The first time it happened, it was an accident.
We had a row, an awful one. It was one of those arguments that only get louder, vicious; biting and peeling off chunks of your self-worth. It seemed as though it would never end, we just kept going round in circles. Ash shouting at me to open my fucking eyes, to see what I was doing to him, to us. Me, screaming back at him, calling him a bastard until I was red in the face and out of breath. The walls were closing in, or maybe it was just me getting in his face, forcing myself into his space. No matter how angry he was, he never moved towards me, never invaded my space. It was always me hurtling towards him, a meteor towards earth, blazing, burning.
At one point, I couldn’t even remember what we were arguing about, we’d been going at it for so long. It started over the mud on the carpet - I think - and morphed into at least five different irrelevant issues. It always does. The smallest problems that prickle your skin are only fillers, overlaid over the real ones, hiding the bruisers. That sarcastic comment that I never forgot - the time I embarrassed him in front of his colleagues - the abortion that we’re not supposed to talk about. But we do - we always do. Ash can’t forget it, I know he can’t forgive me - though he tries hard to pretend that he has. We spend hours going back and forth, until he claims that I cannot fathom his forgiveness because I haven’t forgiven myself.
This sends me spinning. I implode, words and fists and pure fury. How dare he try to psychoanalyse me? Now? Here? In our home? I am screeching: I am not one of your patients, you egotistical fuck. In the back of my mind, I know that I have become a monster in the hallway of our home. I’m calling him names, anything I can think of, spitting poison and watching it hit home. He doesn’t respond but his hands are still outstretched, ready to ward off any more weak-hearted blows. He has reached his point. I know Ash’s boiling point like I know my own body. His eyes become wide, so wide it’s almost easy to pick out the individual strands of his iris. He does this when he is trying not to cry. His whole body caves in and he stiffens into a solid oak; taking root on our staircase, anchoring himself into the only stable thing he knows - which isn’t and never has been me.
In these moods, I hate his boiling point. Other people explode, get violent, scream, throw things. He becomes so angry that he just retreats. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me seem like the villain. I am the villain, but how dare he know it, point it out? I can see myself almost as if having an out-of-body experience. Red-faced, wild-eyed, screaming, searching. I don’t know who I am in these moments. I am someone else, somewhere else. I see in his eyes that he doesn’t recognise me either, doesn’t know what else to say, or how to handle me. I could go off on a thousand different tangents. Anything he might say, I will definitely throw back at him, no matter how irrational. So he cuts himself off from me. He puts distance in between us emotionally, and then physically. And I fucking hate it. If I have to disintegrate, then so does he. If I have to burn, then so does he. I cannot be left alone.
Eventually, Ash has enough of watching me hurl accusations at him. He shakes his head, small but perceptible, and walks away. The fact that he has turned his back on me is like a punch to the chest. My head is light from all the shouting, woozy almost. This, combined with the pure force of my indignation, almost knocks me off my feet. I stumble backwards, losing my balance, and smash the back of my head into the wall. The pain comes later, after the shock. I don’t see stars but I taste blood, astringent and metal on my tongue. Ash whips around so fast it gives me vertigo, eyes crossing, head pulsing. He calls my name but I can barely hear him. My ears are ringing.
There’s something very wrong here.
And then he’s by my side, and he’s tapping me, trying to get me to focus on his fingers. His voice comes to me slowly, too slow to actually be real. My mind is slowing everything down. God, I want to throw up. I hold my stomach and groan, letting him know that I’m likely to vomit all over him. He doesn’t move, doesn’t even blink. His hands are gentle on my chin, tilting my head back, gazing into my pupils. You wouldn’t believe that a minute ago, he was turning his back on me, washing his hands of me, preparing to leave me to my own devices. You wouldn’t believe that I called him a horrible fuck, a bastard, a loser. In this moment, we are two people in love, a knight to the side of his damsel in distress.
I end up in his arms and he leads me to the bathroom where he sits with me, my head over the toilet bowl. My hair is in his hands, his fingers against my skull. There’s a very tender spot, he presses, and I howl. That hurts. I want to tell him but if I open my mouth, I think I will throw up. He apologises and I know that it was sincere. I pause. There is something like alarm running through my body. How can he be so nice to me after what just happened? I start to panic; there must be something very wrong with me right now if it can force him to be so gentle. His fists were clenched against my words on the landing, and now they’re stroking soft pathways across my shoulder blades.
I am seriously wounded.
