Everyone has a story...
He hadn’t really slept. Tony’s dreams were restless and filled with memories that he couldn’t quite grasp. He shuts off the alarm seconds before it buzzes; an attempt to preserve the fragile tranquility of the day for as long as possible, before the coming storm would bring it all crashing down around him.
Slipping out from under the sheets and into his slippers, quietly so as to not disturb Rebecca. Tony pads across the over-priced carpet and down to the kitchen to brew the morning coffee, as if this is just another day like all the days before it.
But this is not just another regular day. Anticipating lunch with Rebecca, he wonders, “how will I make it through the morning?” She’d said they needed to talk and he’d agreed. He knows he’ll be distracted all morning, and then in the afternoon – he doesn’t even want to imagine what the afternoon will be like.
Tony curses under his breath as he wrestles with the toaster to release the now-slightly-burned piece of bread. He’s felt frustrated for so long that he can’t even pinpoint when things changed. Surely he’d been happy at some point. Or maybe that’s just what he’d been telling himself through the years. He tosses the toast in the garbage, giving up on breakfast, recognizing the irony. First goes breakfast. Next, his marriage.
Work is a welcome distraction. Tony keeps himself busy until it’s time to meet Rebecca for lunch at their favourite restaurant. Preparing to leave, he thinks, “she’ll be angry. She’s always angry.” But he can’t keep living a lie. He slides behind the wheel of his car. It isn’t Rebecca’s fault. She’s a great mother. And a great wife. Just not the right wife for him. As he turns the key and starts the engine, the day seems strange and almost surreal. The butterflies in his stomach are unfamiliar, and he’s struck by a flicker of doubt that passes as quickly as it comes. He’s already waited too long. Perhaps counselling could have helped early on, but that ship has long since sailed. It’s time, and he suspects she knows this as well. They were married for the wrong reasons. He knows what he’ll say. He’ll keep it short and simple. Hopefully, Rebecca will also want to keep things simple. He tries to silence the worry that creeps into his mind when he imagines what could happen if she doesn’t.
When he pulls up to the restaurant, he sees that Rebecca has already arrived. For some reason, he feels slightly irritated. He imagines the accusing eyes that will greet him, senses the continuation of some tension between them. He can’t pinpoint the cause of it. He only knows it’s never resolved.
He sprints across the parking lot to the entrance. The door feels unusually heavy, the seat a bit too close to the table as he squeezes in across from her. Rebecca’s face is set, her mouth a straight line. Suddenly, he’s not sure how to start, how to keep it simple. They sit in uncomfortable silence, the voices of other customers filling the space between them until the waitress takes their order. Then, he can’t wait any longer. “Rebecca,” he says, ”I want a divorce.” The words are out, but the heaviness in his heart remains.
He’ll never forget the look on her face, her eyes glistening. “Is there someone else?” she asks, her voice loud in his ears, drowning out all other sounds. He hesitates before he answers. It’s not that he hasn’t thought of it, and those thoughts make him feel as guilty as if there had been. “No” he says.
Tears roll down Rebecca’s cheeks. He waits for her to say something, anything. It feels like forever. “I’m sorry,” he says to break the silence, to try to console, but it doesn’t feel like enough. He wants to explain, to tell her that it isn’t her fault. He wants her to be happy, and he believes they can both be happy – just not together.
But there’s no chance for explanations. Rebecca stands. The sudden presence of her rage, electric in the air as she throws her napkin to the table, stuns him. Then she storms out of the building.
Watching her leave, Tony feels hollow inside, confused by his emotions, and wonders what’s next. He’d only ever played the scene in his mind up until the moment he spoke the words, the moment when he’d turn the page to begin the next chapter of his life. He has no idea how the rest of the story will unfold.
Rebecca wakes with a start. Her dream, the gentle swishing of dove wings flying overhead, the enchanting music of angels singing on her wedding day, her soulmate and their commitment to “until death do us part”, still in her awareness. The blissful state of forever happiness in the dream was what the storybooks promised, it was what she’d wanted.
But the scent of freshly brewed coffee and a whiff of burning toast pushes the remnants of the dream away. Now she’s awake. Now she remembers the unease, even as she’d adjusted her hair in the mirror before taking her father’s arm to walk down the aisle. She’d chalked it up to wedding jitters. She remembers, too, the forced carefree laughter to hide the nervous energy of her beating heart as she’d stood at the precipice of the first moments of the rest of her life.
Knowing that today is the day, the day that everything will change, her mouth is dry and her stomach in knots. The plan, to meet for lunch so they could “talk”, was her idea. But he had seemed too eager. It was like he had been waiting for her to ask so he didn’t have to. She senses something ominous that she can’t quite name.
Crawling out from under freshly washed sheets, Rebecca shivers. Walking barefoot across the plush carpet of the bedroom, it feels like every step is happening in slow motion. One small step towards the bathroom; one giant leap towards the unknown.
She practiced the conversation in her mind over and over. But now, as she steps under the warm water in the shower, the words seem all jumbled together and impossible to grasp. “Am I having a panic attack?” she wonders. “Should I cancel the meeting?” But only a moment later, she thinks “No. It’s time.” An ache has taken up residence in her heart. She holds back tears by blinking as fast as she can. She knows. And she suspects he knows as well. The small problems had compounded until there was no more space for forgiveness, the drifting between them ever widening. Counselling might work, but first he must leave. She needs space to figure out her feelings. It will be difficult, but it’s the only hope to save their marriage.
At lunch, Rebecca pulls up at their favourite restaurant and scans the parking lot for Tony’s BMW. She sighs in exasperation - he’s late, as usual.
When he saunters in and slides into the booth across from her he’s slightly out of breath. She bites her lip to keep from asking where he was, and who he was with. An all-too-familiar pattern that inevitably ends in raised voices, accusations, and defensive explanations. Instead, they sit in uncomfortable silence. Just when she thinks she can’t take it anymore, Tony says, “Rebecca, I want a divorce.”
Rebecca feels faint. It is as if all the oxygen has been sucked out the room. Divorce. The word she’s been dreading. She’s feared it for such a long time that it seems almost surreal to hear it out loud. “Is there someone else?” she hears herself whisper.
There’s a split-second pause before Tony says, “No.” But then he looks away, and she knows it’s a lie.
Warm tears roll quietly down her cheeks. She might sit in this booth in front of her untouched sunny side up eggs on toast forever. But then Tony says, “I’m sorry.” A flash of hot, white anger washes over her. As if “I’m sorry” could make up for anything.
Suddenly able to breathe again, Rebecca stands and sets her napkin slowly and gently down on the table beside her plate. She clenches her hands into fists and presses them against the side of her body to stop the shaking. It’s so strange to have known all along that things were not quite right, and yet to feel so incredibly blindsided that it is all coming to an end. Her world is crashing around her.
Rebecca can’t remember if she even said goodbye. Her blood pulsing in her ears, she was on autopilot. Someone had changed the script without telling her. She was supposed to tell him, shock him into action, make him realize what he was about to lose, make him beg her to let him stay. He was supposed to rise to the occasion and make promises that, this time, he would keep.