This week, we’re challenged to “find inspiration in fifty words”, by using a fellow blogger’s response to a previous challenge, “Fifty,” as a springboard. I chose “On the Importance of Not Being Literal” by Standing Ovation, Seated as my inspiration.
“No,” Derek murmured. “I still have some books to get from the shelf.”
He focused on Eva’s eyes as if he were expecting some kind of vicious reaction from her at any moment.
But Eva stared back at him, willing herself to be calm. She neither smiled nor frowned at him, which may have confused him a great deal and made him even more fearful of what she might do.
Her husband of 15 years was moving out and moving in with the same young lady that he had indignantly and repeatedly averred over the past several months that he was not interested in. Clearly, “together, forever” was just a suggestion to him.
“Have you spoken to the children?” she casually inquired, knowing full well that, being the coward he was, he had not.
Averting his eyes, Derek muttered, “No, I haven’t. I’m not sure how to.”
“Well, make sure you do before you leave here tonight.” she hissed, “Don’t leave me to clean up your mess.”
Every word from Eva to him these days was delivered with a thick layer of ice. She had lost all respect for Derek ages ago, ever since she discovered the first lie still residing in his email account. And then all the other lies strewn everywhere, on the phone, in texts, on Facebook, for he was not one to keep track of where he last placed his fabrications.
She stepped away and, glancing outside, saw the young lady in her car in front of her driveway, peering at her but keeping a safe distance. Eva opened the French windows and made sure that she saw her looking at her, if only to intimidate even more. It wasn’t this person’s fault that the marriage had broken down. It had started to deteriorate long before this particular young lady entered the picture, but it didn’t make Eva dislike her any less.
Outside, leaves fell like confetti creating a variegation of patterns on the lawn and the driveway. It was a brisk, sunny autumn evening. Perhaps a bit too chilly so early in the season, but certainly no match for the frost that had already filled Eva’s heart.
Over the course of the last year or so, Eva had noticed a flurry of correspondence to this woman – a fellow employee – and confronted him on it. At first Derek admitted that he liked her but that’s all it was. It was harmless, he said. First they started having lunch together. Harmless. Then they went jogging together on Saturday mornings. Hmm…Then dinner a few times….
Two weeks ago Eva discovered the email he wrote to her:
“You felt great yesterday. Get some rest and I’ll see you again on Monday.”
She had to steady herself when first she read it. Her eyes welled up as she felt the rush of warmth into her cheeks and her hands started to tremble. ‘You felt great,’ she read again. And how could he have meant this innocently?
She sat before his laptop with several emotions vying to get the better of her. Disappointment, because she had believed he really was not interested in this person romantically. Self-loathing, because she should not have been reading his emails, even if they were open on the computer. Incensed, because she hated how she was now made to feel. Fear, because she was not sure how she was going to treat this piece of information.
They had a family, children, a mortgage, joint accounts, and health insurance together. She thought about giving in to fear and overlook this indiscretion. But she would not, not after they had spoken about this woman ad nauseam, and still he managed to “feel her.”
Eventually hatred won out. She confronted him with printed evidence in hand. He could not and did not deny it. He had slept with her on a number of occasions. She told him she’d had enough and it was time for him to move on. This journey was over.
At first, Derek assumed that Eva was blowing off steam. He asked for forgiveness and suggested they go to couples’ therapy to work this out. He apologized for not appreciating what he had and suggested that he was probably depressed. But they had been down this road before, Eva reminded him, and she had no intention of retracting her position. She wanted no more therapy.
The more he continued to suggest ways of fixing this problem, the angrier she became. Her animosity stemmed mostly from the fact that, instead of investing emotionally in their marriage, he opted to pursue another woman.
So much hate and resentment had slowly built up in her this past year, that the words flowed freely from her lips in an emotional avalanche. At the end , she told him he had to move out of their home in two weeks or that she would. Today was the deadline for his departure.
“I think I have everything now,” he said, returning to the room where she was. He was carrying a box full of historical and political books. Eva wondered if the young lady would pretend to find his nauseating political conversations interesting, as she had done for all these years.
Derek took a step towards Eva and pleaded, “Are you sure this is what you want? I don’t want to move out. I know we can fix this.”
“We can’t fix this,” she argued, “and actually, I don’t want to fix this. We’ve spoken about this problem – about her – too many times. I told you to fix this over a year ago and this is where we are now. This one (she pointed outside) – is just the latest in a long line. Now that you’ve made your decision, I’ve made mine. And now we can move on.”
He ran a hand through his hair and, taking a deep, pained breath, he closed his eyes. Her words stung and inwardly, he wished he could go back in time and stop himself. He couldn’t change her mind at this point, not when he had allowed matters to get so out of hand. He held out his arms for an embrace, but she avoided him and took a step backwards. He could see she was still trembling from the time she spoke, as she always did when she was upset.
He finally got the message and moved to put his belongings outside.
“Make sure you tell the children goodbye,” she warned.
“Sure,” he muttered, and went to the living room to speak to them.
Moments later, she could hear their 8 year-old son crying and their older daughter approached her mom, looking puzzled.
“What’s happening, Mom? Where’s Daddy going?” their 12 year old asked.
They were too young to fully grasp the situation. Eva hated him even more for this too.
“Daddy’s leaving,” their mom replied, and their daughter burst out crying too.
Derek’s pleading eyes searched hers for some hint of forgiveness. But there was none. Eva held on to the children, to support them as well as for them to support her. She took no pleasure in seeing her children cry for their father, but she remained steadfast in her decision.
He walked over to the door, followed by the children. He hugged and kissed them each and promised he would see them soon. He told Eva she could call him if anything needed doing around the house.
“Goodbye,” was her only response.
Then she took the children inside and shut the door. Both were now openly crying.
Eva hugged her children tightly and told them as her mother had told her brother and herself 30 years before: “It’s just us now, but we have each other and we’ll be fine.”