I had fallen asleep, at some point James’ snoring woke me. The anticipation of the morning sent my heart into palpitations. I rolled away from my husband’s body that had grown too hot. My pillow has always been my best friend, stuffed between my arms, I cuddle it as a Teddy Bear. I cuddle it trying to pry from it the love I require. He listens to my worries without judgement and offers cuddles without expectations; plus the teddy holds my breasts apart so they don’t sweat.
James snoring got louder, even the dog jumped off the bed. A large king size leather sleigh headboard but money can’t buy happiness, right? My husband would argue otherwise. Over the nights when money is everything and my tears get me pushed away.
I tried to jostle him with my heel, it failed and the snores continue. Resonated in my ear, I add an elbow to his ribs. The hour is well past midnight and I have given up on any sleep.
“What?” He grumbled, smacked his lips and resumed snoring all in the same breath. The five o’clock shadow made him look so handsome it was too bad he felt sex was too much work these days. He’s grown complacent in our relationship.
The niceties I will be leaving aren’t worth it, are they? These material items we worked so hard for. We ripped apart our family for money. James gave up most weekends for work. I picked up a second job for something to do. Sadie was never home anymore and Jax had moved out over a year ago.
James’ children came to visit in the summer but more often it ended in fights. They expected so much beyond the normal from us. Doesn’t matter how much you instill in a child, once they are influenced full time by another (parent, grandmother, sibling or friend) they don’t come back. My heart was ripped out. Torn to shreds through the court dates and manipulation that followed.
I exhaled jaggedly, I did not want to cry in bed. If I woke James with my tears, he be irritated. “What is it now?” He could comment before rolling over.
We spent the last several years building the perfect house. Greenest grass, sexiest truck, wondrous garden. No children’s laughs, no deep meaningful conversations, no passion between lovers. This may be a lovely house, it is not a home.
It is a materialistic life that I live in. Motorized toys, jewelry put on my wrist and expensive visits to step children. Any emotion however and my husband will turn away, citing I am over reacting.
Everywhere I look I am pushed away from my thoughts, my emotions. Union jobs push you through courses to ensure you are numb enough to cope. Cell phones teach you the short cut to anything with a search bar.
Drive thru and self check-outs peppered so deep into our culture that even pharmacy is a fast food business and doctors can be approached through Face Time.
I had watched as the world around us grew dark, same as my marriage. Gone are family game nights. Suicide has become the new drug. School is trivial, they push you through until you’re tossed into an adult world with no real skills. Anti-vaxxers have opened a door to a new dark age where a simple Small Pox could once again kill our children. Tattoos are not even for the original anymore, they are for the herd. Our whole society is so close to imploding on itself, I need to get away.
Memories of all the times I booked holidays to get way echoed in my mind. James picking apart the plan until nothing was left, complaints of the hotel, cost of air flight. One of our last trips ended us on Vancouver Island, headed toward Tofino. While driving on the highway, James had begun to have a childish fit about the traffic, the cost of gas, the “waste of time to travel all this way for nothing” as he had stated- as I had ended up bawling feeling like a failure of trip planning.
That was in the past though, it certainly contributed to bringing me here. Where I am now.
I rolled to my side and picture myself punching my husband’s chauvinistic nose. I don’t hate him. I still love him but the pain has twigged its way down so far into my soul. It began to splinter from the ground up, it twisted my perception on everything until even my face did not appear its own in the mirror.
James’ face did not appear his own either. The corners of his mouth turned downward in a sharp frown while he slept. The natural depression of where we have ended painted on his face and showed only when he was unaware. Otherwise, he would never speak of any problems. Just as I was expected to never speak of any problems.
Even the chisel of his jaw line is marred from this down look. One that has grown from a dislike, one that has moved passed just the situation. It sounds in the words he says to me, it sounds in the words he says about me.
What have I done to him to make him dislike me? I see it in his gaze. I wonder some days if the manipulation from his ex-girlfriends have gotten made pliable holes in his mind. My step-son believed we moved to the north on my decision. No, my choice was come or lose my husband. James had suggested another move a few months back, to go back down south. There is nothing there anymore. Our family has already been torn apart, it would never be the same. Like time, there is only forward.
