Even their sprawling two-storey was not big enough. Brick walls held tight against the rising tension, but the windows and doors were about to pop. Heaven help any visitors. Behind an ornate front door the plastic image of the perfect family was melted into an ugly mess and the sight was sure to shock the neighbours.
Her back stiffened against the firm mattress, but she lay still. Sprawled out and eyes wide, she stared at the ceiling fan above her. Its gentle draft played through her hair, uncovering a few stray strands of grey amidst the highlights. Coolness kissed her skin – her cold, untouched skin. Rachel muttered and sighed.
Another day had passed of tip-toeing carefully across the minefield. At any moment an explosion could rip through the family - with deadly consequences. Pain didn’t fade with familiarity.
Her thoughts whirled with the rhythm of the fan. Around and around the situation - each problem chasing the next. What to say? What to do? Why me? Why now?
She flirted with the advice her friends had fed her.
“Kick him out. You’re the victim here.”
“You deserve to find someone who will make you happy. Dave won’t, but someone else will.”
“Divorce is the path to your freedom.”
Their counsel massaged her conscience. Rachel may not have been the perfect wife, but who would blame her? Dave had obviously grown bored years ago and she had all but forgotten what romance felt like. He doesn’t love me and I’m so tired of begging for it. Husbands are supposed to love their wives without being asked.
She thought of her pastor and the counseling sessions. Hours of emotional dodgeball – each throwing blame at the other. Pastor Bill was a well-intentioned man, but he just couldn’t get through to them, even using the Bible. What does God’s word say to each of you? Now listen to each other. And the game would begin again. “She doesn’t…” “He never…” “I will if she will…”
But failure there had left only one viable option. And both had baulked.
Has it gotten that bad? The fan continued its ever-steady rotation. Her left ring finger burned with emptiness. How could something start so good and end so bad?
Divorce is ugly, painful, stormy. But afterwards, maybe life can be clear again. I won’t be so angry all of the time. The fighting will stop. The hurt will fade.
In her mind’s eye she saw the well-worn pages of Pastor Bill’s Bible. His moustache shook with finality as he reminded them of God’s firm position on divorce. But if it brings the good out in both of us, how could it be bad? The chase never ended.
Turning over with a grumble, his eyes squeezed tighter. Lately most nights were the same – scrunched in a twin bed and wrapped with an old wool blanket, he willed sleep to come. Eventually his body would cooperate and slip into oblivion, but the battle raged every time.
Unsettled quietness crowded the basement, but the voices of his memory elbowed in.
Rachel telling him what he should do. Then what he shouldn’t do. The kids crying after another loud clash. Implied and even explicit put-downs crawled from his wife’s mouth. Even the silence that greeted his most strenuous efforts screamed in his thoughts.
How can I ever fix this marriage? I’ve made it into a disaster. Another emotional bruise spread. Dave muttered and sighed. Maybe things would be better if I left. Would the kids have a good life? Would they think I’m a bad father? Undoubtedly their mother felt that way already.
His thoughts dwelled a moment on Pastor Bill. Their session covering submission had been a joke, a lost cause. Rachel hadn’t even looked at him, but Dave would bet that her eyes screamed defiance. Submission took trust. Leadership took confidence. Both were starkly lacking in their marriage.
Was I that bad to her? I tried, but never quite hit the mark. Can’t remember if I ever made her really happy.
His eyes tried to flutter open and he pulled the blanket tighter. Maybe divorce is not so bad in every case. God has to understand that I’m ready to give up.
The pastor’s eyes were shut gently and his moustache bounced with unspoken words. The intensity of his prayer never wavered with daily repetition. He would lift their names up to the Heavenly Father in faith and with perseverance.
And the Lord would work.
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