I try to stand up, to push him away, so I can see for myself what’s wrong. There’s a mirror above the sink - if I twist my head a certain way - But he doesn’t let me move, and my attempts are so feeble that he probably doesn’t even exert any energy doing so. I hunch back over the toilet, giving up. Movement brings my stomach to the boil again.
“You’re okay, Cassie.” He repeats, in his soothing therapist’s voice. “You’re okay.”
I finally mumble something and he laughs - a forced sound. “I’m only a psychologist, yes. But I know concussion when I see it. You’re okay.”
But this can’t be right, because his voice is so kind and his touch is gentle. He’s holding me, and stroking my hair, and comforting me. Five minutes ago, I was trying to hit him. And he is here, holding me. If I’m okay, how can he bear to be near me? I try not to think that Ash just really can’t avoid someone in need - that, of course, he is tending to me because he loves me and I’m hurt. The knock to my skull has cleared my anger and everything is coming back to me in surround sound vision. All the nasty words. The violence. I’ve never hit Ash before. How could I? He’s so soft, so gentle, so restrained. How could I have ever hit him? There is no excuse for my behaviour.
Then the tears are pouring down my face and I’m sobbing into his shoulder. He’s rocking me, hushing me, promising me once again that it’ll be okay. I’m crying, telling him that I’m sorry, giving him my word that I will never let this happen again. My heart hurts so much that I don’t even feel the throbbing in the back of my head anymore. I love him so much and I hurt him so much. He won’t tell me what I’ve done to him but I can see it. His smile isn’t so ready, his eye contact not so unfailing. But he kisses me on the temple, his lips a soft blessing. He looks off into the distance, pressing me closer, but he doesn’t say anything more. He doesn’t accept my apology. He doesn’t respond to my own strained promise.
We’ve been here before.
We didn’t argue in the beginning, but then who ever does? It’s always the same isn’t it; the dread you feel as the honeymoon period fades ever more. It has to happen - every relationship has to grow, move on, stretching itself into new shapes, new stories. Who you were before is not who you are now. What you were like then is not what you are like now. Life: it never stops moving. I guess Ash and I weren’t ready for that. We weren’t expecting the fade. We didn’t want the new shapes. We were content in our self-contained bubble.
The disease in us started much, much later. Poison in my womb bled out into us. Too young, too immature, too busy to have a baby. We made a mistake and paid for it with blood. I cried for days afterwards, an emptiness wracking my body like I’ve never felt before. Ash was with me every step of the way, taking time off work to comfort me. Yet, though he was always a breath away, I was cold. Inside and out. I didn’t expect to feel it so deeply; my best friend assured me it would be okay. She had a procedure when she was younger and stupider - she didn’t even think about it anymore. I took her word, convinced Ash that I wanted to do this. We had too much to look forward to. We weren’t ready.
He held me for days, every time I cried, every time I shuddered. But he felt distant too. I would look up, and he would be staring out of the window, or at me but through me. I knew then, of course, that he would never forget. We had made a terrible choice - a necessary one - but one that broke our hearts. Maybe that was the first crack in the ice. Maybe it was before that.
As a psychologist, Ash works decent hours and is always home for dinner. As an engineer, I do not. We made it work as best we can, but since we were both promoted, it became harder. Weeks where I only saw him during the evenings for a few hours and then bedtime and off early in the morning again. Weeks and weeks of this. It’s tedious but I suppose loads of couples make it work anyway. We...are still adjusting.
One wet, windy day - a few weeks after the staircase incident - I come home late to find Ash on the phone. It’s almost 10pm so I’m tired and hungry. The front door barely clicks behind me - I oiled the hinges recently - and he’s surprised to see me when I slink into the kitchen. His tall frame is coiled up against the counter, a pan on the cooker, sausages frying noisily. His jolt is quickly replaced with a smile. He tells the person on the other end to hold on and kisses me softly, slowly. “Hey, baby.”
I smile back, touch his arm affectionately. I know he’s eaten already so the sausages are for me. He was expecting me back later but the train was early so I thought I’d surprise him. He’s busy though. Okay, no big deal. I head to the bathroom, take a quick shower, brush my hair out and change into one of his shirts. I enter the kitchen again to find it empty. He’s in the living room, a loaded plate steaming away on the coffee table. A smile is making its way onto my face when I notice that he’s still on the phone. It slips away. He makes eye contact with me as he puts one of our shows on, encouraging me to eat, happy to see me.
