Why Me?

February 12, 2008
By Rosemary Barrass, Milpitas, CA

"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Out. I'll be back later." Mark answered. That was the third night in a row that he'd been out, I thought.
"When is later?" I asked, getting annoyed. What right did he have to just leave the house every night and come back "later"?
"Later!" He yelled. I must have jumped back about a foot because of the sudden sharpness of his voice. Mark realized how loud he yelled. "Sorry, Emma, I'm really stressed, okay?" Silence. Mark stood in the doorway, he seemed to be uneasy. He stepped out the door. The heavy wooden door slammed shut.
"Love you." I whispered.
Every night was the same.Mark would go out, supposedly because he was "stressed". What was he stressed about, I didn't know. He worked for Mr. Leen's construction company. His job didn't take much thought, so being "stressed" couldn't be job related. But why would he be stressed about me?
The door swung open, Mark was standing there. He looked regretful. Serves him right, I thought. I looked into his eyes, really looked. No, it doesn't serve him right, I thought. He must have been stressed about our relationship recently. I had been off work because, well, I got fired. He had been working later than usual, trying to earn some extra cash. Everyday, I would bug him about the bills, we would argue, maybe that was what stressed him out. Mark stepped in and closed the door softly.
"I'm sorry." We both said, almost in unison. I smiled at him sweetly. It'd taken me two months to realize that he just wanted to sit down and talk to me. Mark sat down next to me on the couch. I stared right into his brownish-black eyes.
"I've missed you. When you work late and don't call, I get worried. I know it sometimes sounds like I'm mad at you, but I'm not. I still love you." I explained, still looking into his eyes.
"I love you, too. And I'm sorry. For coming home late and not calling. And for going out every night and not coming back until later." He smiled, half mocking himself with the "later". We hugged, squeezing each other. It was like one big hug to make up for all the hugs we had missed. I could smell the dust and wood of the construction site. Most nights, I wouldn't go near Mark when he smelled like that, but tonight, I didn't care.
The next morning, I woke up late. Mark was off at work, so I had the house to myself. I had an eerie feeling that I was not alone. But it was Friday, so Mark definitely wasn't home. Mark works from 7am to 5pm on Fridays.
I got out of bed and walked into our cramped kitchen. And to this day, I can't believe I missed it. But I did. In the kitchen, I grabbed a mug from the far left cabinet and put it under the coffee maker. I put the boldest coffee grounds I could find in and poured in the water. Today, I thought, I am going to find a job. But of course, I never did becaus- no, I can't go into that just yet. It was too horrible.

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