Johnathon, James’ father, had passed away recently. I think some days it was from heartbreak. I fear in the darkest recess’ of my mind it was part my fault. Did I contribute to his undoing? He loved Ethan and lost him to me, he loved Sabrina and lost her to me, he loved James and lost him to me.
Rose, James’ mother is a good ear to confide in. We spoke often of the children but it is I that needs to sort through my thoughts. Before they drown me.
What will James say to her when I leave? Will he say, “bitch probably went back to drugs.” Wash his hands of me instantly? I would be better off then, to leave tomorrow and not make James suffer any longer.
Rose, perfection beyond words. She never judges, she always listens and she is symmetrically balanced in her responses. English born with a beautiful accent, she always surprised me with comments such as ‘the garage’ (pronounced Gar-ige) meaning gas station. If she knew what I planned, she would smack me stupid, send me to live in the garage.
The idea crawled into my mind last Spring break visit. We drove 14 hours with Sadie in the back seat to visit Ethan and Sabrina. After we spent hundreds of dollars and my whole one-week holiday trying to mediate fights, I threw in the proverbial towel. Decided I needed a holiday by myself and the seed of possibility grew. Like a fiction story that seems to write itself, the plan bloomed and I just followed suit.
After a miserable visit, I couldn’t help but look at Sadie in the rear-view mirror and think, ‘there must be more to life.’
Prayed she would have something special in her life, something that would make her into who she would become. Rather than just another spoiled child that grows into average Joe Blow working 9 to 5 as I have. Even with the darker background I have, I am just the typical union worker. The kind faced girl next door that you would trust with your house keys. I make excuses to get out of the Friday night social to sit at home. I have wanted to write a novel but with a full time job, it’s impossible.
Sadie has asked to be home schooled to escape the bullies of today. They will never leave her, nor me. James will never leave me, I am too convenient for him. He can put in the bare minimum to our marriage and I am still compelled to put in my all.
The idea grew in me like a virus. A spark of something different, exciting. It began with the idea of, “I am so done with this.”
Sitting in a room with my child, my friend and my husband. I had been telling a story when I suddenly realized no one was listening to me. When I pointed it out that all three were on their phones and ignoring me, it was brought to my attention they were texting each other.
As if I were not there at all. James had laughed it off and then tapped my friend’s bottom with a cardboard tube. When I confronted him, he responded with, “it’s not a big deal is it?”
I think that is his famous line, the one that I automatically respond to with, “no, but.” Once, I was told anything before the word ‘but’ is meaningless. Yet, he never seemed to understand me when I explained my feelings, he would look to me as if I were crazy. Or as if it shouldn’t be a ‘big deal’, leaving me to feel isolated. That tap may have been harmless but it brought a realization that we are all desperately alone in this world. The only one that should honestly hurt me is, well- me. Even when I thought I truly mattered to someone, it is still just myself.
Love is an emotion, one that can be grown, changed or deleted. So, I choose myself. I am going to grow myself, I am going to find myself and I am going to show my daughter something different. Life does not have to be Monday to Friday. Life is what you make it, I am about to make it on it’s head.
It took me months to arrange. That extra hour off work before James was helpful. I spent many hours to ensure bills would still be paid. The mortgage, being in my name, must clear the bank. Therefore, I increased credit lines, and arranged bills to auto-charge.
The bedroom is extra clean tonight, I doubt James noticed. He never noticed anything anymore. If I tided my hair or spritzed a scent, he would still walk past me to the couch. I carried a broken household, a broken family and a broken husband for too long. It cracked my confidence and broke me as well. It was too large a burden for this thin pedestal.
From my exhaustion came the bravery to plan this. I could see no clock in the midnight light of the room but knew I had only a few hours. Yet my mind still raced.
Took me back to the day I walked into the bank, how long ago was that? My days have no beginning or end, they have only the peek to when I leave. I can still feel the nerves from when I stepped into that bank. They kept the memory alive and bold. My decision wasn’t even solidified that day either, and now as I lay here replaying the prologue- I wonder if I am really going through with it. It is not yet a solid decision, am I really leaving my world as I know it tomorrow?
I had rushed to the bank straight from work, I had stood in that line with my hands shaking silently. No makeup, hair in a neat bun and decision wavering. The simple prospect of having to speak to someone’s face was daunting. I hadn’t booked an appointment, I hadn’t expected a Costco sized line up.