I should be happy that he’s gone to the effort. He’s been hard at work as well, listening to person after person all day, trying to help them help themselves. Thoughtful, is what this is. But there is a sharp niggling in my chest. Something will not let me enjoy this. I eat, but slowly. He rubs my arm as he laughs away on the phone and I move away, almost to the other end of the sofa. He doesn’t notice, chatting away about some football game that came on before I finished work, apparently. Then it hits me: who the fuck is he talking to at 10pm?
He finds me later, in our bedroom. I’m staring at my laptop, not really seeing it. My mind has been racing, for almost an hour, since I left him in the living room. The moment he sees my face, drawn and angry, he knows. His expression was content, something akin to joy. It becomes deadpan, cautious. Before I even open my mouth, he sighs. Then we’re off. Me accusing him of talking to someone I don’t know. He says, of course, I don’t know all of his friends and why should he have to lay out everyone he knows for me anyway? I’m complaining that he could be flirting with anyone and he’s telling me - growling, really - that I know he’s not like that. I don’t know what you’re like, I say, and regret it instantly because he’s never given me any reason to doubt his faithfulness.
Well, that pisses him off. He’s shouting, telling me I’m paranoid for no reason, that I need to accept that he has a social life outside of our relationship. Is he not allowed to talk to people? I counter, pointing out that he was ignoring me, and he snorts, reminds me that he was cooking for me, that he greeted me, set up dinner and put my favourite show on. It’s whispers on the wind to me. I don’t even register the words: the truth. And I don’t know what possesses me to do it but suddenly I’m demanding that he gives me his phone. His reaction is visceral and he steps back, shocked. It’s too late to turn back now, though I feel regret and angst. He’s right. I know he’s not like that. But this feeling that’s eating me up inside, this needy, needling pain...I need to see his phone. He throws it at the bed and walks away. I don’t even look at the damn thing. Before he turned away from me, I saw the bitter shine in his eyes. He is disgusted by me in this moment. And it hurts like a knife in my gut.
What have I done?
He is done with me. I can see it. We’ve argued about this before, of course, him calling me paranoid, jealous, petty. I have always countered it with arguments that make sense, making him understand why I got it so wrong. Somehow, I have always managed to make Ash see my overreactions as anxiety. I have always made him see why. And he has always loved me in the end.
This time, I see a little bit of that love for me shatter away. And it is all my fault. I look down at the phone, long after he’s left me alone in the room. I don’t want to touch it. I don’t. But I pick it up anyway, hating myself for doing it. I know his password, and I check his call log. It was one of his work friends, the temp who sometimes covers for Alyssa, a very unreliable receptionist. I didn’t know they were close like this but it doesn’t matter. I know, deep down, that I shouldn’t care either way. A friend, just a friend. Panic takes over me, threatens to pull me under. I shout Ash’s name but he doesn’t respond. He could have left the house and I wouldn’t know. But, no, his car keys are on the dresser, I see them. He’s still here.
I want to go to him but my pride won’t let me. I can’t get up from the bed. I was wrong and I know it. I should apologise but I can’t. I won’t. And this will go on for days, him slowly loving me less and less until he can’t stand to look at me anymore. I called him a liar. I practically called him a cheater. Ash, my Ash, who has only ever been kind to me. Anger swirls up within, at myself, at how weak I am. And his phone ends up squeezed in my fist, and then it ends up against the wall, and then in pieces on the floor. I realise what I’ve done instantly and I’m gasping, rushing to my knees to look at the damage. He only bought this last week. He’ll be so angry. Angrier.
I start to collect the pieces, thinking maybe I can just get the glass replaced. I’m panicking so much that I’m not focusing and a shard of glass slices into my palm. I hiss, drop it. The cut is only shallow but it hurts like a bitch. I raise my hand to the light, to see it properly. I am hit with a memory. Of my head bouncing against the wall, of the noise it made, of Ash turning to me wide-eyed, worried. I remember his hands on me, bringing me into his embrace. His softness, how quickly his fury melted. He loves me, and he wanted to protect me. My eyes flicker down to the glass glittering on the carpet. After my head cleared and I got some good sleep, I woke up to a cup of tea and cuddles. We murmured our apologies, easy, like butter in a pan. It was so easy.
And I’m looking at my palm, at the small line of blood, barely enough to shine red. He’s so angry with me right now. I don’t know how to reconcile, how to make him forgive me. Maybe I don’t have to? If I’m hurt, he’ll come to me...won’t he? I chew on my lip, torn. I love him so much but I can’t tell him that whilst he’s furious with me. I need him to see me as me, the girl he loves too. That final image, of Ash letting me bury my face into his neck, is enough to convince me. I pick up the jagged shard again and press it to my skin. It stings where it pokes into the small, open wound. I grit my teeth, closed my eyes, and pull.
