“You sure you don’t need help?” Tyler asked for the millionth time.
The truth was yes, I did need help, but I wasn’t going to admit that to him. “No, I’m fine.”
I was pissed at my fiancé, but what was new? I was especially angry that I lived with the adorable, smug asshole; I couldn’t just escape to my dorm room.
Now, I was trying to cook for myself (something I could barely do) and it was proving impossible. Because, at the moment, I was trying to open a jar.
“Don’t strain yourself,” he said casually. Ugh, I wanted to hit him upside the head with the freaking jar, I bet it’d open then.
“I won’t, thanks.”
After another minute of wrestling with the jar, even trying alternative methods of going about opening it, I walked toward Tyler.
He looked at me and continued to smirk, in that cute - I mean annoying - way he always does, as I walked closer. I set the jar on the table.
“Not. One. Word. Don’t say anything, just open the jar.”
“Gladly.” He picked it up, “I’d do anything for you, my beautiful fiancée.”
"What did I just say?”
“Right, right, I’ll be quiet and open it... but, only if-”
I groaned, “What?!” He silently tapped his lips, which still sat in a smirk. “No, I’m mad at you.”
He just shrugged and started to put it back on the table, “Wait!”
He stopped in midair, “Yes?”
“I really need this opened,” I whined.
“And I understand that, but you know my price.”
“... Fine, but just on the cheek.”
“That’s good enough for me.”
“No, it isn’t, what’s the catch?”
He chuckled, “Well, now that you mention it...” Tyler patted his legs. I groaned internally as I looked between him and the jar.
‘Do it for food,’ I told myself, ‘do it for food.’
After a little more self-motivation, I sat on his lap. He turned his head, tapping his own cheek. I leaned in and just at the last second, he turned so that our lips met.
The oldest trick in the book; I should’ve known.
He set the jar back down on the table and I tried moving, but he held each of my forearms. I was mad, but not at him or at the kiss. I was mad because I could feel every ounce of anger drain from my body as I melted at his touch.
He was a diabolical love genius. He was also an idiot, but he was my idiot and I loved him and I could never stay mad at him.
When he finally let, me go I hit his chest, “You probably tightened all the jars!” He only smiled, “Ugh, I hate you.”
“I love you, too," he said with a laugh. “Gimme another one?”
“... After you open the jar.”
“How did you find my hideout?”
Mackenzie rolled her eyes, “I’m your best friend, your pregnant best friend at that. It’s very unsafe to make a pregnant lady stress out about another pregnant lady’s whereabouts.”
“I called you a few days ago.”
She mocked hurt, “We are soulmates, a call isn’t going to cut it. That’s just not enough.”
It was my turn to roll my eyes. I’d decided to hide out at my mom’s house upstate a few weeks ago, around my birthday, without telling anyone. I had a feeling that my mother was the one to call my friend, because I had barely stepped out of the room since arriving. I just couldn’t stay in the apartment and I definitely didn’t want to stay at the house.
“What do you want?”
“I want to help you, you’re my best friend. I wanna play peacemaker between you and your husband.”
“Mackenzie, that’s not your job.”
After a few moments of silence, she said, “Fine, it’s useless fighting with you.”
“Finally, you say something smart,” I joked.
She rolled her eyes again, “Your mom told me you’re going back into the city.”
I nodded, “I need something from the apartment.”
“Will you at least let me drive you?”
“Alright... as soon as you tell me why you’re really here at my mom’s house.”
“Honestly?” I nodded. “Ryan told me that you sent papers to Tyler.”
I sighed, “Yeah, I did. Whether he signs them or not will tell me where he is with us. I don’t really want to talk about it though.”
“What if he signs because he thinks you want him to?”
“He isn’t like that. He might go and sleep on Elijah’s couch because thinks I want him to, but he isn’t going to end our marriage; that’s too big. If he really wants to, he’ll find me, he’ll call, he’ll say we can get counseling or something else to try and change my mind. Tyler takes marriage too seriously... if I get those divorce papers back signed, I’ll know it’s because he’s really tired. He’s done.”
Later, Mackenzie dropped me off at the apartment building. “Are you sure you’ll be fine?” she asked. “I can reschedule the meeting.”
“I’ll be fine, just pick me up in like an hour.”
“Alright,” she looked hesitant, but put the car in drive and waved before driving off. I was not used to that woman being such a worrier.
I turned and made my way into the building and up to the apartment. I noted that nothing had changed from how I’d left it as I went through to the bedroom, meaning no one had been there since then.
Or so I thought.
