Not every story has a happy ending. Some have no endings at all. And some start in places you'd never expected.
Though I had no way of knowing then, my story began when I was certain it was nearly over. No, I wasn't dying...but my marriage was. My picture-perfect marriage that so many people were envious of was nowhere near how happy I made it seem on Instagram. In fact, it was crumbling so fast in my hands that I was at a loss of words to describe exactly how it left me feeling.
Empty, confused, scared…
The ending of my marriage wasn't what scared me though. It wasn't the way my husband was handling things that frightened me either. Logan had been in control of so many aspects of my life for the past seven years and now that he didn't have a handle on it, now that I was slipping away piece by piece, he was reacting exactly how I expected.
He was both withdrawn and all around me at all times with his questions. Always needed to know where I was going or who I was speaking to on the phone, yet never cared at all about why I locked myself in the laundry room for an hour. Through the sobs and streams of tears, I wondered if he ever heard me crying in there. Surely he had.
The laundry room was right next to the kitchen in our townhouse. And though the dryer would be on and tumbling, it was one of those appliances that boasted a quiet experience. Further, I could hear him through my sobs and sputters and sniffs as he moved about in the kitchen, grabbing beers from the fridge or dicing himself a slice of cucumber. If I could hear him, he could hear me, and still, he never cared enough about why I was crying to ask me. He didn't care that he was the reason why.
Months before the realization that I wanted out of this marriage had struck me, I could feel Logan's grip on me tightening. It was as if the more he felt me pull away, the more I crumbled and fell between the cracks in his fingers, and the harder he tried to wrench me back in. Before I realized what I wanted, I thought something was wrong with me. Why would I want to distance myself from my husband? Why was I so unhappy? Didn't I have enough to be thankful for?
Logan Wright was, by anyone's standards, a great man. He was successful, wealthy, worldly, and sharp as a whip. Because of him, I had traveled to places I would have never had the opportunity to see on my own. I owed him so much and still...
Still, I was unhappy.
Even now, as I stood in my newly renovated kitchen that Logan had spent nearly twenty grand on because to him if there was a problem, the solution was to throw money at it, I couldn't quite figure out why I felt so...empty. I stared at the subway tile backsplash behind the stove until my eyes burned and even when I was desperate to blink, I stared. The eye on the stove was glowing red and there was a small tendril of steam climbing above the tea kettle.
It burned my eyes as I stood still and stared at one of the glossy, square tiles so hard I thought it might crack beneath my gaze. The emptiness inside me was a strange kind of feeling and for so long, I thought it would disappear if I just made it to this point.
It became a game I would play with myself inside my head. If you could just tell Logan how you're feeling, this misery would get better. That day came and went with several arguments that spanned weeks. Logan stormed out, stayed gone all night, and in his absence, the emptiness remained.
So I switched up the rules. Now, it became, if I could just talk to a lawyer, just to find out about the divorce process, the emptiness would fade.
The rules had to be changed several more times after that and while things in my crumbling marriage had fallen into a strange stasis, hanging somewhere between unhappy and completely over, I remained just as empty and numb as I had been for months.
The sound of Logan's voice jerked me out of my thoughts and I blinked rapidly, the burn on my eyes bringing tears to the corners. I stepped back and glanced down at the kettle, only just now hearing the shrill whistling that had been going on long enough to call my husband into the kitchen. My lips pursed in slight annoyance and I was quick to grab the kettle handle and pick it up from the stove.
"Sorry," I mumbled, tipping the spout over the cup sitting on the counter beside me. "I must have gotten lost in my thoughts."
The steam rose from the mug and though I couldn't exactly see the look on my husband's face, I could feel it. I could feel the way his eyes flickered down to the 'Class of '07' mug that I've had since high school, with the fading crimson letters and the stained ring of coffee on the inside and I knew Logan was pursing his lips. Tea didn't belong in coffee mugs. And the aged, chipped mug that I'd been carting around from apartment to apartment and finally to our house since I graduated high school did not belong in this newly renovated kitchen. The renovated kitchen that Logan thought would be a proper bandage for the rift in our marriage.
At least it wasn't a baby.
I set the kettle back onto the stove and brought the mug to my lips, taking a sip of the scalding liquid before the tea could even properly steep. My earlier plan of having a cup of tea and sitting on the back porch to enjoy the morning in peace was suddenly grinding to a halt and with each second that Logan remained standing in the doorway to the kitchen, I felt the creeping sensation of being trapped crawl up the back of my neck.
No matter how many awkward seconds passed with him leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest and me sipping the boiling water as if it wasn't scalding my upper lip, I refused to lift my eyes to his. Like I said, I didn't need to look up to know what was behind his gaze.