My cry is loud and breathless. It’s real. The pain is very real too. The glass has torn a pulsing wound into my palm and blood is running down my wrist. Footsteps on the stairs, my good hand on the floor as I try not to pass out. I hate blood. Ash freezes in the doorway, his face going pale. “Cassie!”
He drops to his knees by my side, taking my hand for a better look. He’s quick; he sees his phone lying in pieces, the glass littered around me, the blood. He shakes his head, his mouth pressed into a firm line. But his eyes are soft, kind. “What the bloody hell have you done?”
“I’m sorry,” I sniffle. “It was an accident...I was trying to fix it.”
He makes me stand up and takes me to the bathroom where our first aid kit is stowed away. There is silence as he cleans me up, disinfects my hand - biting his lip at my tears - and bandages it. I’m searching his face as he works, trying to discern where I stand with him. He is careful not to give anything away. He’s concentrating and it wipes his expression clean. When he finishes, I take my hand back, cradling it. This is my chance. I start talking, weepy apologies and a desperate kind of pleading. I called him a cheater, a liar. I invaded and then broke his phone. I love him so much.
He doesn’t want to hear it, or he doesn’t need to hear it - because he pulls me into a hug. The scent of him is strong in my nose. I breathe him in and feel my heartbeat pulse against his chest.
“You need to be more careful, okay? Promise me.”
I nod furiously, not trusting myself to speak. I feel incredibly guilty. Manipulation, isn’t it? I tell myself that I will never do that again. But beneath this, there is the steady beat of relief. He is not done with me. He is still here. He will stay. And it doesn’t occur to me, as he lifts my bandaged palm to his lips, that he might not even know what he’s staying for.
Four years together and Ash and I know each other very well. In the rare mornings we get to spend together, I wake up early and make us breakfast. He makes tea for us both, in a fancy teapot his mother bought me for my birthday, and we take everything back into the bedroom. Breakfast in bed is followed by lazy sex and a quick shower. If we both have work, we try to stay in bed until the last minute, talking and laughing. These mornings are my favourite and I crave them more than anything. We don’t get them often so when we know one is coming, he stocks the fridge and I record a load of TV to watch together.
Sometimes, these mornings don’t run so smooth. Through no fault of our own, Ash and I are just so different. He is calm, soothing, a talker. I am shrill, theatrical, bloodthirsty. When I wake up - not even a month after I sliced my hand open - and find that Ash isn’t beside me, I search the house for him. I’m calling his name, lightly, just curious. Where is my boyfriend, this early on a thursday morning, when he should be just waking up, thinking of tea and toast? I end up making my own coffee - not tea, I want to be fully awake when he comes home.
When he does finally come through the door, almost an hour later, I am pissed. He hurries into the kitchen and swears when he sees me. He is laden with supermarket bags, his long arms stretched from the strain. His smile is sheepish, guilty. “Damn. I was hoping you’d still be asleep.”
I raise my eyebrow. “Why’s that?”
He hears the edge in my voice but chooses to ignore it. He’s good at doing that. He drops bags onto the counter, beside my cold cup of coffee. I couldn’t even finish it, I was so annoyed. “I forgot to stock the fridge yesterday.”
Easy enough mistake to make. But there’s something in his tone, something that sounds to me like defiance. As though he did it on purpose. It wouldn’t make sense, of course, for him to do that. It benefits no one. It sticks with me though, the way these irrational thoughts do. I trace a dark stain on the counter, look up into his eyes. He’s waiting for a reply. I shrug. “You obviously don’t care about these mornings like I do.”
The comment stings him. He frowns, lost for words. His hands come up in a kind of gesture, looking for anything that makes sense. He lets them drop back down. “Oh, you’re looking for a fight again.”
Monotonous. Exasperated. It spikes my blood pressure. How dare he? I would maybe have let it go if he hadn’t made than comment. Now I want blood. I push back from the counter so that I’m closer to the level of his eyes. He looks back, dispassionately.
“You wasted time, Ash. If you cared, you would have done this already and w e could have woken up together and be back in bed with breakfast by now.”
“You’re really going to start an argument over an hour or two of breakfast in bed?”
“I’m not starting anything.”
And. We’re. Off.
