C/W: domestic abuse, alcohol abuse
It's so hard to say goodbye. Isn’t that the name of a song? Well, they were right. It’s tough to even think about, but it’s time to say goodbye. I know it is time. I’d given him one last chance and he blew it.
He walks in, tiny box in hand. With that smile I can’t resist and those eyes I could melt into, he hands it to me, and I hesitate. I don’t want to open it. That will just make this harder. But he urges me on, and I can’t say no to those eyes. It is a beautiful necklace. An apology? I thank him as he drapes it around my neck, breathing onto my chest as he reaches around to secure the clast. Now he is leaning in for a kiss. I’ve caving. He pulls away to look at me. His gaze is so deep, so caring. He can tell something is wrong. He asks what it is. I say it’s nothing, that I just have a slight headache. His eyebrows furrow. He is concerned. Of course he is concerned. He always wants the best for me. Why am I saying goodbye again?
He pours us each a glass of wine, then puts a strong arm around me. I feel safe. Warm. Supported. He is still in a good mood from his promotion this week. So upbeat. So lighthearted. And I need to remind myself of how I’d felt just five nights ago when I’d made up my mind to say goodbye to this man. He was not the man he is now.
But maybe that is just it. The man who pushed me to the ground the other night was an imposter. This is the real him.
He pours another glass of wine and offers me one, but I decline. I need to keep my head on straight. He kisses my neck and I melt. He asks about my day. He is genuinely interested to hear about the outcome of a tiff with my coworker. He remembers every detail I told him over the phone this afternoon. He is so kind. So supportive. I would be a fool to say goodbye. Right?
We turn on a movie and he open a fresh bottle of whiskey. I say I’ll have a glass, but it is mostly to have something to do with my hands. I feel awkward. Unsure of how to start the conversation we need to have. So, for now, I take the easy way out and stay silent. No relationship is perfect. Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe we can make things work.
Halfway into the movie he is has finished his glass of whiskey along with my own. He is laughing at scenes that aren’t funny and making rude comments about the actress’ bodies. Is it too late to do this tonight? He seems to be hovering around a seven right now. He is unpredictable at this stage. One wrong look could result in either screaming, crying or laughing. But he is slowly creeping up and I know once he reaches a ten it is all rage.
I wonder if I should just leave. Call it a night. We can talk about things tomorrow. But before I can make the move, I hear Cici crying from down the hall. She had been silent for hours and I nearly forgot he had her for the weekend. Shit. I wait to see if he reacts to the wails coming from the nursery, but he does nothing.
I ask if he is going to check on the baby. He mumbles something about calling Cici’s mother to come get her, which I know would cause a blowout. I tell him to stay there and I pad down the hall.
Cici is standing up in her crib, cheeks wet and rosy from crying. I nearly crumble to tears myself as I pick up her soft tiny body, holding her close to my chest and rubbing her back. She is still shaking and moaning with emotion, but slowly her cries quiet down. She nuzzles her head into my collarbone. I sway back and forth with her in my arms, trying to visualize the logistics. If I leave him I would be leaving her. I cannot leave her alone with him tonight. He is already too far gone. I could call her mother. Let her know I was leaving so she could come to pick up Cici. But how would that work? I tell him I’m leaving then wait for Heather to arrive? Or I wait for Heather to arrive beore telling him I’m leaving? Neither option seemed safe. Then I stop myself. Safe? Listen to me. He has been a perfect gentleman all night. I am just being dramatic. Of course Cici and I are safe. I shake away my thoughts from just moments ago. There will be no goodbyes. At least not tonight.
Once Cici is asleep again, I place her back in her crib and turn on the musical windmill above her head. For a moment I gaze down at her and smile. Her nose looks just like his. For a moment I allow myself to wonder what our children would look like if it ever comes to that. I place a kiss on Cici’s forehead and whisper to her that I will not leave her. Then I sneak out of the nursery, pulling the door halfway shut behind me.
Back in the living room he is laid out on the couch, flipping through the channels. He is swirling a full glass of whisky and I notice the bottle on the end table is now half empty. I bite my lip, wondering if the promise I’d just made Cici was in vain.
From his grimace alone I can tell that the shift will come soon, so I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I need to think. I look at myself in the mirror, trying to recall all the things I was supposed to say to myself to prepare for this moment. I am strong. I am independent. I deserve someone who treats me right. I stop myself there. He is treating me right. He is a kind, loving man. All this back and forth is exhausting and it is making my stomach turn. With a sense of finality, I decide tonight will be his one last chance. I said that last week, but this time I mean it. I will say goodbye tonight only if he leaves me with no other choice. I smooth my hair and exit the bathroom. I enter the living room with a renewed sense of hope.
I move to lay with him on the couch, but he gets up. Pours more whiskey into his glass and begins pacing the room. He begins ranting about Heather and how much he hates her. He must have been stewing on it while I was in the nursery with Cici. I glance down at his phone to see he has texted her, cursing her out, and I grimace with a sinking heart. He is getting louder, his words beginning to run into one another. I try to calm him down, but he isn’t listening to a word I say. I am losing him. He is fading away underneath the waves of alcohol and a new man is swimming up to the surface. A man I don’t like. A man I am fearful of. I want him back. Please come back, I think hopefully. Please come back to me so we can be together.
His phone lights up and Heather’s name pops up. He doesn’t see, so I quickly pull the phone onto my lap and under a blanket. He can’t speak to her like this. Moments later she texts that she is coming to pick up Cici. She does not trust him with her. Looking at him now, I can’t blame her. I haven’t been paying attention to his ramblings but apparently, he is mad at me now too. He says I am always looking at other guys. That I am a slut. My muscles tense and I realize I a clenching my jaw. I try forcing myself to relax as I observe the storm of emotions rising out of him. So sudden. So irrational. Please don’t make me say goodbye tonight, I plead with him in my mind.
He sees the fear in my expression. He asks if I’m afraid of him and I say no, of course not. That was he wrong thig to say apparently. Although he’s also gotten mad when I’ve said the opposite.
I remember now why I had vowed to leave. In one cruel instant it all comes flooding back. The force of his fist hitting my stomach. The fear of not being able to breathe as his fingers closed around my neck. The man I love is nowhere to be found once the alcohol takes hold. And he refuses to change. I may love him with all of my heart, but he only loves me with half of his. He is incapable of more, no matter how badly I want it.
His eyes are darkening now and he demands to see my phone. He thinks I have been talking to someone else behind his back. I tell him he is crazy. I ask him where he even got that idea, but his words are nonsensical. He hovers above where I am still sitting on the couch, shouting now, before his hand collides with my cheek. A sharp tingly pain radiates from my cheek to my entire head. I throw my phone across the room and tell him he can have it. When he turns to retrieve it, I slide off the couch, grab my purse off the floor and head for the front door. Slamming the door behind me I hear him roar with anger. Something crashes inside before he follows me outside. But I am already opening my car door, my head still pounding and my heart feeling as though it will burst right out of my chest. As I start the engine and back out of the driveway I feel hot tears brimming my eyelids. I wipe them away, pause to get one last look at him. He looks like a madman. Yelling and chasing after my car. This is goodbye, I whisper to him once and for all.