The Road From Resentment To Contentment Is Not Paved

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write a story about a character who is trying to become a better person.... view prompt

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Contemporary Drama Fiction

I did it. I crossed the line. The line I said I’d never cross. The line I’d vowed never to cross.

I would like to say that he doesn’t deserve it - the lies, the betrayal, the disrespect - but I can’t. His constant belittling has earned it all.

That’s what happens when resentment enters a relationship. It starts as a normal cell, minding its own business, and then a little bit of poison slips in and turns that poor cell into cancer. A little more poison, a little more cancer. Before you know it, the cancer has multiplied, raging and out of control, and who you were is gone, unrecognizable. How you look at things, people, life itself; it’s all different. You are angry, cynical, and it seems impossible to see the person you once loved, or thought you loved, as someone worthy of anything you once vowed to be for them.

To have and to hold. Don’t touch me.

For better, for worse. It can’t get much worse.

For richer, for poorer. All the money in the world couldn’t make me want to be with him another minute.

In sickness and in health. He could drop dead for all I care. In fact, skipping straight to “til death do us part” would make things much easier.

The resentment that began as a slow burn years ago has now completely engulfed me in flames. Every single thing he does - every throat clear, every scratch of the fork on his dinner plate, every balled up sock in the laundry basket, every breath he breathes - burns me in a new place. How and when this all started, I couldn’t really say, but the moment that opened my eyes came a little over two years ago.

At the time, our two children, Janey and Tom, were aged four and five, respectively. I had gone back to work part-time the three days a week that Janey was in preschool. The rest of the week was filled with housework, errand running, appointments, volunteering in Tom’s class, and keeping Janey busy, which was a full-time job in and of itself.

This particular evening in question had come after a hellish day filled with one pediatrician visit complete with a series of shots, one grocery shopping excursion that began with a temper tantrum and ended with an abandoned cart, a second attempt at groceries - this one successful after Janey got a much needed nap, six loads of laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away, and approximately one hour of encouragement, persuasion, pleading, and eventual bribing to get Tom to do his 15 minutes of reading homework. With the husband due home shortly, all plans to start making dinner were promptly set aside. With no leftovers to get creative with, I ordered pizza.

The kids were ecstatic with this news. “Pizza on a school night! Yay!!” Tom exclaimed. I could only hope that they wouldn’t realize that their bad behavior, and my resulting exhaustion, were what had won them a school night pizza dinner. Days like this one were rare, and I needed to keep it that way.

Twenty minutes later, as promised, the pizza delivery arrived. Twenty-one minutes later, the husband arrived, along with his condescending, poisonous remarks.

“Pizza, huh? And on a weeknight. What’s the occasion? Or could you just not handle the menial task of dinner on your own?” The tone of his disparaging words made me want to claw out his vocal cords.

“No occasion, just sheer fatigue.” I faked a small smile and worked hard to keep the irritation from my voice.

“Oh, poor baby. Rough day doing nothing at home?”

Nothing? Nothing!? Who the hell does he think he is? Judging something he knows absolutely nothing about - a day in my life. That son of a bitch. I had a choice to make: laugh it off or unleash myself and let him know precisely what I thought of him. I glanced at the kids who were too involved with their pizza to notice what was happening. But I knew my tirade would interrupt that, and I couldn’t do that to them. I also knew at that moment that I could not allow him to undermine me. I simply looked at the husband, this time with a slightly clenched jaw and daggers in my eyes, and said, “It was a day.”

He ignored me after that, and when it came time for the kids to go to bed, I took an exceptionally long time reading stories and cuddling with them. The three of us deserved better than him. I could practically feel his poison converting cell after cell after cell.

After that night, it became evident that I had collected every snide comment, every mention of my lost waistline, every bit of disrespect like kindling, as if I were readying myself for a cold winter. Pizza night was a spark, and now the kindling was lit. Each new remark caused the flame to grow, right along with the poison filled cells that soon became a mass too huge to ignore.

Six months later, the husband made a comment that set me afire. It was as if a window broke in an already engulfed home leading to a massive backdraft. “Wow! Your side of the bed is really sagging over there.”