This time he doesn’t raise his voice once. He doesn’t see the point of this argument. He doesn’t want to get involved. He has convinced himself that this is between me and myself - he says - just as I have convinced myself that there is a problem. Never happy without one, he says. I’m raising my voice, higher and higher with every murmured response I get from him. He’s not saying much of anything and it’s pissing me off.
“Don’t you care about me? Don’t you care?” I repeat, over and over.
He won’t answer, I know already. He told me once that when I get like this, I’m not looking for real answers. I’m just projecting, trying to find closure for the voids inside me, trying to realise my phobias. I’m scared of being alone, he said once, and so I am always scared of being left alone. He said he won’t answer my questions when I’m like this because nothing he says would satisfy me; I would just keep going. Although I understood the logic at the time, I don’t understand it right now, not anymore. He’s ignoring me. That’s all I can see.
The topic has switched from one hour at breakfast to him loving me. It moved on fast. It always does. According to Ash, everything comes back to him loving me. He said once that it’s because I’m an orphan and I was alone for a long, long time. I didn’t humour him at the time. No one likes being left alone - it has nothing to do with my childhood. We argued about that one too. But now, here, in the moment...he doesn’t want to argue. It would be defeatist for me to give up, and in any case my brain won’t let me. To the end. He’s telling me to calm down, that it’s just an hour, that he can make breakfast now and do it quickly if he skips out the mushrooms. That almost causes an aneurysm.
I don’t mean to put my hand in his face, but I do. I’m asking him why I should have to sacrifice a real breakfast because of his inability to do anything right. He’s struggling to say something - he’s stupefied, I can tell. Which means that now he’s thinking that I’m an idiot. He never says it of course but I know he feels it sometimes; the stark difference in our education levels. He would be honest about it if it wouldn’t hurt me. But it would; I take everything to heart and he has known this for years.
Underneath all of this, though, I know I’m in the wrong. I know I was just spoiling for a fight because I woke up alone and the romance of the day was ruined by Ash stumbling in with green carrier bags. It’s hard not to realise that I just ruined what could have been a very good day for us both. This happens to me a lot. I set these things in motion and only realise the damage I’m doing once it’s a hurtling, destructive force. Usually, when Ash has resorted to shouting. Usually, when I’ve broken him down into just another screaming, burning mess like me. In those moments, I see it; the hatred. He hates me for ruining him like this and he hates himself even more for staying with me, for letting me do it.
So as I find my finger digging into the material over his chest, poking poking poking, Ash’s eyes shutter like a store at the end of the day. He’s shutting down. He’s reaching boiling point, all without raising a single word towards me. In a few minutes, he will walk away from me. I have the choice to let him go. I have the choice to let this whole thing go.
But I feel cheated. Suddenly, I want raised voices and sparks. I want the flush in his skin and the darkness in his eyes; this is where he’s most liable to say anything. This is when the truth can come out. I would like to know, even though I actually really don’t want to, what he thinks of me. So I push and I push, accusing him again of sneaking out to meet someone. I can believe it, despite his protests; Ash is handsome, long-limbed, languid. Who wouldn’t? One hour is plenty of time. I convince myself of this. I insist. Ash has never done anything to hurt me, but I am adamant that he left me in bed this morning to meet some girl.
I repeat myself until the words jumble into one long sound. I sound like I am in pain. Ash just stares at me, completely and utterly astonished. He doesn’t know what to say to me, to defend himself. His shoulders are up around his ears as if they can block the words I’m throwing at him. It makes me angrier that he isn’t defending himself, that he isn’t denying it. In moments I am doubting myself, was he with someone? Maybe he just genuinely forgot the breakfast. Maybe he just genuinely had ro run to the supermarket. Then I remember last night, how he was so tired after work, eyes drooping as we ate, couldn’t even hold a conversation. Why was he so tired? All he does all day is sit down and talk to people, write some notes, refer them to doctors. Maybe he saw her yesterday as well? This mystery woman.
Well that thought sends me over the edge. I have a whole new arsenal of accusations now, and I’m begging him to just tell me the truth. I can’t lower my voice and I’ve been shouting for long that it’s cracked, high pitched, panicked. I’m asking her name, who she is, when it started. What does she have that I don’t? Where did it all go wrong? When I ask that question, the expression in his eyes shifts. It becomes incredulous, I see disbelief and anger. He rubs a hand over his face.
