New Year, Clean Slate

Submitted into Contest #231 in response to: Set your story on New Year's Day.... view prompt


Drama Holiday

     I probably cursed my New Year when I counted down to midnight at 11:32, 12:07, and 3:26. I was too drunk to worry about luck, and my friends and I were only trying to make each of our Uber drivers feel included in the holiday. 

     Regardless of good intentions, I woke up to an alarm announcing “Note to self: this will be the year you get divorced.” There was no question where this plan had initiated. Everyone had discussed New Year’s resolutions the night before at the house party. Mine, according to my friends, had been to get a divorce. 

     With this message echoing in my head, I drove home and considered my options. Should I break it off that day? After his birthday? It would have to be before Valentine’s Day. I knew I couldn’t fake another. 

     I had no idea that he would meet me with the same mindset. 

     He called on his way home, asking about my night. We discussed the club and house party, and then he lost it. 

     “A house party pushes the boundaries of trust in a relationship, don’t you think?” 

     I just waited for him to keep going. It was never about what I thought - only what he thought. 

     “Besides, we have a kid. It’s time to grow up.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, and the growl in his voice grew deeper. 

     “You can't even have a discussion like an adult?”

     “We’ll have it when you get home.” I hung up, feeling simultaneously like a child and a badass. I didn’t want our son to hear the conversation, even if he was too young to remember it, and I was so sick of hearing his accusations. 

     For the first time in two years, I hadn’t spent the drive home planning an argument. I listened to my music, singing along with my voice cracking from the lack of sleep and abundance of yelling at the club. I considered my options for living arrangements and a job that would support myself and my son. I made plans, but none of them involved my husband. 

     When we met at the apartment, we laid our son down for a nap and got right into it. Home was a touchy subject, and I should’ve known that comment would spur more arguments. I had been sleeping under a different roof for two months due to several unresolved issues. He had made it clear that he wanted me living with him, but I had made it clear I wasn’t ready. I needed space to think for myself. 

     He, once again, explained his discomfort with the house party and went on to add that New Year’s Eve was a family holiday and should be celebrated together. 

     I couldn’t help it - I laughed and laughed. I’d spent years adopting his values, bending to his comfort level, and apologizing for things I didn’t feel badly about. On New Year’s Day, it all disappeared, and I laughed. I laughed for all of the bullshit I’d let slide. I laughed over ever feeling like I owed him anything. I laughed because I didn’t care enough to yell anymore. 

     When I finally stopped to express my own thoughts, he moved right along. 

     “My whole family thinks you’re cheating. Did I really do anything that bad to justify you living somewhere else? I could see two weeks, but two months… I mean, I never abused you. I don’t see why else you wouldn’t have moved back.”

     I wasn’t sure where to start - both were arguments we’d had before, and nothing had changed. I chose the easier one to start. 

     “I never cheated. There’s nothing more I can do to make you believe that. Did I ever give you any reason to think I would?”

     He shuffled his feet, and fell back into his safety net. “No. My family just doesn’t understand why you’d leave otherwise.”

     I threw my hands up in the air. The hand gestures were coming to play, and I briefly scanned the kitchen for anything I might knock over in my frenzy. 

     “Do you want me to tell you again? We’ve done this so many times.”

     “Yes. Just tell me.”

     I went down the list, even though I knew I wouldn’t get to everything before he interrupted. I reminded him how he’d banned me from working because he liked having me at home. I’d barely begun discussing his expectations of a clean home while caring for an infant when he stopped me. 

     “I’m sorry. You’re right - I should never have expected you to be a housewife. You did so much at home that I never recognized or appreciated. I’m working on it.”

     That was where I melted every time. His apologies were so convincing. His eyebrows would droop, his eyes would meet mine, he’d reach out for my hand and squeeze it. Maybe this time he’d mean it. Had any other apology ever felt so sincere?

     “I know you are. I really appreciate it.” I felt the last word catch in my throat, so I stopped talking. 

     “But, Kasey, I can’t do this with you living somewhere else.”

     I never thought he’d say that. I thought he’d wait forever, but there it was. 

     “I can’t come back yet.”

     “A marriage relies on compromise, you know.”

     “Right. I spend only the 8 hours I sleep away from here. That’s a compromise.”

     “No, a compromise would’ve been two weeks away. This is too much.”

     “If it’s too much, tell me you don’t want to try anymore.” Time seemed to freeze as I waited for his response. Then, our son began to cry, propelling us forward. 

     “It sounds like you want to call it off.”

     “I’m not coming back today. So, if that’s your breaking point, tell me.”

     “That’s my breaking point.”

     He handed me his ring, and I felt tears run down my cheeks before I realized I was sad enough to cry. I had expected to feel relieved and excited. Maybe it was the suddenness of the decision that made it so powerful. 

     “I don’t mean to be harsh, but it didn’t have to be this way. You could’ve just come back.”

     I took off my ring and went to our son’s room. I’d been too afraid to ask for his help for two years, and I knew better than to start asking that day. 

     As I laid him back down, I considered standing up for myself. Instead, I left him watching TV while I went for a drive. After years taking whatever he threw at me, I knew I could handle one more day, especially if it could be the last day. 

I ended the holiday early with a text to my friends: “14 hours has to be an all-time best for accomplishing your New Year’s resolution.” 

     I knew there would be questions and congratulations in the morning, but I didn’t need validation that night. Looking back, it had been the most productive and healthy New Year’s Day of my life, and I was proud of myself. 

January 06, 2024 03:45

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