TITLE: Nowhere to Go But Up - Chapter 2
By Ennis Smith
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For most of his adult life, Chas did things his own way. He rarely followed advice and often made decisions based on the proverbial gut-feeling. Following his emotional state at any given moment had a tendency to make life interesting for him. Sometimes the process worked out in his favor, but there were times it did not. There were days he wished a choice could be taken back; a do-over, if you will. The chance to start all over again, had plagued his thoughts many nights. The thought was particularly strong this morning, as he sat at the dining room table reading over the letter he had just written.
I don’t like the idea of leaving a letter because it seems cliché. In truth, I can’t look into your eyes, because the hurt is still too fresh. This is the first time in months I’ve mustered the urge to write, and it seems strange to pick this letter as my outlet. So be it; here it is. I have to share my thoughts, in light of what I’ve recently discovered.
Bad deeds have a way of coming back to get you, when you least expect them to show up. No one is exempt. Our sins always find us out. To that end, I suppose I should have expected karma to find me. I guess I always figured my payback would come sooner, while I was prepared.
I don’t trust you anymore, Dawn. You’ve shown your lack of respect for yourself as a woman and for our marriage. Our relationship; everything we’ve built together over the years; means less to you than your personal quest for excitement. You don’t seem to be in any hurry to change whatever it is about yourself that hurts our marriage. I mean, how could you be? Your adulteress behavior over the last few years says it all. You don’t care about me and I’m so tired of being disappointed by you time and again. With each incident, your words of apology become more and more transparent.
You’re a liar, a cheat, and a heartless soul beyond the capability to change. I wanted to believe that together we could change your ways if you put your all into it. But you’ve proven that to be a useless dream.
I’m leaving you, Dawn. I just can’t take it anymore. By the time you read this note, I’ll be gone. I need a few days to clear my head and put things into perspective. When I come back, we’ll need to sit down with the kids and explain the situation.
I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the only man you needed in your life. I wish you could have been the woman I thought you were becoming. For what it’s worth, we did have good times and five beautiful children to share. I’ll always love you for that.
I hope you find whatever it is you continue to look for.
“I hope you find whatever it is you continue to look for,” Chas whispered.
Reading the last line of the letter, seemed to solidify the finality of his decision. This was it. This move would change the course of seven lives. It would change everything for his family, and he would undoubtedly be viewed as the bad guy in the end. If only time were changeable. This might be different.
“I hate you for doing this to our family, Dawn.” He muttered.
As he scanned over the letter, Chas brushed tears from his damp stubble cheeks. His heartbeat pounded in his throat and temples. He looked through the living room toward the monotonous tick tock of the old Grandfather clock, standing against the far wall. That clock had been given to them by his late mother as a wedding present, ten years ago. Under normal circumstances, the ticking worked to sooth his senses whenever he was stressed. But this morning was different. The ticking only drove home the reality of what was about to happen. Lately, the clock served as a constant reminder of a failing marriage, and unhappy family.
Chas walked through the living room, and stood before the great clock. The dial hands read a quarter after four in the morning. He switched on the lamp stand next to the clock, illuminating the small living room. Chas stared at his reflection in the clock tower’s glass doors. His usual tone body and sinewy arms seemed to slouch. These days, he ate less and less, continually troubled with his marriage. Dark patches encircled his deep set brown eyes. He bald head and strong jaw showed three days of hair growth. The marriage was physically taking its toll on him.
“I’m withering away. This marriage is draining the life from me.”
Chas’s tired gaze shifted from the clock mirror, up the beige living room wall, to the huge Red Oak framed family portrait. The Smith family had taken this picture when things seemed to be going well. A depressed smile glistened over his face as he looked at each of his 5 children.
Tomas looked so handsome that day, dressed in a lavender shirt, with matching tie; the ensemble accentuating his pale brown latin skin tone. It was hard for Chas to believe his 17 year old step-son was about to start his senior year of high school. The boy’s lean muscular frame filled the dark purple suit to perfection and, for the first time, Chas could see the young man Tomas was destined to become, looking into those huge intense almond colored eyes.
Nate, at 12 years old, showed wisdom beyond his years, within his deep set hazel-brown eyes. Chas chuckled, remembering what the photographer had to do to actually get Nate to smile for this picture. His eldest son’s skinny, light brown, freckled face had a shine that contrasted with the dark brown suit Dawn had chosen for the occasion. Chas stared into the frozen gaze of Nate’s photographed eyes, and recognized the look from countless old photos of himself, at Nate’s age.
