She curled around the stuffed animal, weeping tears she thought would break her. Surely no human could contain this much hurt and survive. She hadn’t wanted to cry, had fought it tooth and nail; she’d tried being angry, shredding a small pillow and tearing out it’s stuffing, like an angry cat. When that had failed, when her tornado of furious emotion had left her spent, she’d laid on the bed, panting and tired.
That’s when the tears started. At first, there was just one or two, easily discounted as sweat from her angry rampage. Then, as she started thinking about what had happened, what was happening, more tears. A trickle, which stopped shortly after starting. She took a deep breath, convincing herself that it was over, and she’d survived. Being angry had worked, and she was over it.
She decided to test the wound, like a child probing a recently healed cut. After all, if she was over it, she wouldn’t have any problems looking at it, would she?
“Sarah, you know you can’t just walk into my place like this!” His big brown eyes and full lips that naturally rested in a self-satisfied smirk, combined into an expression of superior amusement at the world around him, even now, when he was breaking her apart.
“Ethan, I walk in on this, and you start blaming me? You’re having sex with her!” She gasped at the blow vocalizing what she’d walked in on gave her heart. “With Laura… Laura? My roommate, Ethan! I know that you’ve cheated in the past, but it’d always been with women I didn’t know. I could just turn the other way. But Laura?!” The woman in question paused in getting dressed, and opened her mouth, as if to say something. “Oh, don’t even. Don’t you dare even think about talking to me. We’ll have this out later, right now I’m talking to him.”
“Sarah, just calm down, okay? It’s not what it seems; it –”
“Not what it seems?” She blinked. Shook her head slightly, as if having encountered words in some foreign dialect. “It seems like you and my roommate were screwing. What else would it be?”
“Well, okay,” his tone was slightly defensive, “it was what it seems. But, you have to understand…” his voice trailed off at the flash of murder in her eyes.
“What, Ethan, do I have to understand? What exactly could you possibly say that would make this all better?”
His voice was quiet as he dropped his eyes and stared at his hands. “You have to understand, Sarah, that I don’t love you. I never did love you.” She thought she would fall, the words came as a shock. Her mouth opened slightly, striving for air that wouldn’t seem to enter her benumbed body. He looked at her, and tears were in his eyes. “All of those other women… I was trying to get you to break up with me, Sarah. I knew you’d known about them. I thought you would have enough self-respect to walk away from me.”
She let out a keening note. Words couldn’t come to her, not now. Laura spoke into the otherwise quiet room. “Ethan and I have been dating for almost as long as you two have, Sarah. We would have told you, but… well, everyone knows how you feel about him. We didn’t want to hurt you.” Sarah’s eyes locked onto Laura’s, and now anger replaced the false sympathy in Laura’s voice. “You never understood him, the way I do. You never gave him what I do. And still, with all of your fights, with all of the other women, with all of the insults, you remained. You just wouldn’t let him go. Had you done the right thing, just walked away, none of this would have happened.”
“No, Ethan, she has to hear this. Sarah, you stifle the life out of any man who’s with you. Then, when they try to break away, you tell them how much you need them. How you couldn’t live without them. How they’re the center of your world. How could any caring person walk away from that? This is your fault, Sarah. He didn’t love you, but you made him stay. Now, you’re going to blame him for trying to make himself happy? That’s just more of the same selfish Sarah-behavior.”
Sarah’s mind whirled, as she gazed at blue silken sheets she’s laid in so many lazy afternoons. Suddenly, the world seemed to go still, and the light trickling in from the shuttered windows seemed to be too bright. Asking in a calm, glassy voice, “is this true?” She wasn’t sure who she was speaking to. Wasn’t sure it even mattered.
“Sarah, you always knew that you cared about me… asked me to care about you… what I’m trying to say is… I’m sorry, Sarah. I just… I never loved you, but I wanted… needed… you to walk away from me, so that I knew you’d be okay without me.”
Her eyes refusing to meet his, she looked instead at the wooden dresser, and the pictures resting there. She’d always wondered why her picture was never placed there. She nodded, slightly, as if to herself, and murmured, “you want me to be okay. Alright then. I’ll be okay.” Then, without a word, she walked away.
That had been two hours ago, and she’d gone to the apartment she’d shared with Laura, there to destroy that small heart pillow Ethan had given her for her last birthday. And, as she poked at the aching memory, new tears welled up inside of her. These were bitter, and massive, and she thought they’d never stop. She pulled her smiling stuffed animal to her, curling around it like the ache that fisted around her heart, and prayed that she’d die before the tears drowned her.
Across town, two newly freed lovers held each other and murmured that they’d done the only thing they could, reassuring each other.