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“Where were you?” the soft voice came through the darkness, making him flinch and stop. He’d been trying to get in as quiet as possible, hoping his wife was sleeping after a hard day at work. He’d wanted to avoid this confrontation.
“Out.” He replied, squinting when the woman turned on the lamp beside her side of the bed, showing her fully dressed and with a haunted expression on her face.
“Out where?” her voice wasn’t as soft anymore, but hollow, broken, and he knew it was his doing. She wouldn’t get angry –not anymore.
“With friends.” His answer was curt, irate –was she questioning him? He slipped off his shoes, emptied his pockets on the vanity and whipped off his shirt.
She was still sitting daintily, looking just like the fragile teen he’d met her as. Just as beautiful, just as doubtful.
“Nobody’s heard from you in seven hours. Seven hours. Your work, your friends, and your family –no one’s heard from you. It’s three in the morning. So tell me; which friends?” she asked, for the sake of doing it, because she knew he had no answer.
He got defensive, incriminating him further.
“New friends you’ve been seeing for the past two months? At least three times a week? You must be close. I’d like to meet them, if that’s alright with you.” She narrowed her eyes, defying him. He accepted the challenge and was quick to shut her down.
“What do you want from me?” he asked, defeated. There was no way around his wife, not anymore. He’d tried and failed.
“An explanation. Did you meet someone you find important?”
He knew what she was asking –was he having an affair? The answer was no, but he rather she think that than know what was truly going on.
“Maybe. Are we quite done? I’d like to sleep. It’s late.” Immediately, her face became heartbroken, because she took his answer as a ‘yes’. So, it was true. Their marriage was over. After everything they’d gone through, it was time to let go.
“Yes, it’s late.” She agreed, standing up and pulling up a duffel bag he’d failed to see. “My brother will come by later tomorrow to pick up my things. I tried, but I failed miserably.”
His heart stopped –she couldn’t leave him.
Had he truly messed up so much?
“No… You –You can’t leave me. I need you.” He was becoming frantic, running to block her path when she tried to get past the doorway of their bedroom.
“No. You need some whore.”
He gasped –so, he truly had fucked up that bad.
“It’s not what you think –please, I swear it’s not.” But she would hear none of him, not anymore. She’d given him a chance to explain and he’d failed to do so.
She pushed him aside and kept walking, blocking out the sound of her husband yelling her name and begging her to stay. She’d endured too much, suffered enough. It was time for her to leave, even though her love for him remained intact.
She stomped outside, throwing her bag in the passenger seat. She slammed the door, then found herself slammed against the car by her desperate husband.
“I’ve been going to the farthest bar from this town I can find.” He began, eyes squeezed shut, not wanting to see his wife’s face. “I’ll sit in front of the bartender and ask him for a beer –just one. But then I’ll have another one, and then I’ll have one scotch. Then I’ll buy a whole bottle of wine and I’ll come back here, and then leave the car in a cheap parking lot. I’ll go to a deserted alley and down the whole bottle, then wait a few hours until I don’t look drunk anymore. I take a spare change of clothes that I keep in my car and I’ll bathe in the apartment building’s spa. In the morning I leave earlier and go to the parking lot to retrieve my car, all so you won’t know I still drink.” He took a ragged breath and waited for karma to slap him.
His wife was shocked. She’d thought he’d been having an affair, the only explanation to his recent lateness. She thought his drinking problem had been resolved. About six months ago he went into rehab for his drinking problem –it wasn’t serious enough that he lost all control, he’d never hit her or spoke harshly; he was the happy type of drunk. He’d gone for two months and had said he would tell her if he slipped up. Promised her he wouldn’t slip up.
Why would he go through all that trouble just so she wouldn’t find out? Did he truly rather she think he was having an affair than that he slipped up in his rehabilitation?
Her heart pounded in her chest –she hurt for her husband.
“Why didn’t you just tell me that?” her voice was tight with unshed tears. She couldn’t stand the thought of him struggling by himself.
“Why do you think?” he spat out, not at her but at himself. “I worked so hard to stop drinking, I did it for you. I only lasted one month without drinking. One month! Do you know how pathetic that is? I spent two whole months working towards ending the awful vice, and then I go and f*** it all up. Sure, I don’t keep alcohol in the house and I’ve reduced it to two or three times a week as opposed to the seven days a week of before. But do you know how embarrassing it is? To work so hard towards something and fail so miserably after?” whispered he, and the woman, her heart broke over and over for him.
“I could have helped you in some way. You’re not alone in this.” She stroked his hair, but he had still not opened his eyes.
“Yes I am. I can’t keep burdening you with this, you deserve so much more. Me? I’m just this failure of a man that keeps trying to avoid temptation, but it’s just so hard. I see a drink, and it takes everything inside of me to not drink it. And most of the times I f*** up and have that drink, and the problem is I can’t stop. I can’t stop. I failed, I failed you.”
And, for the first time since knowing her husband, she saw a tear slip behind his closed lids, and she couldn’t keep the torrent of tears from cascading down her cheeks.
“Oh-!” she sobbed, her arms encasing her husband’s shaking body. “Rehab is not magic, sweetie. People have slips, they make mistakes, but messing up is what you need in order to know better. Will power and faith is what you need to reach your goal. Trust you’ll get there, please.” She cried, her arms around his neck tightening. He kept slipping down until he was sitting with his wife in his arms and tears running down his closed eyes.
He kept repeating one thing only.
“I can’t stop.”
And she, his devoted wife who now knew the truth and what her duty was, answered one thing:
“I know. I’ll help you through it.”