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My Life; a Tragedy
What the hell had I done to deserve this? My fingers thrummed against the steering wheel as I stared into the distant traffic ahead of my white Volvo 2-40 sedan. From its carpet like blue interior, I watched as the rain pelted down the thick windshield. The car was something else they hated about me, but I could never quite get rid of it.
My mind flashes back to the note on the granite kitchen counter five weeks ago. The paper was thin, with the slogan at the top, “Fight cancer. Join us today!” He must have gotten it from the cancer drives the hospital does every year, though it seems as if we were donating monthly. It was so flimsy, so casual. As if it was just a regular note, “At market, back by 2:00.” He had handed me, us, a new life on a piece of paper not worthy of a grocery list. That handwriting is forever engraved in my mind; a scrawl, with, now that I’ve thought about it, a feminine style. It slanted to the left, as if getting ready to lung off the page. Those words, written in a blue Bic Style-pro pen, probably one of hers, tearing my life; their lives, into a billion little pieces.
I had called up the stairs to Oliver and Sawyer, his own children, to have them come see their future, their fate. They stood a distance behind me, far enough to show their disliking, but close enough to read the letter over my shoulder. We gasped at different times, a disjointed symphony. Sawyer’s paw of a hand landed on my shoulder as we finished the note in unison. I turned to them, unable to think of words that could help them, or even me for that matter.
“Boys, I am so sorry. I can’t even begin imagine how hard this is for you two. I’m so sorry, just so sorry.”
Oliver looked away, and I saw him clenching and unclenching his fists. I wanted to hug them, pull them in tight and tell them everything was fine. But is wasn’t, and they could hardly stand me. I was no replacement for their real mother, Diane, whom they never saw anymore. She’d died ten years before I married him, of a disease they could never bear to share with me. Her photos still plastered the house, though, and I was no match for her beauty. Long blonde hair, doe like blue eyes; the same eyes I saw on Sawyer and Oliver. My own fell upon the letter once again.
“My dear Andrea, Sawyer, and Oliver,
I love you. I will continue to and still do love you all very much, but leaving is something I must do. I have met someone else, my receptionist, and she makes me unbelievably happy. We are expecting a baby girl in the fall. I know Andrea will do a fine job taking care of you. I need to leave; I can live this lie no longer. I am so sorry for what I’ve done to you.
I love you,
Next to his name, his wedding band weighed down the paper. He’d always had a flair for the dramatic, but my husband, or ex husband, I suppose, couldn’t have been more raw. I’d had a suspicion he had been sneaking around with this Judy from work, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I was enough, wasn’t I? No, I needed to think about the boys. They hate me, resent me, even, but I need to pull it together for them. This was something I had no power over, but I could already see them blaming me for this. A tear was forming in the corner of my eye, but I brushed it away angrily. They were my priority.
“Do you want to call him? Or we can talk about it, if you want.”
I knew talking to me was the last thing they wanted, but I thought it was nice to ask anyways.
“Look, Andrea, this is your fault. We don’t need help. We can handle this in the family.”
Oliver’s words stung me, and I was quiet for minute, seething and hurt. I knew he’d be mad, but so scathing. Sawyer might be nicer, I hoped. He was slightly less sensitive and mean.
“It’s ok. Don’t worry about us, we’re fine, ok? We’re fine.”
Sawyer’s words, though, didn’t help at all. Didn’t they see that I wanted, genuinely, to care? I was their stepmother, for God’s sakes, and they treated me like I was evil. I wasn’t their real mother, no, but they and Theodore were the closest thing I have ever had to a family. And now it was gone. Shattered. A broken home.
