This Time Will Be Different

Submitted into Contest #116 in response to: Start your story with someone being forbidden from doing something.... view prompt

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Drama Inspirational Fiction


(Trigger warning: Strong language, domestic violence, sexual content)


"Do not sleep in my room tonight," he said to Cassie on his way out the door to see Melissa, who he claimed was "just a friend." 


Before he downgraded Cassie and his relationship to what he called roommates, his room was her room. He was her first relationship and her first love; she dropped out of college to move in with him. Most nights, he wanted Cassie in his room, and, of course, she obliged.


This proves he still loves me. This time will be different.


A couple times, she worked up the courage to leave him. One time she moved back in with her parents, tail between her legs, as she explained to them he was cheating on her. Of course, they didn't know that he considered them roommates. How could she explain that?


Another time she'd found a cheap apartment over an old farmhouse. She claimed the apartment was haunted, and the ghosts robbed her of sleep. But maybe she was just scared of being alone.


She crashed at her friend Zoe's place several times. Zoe was the only person who knew everything about their farce of a relationship. But, she never judged, and she was always there for Cassie.


“I have a spare bedroom when you’re ready for something more permanent than my couch," Zoe told Cassie more than once.


"I know. Thank you," she'd say, but after a few days, he would beg for her to come back. Then he'd drop those three little words that were a magnet that pulled her back to him. This proves he still loves me. This time will be different.


Faced with another night alone, Cassie ordered takeout and rented a movie. She needed to keep her mind off him, but her imagination ran wild with what he and Melissa actually did on their nights out. When she could no longer keep her eyes open, she went to her room, knowing it would be used against her if he thought she'd fallen asleep on the couch waiting up for him. Since she spent most nights in his room, her room felt more like a storage room than a bedroom.


Behind her closed eyes, all she could see was him. The angry words he threw at her, his arrogant smile that said he knew she would do whatever he told her. Her mind would also flashback to their first few months together. Holding hands at the movie theater, laughing over dinner, cuddling on the couch, watching movies, making love all night.


She knew she should stand up to him but thinking about it made her skin crawl with fear she would go too far, say the wrong thing, and lose him forever. She only wanted to show him the error of his ways, for him to realize she mattered, for them to be the couple they were in the beginning. Sooner or later, crying exhausted her enough to fall asleep.


He shook her awake. “Get up. Come to my room.”


She looked at her clock: 1:05 a.m. She sat up, rubbing her puffy eyes. He never wanted her after he went out with another girl even if she was just a friend. Has he realized I am the one he loves? Will this prove that he loves me? Will this time be different?


He looked back at her from the doorway. "Brush your teeth first. I can smell your stank breath from here."


Groggily, she put her hand over her mouth and breathed out, trying to catch a whiff as she padded to the bathroom. She gargled with mouthwash and brushed her teeth. She looked in the mirror at her mousy brown hair, her plump face, her swollen eyes. She tried to fluff her hair and sprayed the perfume he loved.


“Hurry up,” he yelled from his bedroom. “I gotta work in the morning.”


She found him in the bedroom, naked, spread eagle on the bed. He grinned at her, showing off that split between his teeth she thought was so adorable when they met. His green eyes sparkled.


He’s happy to see me. He’s happy to be here with me! This proves he still loves me. This time will be different.


She smiled back as she removed her nightshirt and panties, trying to cover up the chubby parts he liked to point out, not daring to turn out the lights. He was a "lights on kinda guy" he always told her.


“Don’t cover up,” he said. “I want to see you.”


She closed her eyes as he leaned in to kiss her, his tongue darting in and out of her mouth. When he pulled away, she took the moment to catch her breath.


Her eyes flew open wide to see him staring down at her with the arrogant smile he wore so well. This was a brand-new hell. She never dreamed he could hurt her with a smell. He rubbed his fingers along his goatee and tried to push them in her mouth. She turned away in disgust as tears welled up.


“Oh c'mon, Cas. I know you like it. Don’t you want to taste her like I did? I took care of her, now I need you to take care of me. C’mon baby, I love you, show me you love me.” She faced him and let him kiss her again. When he pulled her on top of him, she didn’t hesitate. After all, he said the magic words.


Ten minutes later, he snored beside her, and she went to wash away the taste of his betrayal. She paused at the door of the bathroom, her head swinging from her room to his with indecision. Different but same, loneliness and sadness beckoned from both rooms. She climbed under the covers and cuddled up to his warm body.


"Get off," he said, scrunching his body to push her away.


“Sorry,” she whispered as she moved to the other side of the bed.


“Just get out. I gotta get up early, and I don't need your snoring keeping me up all night."



