She didn’t know what to say. She was so angry. She might have been smaller than him by almost a foot, but her anger towered over them both. What she should have said…was nothing. What she did say drained all the color from his face. She was so angry she didn’t notice at first. A part of her brain, and a part of her heart heard what she said, and froze. Those two parts were appalled at what she said. Later, she would be to.
She continued to glare at him, willing him to understand. For a moment, just a moment, she hated him with every pore of her body, and it showed. It was enough to wilt what little forgiveness he had left in him. She was sure it was all his fault, he was uncertain what was even wrong. Between her anger and her hate- for just that single moment- he no longer cared.
He didn’t yell. He didn’t apologize like he normally did. He didn’t stand there, like he often did, letting her petty mood drain off his armor of caring. He didn’t try to hold her, to calm her, to talk softly until she calmed down. Not this time. This time was different. He did none of his usual actions, said none of his usual words, and made none of his usual efforts. All of that was unusual for him, and should have been a warning sign for her. But she was angry, spiteful, hateful, and self righteous, and she was going to win!
He gave her a smile that was so gently sad, packed with regret, covered with the remnants of the last straw, that even her self fueled anger took a moment to stare at that smile. Trying to decipher the pain it must have endured to form. Then, he turned. He took nothing with him. Nothing. His hands held the car keys, just as he held them the moment he walked in the door. Only now, the knuckles around the chain were white with tension. A tension that built to drain all the blood from his hand as he gripped those keys with desperation.
He listened for almost ten minutes, he saw the mask drop from her face as every imagined or real slight he was responsible for (in her eyes) was catalogued in a loud sneering chant. When he turned and walked out the door (A move that silenced her in mid screech) his hand loosened on the keys. Blood returned to his hand, his face, his heart, and his brain. It was over. He was calm now. He needed nothing more from her, and no longer wanted to give anything to her. She had ground their love into the floor like a smoldering cigarette on a dirty sidewalk, with a careless twist under the heel of heartless words.
She stood in a puddle of anger, anger that still blazed, as he left. It was so out of character for him, that her mind couldn’t process it. He just turned and left, and gave her that god awful smile before her walked out. That smile terrified her, for she recognized what is was- pity. He was sad, not for him, for her. That smile said: “I will heal, you have only you- good luck.”
That is why she never chased him to the car. She couldn’t move, caught between a fierce anger, and the signals her brain and heart were trying to pound into her consciousness. Signals that said:
“You have to gone to far. You have been selfish to long. You have become bereft of kindness. You have strangled trust and wrung out every jealous suspicion invented in your imagination from that trust. “
None of those message got through. Not until later that day when she realized he hadn’t even taken his phone. She didn’t know where he was. She had no way to call him. She didn’t know if he was coming back…or not. She cried almost all day, spread across their big bed, or the soft leather of their couch, and for a while, even on the cool wooden floor of the kitchen. She didn’t think before she spoke when she was angry. Now all she could do was think.
Her hope was that he would come back. Maybe later. Maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow. Hope was all she had. She clung to that hope for more than two days. Then it was clear to her. He was gone. And…he…wasn’t…coming…back. Hope died, leaving that ugly empty place that it always does when it dies. Where possibilities, perhaps, and forgiveness turn to ash in the shallow hole left in a heart or soul, when hope dies.
It was then that the note came. All it said was to contact a law firm of such and such and such names. In a small pouch connected to the note were two items of jewelry. His wedding ring, and the onyx tie clip she gave him the Christmas they got engaged. She thought he would give up the wedding ring, but never, ever, did she think he would give up that little onyx clip with its small chain. Seeing that clip caught up in the little clear pouch did more to hammer home that is was over, then did the fancy card with such, and such, and such Law Firm printed on it.
He did everything by proxy. She never saw him again. Until… .
A decade had passed. And then, another. When he walked out of their apartment, he didn’t know where to go. He just wanted to go somewhere far away. Somewhere where he could just work hard, be needed, and left alone. He found the solace granted by physical labor and being needed in small villages in Africa, and Central America. He built damns, small schools, dug wells, carried water, even taught English to eager to learn children desperate to move up, on, and out of where they lived.
Giving is a way of getting. It took years for him to realize how much he had to give away to get back to even. He had to let go of all the things he thought were important. Money, power, status, stuff…all of those things he shed like snake skin, just wiggled out from under them, and left them discarded, unnecessary and forgotten.
Only one thing stayed in his mind and heart left over from that molt of the old him- her. He attracted what few females he encountered out in the bush, they would show up as Doctors, or Peace Corps workers, reporters, or Documentary makers. He was the strong silent type: rugged without jagged corners, sweet without syrupy words, competent, and confident, the two traits that women world wide find attractive in any body, let alone an attractive body like his. He rebuffed them all. They weren’t her. Only she was, and she wasn’t here.