I have no idea how I remained composed as my insides wanted nothing more than to lash out. At that moment, I longed to destroy him. I looked at him, hoping that my face would not betray me.

“Since you haven’t been able to lose the “baby weight” on your own, maybe you should hire a personal trainer,” he continued. I promptly turned away, shut off my bedside lamp, and shed silent tears.

The next day I decided to call his bluff. I brought Tom to school, dropped Janey off at a friend’s house for a play date, and proceeded to the gym closest to our house.

I was greeted by a fit young woman with a bright pink streak through her platinum blonde hair. Her blue eyes were surrounded by too much black eyeliner, and her glossy smile accentuated perfect white teeth. “Welcome!”

“Hi, I’d like to speak with someone about personal training.”

“Sure thing! Let me grab someone for you.”

She returned moments later with a man named Nate, who had an equally perfect smile and what looked to be muscles on muscles. He was in his mid-twenties with cropped brown hair and chocolaty brown eyes.

“I hear you’re looking for personal training. I’d love to help set some goals for you. Let’s get to know each other.” As he took me by my upper arm, I instantly realized how thick it had become in the last few years. I glanced down at myself, saw how motherhood had changed my body, and wondered how I could have simply accepted it. The husband was right, I had let myself go, but it didn’t make it okay for him to pepper me with rude comments about it. Unfortunately, being supportive and encouraging weren’t really his things. Poison. Flames. Those were his things.

Nate and I started meeting three times a week, and after sixty days of working out and changing my diet, I had dropped twenty pounds and several inches from my waist, hips, and thighs. Not once did the husband say a thing, good or bad.

On the ninetieth day, Nate asked me to join him for lunch to celebrate making it that far with no setbacks. As we grazed over protein packed salads, he announced my latest stats (twenty-seven pounds lost and another two inches from my waist and hips). He also put his hand on mine and offered a proposition I was in no way prepared for.

“Gwen, you are a beautiful woman. I saw it the first day I met you at the gym. You were beautiful before all of this hard work, but now you have confidence that wasn’t there before, and that makes you stunning. I hope someone is giving you the attention you deserve.”

He looked at me with eyes full of lust, a smile full of mischief. He removed his hand from mine, reached under the table, and squeezed my knee. “Is someone taking care of you?” he asked as his hand slid from my knee and inched up my thigh.

I was so caught in rapture that I spoke without thinking. “No. No one is taking care of me. No one is paying any attention to me at all.” While it was true, the husband and I hadn’t shared more than a peck on the cheek for show in years, I couldn’t believe I uttered the words.

Nate smiled confidently, squeezed my knee again, and said, “Let’s fix that.”

And that was when I did it. When I crossed the line. The line I said I’d never cross. The line I’d vowed never to cross.

It was also when I realized that I deserved happiness and that my marriage brought none. It brought misery. It brought frustration. It brought resentment. Poison. Flames.

Now, in all honesty, the affair didn’t bring me happiness either. It brought passion that was lacking. It brought excitement that contrasted all the monotony. But mostly, it brought shame. After a couple of months, I ended my relationship with Nate, both the affair and the personal training.

Soon after, I filed for divorce and primary custody of Tom and Janey. The husband tried to fight me, but in the end, he realized that he wasn’t happy either and never would be in the marriage we were both trapped in. He was more generous with his divorce settlement than he ever was during our relationship. The kids and I were able to stay in the only home they had known, with him paying alimony and child support sufficient to pay the bills allowing me to maintain my part-time work schedule so that Tom and Janey didn’t suffer any more than necessary. They spent every Wednesday night and every other weekend with the ex-husband. They were happy to spend time with him, and I was grateful for the break.

After his first weekend alone with the kids, he apologized to me for not appreciating everything I did to take care of the kids and keep the household running smoothly while we were together. I thanked him and said it was too bad he hadn’t made the realization years earlier. He agreed.

Now that some time has passed, the poison is gone, the fire extinguished, and I am living my best life.

August 11, 2022 19:18

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