit.

“I had to put myself back there to get the details, and that was hard, really hard,” Frost said, her voice soft and shaky. “But I did it because I had to. If one woman reads it and says, ‘She left, so why can’t I?’ then it was worth it.”


Frost began the story with the night that she met Bruce (not his real name).

She was fighting with her husband and decided to take a walk to cool off. She ended up in a bar on Lisbon Street. Bruce spotted her from across the room and approached her.

“A frown is very unbecoming on such a beautiful face. Is this seat taken?” he said.

“No,” Frost replied. “Knock yourself out.”

Frost talked to Bruce for hours that night. The following morning, she found a dozen roses on her doorstep. Soon after, she divorced her husband and started dating Bruce.

He took her on long rides to see the sunset and the foliage. They went to fancy restaurants and ordered expensive champagne.

One night, she recalled, he had the waiter bring her a phone on a silver platter so she could call her baby-sitter to check on her four kids from her first marriage.

“It was like… like perfect,” she said.

Lake house

After they dated for eight months, Bruce rented a lake house where the neighbors were far away. He told Frost to spend as much as she wanted to decorate it.

Soon after the furniture was in place and the curtains were hung, Frost said, the demands and rules started. At first, she thought that Bruce was angry because she was spending too much money or that he was simply tired.

“Maybe I should have seen it coming, but there were no warning signs that I recognized,” Frost wrote in her story.

Bruce came home from work one night and told Frost to get in the car. When she asked him to slow down, he slammed on the brakes, then he opened the door and pushed her out. He eventually came back, picked her off the ground and apologized.

That was his pattern. He hit her, then he apologized. It happened over and over.

Her castle

Frost wanted to leave but Bruce convinced her that nobody would ever love her, then he threatened to kill her family.

A month after Bruce pulled a gun on Frost she decided she’d had enough. One day, when Bruce sent her to the library to pick up a few books, she also visited a property management office to help her find housing.

Within two weeks, she had a protection-from-abuse order, keys to a new third-floor apartment and a promise from her new neighbors that all she had to do was jump up and down if he showed up and she needed help.

Bruce only showed up once. Frost refused to open the door and he never came back.

The new apartment had a leaky faucet and a warped linoleum floor.

In her book, Frost calls it her castle.

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