I slid past them and slowly walked up to our, well, mine now, master bedroom. I needed my mother, somebody to talk to, tell me it would be fine. As I rushed to the telephone, I saw that the closet door was ajar. Inside, his clothes were gone, leaving only empty wire skeletons in their place. I shuddered, but closed the door and moved on to the giant bathroom. At one time, the large in-ground bathtub was a welcoming sight, but it was now an echoey cave that let my sobs reverberate through the house. His shaving cream was gone, its lavender scent never to infiltrate my clothes again. I curled up in a tight knit ball, leaning forward into the large mirror, its reflection scaring me. A haggard face, with dark circles under its eyes. Laugh lines creased the face, complimented by the crow’s feet forming around the dull brown eyes. Matted brown hair was thrown into a messy bun, and short, chubby lashes drooped on heavy eyelids. For the next two hours, I stayed there, examining every part about me compared to hers. My hands, toughened by loss and weathered from labor, next to well manicured and delicate fingers. My elegant engagement ring, from him, clatters into the polished silver sink. It looks better there, nestled next to my wedding band. I’m sure it will look even better on her. Judy’s petite body, a twig next to my women’s size 12 lumberjack build. Her J Crew pencil skirts and cashmere sweaters we polished beside my Levi 501’s, comfortable through hip and thigh with a straight leg. Her laugh is even different, too. It’s a friendly tinkling sound, filling the room for the prefect amount of time; not a second too long. My own was deep and hearty, not that I plan on hearing it again anytime soon, and Theodore’s mother once told me it was too “masculine, darling.” Judy and I even drink differently. At the holiday office parties, I would quaff my whiskey and soda while men fell prey to her charm and extra giggling caused by her pink cosmos and lemon-drops. Her expensive Chanel No.5 would permeate the room, while Theodore sat guiltily under my thick mask of Calvin Klein’s Obsession.
A knock came on the door, startling me out of my dreamlike state. I had expected it to be Sawyer, checking in on me. He had always been the nicer one. But it was Oliver, looking angry and uncomfortable. He took a seat, delicately, next to me on the expansive white countertop.
“Andrea, I’m sorry for snapping at you. I was mad and took it out on you. I guess Sawyer and I just wanted our mom, and haven’t been very easy on you.”
He said it all reluctantly, and the last part very quietly, as if he couldn’t give any more effort to this task. Shifting awkwardly around, Oliver stared at the cream colored tile floor. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I reminded myself how much it must have taken for him to come upstairs and say that to me.
“It’s ok. I don’t want to replace Diane, I really don’t. Whatever you need, I’m here. But I am not going to try to be your mother. Is that ok?”
He didn’t answer, but nodded while he shuffled towards the door. I found it in me to smile, hoping that I maybe had a breakthrough. Could tragedy draw us together? I almost laughed at the absurdity of the idea, but kept it tucked in the back of my mind.
I needed, desperately, to think about the present. My husband was gone, run off with his receptionist. He had left me with two teenage boys that hate me, and no explanations. Disentangling myself from the counter, I slowly walked down to the kitchen. My eyes fell, heavy, upon Sawyer and Oliver. They refused to look up at me, resolving to stare into the milky depths of their Cheerios. What was there to say? I sat down, throwing all my weight onto the new age barstool at the counter. I glumly let my gaze fall on Oliver. Was it possible that he had just been in the bathroom apologizing to me? He was now stirring his cereal with his spoon, and Sawyer was looking around nervously, as if waiting for the fight to start. I tried to think of words that could help them, make some of what had happened ok. My voice trembled, raw and raspy. I hadn’t heard it in few hours, and I was surprised by my lack of control.
“Look, this is, well, this is horrible, and I am sorry I can’t be your mother for it. But let me help you; let me take care of this. It’s not wrong for me to want to help you.”
I immediately realized how mad they must be, I saw everything from their point of view. I was just some replacement for Diane, an intruder in their lives. I can’t help them now, and they can’t help me either. I knew what I needed, and I had to let them find what they needed.
“I’m sorry,” I started again, “I won’t try to be your mom. I can leave you alone, I can let you figure this out.”
