Tristan and Rena take a hard look at their floundering marriage.
I stare at my wedding rings, flicking the notch on the band back and forth to make it swivel on my finger. I could easily get lost in that sparkle that catches the light and dances around the room. That’s what I want to do. Get lost in the shine and take a break from the loneliness, the lingering doubts of my future, and the routine of the marriage I had once delighted in and cherished.
We are at an impasse. So many times, we’ve come to this place. This rift in the relationship that has me leaning toward the vile “D” word. I swallow the instant lump that embeds itself in my throat and close my eyes, hoping to ward off the stinging tears that threaten to fall. No one else could make me feel as low as dirt, like a complete failure. No other man had ever taken me higher either, or made me feel so alive I swear I could fly. The bitter complexity our relationship has become is changing everything, so much so that I wonder why we even bother. Especially since the perfect love we once shared is nothing more than a distant memory now, so far out of reach that I don’t bother to try to attain it.
The front door squeaks open and I brace my body against the table for the next confrontation knowing it could be our last. I watch as Tristan sets his keys on the hall table before turning to face me. Our eyes lock, speaking volumes across the distance between us. Only the clock ticking interrupts the silence that fills the room and seeps into my bones with a fierce ache. Hopelessness remains in his dark eyes, a sadness so intense that the lines at the edges of those once seductive brown pools become more prominent. I sit at the edge of my chair, like a warrior preparing for battle.
His eyes snap shut breaking the connection between us. My heart flips, slowing to a steady rhythm. The man I once loved more than life itself was defeated. I see it clearly in this moment, so much so that it makes my breath catch. My thoughts race searching for something positive to say, but words escape me. No matter what I say, it won’t be enough to make things right. There is no magic wand that exists or spell powerful enough to undo all the hurt we’ve caused one another. We can’t continue to go on this way. There is only one thing left to do; say goodbye. The thought enters my mind, my heart clenches, as if a vice has latched on and tightens giving me the most painful sensation I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Is this what I truly want? Can I just walk away?
Without a word, he turns and moves away from me. I listen to the familiar sounds of the bathroom door closing and then hear the shower turn on. I breathe a sigh of relief knowing there is still time to try to work out the perfect speech, one that will finally release each other from this heavy burden we’ve carried around for the past three years. There is only one problem. The thought of having to say the words, to look at him while I say them and watch as I shatter his heart brings a surge of bile rushing up my throat. I jump to my feet and head to the other bathroom as my stomach churns, my throat burning.
Grasping the white sink, I drag in a ragged breath, desperate to steady myself and keep from having to bow to the porcelain gods. Gazing at my reflection in the mirror makes me shudder. That defeated look I saw in Tristan moments ago stares back at me as well. How did we get here? I crank on the faucet and splash cold water onto my face, needing to get a grip. I head back to the living room to wait. I have to put an end to this insanity for both our sakes.
Sitting on the couch I work to calm myself down, knowing that once I begin to cry, which always tends to happen, I won’t be able to stop. I have to steel my spine and stay strong, say what’s on my mind, listen to him, and calmly figure out where we go from here.
I stare at the clock on the wall, watching the second hand move around and around, my focus so keen everything else around me is a blur. Thoughts race, words beginning to form coherent sentences as the talk I want to have becomes a speech in my mind. All I have to do is say the words aloud. If I can manage that, then Tristan and I will be able to reach an understanding and go our separate ways. My heart becomes heavy in my chest, realizing the weight of that truth.
Tristan’s hand on my shoulder and the slight shake pulls me back, as if sucked through a porthole of time. I close my eyes for a moment.
Looking up at him, I force a small smile. “Sorry.”
He nods once, a sharp movement of his damp, dark head; then moves to the chair across from me, as if he knows what’s to come. Instead of opening my mouth and saying what had been flitting through my mind, I stare at him unable to speak.
Tristan leans forward, places elbows to knees, steeples his big hands and stares back. “We can’t go on like this, Rena.” His chin rests on his hands while those dark eyes focus on mine waiting.
I blink; nod in agreement. If I let him take the lead, just maybe we will manage to get through this as painless as possible.
Digging deep within I find my voice. “I know that.” Relief swamps me that the words came out without the added tears.
“I don’t know what else I am supposed to do. I’ve busted my ass for a year now, yet you continue to shut me out of your life. Everything is more important than I am.”
My eyes pop open wide as I stare at him. “That’s not true,” I insist, but have nothing to support my claim. I fight through the barrage of things that rush through my mind, words that go nowhere.
Tristan gets to his feet, runs a hand through his hair in frustration pacing before me. I realize that my speech is long gone and useless as well. I stand, swallow the fear his reaction to the words I am about to say might bring.
