Chapter 10: My Home
May 18, 2017
My pulse is racing. I can feel it through my hands on the steering wheel. My foot pushes down on the gas pedal harder and harder. I still have my keys. But what if Ben is home? What am I going to do then? It’s 2 p.m., the middle of the day. He can’t be. He is always working. I imagine his face emerging at the door, smirking. A sick feeling bubbles through my stomach. Ok, I will check the garage first. If his car is in there, I will just haul my ass in through the side, grab the pictures, and make for it out the back door. Why am I doing this to myself? This is my home.
It starts to rain and I look in the rearview mirror and straighten my green dress so it sits above the collar bone. A memory flashes . . .
….I was in a lull that day. The rain was beating down on the ground hard. I was wearing a nice green dress.
I walked down the same steps, through the living room, and into the kitchen to find Ben hunched over the table buried under a pile of paperwork from the previous day.
A knife could cut through the tension in the air.
“Morning,” I mumbled.
No reply, as usual.
I rubbed my eyelids. I hadn’t slept well.
“Are you ready to go soon?” I asked, knowing instantly that I shouldn’t have.
“Go where?” he sounded irritated.
“We are driving together to pick up Leo from camp. Remember? Thursday, I asked you? You promised you would. Leo will be happy to see us both. He’s been gone for a week,” I reminded him.
“. . . Oh . . . yeah . . . Can you just go alone, Raines? I really have a lot of work to do.”
“No,” I cut back.
“I will go next time. I swear. I’m sorry I have got a lot of work to do. Somebody has got to pay the bills,” his last sentence sliced through me.
It wasn’t his response that upset me. It was that rudeness in his voice that caught me the hardest. Day in, day out, I lived with a man whom I had seen transform into a rude, spiteful person. And those words don’t even scratch the surface. Every diaper I changed, every morsel I fed my son, every sleepless night I held him as he cried, every car ride, every word I helped him learn, every tantrum I placated when he didn’t get his way, every school assignment I helped on, every birthday party I planned, every toy I had to repair, none of it mattered. Because Ben still compared my worth like another one of his investment deals.
And even still, my soul yearned to fix the brokenness.
. . . My wipers scrape back and forth. The rain continues pouring heavily on the cement as I drive down my street.
I drive through the front gate. I see the five-bedroom white stucco home, which I raised my son, and had planned to see out the rest of my days standing right in front of me. It looks the same. Every day, I would drive through this gate. This is my gate. Never did I think I would actually be leaving it one day.
I open the garage door. Thank God the code hasn’t changed. His car is in the garage. Dammit. Why is he here? Maybe, he is asleep. Why should I care about that anyway? This is my home. My house! He is the one who doesn’t deserve to live here. I tiptoe in through the garage door, passing the foyer across the wide dining room that I had personally designed for entertaining. I don’t see him. All the lights are switched off. I race to the back of the house, admiring the kitchen that I had decorated. I look out the bay window at the perfectly manicured garden that I had nurtured all these years.
I run to the top of the stairs, passing Leo’s old empty bedroom. I see his old bed still pushed against the wall and his desk with none of his things scattered across it.
“Hello?” I shout around the door into the hallway.
“I just came back to get a few things,” I say again as I walk through the hall, my feet sinking into the carpet.
I walk into our bedroom. Ben is not in the room. It all looks the same. I even smell the lilac linen spray that I sprayed on all the sheets. I run to my dresser and pull open the bottom drawer. There they are. Worn, tattered, and torn photos tossed on top of each other. Underneath the photos, there are letters, cards, and poems I had written as a child. I kneel on the carpet, flipping through all the memories, smiling and crying at the same time.
I stand up straight to look for an old bag or something to dump all of these pictures in, but as I shuffle around the room, a peculiar fidgeting noise seems to come from underneath the bed. Hmmm? As I am about to look down, something on the ground around the other side of the bed catches my eye. Is that . . .? I bend down to pick it up. It’s Ben’s cell phone, dumped on the hardwood floor beside the bed. It’s cracked, and there are sixty missed calls! What? 60 missed calls? He never misses a single call. Is he ok? I mash down the missed call button with the tip of my pinky by mistake. It dials a number. Oops. Before I can disconnect, I hear it ringing. Leo’s voicemail answers.
“Hello, this is Leo, sorry I missed your call, leave a message and I will call you back,” the phone echoes.
I slam the phone down on top of the dresser, noticing a crumpled ball of paper. What in the world? I pick it up. Delicately, with my fingernails, I smooth out the crinkles and slowly open up the paper until I realize it’s a letter. It reads:
My soul is bleeding the mess I made. It won’t stop until you forgive me. Please, will you forgive me? Give me one more chance.
I love you,
I hold the crumpled letter in one hand and my father’s picture in the other, staring dumbstruck at the cobalt blue walls of our bedroom that I painted years ago.
I knew, in this moment, that I was faced with the biggest decision of my life.