Read along (Weekly quick reads writing challenge)
A chapter by chapter read along for followers of my blog.
My hand trembles over the cold metal handle of the beaten-up suitcase at my feet as I scoop to pick it up, heart somersaulting stupendously. I feel sick, nerves eating me inside out and my heart is fit to burst, but I know this is what I have to do. Body shaking with the effort of so much emotional trauma.
I am leaving my husband.
Only three weeks and four days until my nineteenth birthday
and I am already heading for divorce, lost all that I knew and loved and
I don’t even know how it came to be that I got here.
We had it all, the fairy-tale relationship and plot to a great happy ever after. The couple everyone envied. The existence of carefree kids with long hot Alabama summers and happy lives. Bright futures, big smiles and kisses a plenty. So in love we made everyone sick.
I love him, even still and doing this is tearing me inside out, but I cannot see beyond the wreck and ruins of what was once a love that could conquer all. He was my best friend, my lifelong left arm and now …… we haven’t touched or talked in weeks and as I strip our stark white bedroom of all that is me, he is sat in the bar in town, drowning his days away as has become his routine. Ignoring life with me. Forgetting what I am to him.
He goes to work, he goes to the bar, gets drunk and comes home to sleep on the couch, before morning to do it all over again. That has become the sad reality within the wreck of what was once strong and true. Luke has disappeared inside himself and that sparkle of his eyes has died along with the hope in my heart.
Luke was always my protector, my confidant and somehow, somewhere along the past year of our lives, we have lost one another completely, with no way back. No breadcrumb trails to find our way. My father dying suddenly of a heart attack mere weeks after my sister left to embark on her new life with her husband was the catalyst. It meant I was left alone to manage in this big old house all by myself and he swooped in to save me from my own misery.
Marriage seemed like the right thing to do.
A happiness to plough through my dark cloud days to bring me light in some small way. I wouldn’t be alone, and we always intended to do it anyway. It made sense to bring it forward after graduation. Something to help me with my grief and a security I so badly needed. Losing a father and gaining a husband was meant to give me some sense of safe. No matter what, I had him and always would. Oh, how foolish we were.
I love him. I have loved him since the first kiss he ever gave me when I was just four years old and he five. I loved every moment of our childhood where we ran side by side, every adventure, every hug and every mischief we found ourselves in. We were those kids that everyone knew on sight, always together. Luke and Melia. Double trouble. The conjoined twins.
Inseparable, so in sync and so completely devoted to the bubble that was us. Friends envied our ability to just exist together through thick and thin. We rarely argued; we never really fell out. I didn’t think it was possible to love anyone the way I love him. And I do. Despite what I am doing now, and the evidence is my heart shredding itself to pieces little by little as I gather my things. The pain almost unbearable so that I have to struggle to take a breath and my head pulsates with the stress of my decision. I feel nauseous and faint and my courage waivers.
We can’t fix what’s broken though. It’s bigger than us.
We were already drifting apart after the wedding, when life got so real and reality of adulthood swept in to stain our innocence. It was so rushed, so odd to try and be happy and smile through my vows while I cried for the absence of my father. He had been all we had known as a parent since my mother died giving birth to me. He was our world and he was not there at the most important day of my life. Luke and I. We moved from naive kids who lost their virginity to one another on prom, to a honeymoon where suddenly sex was no longer forbidden.
Sex is a weird thing. It can just make everything so much messier, foggier and your emotions really do hit chaos when you add sex to everything else in the mix. We wanted it for so long, but fear and respect of our parents made us wait. Prom just happened. A little booze, a little romance and carefree behaviour and before we knew it, we were doing things we promised we would wait for, but it didn’t seem wrong. It just strengthened everything I felt about him and cemented in my head that I would his forever. A night I will never forget.
I was still reeling from the shock of laying my father in the ground, our newfound intimacy and craving to feel it from Luke as a balm over and over again. Marriage seemed like the only answer. We were adjusting to throwing away our plans of college and other lives for a picture book end in our small town when I found out I was carrying a life that we never planned on.
Luke took it badly, I guess I did too. We were careless, consumed with one another now we had no boundaries on what was proper and moral. Being married meant we could ignore life and just stay in bed pushing all the pain away by immersing our bodies in the act of love. Naive that it wouldn’t cause an issue somewhere along the line. I am ashamed to admit; I didn’t want it either. I am still a child myself in so many ways. I didn’t want to be responsible for a baby until it wasn’t there anymore.
