Sometimes there’s a story that just wants to be told, even if it doesn’t have a book to call home. This is a random piece that I felt like writing… hoping to shake things up while working on my current WIP (work-in-progress).
Two weeks. That’s how long it took for us to last. Twenty years of friendship dissolved in less than two weeks.
“It meant nothing.”
Looking across the bedroom at him, I see Alan has decided to test another excuse. He just doesn’t get that there is no excuse for what he did to us.
Wiping away tears would feel good right about now, except there are none. I feel numb.
I’ve been through this before… same script, different cast. That’s why I’m so numb.
What is there for me to say? What is there for me to do? There’s only one thing I can do.
I reach for the rings on my fingers. Twisting them – cranking the knots in my stomach that much tighter – I try to pull them off, except I can’t because my knuckle stops me.
“Don’t do this,” he says. “Not yet. It’s in the past… It was before we were married… We can move on from this… It won’t happen again… In time, we can put this behind us.”
But he doesn’t get it. We can’t. There’s no going back on the one promise he broke. The one he specifically made to me, assuring me why he was the one. There is no way to fix this. He can’t fix us.
Perhaps that’s my fault. I held my breath for far too long. Doubting every turn, questioning every affection. Then I twist and turn those rings a little harder, managing to slip the diamond off first and then the band. I have to let him go. If he wants something else, I refuse to stand in his way. I made it hard to love me, even when I didn’t try. I was the one that broke us.
“She… it just… babe, I’m sorry. You… we were…” Then he finally shuts up before trying a new excuse. The one my mind was also considering… that somehow I caused this.
But hell, this is not my fault. Why do I need to convince myself of this when I did nothing wrong?
“Here.” I hold out the rings for him to take. I never even got the chance to have them cleaned or go on a frantic turn-the-house-upside-down search because I set them somewhere while making a cake or tease him into getting me another – a band full of sapphires and diamonds – to add on an anniversary.
Two weeks and all I can do is swallow my pride and accept what is so I can move on.
“Is she going to just sit there and watch?” Patrick says loud enough for me to hear. I know he wanted me to feel the disgust behind his words. I think that hurts me more than Alan’s betrayal. I always liked Patrick, but to him I’m the enemy. I wonder if he always thought so little of me, but just needed the right opportunity to express it.
“Enough.” Alan looks away after warning off his brother. He can’t even look at me anymore. Instead, Alan points toward a stack of brown boxes. “There’re a couple more of these in the hall upstairs.”
That was code for don’t push any buttons. I’m not ready to tell you the truth, but I don’t want her tell it either. Lucky for him, I don’t want to talk anymore.
Tiffany nudges me, gesturing for me to follow her… probably outside. “Let’s go get some air.”
I shake my head feeling a new anger. Tiffany was more than my new sister, she was also becoming one of my closest and dearest friends. Now I can’t trust her. When he broke us, Alan destroyed everything connected to us. Because someone once told me that in the war between family and friends, blood will win every time. Alan had Tiffany. My best friend, my sister, and the brother I always appreciated… two weeks destroyed. Leaving me not one shoulder I can cry on. Where there was loyalty, he poisoned it with a lie. Because of Alan, I’m afraid to trust my own sister.
And I lost him as my best friend.
“That’s okay. I need to run to the store before everyone gets home,” I tell her.
Alan turns around. I see the leather diamante in his hand. I remember when he bought the bag. It was the day of our first fight as a couple. Things never were the same since that fight. I had to always prove that I believed his love was enough without turning down the ways he wanted to show it, even if I wasn’t comfortable with how much it cost.
That day ended up costing us so much more than a price tag in the end. I never should have turned him down when he wanted to buy that damn bag…
“I lo-o-ove this bag.” Reaching for the soft dark leather, I finger it carefully. Without even looking, I know it costs more than a handbag should.
Although my comment was to no one in particular, Alan looks over his shoulder to see what caught my eye. “Get it.”
His permission urges me to slip it over my shoulder and I turn and twist my waist from side to side absently posing and testing out the overall feel of the bag. I don’t know how much the bag can hold – and I quickly inventory what few things I would allow in such a beautiful space – but I do know it makes me feel like a million bucks. Italian leather at its finest.
Inhaling its subtle scent, I feel my spine straighten before I seek out the price. My shoulders sag as I place it back where it belongs. If I walk away now, I won’t try to calculate in my head how many necessities I can live without to get it… I need to diet and cut back on watching cable anyway. This bag was ready to convince me it’s okay to go broke over it. Heck, I can even read by candlelight if I have to.
Another scent – woody and clean – told me Alan was behind me. He was very close, with this subtle possessive stance that told the world he was my man and I was his girl. Lately, we always fell in that position since we admitted that we’ve always been in love, where the toes of his shoes aligned on either side of the heels on my feet. His head would peer over my right shoulder just as a hand would lightly touch my side. And I would nestle right into this perfect groove, a space where my body could rest against him without cheapening our affection. “Is that the color you’re getting?”