I carry on shouting, interrupting him. Because suddenly I’m terrified. I don’t know what I’m saying, what I‘ve said - anything that comes into my head, usually. I’m terrified of what he will tell me, of his answers. The fear comes to me, without warning, choking. I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know! He shakes his head, clenches his fists. He’s very close. He’s telling me to stop yelling, to stop talking about things I have no idea about. But I know, I do.
“There is no one. I went to get breakfast, that’s it.” He says it through clenched teeth. He says it with a finality that tells me he is done with this argument. With me. Done with me.
“Liar!” I say it over and over. I am unlovable, I am alone, I am cheated. He is turning, leaving me. But I love him, love him, love him so much, too much.
I don’t even have to think about it this time. I knock the kettle over and let the still boiling water run over the counter, my arm. I howl, agony like nothing I’ve ever felt searing my skin. I’m gasping through the pain, crying, sobbing. He spins around - superimposed over an image from another time - and gapes at the scene. Seconds later, he is holding my arm under cold water, me shuddering in the cage of his arms. He makes soothing sounds, tells me to breathe deeply, I will be okay. It will be okay. But my skin is alarmingly red, and has begun to bubble up in a disgusting pattern, like paint splatters. He sees it and hisses.
He sits me down and searches frantically for some form of cream. I’m still crying, the pain is just about bearable, but I’m crying at what I’ve become. I’m crying because Ash is so good, and I am so bad. I have ruined him, I have ruined everything. He looks after me but he is weary. He tends to my arm, smoothing cold cream over my tender skin, but his eyes are downturned. His words are comforting but I can hear how tired he is. I did this. I did this to him and I don’t know how to fix it. It was never like this. Slowly, I have become the voice of doom, the nagging girlfriend, the person he dreads. It shouldn’t be like this.
I want so badly to open my mouth and tell him what I have done, that I hurt myself so that he will love me. That I agree with him; I am scared of being alone. I latched onto him and I don’t want anything to change. I don’t want him to have friends because then he might forget about me. I don’t want him to forget our routines because then I am the only one holding onto them. I don’t want our relationship to grow; like a mother with a newborn, I want it to stay in its infancy - that adorable and entirely enjoyable coasting.
But everything has changed. He doesn’t look at me the same anymore. He doesn’t see me like he used to see me. I am not the same person I was. He tells me that he loves me but he does it normally, with a quick smile and then back to whatever it is he’s doing. He means it, I know, but I want fireworks, I want him to whisper it to me and follow it up with soft kisses. Ash makes me feel like I am alone, not on purpose, but because he’s so different to me. In my head, that’s his fault, even though it’s not. How can it be? And now he’s wrapping clingfilm around my arm, and he’s so close but I feel none of his warmth.
It didn’t work. Not this time.
Ash leaves me in the kitchen, head in my hands. I hear him rummaging around upstairs. My bones feel fossilised, I can’t move, my arm stings, my eyes sting. I hear something heavy hit the floor, the rolling of wheels. I’m sobbing into my palms, tears pouring down onto the counter. Oh god, what have I done? It feels like hours pass. Finally I heard his footsteps, and then he’s standing in front of him. When I look up, an age later, I see his tears through my own. He doesn’t say anything, just drops his keys onto the counter. Ash doesn’t cry often, only when he’s pushed to the absolute brink. The fact that he is now takes my breath away.
“Don’t call me. I’ll call you,” he mumbles, not meeting my eyes.
“My arm-” I say, pathetically. I want him to stay. I don’t want to be alone.
“It will be fine. I can’t be here anymore, in the middle of all of this. You’re destroying me.” He takes a deep breath, brings his eyes up to mine. “I’m sorry. You call me a liar on a daily basis. Accusing me of cheating on you. Smothering me. It’s not right. I can’t be here anymore.”
He says the things I expect him to say, the things I have suspected. He doesn’t mention the physical abuse, the fact that I hit him sometimes, when I’m so gone that I have no control over my own body. Small mercies. I don’t think I could survive it, him laying all my crimes out for me to see. I can’t thank him for this, for taking care of me even when he wants to be far away from me, because I’m breaking down. He leaves me like this, in the deepest pit of despair, the door clicking shut behind him. I know he pulled it so that I would hear him leave. He wouldn’t slam it - that’s my kind of behaviour, not Ash’s.
And now I am alone. So alone. The thing I dreaded for so long, the fear that drove me to so many desperate places. The house is deadly silent apart from the sound of my chest trying to drag oxygen in. I don’t look up, not wanting to see his keys, not wanting to see the forgotten bags on the counter. I am alone again. And I have no one to blame but myself.
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