On the bed, in the room, laid a small square present wrapped up in silver paper and with white ribbon perfectly tied into a bow at the top. On it was a yellow post-it note that read:
Pretty sure he’s had this since your 28th birthday.
Then, I read the card:
I told you I’d get one. You never just take my word for it. To solidify (almost) ten years together, Happy birthday Ann.
I ripped away the wrapping paper and opened the top, finding another, even smaller, box inside. I took that one out and lifted the top, gasping slightly at what I saw.
A little black ring box sat on top of a bunch of baby blue and white colored tissue paper. I took the suede square into my trembling hands and reluctantly flipped it open.
Suddenly, I heard the front door open. “Woah, there is nothing in this here,” I heard Elijah say.
An all too familiar voice replied, “Yeah, that’s what happens when you move out.”
“‘That’s what happens when you move out’.” Elijah mocked Tyler before saying, “Hurry up, I don’t have all day.”
“I won’t be all day, I just need-” he stopped when he opened the bedroom door and saw me. I noticed his dark eyes somehow get darker as soon as he saw what was in my hands. “Where’d you get that?”
I stumbled over my words, “I - I - um-”
“It’s a pretty simple question.”
“I just- it was here and I -”
Elijah came over, slapping Tyler upside the head. “Stop being like that, I left it.”
“Why?” he asked harshly.
“Because it’s for your wife.”
Tyler sent him a glare that had Eli nearly running out if the front door. I found myself feeling uncomfortable yet curious on that topic. Was I still his wife?
“So,” I said, “um, it’s good he brought that up-”
Tyler interrupted me, “No, wait, can you stay in topic?” He paused and I saw the emotion on his face change to something unreadable, “I want it back.”
“This my pass to be an asshole. You can’t give me the papers and keep the ring.”
“...Did you sign them?”
He sighed and tapped his foot angrily, “I really don’t want about it right now, alright?”
“No, not alright!” I suddenly yelled. “I need to know because I don’t know the next time I’ll see you, Mr. I Don’t Know How To Use A Freaking Phone!”
He waved me off and turned out the door, “You know what? Forget it! I don’t have time for this!”
“Tyler!” He ignored me and I stood up, following him into the living room which was bare now apart from the old couch and dining table. “Hey, what the hell’s wrong with you? You’re acting like such a -”
“What’s wrong with me?! Anastasia Scott, do you not understand that you had a paralegal hand me divorce papers?” I felt myself wince a little at the sound of my maiden name.
It was so... foreign, almost; without the hyphen, it just didn’t feel right coming out of his mouth. It actually made me reply with anger as I felt another eruption of butterflies in my stomach. I’d been getting them for almost half an hour - and butterflies were pissed - but they didn’t seem like anything to really worry about.
“Yes, I understand. I did it, didn’t I?”
“So, what? After that I’m just supposed to treat you like how I’ve been doing?”
“No, but -”
“There is no ‘but’!”
"You know what? Just sign them if you really feel that way! If you really just look at me like ‘a baby incubator that doesn’t function properly’,” I recited his words from a few weeks ago, “and you can’t even pick up a phone to ask how your other two children that still live and breathe inside of me are doing, then sign. I see in you’re eyes that you just want to be done with this.
I took a step closer, “But, you remember, my child died too and I literally have to live with it.” I paused, taking a breath as my anger turned to sadness. “Sign because you hate me-”
“I don’t -”
“Then sign because you love me!” I nearly yelled. “... I was so sad, Ty - I still am; I can barely look at myself in the mirror. I always cry, I don’t leave the bed all day. I hardly sleep - hell, the only reason I eat is because my maternal instinct overrides my depression.” I realized that he and I had gotten a lot closer during my rant.
“Please, sign. For me. Because you love me. Because the bags under your eyes,” I traced them on his face, “make me feel like a failure. Just sign. Because seeing our marriage crumble isn’t on my bucket list, even if I can’t remember the history...” I was full on crying by now.
I saw the tears in his eyes that he was holding back as he nodded reluctantly. “Okay, I don’t want to, but... if you’re really sure.”
“I’m positive,” I lied, sniffing. “And I promise you’ll still be I their lives if you want.” He nodded and were silent before I cried, “Oh my god, we’re a statistic...”
I turned my head at the sound of the front door opening, Eli stopped when he saw us. “Oh, uh, sorry. I didn’t hear Tyler anymore, just wanted to make sure he wasn’t dead.”
The joke was lame, but no one had cracked a joke around me in, what felt like, ages. So, this little thing made me laugh uncontrollably, until something happened.
I stood frozen and it was Elijah that said, “Holy crap, your water just broke!”