Breathe in , breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. This was the technique Mama taught her, she told her it would help whenever she felt nervous.For the first time, Mama had been wrong. She wasn't feeling better. She felt like she was going to throw up and faint. She needed to leave the house.
The only place that seemed quiet enough was the treehouse, James had built it for their daughter when she got into middle school but now it seemed like she was too busy jumping in and out of trouble with her friends to use it. She closed her eyes, she just needed sleep for a few minutes. When she opens her eyes again, it was late, she had slept for almost three hours, shouting had a way of tiring her out. As she descends from the tree house, she sees James, she knew he had been waiting for her. She moves to enter the house but he stops her,
" Kate, how many times do I have to tell you not to come to my office", he asks calmly but she could see the anger brewing in his eyes
" Since when did coming to my husband's office become a crime", she responds calmly
They continue to stare in each other's eyes, there was a silent battle of dominance, whoever broke contact loses first. As always, he is the first to break contact, he sighs tiredly and storms into the house, she wants to follow him, to shout and scream, and break things, to demand the reason why he was being so stubborn about everything, but she doesn't. She goes back to the tree house.
Kate always wonders how things got so nasty. It was the small things at first, little details like closing the milk carton after using it or not correctly folding the laundry or using the toothpaste tube wrongly, there were times were they fought about whose turn it was to feed the dog. Whenever they had this little fight, their daughter would run into her room crying. Years later, little jabs and insult had turn to full blown quarrels, snide remarks and hateful glances.
Her Mama always told her children were the stronghold of any marriage, that the more children she gave her husband, the happier he would be. They had tried for a baby so many times, at first there were a couple of miscarriages and James had assured her that it was nothing, that they would walk through it and try again. For a long time, miscarriage was a constant.
The first time she saw blood on the bedspread, she had screamed and cried uncontrollably, James had held and comforted her, he whispered reassuring words in her ears. He had looked at her straight in the eye and promised to never leave her, to always be by her side no matter what life threw at them. After seven years, The smile that usually accompanied James eyes faded, the creases on his forehead were more pronounced and his sighs became louder.
Despite the years of frustration, James never complained. Whenever it happened, he would simply wake her up to clean herself and before she came out of the bathroom, the bedspread would be gone and so would James. After the seventh miscarriage, James had told her, he didn't want to try anymore. She had held her ground and refused, she told James getting her pregnant was the least he could do. He was adamant but she had managed to convince him, they tried again but there was nothing to show for it.
Adoption was a foreign concept to her. The thought of taking care of someone else's child had never appealed to her. When James came in with the adoption paper one night, she had tore it and threw it at his face. She felt insulted, like he was trying to rub the fact that she couldn't give birth at her. It took time but he was able to convince her. They adopted a seven years old girl. She had asked him why they couldn't adopt a baby, James had looked at her and simply said, "We both know you can't take care of a baby". The words hurt her but she couldn't argue, in a way she believed him. After all, if she was good at taking care of children, she wouldn't have lost seven.
The voice of her fourteen years old daughter jolts her up, she looks outside the window of the tree house and sees Nina. Nina was calling out to her, telling her it was time for dinner and she should come inside the house. She does as her daughter instructs, she goes into the house. James was already seated, he looks at her with a tired gaze. Nina was serving the dishes and talking excitedly. Their balance as a family wasn't perfect but it was okay. She hopes they wouldn't fight at the table.
Before nine, the balance was upset. She had started the fight, she didn't know why but her mouth had just opened and she had accused James of cheating. He was livid, he wasn't going to let the accusation slide. Little by little, they were unearthing all their buried problems. Their financial problem, the mortgage, the miscarriages, her unemployment, his inefficiency, everything was being let out. Unlike other times,where it ended with him walking out, he had said the sentence she dreaded the most. He says,
"I want a divorce"
The house becomes immediately silent. He opens the window, as if trying to let some of the tension out. He looks at her again and says sadly,
"This isn't working, twenty years later, and we're back to the beginning"
"After twenty years, twenty freaking years, you suddenly want me out. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, I am not leaving", she had screamed out
He gives her the look, he always does whenever he felt she was acting stupid but this time, she wasn't going to back down, she looks at him straight in the eye.
"What do you expect ?, You're always nagging and complaining over everything. At first it was about a child, then money was the issue. Nothing ever makes you happy, nothing, you're still as bitter as always"
He says as he sits back on the chair
"Oh, this is what you are playing at. I know what this is all about, it's because I couldn't give you a child, so you want to suddenly drop me like am trash, you want to go to your mistress. If you think am letting go without a fight, you're kidding", she tells him defiantly
"SHUT UP KATE, JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP", He shouts angrily.
The force of his words makes her jump, she search the room, searching for something to break, at least to regain control but she sees nothing. Everything had been broken, from the glass cups to his glasses, even their wedding frame.
"The problem was never the child, it was you, always you. The only thing I hear from your mouth is having a child and your Mum. If I hear anything about pregnancy or one of those crappy fertility hospital, I will loose my mind. You're never satisfied, you've built this freaking fantasy world about us being like your parents that you don't see how you're destroying everything"
His word hits her hard, she slides to the floor, tears are pouring out of her eyes. James doesn't move to console her, she watches as he collects his pillow and the shard from his glasses, he's muttering,
"a child, a child, then the heck is Nina"
Kate buried her head in her arms, she's crying now, she doesn't eat h him as he leaves but she hears him telling her, that the papers were coming in tomorrow and she better signs them.