It was an ache like she had never felt before, a tightening in her stomach and a heaviness in her chest.
She stumbled as she stepped up on the raised sidewalk and she reached out for the door handle, determined not to let him see her fall. Keeping her back to him, she tried to stop the hot tears falling from her eyes, but more flowed as her throat constricted. She leaned against the door, afraid that if she didn’t she would surely fall and everyone would know that she wasn’t strong enough. Kellie who had been a single mom for years without the aid of a husband or boyfriend, Kellie who had always managed to find a way to keep a roof over the heads of herself and her son, kept the insurance up, put food on the table and worked until she nearly dropped from exhaustion; she wasn’t strong enough to handle a broken heart.
A sob escaped her and she fumbled in her pocket for her keys, desperate to get inside the building and go back to work, to grab a hold of something familiar and bury herself in the mundane tasks of her job. She glanced behind her and the parking lot was empty. He was gone. He had come long enough to tell her they would never be together, that she had to move on and not allow his walking away to stop her from finding happiness. Kellie felt a new rush of tears fall down her cheeks. He didn’t understand at all. It took twelve years for her to dare to try again. She had avoided all relationships and thrown herself into raising her son and jumping back into the world of dating again had been a test of her trust and her willingness to allow herself to love again. He had simply just stopped wanting to be with her and she knew deep down that she just wasn’t good enough, too much time had gone by and she was never going to find someone who could truly love her. She had her chance with her marriage and it had blown up in her face. It was foolish for her to believe that anyone would want her now. Twenty pounds heavier, set in her independent ways and hesitant to trust again. She was ruined for relationships and this one was wise enough to sense it.
Kellie forced the door open and staggered into the bathroom, locking the door behind her and wrenching the cold water on full blast. She braced her arms on either side of the sink and stared at her reflection. She looked horrible with red eyes, swollen and still shiny with tears, makeup long gone. She took several deep breaths and leaned down to splash cold water on her face, but it wasn’t enough. Kellie sobbed, pressing her wet hands against her hot cheeks and wanting nothing more than to curl up in a corner and weep until there was nothing left inside.
She grabbed some paper towels and wiped furiously at her face, willing herself to stop crying and bury the pain deep. She knew her co-workers would take one look and know, despite her efforts to hide it. She wasn’t loveable, she couldn’t hold on to a man… and they would all know it. Her heart lurched again and she shut off the water, blinking several times. She went back out to her desk, avoiding the quick glances of her two co-workers, and plopped down in her chair. She stared unseeing at her computer screen, the Outlook layout blurring and unreadable. She blinked again and grabbed the mouse, began clicking on the emails and trying to remember what it was she was working on before her world fell apart. She heard his voice in her head again, the scene playing over and over again. The way she wanted to just pull him to her and kiss him and make him stop and see what he was walking away from. The desire to make him choose her. She felt stupid and betrayed.
A strangled sob escaped her and she dropped her head down on her arms and keyboard and cried quietly, her heart painfully trying to burst in her chest. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder but she didn’t look up, afraid that whoever it was, they would look at her with sympathy and worry and she didn’t want that, she just wanted to be somewhere else… anywhere but here where her world had just crashed down around her. All around her it had become silent, the clicking of keys on the keyboards had ceased and Kellie knew everyone was staring. They knew. They all knew she was weak and stupid for falling for someone who was never going to love her. She had been used and thrown away with a standard, “Its not you, its me” kind of excuse. She was no better than she was when her marriage fell apart. She was still making stupid decisions and it was obvious to everyone that she was foolish to even try again. She was collateral damage in a war she hadn’t chosen to fight, an insignificant loss in the grand scheme of things. Not important enough to fight for.
Mustering up a strength she didn’t feel, Kellie, straightened up and wiped at her eyes, sniffling and reaching for an offered tissue, “I’m fine, guys, really… I’m fine.” But she wasn’t fine. . He didn’t want her. She wasn’t good enough. She was just a fling, he was done with it and she was left alone…. Again…. Poor little Kellie, all alone and unable to hold on to anyone because she was just stupid when it came to love and trust. Although this pain was quick and precise, it hurt worse than that of her failed marriage. This time she could feel her heart breaking.
Somehow, she got through the rest of the morning. Quietly answering her emails and trying to work on projects that were pending. At lunch she went out to her car and just sat there in the parking lot, staring out the windshield and smoking cigarettes, her appetite gone. The afternoon dragged by, her tears less frequent now as the reality began to sink in. She had no idea what she said to her friends that had emailed, but she knew it wasn’t the truth. Probably something about being too busy to answer, swamped with projects. She didn’t want to admit to them that she had made another mistake, that she had not learned her lesson when it came to men.
