The night I made the decision seems like a million years ago. Today it is happening. I don’t know what to expect on the other side. I am afraid she will never forgive me. Rachel will be crushed, and at this very moment, I realize that I am casually okay with that. It’s Lila that I’m worried about. I am her only mother, and she is but a small child.
That’s how I justify it. She will recover, and when she is an adult, she will barely remember this.
Part of me wants to begin planning her rescue.
The other part of me knows that I may be walking away from her forever.
Tears again. I am astonished that I have it within me to leave her. The rational part of me settles the feud: “First things first, Toni. You will cross that bridge when you come to it. And you will eventually come to it. Probably sooner than later.”
“Before now, I wasn’t certain,” the drunken words whooshed over my lips. His body pressed mine against the bathroom wall. His presence corned me, and the pressure relieved me. I didn’t even attempt to control my tears.
“Toni,” he breathed into my ear. He, too, was drunk.
“I pined for this moment,” I cried.
“Are you certain, now?”
“Yes. I’m coming with you.”
I spent three years trying to figure out how to do it. Part of that time, I wasn’t even sure if William would take me back once I left my husband. Eventually, though, he came back around some.
On his arm he carried Rachel, my best friend. I was not allowed to be unhappy for her. My dear, my darling Rachel… was trying like hell to have what she supposed I had in Henry. Yet, she confided in me many concerns; the most heartwarming of which was that she didn’t believe my William truly loved her.
Though intensely painful, I welcomed him back into our lives, even though his new role was so completely wrong. I greeted him with genuine warmth. Our greeting embraces were only sometimes a second too long, and the kisses he plopped on my cheeks were never more than what he would give to his aunt or mother. Our façade fooled everyone, myself included on occasion.
Henry and I continued our little parties until Friday evenings became a spectacular show. I would drown myself in booze waiting with eager dread to see if William would show. And on the times he did, I continued to satiate my sorrows with poison in the hopes that any missteps could be blamed on the alcohol rather than my betraying emotions.
My hands shook when I wrote the note to my five year old daughter.
“My beloved Lila,
I did not mean for things to turn out this way. Please forgive me. You must know that I love you very much, but so does your father. I could not take you from him because right now he needs you very much. Please be good for him. I will see you one day again soon.
Your momma, Toni”
I’m trying to love Henry. He is a good man.
He loves his daughter. He works hard to support us.
He gives me everything I need. At least that is what I say. He is good with people and children. He loves me dearly. That makes everything I’m feeling that much more horrible. Because while he’s stepping all over himself to please me, I am a rotten fish floating further away from him.
Life without William isn’t really life at all. I wake up each morning, going through motions with rote commitment. I feed Lila. I wash her face. I dress her. I make her take a nap.
While she sleeps, or pretends to sleep, I attempt to sketch.
When that doesn’t help, I crack open my green diary. Instead of words, all I can produce is thick black scratch marks at the top of every page.
It’s not like I could really write anything of importance in here. He reads it. Or he might.
Lila wakes. I feed her again.
I take her to the back yard. She takes her doll, and plays quietly in the grass until she’s itchy. When she begins to fuss, I drag her inside and wipe down her legs with a cool cloth. Then I set her down on to the cool tile of our kitchen floor and prepare dinner while she bangs on pots with silverware.
The only relief from this monotony is our Friday parties. Though admittedly, they’re also entirely painful.
William doesn’t come around much anymore. This is not to say he never does, but the regularity has trickled down to once in the last several months. I suppose that is what works best for the two of us, anyway. Seeing him often might only lead to public tears; and those would be difficult to explain away.