Promises

I thought I had seen every expression your perfect face could make.
I have seen your smile, sudden as spring sunshine, light up your face. I have seen tears of joy running rivulets of silver over your delicate features, seen your face puffed up with heaving racking sobs and every variation in between. I have seen your features contort in the agony of purest ecstasy, toes curling, body shuddering. I have watched your cheeks flush with the prettiest of blushes, seen your brow crease in concentration. I have seen the perfect peace and joy in your features when you held our children for the very first time.
I thought I had seen every expression your face could make. I never thought I would see you like this.

When I first left you, you didn’t cry. You crumpled like a puppet whose strings had been cut, one minute standing, the ghost of a smile on your lips as you watched our children dance, the next second a heap on the floor as our world crashed around you. It was not a cry that escaped your lips then but a groan of pain, like a wounded animal. The tears came much later. I wish you didn’t have to find out on  the phone, hear it actually happen. I bet you play the sound of the end of us over and over in your mind during each long, silent evening.
I didn’t plan to leave you, you have to know that. It wasn’t something I set out to do. When I promised you that day in the field,  way back when we were teens drunk on love and freedom, that I would always love you, always protect you, always be there, I meant it. I didn’t plan to leave you.
I understand why you are so angry with me, leaving you unsupported with the children, all because of a moment of unthinking stupidity. Please know that when you howl your pain into your pillow at night, demanding to know how I could do it to you, how I could leave you all alone when I promised to always be there. Please know that when I promised you that I meant every word.
We faced everything together didn’t we?  I thought I had seen the worst of your pain during that awful bit of our twenties, when you were so desperate to conceive,  so heartbroken with each miscarriage. Even then, through the worst of it all, when we were barely speaking and lovemaking had been replaced with scheduled, timetabled,  robotic sex followed by shoulder-stands  and that awful two week wait and inevitable disappointment, I never once thought of leaving you. The idea never occurred to me. I understand why you feel so betrayed that it is now, when we have our children and our home and everything is settled, now that we have finally found our happiness, that I have left.
I heard you on the phone the other day, with that friend that never did like me much, talking about how bereft you are, how lost without me there, just the spaces where I used to be. I heard you talking about how you gave your youth to me, shared the best years of your life with me, and now I am off god knows where and you are left with angry, sad, fatherless children, no income, no security. I would be angry too. Years we have spent building our lives, and one poor decision on my part, destroys it forever. Sorry would never be enough, even if I could find a way to say it. I shout it over and over in the silence of my mind, but the words won’t come, you won’t hear me.
You shouldn’t blame yourself my love, you didn’t do anything wrong. I know you, I know how you think,  you’ll be looking for ways to make it your fault. It isn’t your fault. It was my choice. I knew it was wrong and stupid and risky, and I did it anyway. I wish I could take it back, choose differently, ignore the temptation. But I made my stupid choice, and our whole family has to live with the consequences.
I thought you would hate me, now that I have gone and left such a hole in your life. Instead you sit, glugging back wine that you never used to drink, night after empty night, looking through your boxes of memories in the silence I used to fill. I wonder if you remember with fondness how I used to tease you for keeping the cinema stubs from our first date, the restaurant receipt from our anniversary, the dried flowers from your wedding bouquet.
“We’ll want them when we are old,” you said, not realising that you would need them long before that. Does it help you, sifting through the good times, or does it just fill you with regrets? You smile sometimes, but it is a weak, pale imitation of the smile you used used to save for me, back when we were filled with certainty  and plans for the future. I never meant to let you you down my love. When I promised promised we would retire to a little house by the sea and be that adorable old couple holding hands on the pier, I really meant it. I intended to honour all my promises. Life just doesn’t always work out out the out the way we plan it.
If I had my time again, I would never have done it my love. I wouldn’t have answered the phone to you then, let you hear our world end. I would have ignored the call, just kept driving, got home safe to you. I would have bathed the babies with you, had dinner, cuddled you close all night, kept you warm. Now when I wrap my arms around you you shiver, pulling the blankets up over your goosebumped skin. You don’t feel feel my kisses anymore but they are there. I promised I would never leave you and I haven’t.  I will watch over you for always,  just like I promised.
I’m sorry my love. I didn’t mean to die.
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Author: Victoria Pearson

Victoria Pearson lives behind a keyboard somewhere in rural Bedfordshire, with her husband, her four children and her dog. She writes very strange stories.

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