Finally five o’clock came around and she drove home, no radio on, just the hum of the tires and the sound of the wind rushing around the car. At home she went through the motions of feeding the dog and the cats, then she made herself some hot tea and sat down in front of her computer, feeling the silence of the house press down all around her. His things were still in a pile in her living room, which meant he would have to come get it.
She wanted to throw it out on the lawn and scream in anguish and heart break. Instead she put the computer away and turned on the tv but didn’t really watch it. She allowed the tears to flow unchecked and she stared unseeing at the television screen, replaying the last three months in her head, wondering where exactly she had gone wrong. She clung to her cell phone, watching it, willing it to ring and display the name “My guy”, anticipating his voice telling her he was wrong, that she was too important for him to just walk away from. But the phone remained stubbornly silent and the hour grew late.
Kellie unwrapped herself from the couch and stumbled into the bathroom for her shower. She let the hot water pour over her and a weakness came over her as fresh sobs racked her body. She stayed like that until the water cooled and then she got out, wrapping herself in a towel. She looked at herself in the mirror and a barrage of negative, self-depreciating thoughts screamed in her head. “You’re fat! You’re too loud, too demanding! Its no wonder he wanted out!” Closing her eyes, Kellie dried herself off, hating the body she rubbed the towel over and quickly throwing an over sized t-shirt on to hide the flaws.
She laid down on the bed and stared at the ceiling willing herself to think of something else. The image of her ex-husband came to mind and her thoughts went over every detail of their relationship.
Over the years she had thought less and less of it, distancing herself from her failure, but tonight she was giving herself a pass and allowing herself to remember.
She never fought back. That was the worst part. The destruction of her marriage and her trust. She feared that if she confronted him it would confirm her deepest fears, not that she would end up alone, but that she wasn’t worthy enough to deserve his love and loyalty. She accepted the single red rose he brought each time, pretending that it was a symbol of his love for her rather than a sign of his infidelity. She cared for their child, cleaned the house and did the shopping. She accepted his excuses of working late, tolerated the marathon video gaming and football watching that took precedence over family outings and looked the other way as he ingested the whiskey like it was water. She quietly listened to his ravings about people doing him wrong and stood by helpless and embarrassed when he picked fights with unsuspecting strangers who had done nothing more than glance at him as he walked by. It was better that way, easier to live if she just took it all and absorbed it with no argument. She realized he would never be the person she had hoped him to be. When he talked of a future together, she felt dread. When he was excited about a new idea to move ahead, she would cringe inwardly and calculate how much she would have to take on in order for him to chase that hopeless venture. His touch brought revulsion and she avoided contact as much as possible, as much that wouldn’t make him suspicious. She found herself relishing the times when he wasn’t around and feeling resentful when he was there. She kept it all inside, harboring it like a dirty secret.
She buried her pain so deep that that it began to fester and grow like an invasive weed, curling around her heart and choking every last piece of compassion and love out of it. She cried alone where no one could see her and she silently mourned the death of the love she once had for him. Then she put away her dreams of a good life in a successful marriage, and created a new one. The dream of being free.
All she wanted was to be free of the pain, free from the ache that consumed her and hold her hostage like bars in a prison. That pain had been dull and easier to absorb. The pain of “My Guy” was excruciating. It wrapped around her scarred heart and squeezed forcefully, it lashed open wounds she thought long healed and no amount of crying or wishing or anything else was going to erase that hurt.
Kellie finally fell asleep, exhausted from the day, praying that when she woke it would have all been just a bad dream. She woke with a migraine. Wincing against the pain, she stumbled to the kitchen and found the ibuprofen. She heated a cup of day old coffee in the microwave and swallowed four pills down. Closing her eyes, she dropped into the only chair in the living room and closed her eyes against the throbbing pain. The previous day’s events began running through her mind and a lump formed in her throat. She swallowed quickly but it was not use, fresh tears pricked her eyes and the ache in her heart called out.
With an effort, she forced herself up and dressed for work. She ran a brush through her tangled hair, glancing in the mirror long enough to silently remind herself that she was worthless. She stared at her phone for a moment, hoping against hope that he had texted or called. He had not.
She shoved the phone in her pocket and grabbed her keys, taking deep breaths as she stepped out and saw that it was a pretty October morning. The sun showed bright in the eastern sky, orange leaves rustled in the near naked tree tops and birds called out their morning song. It was a contradiction to the darkness inside her and Kellie climbed in her car, feeling like the world too had turned a blind eye to her pain.
It wasn’t fair.
None of it was fair and she was going to have to suck it up and pretend that she had not been laid out flat by one man’s rejection.