Shaking my head, I press back and into him feeling him start to respond to me. He moves his hand further around my waist and holds me. I’m tempted to tease him, brush against him in just a way where he will have to discreetly un-tuck his shirt before stepping away from me. Instead I take one last look at the bag… that damn bag. “No, I’m not getting it. Cost too much.”
He releases his hold to touch the bag, but he ends up doing more than that. Lifting the bag, Alan gestures to the employee that he’ll take it along with the diamante duffle.
He smiles at me. When he reaches into his pocket for his wallet is when I pull away.
“I don’t want it.”
“Serious?” he asked, with his credit card between his fingers.
Shaking my head, I pop up on my toes to kiss his chin. He always smiles when I get on my toes to kiss him there. It reminds him to tease me about our height difference. He’ll kiss me back and call me shorty. That’s us now. “Very serious, but thanks, babe.”
This time he didn’t smile or tease me. No nicknames either. He just swallowed and nodded.
Babe. We didn’t always call each other those kind of names, but sometimes they would slip out at the end of a sentence and it never felt wrong.
What’s for dinner, hon?
Love, do you mind turning off the lights?
Say that again, sweetheart. I didn’t hear you.
but thanks, babe…
I swallow and feel the first tear. Since he had confirmed for me what my gut knew all along, I had refused to cry. Tiffany and Patrick will not be witnesses to my emotions today and I find myself fighting to not cry.
“I gotta go,” I tell them as I push up from the steps to stand.
“Baby.” Alan’s one word acknowledgment threatens to make my knees buckle in the middle of my staircase. If I fall and break my neck, it’s because my husband decided to call me baby.
Just keep walking, I tell myself with each pace. One step at a time, I repeat the moment’s mantra to get me to a safer place. Lately it’s been a lot of mantras and reality show marathons. That’s what’s getting me through this. Confused, I walk toward the door then do an about-face to go back upstairs. I can’t remember what I need, but I have to find it fast.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers so painfully soft, but I hear him. I hear Alan and I feel him. He grabs the loops of my jeans stopping me from going any further and I stop moving. Once I do, his fingers move to my side, he turns me around and places his hands on my waist to keep me there. Alan stares daring me to stop looking past him. I finally do and he pulls me into him, prompting me to move closer toward him on the bottom step. “Baby, believe me when I say I’m sorry. Don’t give up on us.”
“Give up? She been giving up, man,” Patrick says, as he pushes past us on the staircase. The scrape of a box against the wall can be heard. I turn just as Patrick tries to maneuver the box around me seeing that it also left an ugly black streak. Something I will have to paint over soon if I don’t want to remember this day every time I walked past it. “You rearranged your life and it still wasn’t enough.”
Now it stung.
It wasn’t the corner of the box that scraped against my arm stinging so much, it was the reminder that all bets had always been against me. I was supposed to be the one to mess this up.
According to my in-laws, I did.
Alan’s quiet apology reached his eyes, as he looked at me. Then he turned to look at his brother. “This isn’t—”
I don’t know what Alan said or was getting at, but I was tired. Too tired for blame. And I’ll accept it all if it could make this searing pain go away that much faster. Alan, get out of here, was what my heart was screaming inside. Just go… leave.
Instead, I swallow and nod. Holding up both hands with resignation, I hush them all.
“I know. It’s all my fault,” I say. Stopping Alan from saying another word, I finally look into his eyes. “I know.”
“You had a good man,” I hear being called out as I walk away. I can’t blame Patrick. Once he helped his brother move belongings into our home. Now twice he was helping Alan leave. The first time Patrick showed up when I asked Alan to move out, my gut said something to me causing me to cave and change my mind. I stopped Alan from carrying the last box to his trunk… we never did finish unpacking from that first fight. Instead those boxes were buried in the back of the closet until we were ready. This time I refuse to get in my own way, I can’t stop him.
One of us needs to leave so there are no more excuses. Looking at the spot where I keep my keys, I notice they’re not where I always place them as soon as I walk through my front door. Patting my pockets and looking around the living room for my bag, I need to find my keys. If I went ahead and let him buy me that damn bag, would my keys be lost right now? Would I even care to look for them? Need to?
“All he wanted to do for you and you’re too caught up in yourself to even care. I never heard my brother cry until you.” Damn, Patrick, get off my back! I want to scream. But no… I will not go down like that. I’m not making this about anything other than what it’s supposed to be. Alan needs to leave.
“You’re right.” I feel my confidence meter take a slight dip, but I will say anything to get to tomorrow without them. On top of the mantle is where I happen to see my keys. I would never put them up there. It’s too much of a nuisance to get on my toes to look for anything that winds up on it. I forgot Alan moved my car out of the way so they could back his truck in. Standing on my toes, I grasp the ring and hear the jingle. Now I feel like I can breathe again. In the meantime, I am finally able to leave. Feeling cold to everything around me, I grab my bag and slip my feet into my shoes. “I don’t deserve him.”
Walking out the door, I hear Patrick and Tiffany going back and forth. Who I don’t hear is Alan – no excuses, no pleas – and I don’t know why the absence of his voice suddenly hurts me so much.
The story continues for Alan and Valencia. Click to read Second Time Around.