“Miss,” her hand had gone straight up in the air as if she were in grade school. “I can help you here Miss.”
“I need to open a line of credit,” I stated bold but felt pale. I had tried to distract myself by twisting the small hairs on my neck but I felt she could see my nerves. She read straight through me. I am always nervous. She had smiled at me, as if to say, ‘you can still leave now without embarrassment.’ Her thin frame-less glasses had made her face appear too wide. The makeup layers almost flaked off to the keyboard below her plump fingers. Her face swollen from irritating clients during the day but her eyes wide awake from the oxygen pumped into the building. She hated her job, just as she could read my nervous demeanor, I could read her hatred.
“You need to book an appointment,” she popped a bubble gum bubble.
“Well, I didn’t,” I replied and read on her face that she didn’t want to help me. She didn’t even want to sit at the bank any longer, I felt. “Please,” I had tried to appeal to her generous side which I doubted she had.
“It’s an emergency,” I spouted out and handed my bank card. I had hoped my long history with the bank would benefit me and it seemed to work. She had exhaled too loud, clear in her irritation to me and walked to the back room. I could see the circular outline of her as she spoke to the office occupant. Soon afterward she walked me into said office. Her clothing was tight and revealed too much skin to be called professional.
Assured I would receive what I wanted, I had walked in confident. Until I had seen the bank manager; and realized what type of person would be comfortable with employees dressed the way the teller was. He is a middle aged East Indian man, handsome, well dressed and walked with a godlike presence to him. I could hear already, what his thought of my asking for money would be. How my ask would show weakness and his ego would feed. Just like my husband. I walked straight in and shook his hand and sat before he offered the seat. I had tried to take over the situation.
“Miss Becca Plyne?” He questioned my name, as if he didn’t already have my profile pulled up. “And this must be a high school photo,” he held my drivers license up and I had cringed at the comment. Did I not look okay today, did all this emotional roller coaster really break me down beyond recognition?
I blinked the emotion away, “Mrs.” I corrected and completed the paperwork required of me.
Yesterday marked the last withdrawal from my account. It took weeks to pull below daily limit cash amounts to total $30,000. I hadn’t done any math to work out the cash amount I needed and I wasn’t sure if it would last me a year. Hotels average over $100 per night. Food is minimum $10 per meal and that doesn’t take into account no vehicle (bus costs), no friends (entertainment costs) or no family (alcohol costs). I felt comfortable with the $30,000 limit solely because if I decided to not follow through with leaving, it wouldn’t be so hard to pay back.
I could see in my daughter’s eyes, she needed a break as much as I did. She may love James to a certain extent and I know James tries to be a good parent but step parenting is an art all it’s own. They say if you survive past the first five years of a blended family, you’re cemented. I don’t believe that. Ten years in and tempers seem to be worse ever. His children blame me for the sky falling and vise versa.
I had put in the proper notice at my work and purchased a few new goodies for my run away trip. A leather laptop carrying bag and writing books. I was excited, scared, nervous and sad. A gift to myself lifted my spirits and was now sitting against the wall. The sun hardly sets in the north during the summer and even though we are still nearly two months from summer, there is still light in our bedroom enough to see all night. It highlights the animosity in our marriage and spotlights the white lies. Those never set either.
I see them when my husband comes home from work late. I hear them when the story on his tongue makes no sense. I smell them when his scent of fades to distrust. I taste them when his kiss is out of habit not love. I feel them when his disinterest makes my soul prickle.
My husband has been aiding and abetting in my emotional demise. He doesn’t understand when I try to tell him that I am ripping myself apart. My own failings pull me further from the family function.
“Good bye, my love,” I shift silent in bed and plant the last kiss for a year. It turns extra salty as my tears pour faster.
I woke late, I never bothered setting my alarm. James is wake before dawn which is saying something in the north. He is always gone hours before I stir. I had begun to think this purposeful. The first few moments of being awake and my emotions have already started bold. They grow as an overwhelming lump and I swallow hard. Climbed out of bed, I had to remind myself to remain emotionally numb. I kept having the sense I could hear James’ voice. Numerous times I went to the kitchen, peeked through the front blinds. His truck was gone yet I felt I could hear him say, you’re not going anywhere, you’re stuck with me. I settled with you. I was your last chance, without me you’d have nothing.
