I opened the apartment's front door as quietly as I could, only to find that the living room light was still on, the television still casting its mellow glow.
I sighed and put my bags down.
"Jeez, Mike..." I sighed impatiently, silently cursing my husband as I flicked off the TV.
"You're home," a voice said suddenly.
I jumped in surprise. "Christ.... Mike... I thought you'd gone to bed. You scared me..."
He stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, watching me.
"How was dinner, Birthday Girl?"
I smiled weakly. "Great, it was nice having a night out with the girls and... It was fun."
"Do you need some help with those bags?" he asked, indicating toward the several bags of gifts I'd received that night.
"No. I'm okay," I replied quickly.
Neither of us said another word until I cleared my throat uncomfortably. "I'm feeling a little tired so I'm going to bed first, okay?"
"Actually, Liz," he started, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "I was wondering if we could talk."
I frowned and set my bags down. "Mike, I'm tired... I just... Can it wait?"
"Liz," he repeated solemnly. "Please?"
"Okay," I conceded, "Okay, fine."
Mike led me into the kitchen. He flicked the light on and fixed two glasses of scotch with ice, setting both on the counter. I sat at the breakfast table and accepted one of the glasses he offered.
"What's wrong?" I asked, taking a small sip from my glass.
"What's wrong? What's wrong?" he repeated sharply, his expression pained.
He opened one of the kitchen drawers and tossed a packet of papers in front of me. "Liz, what the hell are these?"
I stared down at the pile and felt my heart skip.
He'd found them.
"Well?" he demanded.
I pushed the papers away and sighed tiredly, shaking my head slowly.
"Divorce papers." he said incredulously. "Were you ever going to tell me? Or were you going to slip them into my briefcase one morning?"
"Mike... I... Please don't be upset, can we talk about this tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow? Liz... Divorce isn't something you put off until convenient. It isn't something you throw in your husband's face whenever you find you have the time. When did you get these?"
I bit my lip and looked down at the tiling. "Five months ago."
"I can't believe this..." Mike muttered. "Five months... God..."
"Stop it, Mike," I finally snapped. "You knew this was coming. What's the big fucking deal? There's no difference between you knowing now as opposed to you having known five months ago."
"There is a difference! Because unlike you, I went through these past five months thinking we were getting better."
"How could you think that? How could you think that? We don't have exchange a single good morning iwhen we wake up, we don't have dinner together five nights a week, we can barely sleep in the same bed. What the hell made you think we were going to be okay?"
"Because I was trying! Because I have been fucking trying, Elizabeth! You're the one who never says good morning, you're the one who's out of the damn apartment at least five nights a week and you're the one who can barely take sharing a bed. I've tried getting you to open up again, Elizabeth, I've tried making you dinner and sending you flowers, loving you, caring about you, I've tried everything to get you to trust me again. But you won't!"
"Maybe if you had given a fuck when I miscarried, if you had been there, things would be different. But you weren't. No one was."
"Stop the pity party, I was in London, Liz!" he yelled. "I called and I called and I called. I flew over as soon as I could but what else could I have done? What else could I have done?"
I burst into tears as the memories flooded back, as the emotions I'd walled away overcame me.
"You could've stayed in New York for once, Michael! You didn't even think about how constant business trips would disrupt things until I lost the baby. Then, then you decided to care about our marriage, about someone other than yourself, so don't fucking accuse me of acting in convenience!"
I tried to storm out of the room but Mike caught me by the arm firmly, holding me in place.
"You're right. I was an asshole, I didn't care enough about you then but what you're missing is that I've changed. I care about us more than anything right now but all you can think about is that one mistake, and yeah, it was a big mistake and I will never pretend to understand how hurt you felt, how hurt you feel, but I've been trying. I've been trying to make up for everything I haven't been but it's really hard when you shut me out. This marriage is our responsibility, not just mine."
"When I woke up alone in that hospital bed without my baby, without my husband, I realized that I never wanted to be hurt like that again. You may have only left for a few days, Michael, but you might as well have left for good." I wiped at the corner of my eyes with my free arm and looked up grudgingly. "You want to make it up, Michael? Sign the papers."
"You can't change my mind," I told him tiredly, slipping my arm out of his grip. "Save yourself the grief and just sign them."
"No," he repeated, voice cracking. "This is going to sound crazy and psychotic and pathetic but signing those papers is signing my life away. The past five months, I've made every single day about you; everything has come second to you, you're my life now, again. And I'm not going to give that up."
I felt disgusted. I couldn't even look at Mike any longer but I felt I owed him an explanation. Felt I owed our unborn baby an explanation.
"Mike. No matter how desperate you are, how much you care, how sorry you are, there are some things you just can't make up. Sometimes you just have to live with the guilt."
"Even when it wasn't your fault?" he asked.
"No, Mike. You live with it because it was."