He was forty six years old now. He had been a hundred places, seen a thousand things, and done a million more. He wasn’t worn away, merely polished by time. Like those marble statues admired around the world, the patina of age had left him looking noble, sculpted and scraped into Art. As hard as he looked, you wanted to feel that silk stone frame for it looked like soft living tissue.
He had learned about himself. It was hard work. He had to face truths about himself with the mirror of reflection focused on him. He knew who he was now, and what he had been. The man he thought he was at 26, would have cowered in front of the man he was now. In fact, the label man would have been loosely attached to that boy of 26. At forty six, he was a man. Self made. Man. A man big enough to say he was sorry. A man big enough to say he was wrong. A man willing to do both. But, he was a man with no one to say that to. Until… .
She was forty five now. She tried once more to be married. It was a mistake. It lasted as long as it took for them both to realize that marriage could be a fling, but shouldn’t be. She had trouble even remembering his name. Not HIS name, she never forgot that one. But all the other men, and for a while there were many, they blurred into one another until they became a meager paste of past maleness. She had a real marriage, to a real man, with a real future. It scared her so bad that she made it unreal. She didn’t know at the time, but with time, she knew now.
She had driven him away, because she was afraid she would loose herself. He was perfect. She was not. So she projected it all on him until the weight of seeing herself in him pulled their marriage to the ground. She sold his wedding ring to a pawn shop for fifty dollars. She gave her rings to Goodwill. She kept the tie clasp. She wore it on a small chain around her neck. She wore it everyday.
It reminded her of a time when love, trust, and kindness were abundant in her life. When she still thought they were made for each other, and Life and Love spilled out of their every moment together.
She caressed that tie pin so often, to gain solace, settle her mind, or just to reconnect with the memory of good, that the tie pin had a small rubbed hollow in the middle of the onyx bar. When she held that small pin, she wasn’t alone. He was there to hold her hand, listen to her day, comfort her, and make her laugh. She was rubbing it as if the life that was in it would rub off on her. It often did. She could smile again after a brief touch of the pin.
She had come to New York to speak at a conference on Charity. She had (like him) found that giving is a way of getting. She left that little girl she mistook as a woman at 25 hanging like a silk blouse at Nordstrom’s: pretty empty and expensive. Oh she had wealth, she had built that up first, believing that showing a strong independent front would replace all the anger she had showed him. It did not. But what it did do, was to make her wealthy enough to give away that wealth.
She had two foundations; one called: Little Things. It gave less than a thousand dollar grant (on average) to individual women around the world to make their lives a bit easier. A dress, work gloves, a washer, a dryer, a roof, little things that so many women around the world just can’t afford because of circumstances beyond their control. The other Foundation raised money for big projects. A hospital in Honduras, a music school in Haiti, a clinic in rural Tennessee, a small twin engine plane for Pacific Islanders to shuttle doctors around in. She gave at both ends of the spectrum, only in the middle, where she herself resided, did she not give anything. When he left, her charity towards herself left with him.
She walked to the small park close to the hotel. She never lunched at these Conferences, the conversations were always about needs and wants, and rarely about anything other than what was wanted or needed. She had to have those kinds of conversations every day, so she walked to whatever park was near the venue, but far enough away that no one would follow. There she would sit sliding her fingers unconsciously back and forth on the tie pin, until her mind was at ease, and her brain empty of thoughts. She hadn’t even realized- until he spoke- that she had pulled the tie pin outside her blouse and was fingering it like a talisman, or flute, the music that soothed her soul. Her fingers stopped their caress and became a grip on the onyx tip pin. Her fingers trembled, and she held onto that tie pin to keep from falling over. It was his voice. It was him.
“I am surprised you still have that. It looks better on you than it did on me.”
She still couldn’t talk. She just lifted her head up enough to look at him. The last time she had seen his smile, it was filled with pity. This smile was filled with …with…questions.
Finally, she spoke:
“ I can give it back, if you want. It is yours you know.”
“I don’t want it back.”
Her fingers closed a little tighter around the tie pin. Hope had flared for a second, but turned to ash with his words. The pin would have to do.
“Unless you come with it.”
She didn’t remember standing, or letting go of the tie pin. He didn’t remember crying or reaching out for her.
The tie pin stayed crushed between two walls of love.
For the next thirty years, people who met them as a couple would “oooh”, and “ahhh” at their unique wedding rings. Shaped like miniature onyx tie pins.
This is my first One Shot.
I had free time so thought of writing this.
Hope you enjoyed it.
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