Music cranked, to drown out the words of my emotional brain, I showered. Ignoring the difference between tears and water.
I stood in front of the mirror; naked, wet and scared. My hair long, as James liked it. Natural brown, the way I liked it. I had to defend my own look to him often when he requested it blonde. The Canadian diamond wedding ring came off my finger easily. Was I looking for a divorce? Am I leaving my husband? No, I am merely taking some time for myself. To sort through thoughts before they drown me. I leave all my jewelry. Closed the elegant wooden box and said a silent goodbye. No more exquisite sparkles to lift my mood, I had clung to material love too long. I need something real, diamonds cut- they don’t heal.
Dressed in my favorite grunge rock clothes, I will never outgrow Nirvana or my Smiley Face shirt. It seemed fitting for today since I may very well be tying my own noose by leaving today. In the kitchen, I popped the top of a champagne bottle. It had been meant for a nice dinner, James had opted to leave town that weekend instead. Citing work paid the bills, not an anniversary (which was merely another day to him).
The morning mimosa took the edge off my nerves. Half the bottle was gone before I heard music emit from Sadie’s room. The music grew louder as the bottle grew lighter.
My daughter was the last bit of my personality left. After my son left, I was sad but leaned heavier on Sadie. There was no way I would walk out that door without her. Just as I would never turn my vehicle past the center lane. To stop my life but leave my children to grow in this ugly world alone, I wouldn’t do it and I didn’t. No matter the times I thought it would be so easy. My life now is to guide my children’s growth.
The burgundy suitcase I required to pack was in the closet at the end of the hall. I would have to walk past her bedroom door to retrieve it. My determination to leave this household wavered, she had friends and school. She would be giving up just as much as myself. Maybe she wouldn’t even want to come?
I place my wineglass, empty once more, on the marble dining table. I froze at the opening to the hallway, staring as if the Boogeyman were at the other end. Standing in front of the closet door, hiding my suitcase. Holding strong with unrelenting arms and I felt he had James’ face. Scowling. I can turn around. I can go to work and say, ‘just kidding!’ and hope they would hire me back.
Deep in my mind, I silently prayed Sadie would stop me. She would exit her room and I would say, “just kidding,” and go to work.
This is the test, if she stops me, maybe it is not meant to happen. A bad idea spoiled by an intuitive teen girl. I inhale, hold my breath and walk as normal. Into the arms of scowling James-Boogeyman. Blocking the closet door to my suitcase, “you couldn’t make it without me, I rescued you from yourself,” I could still hear him say to me.
I walk with purpose, I need this suitcase and I need this escape. Not tip toeing and not pausing as I whip the closet door open.
To my astonishment, Sadie does not stir. The music is Pink, Fun House.
“I dance around this empty house, tear us down. Throw you out. Screaming down the halls, spinning all around and now we fall.”
The lyrics stir my soul and my determination climbs or maybe it’s the alcohol.
“Pictures framing up the past, your taunting smirk behind the glass. This museum full of ask, once a tickle- now a rash.” I feel Pink is talking to me, this idea that once was a seed in my mind has grown it’s own limbs and is moving me without thinking.
Perfection is exhausting and unsustainable. Now, I will be anything but perfect, I will be the worst person. I will be not me because I would never do a thing such as this.
I pack only clothing I would want to wear. Never once letting James’ comments of, “that’s too short”, “that’s too trashy”, or “only sluts wear those” to influence my packing. My trucker cap (red with a Where’s Waldo scene, I think I may need to be buried with it.) makes its way into my bag.
This is just for me, forget everyone else. I pack hygiene necessities and leave behind beauty necessities. Just as buying cigarettes is paying for cancer, buying makeup is paying for fakeness.
Zippered my suitcase, I am ready. No, I’m not, who am I kidding. This is a horrible idea, I shouldn’t be doing this. I sit on the edge of my bed and put my head in my hands. I tried to not look at the leather briefcase containing $30,000. If I took it back to the bank now, maybe I won’t have to pay too much interest. I am leaving my husband but I may also be leaving everything I know. I may lose my house. Everything. A shudder shook my ambitions.