"Naomi," he said my name slowly and quietly in that way he did when he was about to say something I wouldn't like. This time, I did lift my gaze and found exactly what I had been expecting to see. Disappointment, annoyance, frustration. It was the same look he'd given me countless times before. I waited for him to continue and he sighed, dropping his head back before pushing away from the doorframe. "Are we not going to discuss this anymore?"
Such a small word that word held so much in it. Every letter carried the weight that I'd felt piling up on my chest these past several months. It was so much that I wasn't exactly sure what this he meant.
I curled my finger around the string hanging out of my mug and bobbed the tea bag up and down through the water.
"What's left to discuss?"
I hoped my question answered him. I didn't want to talk about this anymore and if I could avoid it before I left this afternoon, I would be happy. But Logan wasn't happy unless I was miserable and he didn't drop it.
"You're seriously going to traipse off to your parents' for the weekend and leave me here with all of this hanging over us?"
As if he hadn't done the same thing before. I let out a sigh, careful not to let him hear it, and set my tea down on the counter beside me. "I'm not traipsing anywhere. I'm helping them clean out the attic. A lot of the stuff up there is mine anyway."
"And it's going to take all weekend to do this?"
"Maybe," I offered with a shrug. "Dad's back is still bad. You know I can't let him go up and down that ladder-"
"Jesus, Nay…" Logan shook his head and turned away and I held my breath, hoping I'd pissed him off enough that he was dropping this argument. At the last second, before he could cross into the dining room, he faced me once again. I let the breath out slowly. "And what am I going to tell mom this weekend when we go out for lunch and you're not there?"
"Yeah, right-" there was so much bitterness in his tone that I flinched inwardly, knowing that he would soon start throwing every trick up his sleeve at me. "-You really think I'm going to tell my mother that my wife would rather spend the weekend at her parents than be with me?"
"It's one weekend, Logan."
"How do I know you're actually going to your parents?" His question felt like a slap across my face.
"You think I'm lying to you? About going to my parents?"
For a moment, the two of us stood in the kitchen, not moving, not speaking...just staring at one another and I wondered if he was going to drop it again. I wasn't that lucky. Logan shrugged and brought his arms back over his chest.
"What else am I supposed to think? You spring all of this stuff on me out of nowhere-"
"It was not out of nowhere, Logan and you-"
"You're always avoiding me. You never talk to me anymore."
I tried not to, but I couldn't help rolling my eyes. The sound of the ceramic mug clicking against the side of the stove cut through the tension and I gestured between us before he could continue.
"Because this is all we do. Everything is a fight with you and I'm so tired of fighting. I'm exhausted, Logan."
His eyes-those blue eyes that I used to adore and could look into for hours-turned cold as he narrowed them on me. With just a single look, he shifted the tension that had started to make me sweat under my arms and replaced it with a chill so icy, I almost shivered.
"So," he started, his voice low but dark. "You're just going to give up on us like you did everything else in your life?"
For a second time, his words felt like a slap across my face and I didn't even try to hide my flinch this time. And he wondered why I didn't want to talk to him. Though I was hurt, I didn't let him see it on my face and I snatched the mug from the counter and dumped it into the sink. If he wasn't going to take himself out of the conversation, then I was.
I turned on my heel without a word to him and headed toward the front hall of our house. Our classic, colonial house that I used to think was picture perfect had transformed the past year. We had bought it in hopes that the two extra bedrooms would one day be nurseries for our children, that we could grow and become more in a house like this. How wrong we had been.
We had been told so many times that our house looked as if it belonged in the pages of a magazine, that we were so lucky that we were able to buy it before the housing market spiked. And for years, I believed those people. I believed we were lucky-that I was lucky to have it and a husband like Logan.
"Of course you're just going to walk away." His words made my steps slow to a stop over the threshold but I didn't turn around. I would let him say what he felt he needed to say. "It's what you're best at, Naomi. You walked away from a career, you walk away from every hard decision you've ever faced and now you're going to walk away from us."
The familiar burn of tears pricked the back of my eyelids and I dragged in a deep breath that trembled around the lump in my throat. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew he was right. I walked away from everything in my life when it got hard or when it didn't seem worth going through, and now, our marriage was no exception. I opened my mouth to tell him that I was sorry, that I didn't know what else to do, but I didn't get a chance.
"I can't guarantee that I'll be here when you get back. Maybe it's time I give up as well."
Should his words have made me feel something? It was frustrating that they didn't. There was no sting, no rush of regret that made me want to turn on my heel and go to him. I felt nothing but that same empty, gaping hole inside my chest.
From behind me, I heard the shift of his shoes on the tile floor and a moment later, he left the kitchen. I stayed where I was, halfway between the rooms, not sure where I should be or where I should go.
I was forever stuck, wondering where I belonged. Without Logan to tell me, I stayed standing still until I heard the door leading to the garage open on the slightly creaking hinges. A moment later, the door slammed shut and I was alone in the house. Despite the burn to the back of my eyes, I didn't cry.