“I’m leaving you,” she said, standing there in the hallway as she clutched her battered baggage in her hand.
He looked up from his paper, surprise and shock rendering him temporarily mute. His mouth contorted into word pantomimes until he resembled a beached fish, gasping and sputtering for breath. When at last he spoke, his question came out ragged, as if the very idea had stolen his breath.”What? No. Tell me how to fix this.”
She bowed her head, the dim hallway light shining off her limp auburn curls, and considered the question of their marriage. Twenty years. Two children. Two careers. Two lives instead of one. She didn’t even remember when they began to drift a part, for it was a gradual drifting over years –years lived in mundane routine with fleeting glimpses of extraordinary brilliance. All vibrant color had long since been leeched from their marriage until it resembled an old photograph, the paper crinkled and worn at the edges. She hadn’t even realized when her life had been captured for posterity on faded photo paper until one morning she had awakened, looked at her husband and found herself in bed with a stranger.
Oh, he wasn’t entirely to blame. She worked late, too, and put her career before their relationship. They allowed their children’s lives to consume them, to fill-in for the intimacy which was lacking in their marriage. Now the children had gone and nothing remained to buffer the silence. No one was left to remind her she was loved.
He wouldn’t understand this yearning to leave, to spread her wings and catch the currents of the unknown. Her restlessness had always scared him and for a time, she had allowed herself to be caged, if only to show him how much she loved him. After two decades, she remained jessed and sealed with no gentling hand to ease her fears or offer her comfort. She longed to be free.
Surprisingly, her acceptance of the end of her marriage was easier than seeing the truth of what it had become. Little remained of her old life she wished to claim as her own. She packed her luggage in relatively little time, only taking the essentials: a few photos of her children, a framed picture of her parents, a locket he had given her on their first anniversary, and her clothing. A lifetime condensed into two bags.
“There’s nothing left to fix,” she said and fiddled with the clasp on the worn leather case. “I love you still. I suppose I always will. But it’s not enough. I want more.” She frowned fiercely and shook her head, firming her resolve. “I deserve more.”
She opened the front door and paused when his angry voice assaulted her from behind. “Who is it? After all these years, you owe me that. Tell me who you found.”
Looking over her shoulder, she shook her head and smiled in gentle reproach. “Me.”
(C) Sara Ackerman, 2017