Everyone has a story...
Tony hadn’t really slept. His dreams restless and filled with memories that he couldn’t quite grasp. He shut off the alarm seconds before it buzzed, an attempt to preserve the fragile tranquility of the day for as long as possible. Before the storm that he knew was to come 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, he pads across the over-priced carpet and down to the kitchen to brew the morning coffee. As if this was just another day like all the days before it.
But he knows this is not just another regular day. He wonders how he’ll make it through the morning, anticipating lunch with Rebecca. She had said they needed to talk and he had 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 tosses it into the garbage, giving up on breakfast in frustration. Tony can’t help but recognize the irony. First goes breakfast. Next, his marriage.
He’s felt frustrated for so long that he can’t even pinpoint when things changed. Surely he had been happy at some point. Or maybe that is just what he had been telling himself through the years.
Tony knows that Rebecca will be angry. She’s always angry. But he just can’t keep living a lie. It isn’t Rebecca’s fault. She’s a great mother. And a great wife. Just not the right wife. For him.
He knows what he’ll say. He’ll keep it short and simple. He hopes 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.
Tony keeps himself busy for the morning, his work a welcome distraction until it’s time to drive to meet Rebecca at their favourite restaurant. It seems strange and almost surreal. The butterflies in his stomach an unfamiliar sensation and he’s struck by a flicker of doubt that passes as quickly as it comes. It’s time. He’s already waited too long. Perhaps counselling could have helped early on but that ship has long since sailed. He knows it’s time and suspects she knows as well.
When he pulls up to the restaurant he sees that Rebecca has already arrived. For some reason he feels slightly irritated. He can visualize the accusing eyes that will greet him. The continuation of some tension between them that he can’t pinpoint the cause of and only knows is never resolved.
He sprints across the parking lot to the entrance. The door feels unusually heavy to open. The seat a bit too close to the table as he squeezes in across from her. He’s suddenly not sure how to start. How to keep it simple. The waitress takes their order. The voices of the other customers fill the space between them. Someone laughs loudly from the corner. He can’t wait any longer: “Rebecca, I want a divorce.”
The words are out but the heaviness in his heart remains. He’s sure 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.
Tony waits for Rebecca to say something. Anything. It feels like forever. He watches as the tears roll down her cheeks. “I’m sorry.” It doesn’t feel like enough and he wants to explain. To tell her that it isn’t her fault and that he wants her to be happy. That he believes they can both be happy. Just not together.
But there’s no chance for explanations. Rebecca is now standing and he can feel the sudden presence of her rage, electric in the air as she throws her napkin to the table and storms out of the building.
Watching her leave Tony feels hollow inside, confused by his emotions, and wondering 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 now realizes he has no idea how the rest of the story unfolds.
Rebecca woke with a start. She had been dreaming. She had found her soulmate and they were committed to “until death do we part.” The gentle swishing sounds of the wings of doves flying overhead and the enchanting music of the angels singing on her wedding day, a blissful state of forever happiness…just like she wanted it to be. It was what the storybooks promised.
Now awake she remembers what it was actually like. The unease even as she adjusted her hair in the mirror before taking her father’s arm to walk down the aisle. Chalking it up to wedding jitters. The forced carefree laughter to hide the nervous energy of her beating heart as she stood at the precipice of the first moments of the rest of her life.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee and a whiff of burning toast pushes the remnants of the dream away from her consciousness. Her mouth dry and her stomach in knots. Knowing that today is the day. The day that everything will change.
The plan was to meet for lunch so they could “talk.” It 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.
Crawling out from under freshly washed sheets, Rebecca shivers. She senses something ominous that she can’t quite name. As she walks 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 has practiced the conversation in her mind over and over again but now the words seem all jumbled together and impossible to grasp. She wonders momentarily if she might be having a panic attack and if she should just cancel the meeting.
But no. She knows it’s time. She feels it in the ache that has taken up residence in her heart. The tears she holds back 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 has to leave. She needs space to figure out her feelings. It will be difficult but it’s the only hope to save their marriage.
Rebecca pulls up next to 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 and 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 and just when she thinks she can’t take it anymore…“Rebecca, I want a divorce.”
Rebecca feels like she might faint. It is as if all the oxygen has been sucked out the room. Divorce. The word she has been dreading. She has 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. A split second pause. “No.” But then he looks away and she knows it was a lie.
She feels the warmth of her tears as they roll quietly down her cheeks. She might have sat in that booth in front of her untouched sunny side up eggs on toast, forever. But then he says “I’m sorry” and 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, clenching her hands into fists and pressing them against the side of her body to stop the shaking. It’s so strange to have known all along that things were just not quite right and yet to feel so incredibly blindsided that it is all coming to an end. She feels her world crashing around her.
Rebecca can’t remember if she even said good bye. Her blood pulsing in her ears, she was on autopilot. Someone had changed the script without telling her. It was supposed to have been her telling him. Shocking him into action. To have him realize what he was about to lose and then rise to the occasion and demonstrate just how much she meant to him. Begging her to let him stay and making promises that this time he would keep.