I wait until he's gone. Until all of his barely checked hatred has swept outside the door. I can feel it. Every time I try to salvage what we once had. But he just doesn't care. We're childless, loveless, and hopeless. I wonder why he hasn't left yet. All I want is to live a normal life, a normal life with him. But he doesn't see what I've done and what I'm doing to try and keep us together.
I finish doing up my hair and start to walk outside the door. Every mirror that I pass just highlights my age. When things fall to pieces between us, I won't be able to get another husband. I'll just be here, with even less that the nothing that I have now. Sad lies are better than sad truths.
I walk downstairs and throw out the cold eggs, still sitting in the microwave. For a while after it happened, he'd try to pretend, try and reassure me it was okay. I don't remember when he stopped caring. All I know is that one day he stopped trying to keep me asleep when he got out of bed for his midnight walks. One day he stopped pretending that the smell of drink on him was just from one beer. One day he stopped disguising his hatred for me. For not stopping it from happening.
My high heels clatter on the pavement as I walk down the cobbled street. I see a teenage boy, headphones around his ears, nodding his head in tune to some unknown music. I strain my ears as he walks past, but I don't catch any hint of the song. We are such a secretive society. Unwilling to share music for half a second, unwilling to tell the truth to the person we love most in the world. I see a man sitting on a bench with his dog nearby, and I crouch down to pet her quickly, and I hear the man laugh, and I smile a little. I look up to tell him that she's sweet, and he recoils, and stands up, and starts walking quickly away. My smile fades.
I trace the burn mark that I couldn't quite cover up with the makeup I put on this morning, that runs from just below my left eye to my stomach, hidden everywhere except on my face by my thick coat. It wasn't just my husband that was scathed by what happened.
I reach my destination. I pause for a second, and then reach up to turn the handle. My hand shakes slightly as I grab it tightly, pulling it down and opening the door. I walk in slowly, and am confronted with the same personal hell that I experience every day when my husband's at work. Peeling wallpaper, clothes scattered around, that horrible smell that I can't quite place, and just the right amount of darkness so that, even though I can see quite well, there's still that sense of imposing gloom, of standing in the only viewable spot in a room full of hidden objects.
“Sit down.” I do.
“How are you?” I don't answer.
“Don't be like that.” His voice is playful. I do nothing but try to quell the shaking that has reached my whole body. I feel his hand on my thigh. I keep looking straight ahead. Suddenly, a light illuminates the room. His phone. I look at the picture on there, on me, lying on his bed looking scared, completely naked. I close my eyes. Don't look.
“Answer me, honey.” His voice is edged now. “Or you know what will happen.” I keep my mouth shut for another few seconds, but we both know I'll crack eventually. I always do.
“Good. So, shall we go up to the bedroom?” The shaking gets worse.
“But you said...” We both know the end of that sentence. That he said we wouldn't spend all of our time in the bedroom, that I couldn't bear it, that I wouldn't do it. We both know the answer, too.
“I said what?” I don't respond.
“That's what I thought. Let's go.”
And so it repeats. Again and again. Over and over. I look at the lamp standing in the corner. Of how easy it would be to stop him sharing any pictures. I always look at it. But I never do anything. I deserve this. I deserve it for what I did. What I couldn't do. So I'll walk upstairs and I do what I always do, every day I'm here, because at least I can give Adam the pleasure of thinking that I'm faithful, and maybe all of this pain will wash away the pain I caused. At least this way, Adam can try to rebuild his life. I'm a lost cause.
I stand up and go upstairs to the bedroom.