***

At the beginning of their relationship, this was a running joke.


“You’re snoring is going to keep me up all night,” he’d tell her as he stroked her hair. She knew it was cliché, but that look from him made her feel like she had to be the luckiest woman in the world.


"That's my plan," she'd say with a mischievous smile. So they'd make love all night, each teasing the other that they might as well since the snoring would keep them awake anyway.

***


She smiled and stroked his back. “Well, if my snoring will keep you awake, why don’t we go for round two?”


"I'm serious, Cassie. Get out."


She sat up and looked at him. Her sadness turned into desperation and anger.


"Why are you so mean to me?"


“Not this again,” he said with a sigh.


“Not this again? Not fucking this again? What’s that supposed to mean?”


“It means the same damn thing it means all the time. Just because we screw once in a while doesn’t change that. I. DON’T. WANT. YOU. You’re fat, you’re ugly, you smell awful. That horrible perfume just makes it worse. How many times do I have to tell you that? Now get out.”


“You told me you loved this perfume. You—”


“I lied!” He yelled loud enough to make her jump. She threw back the covers and stomped out of his room, slamming the door shut. She went to her room, slammed her own door, then opened it and slammed it one more time, trying to slam the anger out.


Anger emboldened her to leave; the red blocked out everything else. She would wait until he left for work to escape. For good this time. This time will be different.


She was still awake when she heard him get up for work, and finally, the apartment door opened and shut. After he left, she climbed into his bed, inhaling his smell as she drifted off to sleep trying to hold onto one last good memory of him.


He came home early as she took one last look around. It was rare for him to come home for lunch. Her heart stopped, but she steeled herself.


“What are you doing?” he asked. “Leaving again? Don’t think I'll allow you to come back again.”


She looked up at him, appalled at how arrogant he could be. She tossed her bag over her shoulder and reached for the doorknob, but then she hesitated.


"Already changing your mind?" he asked. "That's fine. Why don't you go pick us up something to eat? Hurry up, I don’t have a long lunch."


She turned and looked at him, cursing her tears for betraying her sadness. She had a note in her pocket she'd planned to leave for him, but she worked up the courage to tell him the words she mulled over all morning. She took a deep breath.


“I can’t love you enough for both of us, and I can’t love me for you. But I can love myself enough to say goodbye. This time will be different.”


“Oh, that's a good one. Best you have had in a---" She didn't hear the rest as she shut the door softly behind her. 


We never forget our first love, and with Cassie, it was no different. She spent many years figuring out who she was and finding the confidence and self-worth that he attempted to rob from her.


She sat at her desk, staring at his friend request on social media. She could hear him in her head, “You’re fat, you’re ugly, and you smell bad.” She remembered like it was yesterday: how she wanted to sink into the floor, how she cried herself to sleep, how he made her hate who she was even while she prayed that he would love her like she loved him.


Her finger hovered over the delete button. He couldn’t hurt her anymore, but she still didn’t understand. Friends told her he was a narcissist. Her therapist told her that he verbally abused her. Intellectually, she understood, but closure and acceptance always felt just out of her grasp. She clicked accept.


Almost immediately, her phone vibrated, signaling a private message from the social media app.


               “Long time no talk. How ya been?”


She stared at the message for a long time. Her hands shook as she looked through his photos and posts. She hadn't seen him in at least 15 years, yet there he was, showing off that same smile, the same split peeking out between his teeth, and those green eyes. Instead of an aging, miserable, middle-aged man, the pictures showed a happy, perfect family.


 No one else could possibly put up with how mean he was. Or was he only mean to me?  Get a grip! He has no control over me. This time will be different.


She responded to him: “Doing great. You?"


They chatted for a few minutes. She emphasized how happy she was, and he told her about his wife, his children, his job, but one question plagued her mind.


“Why were you so mean to me?”


Ellipses showed, then stopped, then showed up again as she waited for his answer. Finally, several minutes later, his response came on the screen.


               “Because I could.”


She stared at his message, and she thought of all the wonderful memories she made after she left him. She smiled as she deleted, blocked, and unfriended him. Her life wasn’t always easy nor perfect, and while, on some level, she always knew, it finally clicked into place at that moment. This time was different. He no longer mattered. She was the one that mattered, and she'd never let anyone take that away from her again. Why? Because she could.










October 20, 2021 18:57

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2 comments

Daniel Hayes
16:43 Feb 17, 2022

This was a fantastic story, Theresa. I really enjoyed reading it, and I loved the way you ended it. Keep up the great work!! :)

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18:45 Feb 17, 2022

Thank you so much!

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