“Sadie!” I’m startled and bite my tongue as I wipe the streamed emotion off my face.
“Aren’t you going to work today?” She stands in the doorway, examining me. I wonder if she can tell how stressed I am, I recall days when James would demote me to tears and I would hear the thumb of her jump off her bed and run down the hallway. She would jump and encase me in a hug as I cried. She knew my emotions better than I did. Glancing at my suitcase, I wondered if she saw I had been packing. It’s hidden behind the edge of the bed.
“No,” I start off as if to say more but lost my words.
“What’s with the briefcase?” She steps toward the brown bag, her large green eyes sparkling at the newness of it. Poor beautiful ADHD Sadie, always drawn to the simplest of objects. Always gullible and easily persuaded, or is this me I speak of? Maybe she is quite literally a projection of myself.
Only difference I guess is that she is a child caught in a woman’s body. I am a woman caught in a child’s emotional inability.
“Oh, um…” There is no story I can come up with. Why am I trying to think of a lie? This is what I want, right? “we’re going on a trip.”
She laughs, not at the response but possibly at how pathetic I look as I say it.
“We’re going on an adventure,” I roll over my bed and produce the packed suitcase to show her I’m serious. Her half laugh is awkward and hard for me to read.
“Mom, don’t be ridiculous, I have school,” Sadie glances at her cellphone, “and I’m going to be late!”
“Sadie,” I insisted, “let’s go on an adventure.” I grab hold of her hands and look deep into her eyes. Spoke on my sincerity with my stare but was mesmerized by the colors of her irises. Made of heaven’s clouds. Pale green circled with dark green and ocean blues. The angelic part was the two brown pin strips, one straight outward and one straight downward. Often when she looks at me with those eyes, I think she is made of something special. Unearthly.
“Adventure?” She is considering it. “Is James coming?”
“No,” I am almost positive she would have jumped at this answer but her face falls instead.
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you lost your mind, Mom?” She pulled from my grasp but I hold tighter.
“Pack a bag, Boo-Berry,” her childhood nickname seemed to catch and she froze in the doorway, “I’ll call your school.”
“Okay,” her back to me, I couldn’t see her emotion but the word sounded strained. What choice does she have? Defy her mother and stay with her estranged step-father? Of course, she will come. Did I just do what James did to me when he said he was moving, stay or come. It’s black or white.
She may think, no, she may know I am leaving him. Isn’t this what my children always wanted? Their mother back full-time. No step-parent to get in the way.
This is happening. It’s begun and there’s no stopping it now. I dragged my suitcase to the door. Sadie’s music had been turned off but I could hear excited movement in her room. Good, I think, keep that excitement as we run away from our lives as we know it.
I sit at the table and pull out a notebook I had purchased. It matched my briefcase bag, both chocolate brown with flower print.
I rip out a page to write James a note. I stare at the blank lines for minutes and then push it aside. On a page still affixed in my book, I scribble down the phone numbers of a few people. I recall the day still when phone numbers were only seven digits and everyone remembered all their friend’s numbers. Gone are those days, I don’t even know James’ number off by heart.
I realized I didn’t want my friends to think I’m dead, so I send off a couple quick text messages. Someone is going to think I’m off my rocker, or I’m about to commit suicide so I try to be as honest as possible.
Taking off for a year long hiatus, Sadie is with me and we will be safe. Love you lots, talk to you next April. Xoxox Becca
I punch in Sadie’s school phone number and notify them that we are moving and she is changing schools immediately. Social Services is never keen on children being pulled out of school, so this may bite me later. They ask where we are moving to and I tell them, “Ontario.” Bold faced lie.
I closed my Facebook account, and reset my iPhone to factory settings. To prevent unnecessary text messages bothering my husband, I place the phone on the floor and smash it.
The blank page for my husband’s note stares back at me. How do you say, “this is not me, it’s you.” When most relationships end by someone stating, “it’s not you, it’s me.”
It is your fault I am running away. It is your fault I can’t handle myself anymore.
The words you say to me, they hurt. “Words can’t hurt,” I hear James say.
The words I say to you, you twist against me. “I never said that, what I said was…” I hear James say.
These words I use to explain my anguish. “It’s just in your head,” I hear James say.
The words I use to say goodbye. “You should stay,” I don’t hear James say.