“I’m going to a hotel for the night. Once you’re at work tomorrow, I’ll come for my things.” It’s the only way to stop the fighting, to give us each some distance, and maybe even a tiny bit of perspective, I rationalize.
As I take a step forward towards the hall, Tristan grabs my arm preventing me from getting away. Tears build in my eyes. I close them in a futile attempt to stop them from falling, wishing I could stay strong, stand my ground. I can’t even bring myself to look him in the eye. The thought of having to face that hurt in his eyes, hurt that I caused makes the bottom fall out of my stomach.
“No one’s going anywhere, Rena.” He sighs, but doesn’t release the hold on me. “We have to talk. No more evading my questions, no running away, no excuses to get out of it either; we’ve come too far to lose it all now.”
I yank my arm free and stare up into his face. “Don’t you get it? We already have! For the past two years, all we’ve done is exist. It’s too late.” The tears burn my eyes, blurring my vision before they cascade down my cheeks like a fresh summer rain.
Tristan cups my face, flicking the tears away with the pads of his thumbs. “It breaks my heart to see you cry. Do you want a divorce, Rena? Is that what you truly want?”
I gasp on the next sob, those words filtering into my mind.
He rests his hand on my chest with a gentleness I’ve long since forgot. “Can’t you let me back into your heart? I want it back, all of it. I love you, Rena. I’ve never stopped. If you didn’t love me, would you really stay with me these past couple of years?”
The question sat between us, my mind whirling out of control like a train going off the tracks.
“You wanted me around more, and I gave you that. I’ve been here night after night, but you haven’t.”
“That’s not true,” I mutter.
His hands slip from my face, and the loneliness creeps back up my spine.
He rests his hands on his hips as his head lowers and shakes side to side. “Night after night I am here, waiting, hoping, and wishing that you’d give me a second chance. I know I’ve hurt you, taken you for granted, but I’ve busted my ass to make it up to you. Instead, you don’t even try. You continue to put more and more distance between us. When will it end? When I walk away? I can only take so much, Rena.”
Guilt washes over me like a tidal wave. Everything he said was true; I couldn’t deny it. We were here because I couldn’t get over the past. I let it continue to eat away at me. Never once did I believe he could change, that he wouldn’t cut and run once things became comfortable again, just as he’d done so many years ago. My heart aches; pain seeps in making it hard to breathe.
The tears continue to fall off my face, soaking my shirt and my knees quake as realization hits me full force. I gasp for air as the room spins and my legs turn to Jell-o. I stumble back for the chair before I collapse, landing like a sack of potatoes.
“Do you love me?” He asks. The softness in his voice mingles with fear.
One word determines the fate of our lives and I hold the key to our future.
“Rena,” he snaps. Tristan moves forward and kneels in front of me. There is no escape, and he deserves an answer. “I don’t know.” Agony races through me as I turn away from him. How the words manage to escape my mouth I’ll never know.
“It’s not a ‘no’.”
I laugh. Through the pain, the tears, the fear, and this moment of uncertainty, my husband can still make me laugh.
As I look at him now, I begin to see the man I married. His brown eyes filled with love and hope as he gazes at me, a small, unsure smile. Without thought I reach out and place a hand to his cheek, the stubble of a beard feels good beneath my palm. His hand covers mine, holding me against his warm skin. I inhale, and his scent washes over me, making the dormant butterflies in my stomach take flight. The feeling is so foreign to me, but somehow puts me at ease.
He leans in, his lips hovering next to mine as if waiting for permission. I close my eyes, wanting to feel something other than the hell we’ve created for one another. He presses his mouth to mine, and I let it in. Tristan’s kiss is gentle and warm, but hesitancy is there as well. I am desperate to see if that little nook of heaven still exists, if I can push past the anger and hurt, the doubt and speculation, and find my way back to him, to home, to love.
Dropping my hand from his cheek, I kiss him back full on the mouth. When his arms wrap around me, dragging me into his chest, it sends heat racing up my spine. Tristan nibbles at my bottom lip, coaxing my mouth to part. The second it does, he takes advantage and thrusts his tongue into my mouth. Every nerve in my body comes screaming to life. This kiss becomes a dance, a tango of need, of urgency, of a longing buried so deep it comes close to being forgotten.
He drags me to my feet, scoops me up in his arms breaking the electrifying kiss. I’m lost, in that hazy stare, those intense passion-filled eyes, the warmth and love that shines so clearly for me. I want him, to return to that place, to open up completely and find what I’d lost. He carries me toward the bedroom, and I fuse my mouth back to his, ready to take one more chance.