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Through A Child's Eyes
The mere few inches of air between them was a brick wall of resentment.
“Why are you doing this to us?” Mark Loyle said quietly, running his tense fingers through his graying hair.
“I’m just finishing what you started. Don’t try and blame this all on me.”
“How can I not, Barb? I don’t want this divorce – it’s you; only you.” The exhausted, middle-aged woman stood from the stool she had been sitting on for hours and rinsed out her cup. She could feel his hawk-like gaze following her with every step. As the minutes ticked by, the tension grew thicker.
“I just can’t keep doing this anymore. It’s getting too difficult,” she said, leaning against the sink and looking out the window into the black abyss. She couldn’t meet his eyes. Barb studied a bug buzzing against the window outside, trying to get in. For a moment, she let her mind wander away from the house, so full of bitterness and resentment. She imagined how great it would be if she could fly anywhere she wanted; no pressures, no divorces, no anger – just her.
Mark pounded his heavy fists on the counter top. She was immediately wrenched from her thoughts and thrown back into the whirlwind of anger. “You’re not listening to me!” Mark roared, his deep voice thundering through the room. Sensing his own hostility, he took a calming breath and slowly said, “I am trying Barb. I am. I love you and Ben with all my heart. My son means the world to me.” He looked at her imploringly, hoping she would see the truth in this.
“Then why don’t you ever show it?” Her words stung him, and she knew it. But it was the truth, she thought to herself, and it must be said.
He looked away from her and concentrated on his fists that lay on the table. She could see the tension slowly easing. “You’re right. I haven’t been the best father…or husband,” he added. “But I love you both so much. You have to know that. I know I’ve forgotten birthdays, and worked too long, but I love you. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
The silence rang in their ears. “Not enough to make this work. I want the divorce.” Her eyes never wavered.
Mark was silent for many moments, the reality of her words sinking in.
“I want full custody of Ben,” he said firmly, but softly. It was as if someone had lit a match to dynamite – Barb erupted in fury, explosions of anger spewing from her mouth.
“WHAT? The reason for this divorce is because you aren’t a good father! I don’t understand how you twist this around to mean you should get full custody!”
“How is it fair that you’re the one who wants this divorce, and then you get custody of him? What are you trying to do to me? Take away my marriage and my kid?”
“The big reason for this is so my son doesn’t get the impression that this,” she said, pointing to her husband with a bitter look of disgust, “is what a father should be like.”
“I will never let you get away with this, Barb,” he said, now standing.
“He’s my child, too!”
Both of them glared at each other, standing only a few feet apart, fortunately a table between them, which kept them from attacking. The savage animal in each was unleashed – their primal instinct to protect what they love – at any cost. Each threatening to the other as they both tried to protect the same treasure. Both predators were ready to strike, and a merciless battle was about to commence.
Just as Mark was about to lash out, a shuffle from the hallway stopped him. The two adults abruptly turned their heads, both faces still livid with anger.
Slowly, Mark straightened himself up and began walking towards the hall. Barb’s eyes followed him, unblinking, as he disappeared around the corner. Her heartbeat raced so fast, that she felt the urge to grasp her chest to prevent her heart from bursting out of her fatigued body.
Mark began walking in, his hands resting softly on their ten-year-old’s shoulders. Barb gave a sigh of despair, realizing her son had been listening to the terrible things they had been saying. She looked at her son through her tears – his small, delicate face was pale white. It was as if his expression was frozen in time by an overwhelming sense of sadness and confusion.
The boy’s eyes were void of expression, unblinking. As she looked at her pain-stricken child, Barb began to remember how happy he once was. She turned towards her husband, realizing Ben needed them both.
Breaking under the weight of anguish, she understood that there should not - could not - be a winner and loser. The stakes were far too high.
“We’ll work it out,” Mark said haltingly, trying to reclaim his composure. “We’ll work it out…”