I knew the moment I woke up that night, in horrendous pain and sweating as though I was being baked in an oven. I could feel there was something wrong. Luke was working an extra nightshift at the factory, cramming in every hour he could to support our new life when it happened. Absent , doing his duty as husband and being our provider. His new role as Man of the house. His new life working in a dark smelly factory, packing boxes. Hardly the dream he had of being someone worthwhile.
He came home to the news that we were no longer going to be parents and rather than be relieved like I thought he would, he cried. My strong handsome Luke. Tall, powerful with that boyish goofy smile and sandy hair of a boy raised in the southern sun. Those grey eyes, red and veined with emotion. He held me all night and took me to the hospital at first light. Those days passed in a blur of numb so that my memories are hazy even still. But that empty hollow pain inside that grew instead of a child, never left me.
It was the nail in the coffin in such unexpected ways. We pulled away, we recoiled inside our heads and his touch became nothing but a memory.
Months now of living like strangers while he avoids me to go drown his sorrows. I work my days at the diner and the numb which took place in my heart slowly started to eat away at my soul and ability to keep going. The constricting hands around my throat, squeezing tighter with every passing week until the only way I can breathe is by fantasising about running away. Somewhere that isn’t this small town where everyone knows your business. Where people don’t look at you with such sad eyes but never know what to say.
I dream about casting all of it off like I am dumping a heavy sodden wool coat that’s been making my muscles ache with the effort of carrying it. Running free, out of hell, away from agony. Away from this place, these people, this mundane life and all of the pain around me.
My sister lives hours away and I feel that I need her more than I need Luke now. She was never really my center of safety; he always was but it’s missing, and I need it. He is no longer my rock or my shelter from the storm. He is at the root of my heartache and I can’t forgive him for leaving me to suffer alone day after day. He promised to always take care of me, yet he barely lingers in my company for more than minutes. His eyes always downcast or on something else and the most we have said to one another in weeks is …
“Don’t forget to take the truck to the garage for the tire change!
That’s it. Our love has become nothing, and I cannot find it within me to even know how to fix it. I don’t have the energy to do it and he isn’t trying either. I don’t want this nothing life with no future. An empty marriage with a cold empty bed he doesn’t use.
My father wanted me to go to college and be someone, but we gave it all away when we had to pay for his funeral and find a way to pay the bills on a house he left for us. It was so sudden, and we had nothing in place to be prepared for losing him. I gave up my dreams to survive and now my dreams are haunting me in cruel ways.
My sister came home after he died, but she wanted me to come with her and leave our little white home behind. Leave the memories of my father to gather dust inside. To leave Luke as he went off to college on his football scholarship and have the rest of our youth as my father intended. We should have listened to her. She’s older, wiser, the mother figure I always needed and never really let her be, but the thought of being parted was nothing I could bare.
Luke was my oxygen.
We made a mistake; we shouldn’t have jumped in so quickly and brushed aside her advice and now I am leaving him and it’s no one’s fault but our own. We weren’t ready and now too much has happened. Children playing house and it’s all coming down on our heads like a pack of playing cards. We don’t have the maturity to put things right.
I want to be a child still, just for a little while longer until I find my feet. I want to go to school and come home to a happy place and a parent who worries about the bills and the problems. Not me. Not to an empty cold dark home because Luke is taking every shift to make ends meet, to clean and cook and do laundry and sleep alone.
I need the warm cozy nest where we all once lived. I want my carefree days and future plans and I miss my friends and stress-free existence.
Bills, worries, jobs and sadness. I have had my fill and I have faced the world long before I was ready. It was no fun at all.
I sigh heavily and hold back the tears that have been threatening since I woke up this morning. Alone again because he had gone to work at the crack of dawn and left only the smell of his body spray behind. An eerie reminder that another human exists in my life although he has become a ghost who haunts me sometimes. The sight of his blankets on the couch, all neatly folded in an expectant little pile for another night, somehow finally broke me inside.
The distance, the emptiness of our home. The lack of hope inside of me while I battle with such heaviness and pain every day. My father, my baby, my dependency on my love in Luke. It’s all gone, and I no longer can bare to stand within these walls and pretend like everything is going to be okay.
Somehow it just triggered a response in me – Automatic pilot.
I began to pack. With every single tiny thing I put in my case my resolve grew stronger as my heart began to crumble away. The cozy, homely farm style cottage built by my grandfather’s own hands hemming me in and making me feel claustrophobic in so many ways. The heat of the day only adding to the sense of suffocation. Every shelf and surface I sweep clear of anything I want with me. Sentimental things, trinkets and pictures and very few of anything of value. I take only what I need to survive until here I am with a mere suitcase and two holdalls to start a new life with. It seems so very little.