6 hours later
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I know I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s wrong, so, so wrong. It shouldn’t be helping me, but it does. I look down to the almost empty bottle in my hand. I know I’m killing myself, I know my insides are hurting from it, but I can’t stop. The glass of water next to me on the counter was sweating from the heat in the small room, just like I am. I take a deep breath, and reach for the last pill, and swallow it down. My mind is flooded with whiteness, and I stagger backwards. My hands, as if they aren’t connected to my body, are in front of me. They reach out, and grab for the edge of the counter, getting a firm grip. I steady myself, somehow, knowing that this happens every time I do this. I’m loving the pain, almost as much as I love the feeling of floating it gives me; no pain no gain. I stare into the tiny guest bathroom’s mirror, looking deep into my eyes. They’ve been dulled down to a mousy brown, and I close my eyes, grabbing the wet glass to take another cooling sip of water. My hand slips, and the cup drops into the sink, scaring me. Glass shatters, spraying around the tile floor and nicking the mirror. I reach for it, but a shard cuts my finger, and blood pours from the spot that used to protected by a ring, his ring. They say the ring finger is for wedding rings because it is the only finger with a vein directly to the heart, and from this cut, I know that it’s true. I let the warm water from the faucet run over the cut, and the water ran red for at least four minutes. My body was shaking, violent convulsions that rocked me forward, into the mirror. I rested my forehead against the cool glass, and once again, looked for comfort in the bottle. It was empty, the orange tube rolling around the floor, its chunky white cap beside me. I reached for the container, and shook it around, begging for it to magically refill itself. Empty. I opened the small, dusty cabinet, and my hand, trembling and unsteady, searched for something, anything, to ease the pain he had brought on me. Bingo. I found a fresh bottle of Vicodin, another round of eight little happy-pills. Perfect. I had to bend down towards the sink if I wanted water to wash them down, but my violent shaking hadn’t yet stopped. I swallowed, two at a time, dry medication. Each pill bumped down my throat, burning my lungs, paining me for just long enough to make the relief blissful. My head was light, so light, floating on the open sea. I could feel every molecule in my being, but with a burning white light being the only image I saw. The rest of the small room crashed around me; the floor met my head with a crash, and my feet flew towards the ceiling. I was happy, though, the pain was nice. I could almost forget about Theodore. Theodore. This was his fault. It was my last thought before my mind went black, my world went black, and my body gave up on itself.
A heavy, manly pound shook the door, enough to rattle the deadbolt out of its lock. Oliver and Sawyer stormed into the room, and from my drugged stupor, I could make out their hazy faces above me. They were talking, saying something. What were they saying? Why were they yelling at me? I closed my eyes, and it was all gone again. It didn’t last long. Oliver, now kneeling beside me, was nudging my shoulders, arousing me from my peace. My throat felt dry, and I felt instant pain shooting into my brain. It burned, white-hot.
“Andrea! Andrea, your alive. Sawyer, she’s alive. She’s alive.”
Oliver’s words were mottled, thick and relieved. I could see only his eyes, Diane’s eyes, peering into mine. I heard him talking to Sawyer, something about me and a hospital, something else about the blood covering the floor. I sat up, but too quickly. I was immediately knocked down, back into my happy slumber.
Four strong arms lifted me, panting and tired, into the backseat of a car. What car was this? It smelled familiar, like must and sun, and the sound of the old engine revving made me realize I was in the Volvo. They drove for awhile, I think it was Sawyer driving. I heard bits and pieces of conversation drift back to me, but my mind was jumbled, unable to process anything. The soft interior lulled me back to my peaceful darkness, but I felt the car shudder as we parked. Once again, the doors opened, and the four arms carried me into what I think was the hospital. The ground beneath me moved too fast, making me dizzy. I closed my eyes, and woke up in a hospital bed.
Sawyer and Oliver were seated next to my bed, in blue vinyl chairs, deep in conversation. When I woke up, they rushed to my side. Sawyer almost cried, saying that everybody thought I would be dead, for sure. I was confused, and I felt my legs exposed from the flimsy hospital gown I wore.
“What happened? Where am I?”
The words came out thickly, like molasses, and each one parched my throat more than the last. Oliver saw my pained expression, and raised a clear glass of water to my lips. I drank, but it couldn’t stop the burning in my head and heart.
“We found you in the bathroom,” Sawyer began, “and there was glass and blood and stuff everywhere. You were on the ground, out like a lamp. So we drove you to the hospital, St. Marions, you know, up in Edgartown, and you’ve been knocked out for seven hours. And Andrea, we found two empty bottles of Vicodin next to you.”
His words hurt, but I remembered. He was right, too. Those sixteen Vicodins should have killed me, but I somehow survived. Now look where I was; in a hospital, two teenagers who hate me being forced to care, and a druggy.
“Andrea, you’re here for two more days until your vitals are all back to normal. Then, after a week of recuperation at home, we need to take you to rehab. It doesn’t matter if this was a one time thing because of Theodore. We need you to get help. Sawyer thinks it will help, too, and so does your mom. We called her, and she’s going to pick you up on Saturday to take you to Morning Star Rehabilitation Center, about forty minutes from here. I’m sorry, Andrea. I’m really sorry this happened. We’ll come visit you, though, ok?”