Dominique’s awe-inspiring smile always melted Chas’s heart. On bad days at the office, he would often look at smiling pictures of his 11 year-old daughter, to cheer himself up. In the family portrait, her long silky hair draped down her back from a brown heirloom hair pendant; a gift from her late grandmother. The long brown dress she wore highlighted her brown skin color.
Jordynn, Chas’s 6 year-old daughter, looked absolutely beautiful the day of the family portrait. Like Nate, her light brown skin tone seemed to glow against the contrast of the matching calf-length brown dress she and her older sister each wore. Chas stared into the hazel-green eyes of his youngest daughter; glared at the dimpled smile of his baby-girl and had to choke back a fresh wave of tears. She wouldn’t understand why Daddy had to leave, even if Dawn explained the situation using Crayola Crayons for display.
Hesitantly, Chas blinked and found himself staring into the dark brown eyes and innocent face of his little man: 3 year-old Zeek. This handsome young fellow looked absolutely adorable dressed in a dark Purple pinstriped vest, with a light purple dress shirt, accented by a dark purple pinstriped clip-on tie. Zeek’s light brown, ear to ear smile unexpectedly ripped the very air from Chas’s lungs. For a moment, his knees unhinged as his weight threatened to tumble to the ground, looking at Zeek. The little boy would never comprehend Daddy leaving the house forever.
Tears flowed freely down Chas’s cheeks, and clouded his vision. For a brief moment, he reconsidered walking out the door while his family slept in their respective beds. He hated the thought of his children thinking he had abandoned them, even for a few days. Chas clamped his eyelids shut, forcing the salty tears to race down his streaked cheeks. When he re-opened his eyes, he found himself staring into the photographed eyes of his wife, Dawn.
She was so happy, the day the family portrait had been taken. Her dark hair had been freshly cut into a short teased bob with the dark red accents of her low curls sloping just above her ears. The piercing stare of her green eyes always pierced Chas’s heart. Dawn’s rosy cheeks combined with her peach colored, tanned skin worked miracles to accent the earth-tone ankle length dress she wore in the portrait. Chas’s gaze traced the curve of her long neck, down the sightline of her C-cup breasts, down to her French manicured fingers resting across her folded left knee. He traced the line of her shiny beautiful calf protruding out from the folds of her dress, down to her ankle. How he had loved to watch this woman dress. How he had once adored her.
Sorrow transformed into hatred as he envisioned Dawn willingly giving another man full access to those wonderful calves and ankles, that should have been his exclusively. His brown eyes shot back up to Dawn’s frozen photographed stare.
“Thank you very much for destroying everything I’ve ever loved, Dawn.”
Chas glanced at the note. Taking in a deep breath, he folded the note in half, then stuffed it into a blank white letter sized envelope, before sealing it. Across the front, he scribed, ‘For You, From Me’.
Chas tucked the envelope into the bottom left corner of the Red Oak-framed family portrait; high enough out of the reach of their children. He gently grasped the handles of the leather day bag sitting at his feet. Taking a final look around the beige walls of the living room, Chas remembered all the plans he and his lovely wife had made for making this house a Christian home for their family.
“I’m sorry God. I can’t do it anymore. I just don’t have enough love to hold us both up, when she’s only giving a fraction of herself. I quit. Please forgive me.”
Opening the old wooden front door, he quietly dropped the leather day bag onto the concrete porch. Turning around, Chas gave the living room one final glance over. Despite what the written letter said, he had no real intentions of ever returning to this living room. Chas gently closed the wooden door, stepped off the concrete porch, and took his first few steps into his new life alone.
Chas hopped behind the wheel of his pickup truck intent on driving downtown to the nearest motel. So many emotions to sort through; so many tasks needed to be completed. He had no idea of how to begin divorce proceedings. The only surety was that divorce was inevitable. While driving up the block, he envisioned memories of happier times: teaching Tomas to ride his bike, the birth of Nate, Dominique’s first tooth falling out, walks along the river front with Dawn; memories scattered through the past, blown apart by years of pain. As Chas continued to drive, his mind eventually settled on the beginning. He remembered computer class of 1991, and the day he first locked eyes with the emerald stare of the girl who would someday capture his heart.
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