I am leaving Luke the house; I mean he married me so it’s his now too. I can’t bear to reside in the walls with so many ghosts to pull my brain to pieces. His home, his new life, his place to sweep clean of our memories. Maybe if I am free of all those things then I won’t die inside every time I see his face in my mind’s eye.
Luke was there from day one, before I can ever remember. He just always was. The boy next door, the cute one that all my friends wanted to date. Mature in his own way yet with such a lame sense of humour and a naughty streak that led us astray sometimes. He was always mine, from the first time he held my hand when I was three and helped me up from falling over. Always pushing other boys away when they got too rough with play. Luke my hero. Luke my protector. Luke my handsome first love, first kiss, first sex.
Luke the husband who gave me my first broken heart.
I walk to the table and pull over the notepad to leave my last final words behind me, something he deserves to know, pulling a light jacket on to give myself a moment to think. I don’t know what to say really, when destroying a life that you thought was forever. Grasping a pen until it makes my finger sting with the force, standing mutely still as my brain scrambles for the right words.
How do you tell him?
How do you walk away from the man you hoped would be your forever, for good?
I pull the paper closer and begin to cry softly, rolling hot drops across warm flushed skin, forcing myself to just write before I lose my courage. Tears blurring my vision fully as ink starts to flow. It’s almost like I’m carving them onto my own heart with a sharp implement. It pains me in every way.
‘ Luke, I’m sorry.
I thought we could do this, but we can’t. This was a mistake and we are both so very unhappy. The house is yours, the truck too. I don’t want anything except what I have taken. My sister will make sure I am cared for like she always did. She will see me right.
I love you, but we just don’t work and it’s time to face the reality of us.
It’s time to grow up and realise, sometimes it just doesn’t work. No matter what we do. We were too young, and it was all bigger than what we could handle.
Don’t follow me. I want us both to find our own happiness in our own way.
I don’t hate you; I don’t blame you.
I will never forget all you have been for me.
I stare at it for the longest moment, aware that it’s not enough but I have no words, my insides ripping in two as doubt consumes me and his face lingers in my mind’s eye. The urge to rip it up and go unpack, killing me slowly. His smile blinding me in the cruelest ways as though he’s climbed inside my brain to stare at me somehow, that warm soft way of his and the gentleness of his character.
Luke was my harbor and now he is my prison. I shake him away, throwing him aside and pull up my big girl panties. Throat constricting with the effort of pulling myself together. My body throbbing and shaking as I do what I never imagined I could.
I slide off my wedding band and lay it on top of the crisp white paper, stained with a stray tear just below my name. Like a smear of shame on a pure surface. I can’t bear to look anymore.
This will hurt him, but I think he will feel relief to be unburdened from a life that is already in tatters. He can go to college like he planned. He can have the life he wanted. He can move on and who knows, maybe we might find a way to be the friends we once were. He can reach for those dreams once again and lay our bad memory to rest. Leave it in the dust with the ruins of our hearts.
I know that delaying this will only make it worse, so I turn quickly, no longer willing to torment myself over the note I am leaving behind. Hurried in my actions, grasping at my bags. I haul my cases up and prop the other bags on my shoulders. Dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt, hair tied up and shoved in his baseball cap to hide my blotchy face and puffy eyes.
I’m scared, and my uncertainty is suffocating me, but I know that it has to be done. The crushing pain will pass when I walk out of this house and get to the bus station. It’s not far . I can do this, and I know Luke won’t be home from work for hours. He won’t see my note until I am long gone and far out with his reach. I am leaving my cellphone off so he can’t call me and that’s another ordeal I will have to face when I switch it back on to call my sister. She won’t turn me away, but I don’t want to forewarn her in case she calls Luke in a panic to somehow rescue me from my obvious breakdown. Her heart is in the right place. I can better explain when I am already on a bus heading west, leaving this southern sun behind me.
If anyone sees me, they won’t recognise me like this. Dressed so boyishly and casually, a contrast to my love of girly dresses and flowy dark hair, curled at the ends. I’m already sweaty from lugging around cases. My hair pushed and hidden in a cap that conceals most of the colour and makes me almost like I am someone else. A tomboy and not that girly, floral loving country girl they all know and love.
I have my wages for the last week at work, I have all I need to start afresh, buy a ticket and get to Sadie, cut ties and leave all the past and pain behind me.
I just have to be brave.
I have to chase my own future now. I have to do what’s right for my heart. I have to save us both from the misery we inflicted upon ourselves.
I have to do this.