The long, dark nights filled with the hot sizzle of tears and the acrid smell of loneliness had long since given way to beautiful, soft light, tender conversation, the whispers of people who truly enjoy each other.
There just wasn’t enough time to spend with the good one, too much time involving the bad one. And the thing that got her the most was that the bad one was fooling others into thinking he wasn’t really that bad after all.
What is it about bullies, who do the sneaky things when no one’s looking or listening that only reveal their wounded evil sides for barely a moment? There was never a witness, never a moment caught on tape forever to be replayed and expose him for who he was at the core.
She saw through the bullish veneer to the scared little boy deep within, huddled into a fetal ball, shivering in the cold of someone long abandoned in those important moments of life when you really needed someone loving at your side.
She could almost picture him as a toddler, playing quietly in another room with no one around, his parents not even aware he was still there. To be that forgotten, that unnoticed, had to scar a person deeply, and for life.
And so it was her downfall to be able to see his shortcomings as hurt, his anger as depression turned outward. If he can’t be happy, she knew he’d want no one else to be happy.
It was like that in the early months, before she knew him completely. She saw glimpses of his brokenness. The shadow in the bedroom, as if hovering over them in the dark, him so afraid of the kisses, the wanting, the feverish touch. Those he could only imagine in fantasy, not in reality.
And then when she saw how deeply hopeless he was, despairing after the first failed job, and the second, turning to his one and only talent to sustain him, because nothing else would. She knew. He was so frail, so fragile, so afraid.
And yet, that did not excuse his constant badgering, his incessant attacks. She just wanted him to go away. Be broken, she thought, just do it somewhere else. Pour your discomfort onto someone else. Please.
It was no use. He couldn’t hear her silent pleas, couldn’t imagine that his anger was misplaced from himself to the person who’d hurt him the most. After all, once someone agreed to marry you, that had to mean you were lovable, right? And if that person up and left, well, then, where did that leave the person left behind?
One day, she thought. One day, the children will be grown and I will no longer have to hear his voice, see his pointed text messages, feel the wrath of his condescending emails.
It was the ultimate irony, for she had never wanted the children’s innocence to disappear too quickly. And yet, she knew it was her only salvation.
The worst irony, she thought.
And in the sunlight of the waning afternoon, she breathed in the pine scent of tall trees, drank in the liquid pool of endless sky, the calm comfort of puffy clouds. It is a beautiful life, she said, even with this. I just have to remember that.