I couldn’t believe it. Rehab? I guess that’s where you send druggies, though, when they need help. My mind was starting to settle down, and I could feel the IV needle in my arm, connected to the drip. In the reflection of the mirror in the back of the room, I saw myself. Frizzy, matted hair, and sunken eyes. One day without Theodore, and I was already back to my prescription drug addiction from college.
The next two days were a blur, drifting only between sleep and eating, with visits all the time from Sawyer and Oliver. My mother came on my last day in the hospital, too. She looked almost as bad as me; in wrinkled clothes and devoid of any makeup. She was worried, and flighty, as usual. Though she cried, she promised to be ready for taking me to Morning Star on Saturday.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The cot’s thin mattress crunched beneath me as I shifted angrily, unable to fall asleep. I couldn’t believe Sawyer and Oliver, and my mom, too. So the news about Theodore had rocked me, and I took a few pills to calm down. I know I made it sound simple, but I didn’t deserve to be thrown in three week recovery program. I closed my eyes, and let my angst put me to sleep. I dreamed of Theodore and Judy, at home, painting their new nursery a shade of bubblegum pink for their new baby girl. I was there too, but Theodore kept giving me pills, telling me to swallow, promising me it would calm me down. I was screaming at him, saying that drugging your wife wasn’t how to deal with an affair. I yelled at Judy, too, calling her horrible names, accusing her of doing this to make me go to rehab. She was crying, too, and Theodore was telling me to take the medication, it will help, that screaming at Judy was making it worse. I woke up, sweating and scared, with a pillow covering my face; I’d tried killing myself in my sleep. I flipped the pillow over put it under my head, shaking, and reached for the bottle of water next to my bed. I took a long, cool sip that did nothing to help me forget where I was, and why I was here.
I woke up to the attendant bringing a visitor into my room. Theodore. I turned, in my bed, to face the wall opposite him. His voice floated through the air towards me, and I know realized how ridiculous he was. Always full of philosophical ideas, the meaning of life. He was just a megalomaniac, and would love anybody who fed his self-esteem. Judy didn’t know what she was getting herself into. I laughed, a cold, bitter sound that hung in the room like a cloak. He kept talking but I wouldn’t listen. I couldn’t face him now, or ever. He made me sick, and I made myself sick for having loved him. He stroked his philosopher’s beard, telling me that I was only doing this for attention, that it was all a trick of the mind. I shut him out, and after ten minutes, he left without a goodbye. Familiar.
21 days later, at home
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Theodore called, and wanted to tell the boys and I that he and Judy had welcomed a new baby girl, Emma, and for some reason thought we would be happy to hear the news. It was greeted, by Oliver and Sawyer, with begrudging congratulations and mumbled conversations. I refused to answer the phone, but took to bed with a martini instead, extra dry. Luckily, my relationship with Sawyer and Oliver has grown much stronger; we’ve all learned so much about each other. They told me that seeing me crash, have a flaw, made me seem more personable, less like the robot they thought their dad had married. Their view on Theodore had changed, too. He was no longer the relaxed, down to Earth dad, now a very different person with, as he calls her, “his new beau.” I was, still am, so glad to have the boys like me, even be able to talk to me. It was a revolution!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The rain in front of me is foggy, obscuring the large truck in front of me. I sit there for a while, slowly inching along until I arrive at 279 Ledgewood Avenue, in Briartown. Beneath its veil of ivy, I can make out a brick apartment. As I park, the little velvet box in my hand feeling heavier by the moment. I clamber out of the car, and walk up the six steps to the newly painted white door. I knock twice on the door, waiting nervously for the answer. A short, heavyset woman answers the door, with a tired face opens the door. It takes me a moment to realize that this is Judy, post baby. She smiles though, when she sees me. I’m taken aback, but I manage to return the favor.
“You must be Andrea! I’m Judy,” she exclaims, as if the tension hanging in the air isn’t there. “I am really sorry for what I’ve done to your family. Teddy’s told me so much about you; only good things!”
“Sorry for interrupting you. I guess Theodore isn’t here, so I can give this to you. Here,” I say, handing her the box. “It’s just some things he left behind.”
She cracks open the box, and gasps at the vintage diamond engagement ring.
“He’s been talking about getting me one, but, you don’t, really, you don’t have to give me these.”
Judy fails to remember that I had been planning on divorcing him first, and what use would I have for the rings after that?
“No, keep it. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.”
With childish glee, she slips on the heavy ring. It glistens on her finger, as she stares down at it. I always knew it would look better on her.