I hung up the phone in disbelief.
My childhood friend and her two kids had just spent a week visiting me in Michigan. We went to the zoo, ate picnic lunches, stayed up late watching movies and reminisced about our high school antics. Life was not perfect, but it was good.
At least that week it was good.
But when she returned home, the life she knew had disappeared. Her husband confessed to having an affair. He wanted the four bedroom house to himself, trying to reason that it was just too big for her to manage on her own. In fact, while she was visiting me, he had already started packing up her things, found her and the kids an apartment and paid the deposit. He wanted her out in a week. She was horrified and numb but compliant. I had suspected for years that she had suffered emotionally a daily barrage of insults and complaints. The strong independent young woman I had known when we were fourteen had vanished, replaced by an insecure and fearful mother of two facing the daunting task of walking away from more than a decade long relationship.
“How in the world am I going to get three people moved in a week?” she cried in desperation, “I can’t believe this is really happening.”
I quickly made arrangements for my children, double-checked DW’s schedule and bought a plane ticket. It was a short flight, but filled with anxiety. All I could think about were our years of sleep-overs, double dates, secret sharing, singing music at the top of our lungs and the crazy school projects we worked on together. I pictured us crying over boyfriends, girl drama and parents. There wasn’t anything a couple of milkshakes and curly fries from Jack in the Box couldn’t fix. But this was different. This situation was going to take time for her to sort through, grieve and recover. The least I could do was help make the load lighter.
She and I stood silently in the middle of the living room. The house looked like it had been ransacked by an army of thieves. Pots and pans lined the kitchen counter. Papers and books spilled over desks and chairs onto the floor. Clothes and toys were piled four feet high in every corner. A small walking path marked the route from the main living areas to the bedrooms.
“He told me everything I wanted to keep needed to either be out of the house or packed up and stored in the dining room by Monday morning or else he was going to get rid of it,” she said flatly.
As I surveyed the damage, it seemed an impossible feat. At the moment there wasn’t even room in the dining area to store boxes. So my first order of business was to clear out that room and only leave the furniture she wanted to keep. I started pointing to items, and when she nodded her head in response, I marked them with a sticky note. After a few hours it finally felt like we were making some headway. Stacks of tightly packed boxes replaced the clutter, all contents clearly marked for easy retrieval. For every two boxes I packed, my friend only packed one. She sifted through everything with a sigh, remarking on a memory or feeling that the item invoked. I also noticed that she was packing things that more closely resembled trash than treasure.
I grabbed an empty tape cassette cover out of her hand. The list of songs were in my handwriting. It had been a mix-tape I made her in high school but the tape was nowhere to be found.
“Why are you keeping this?” I asked, “The tape is gone.”
“I just don’t want to forget anything,” she replied.
It was clear that we needed a break. The weekend was half over and the girls were getting hungry. My friend’s mother was also there trying to help with the kids but she needed to get home too. Just then, we heard someone come in through the back door. Heavy footsteps lumbered towards our side of the house, followed by the quick steps of two little girls. Standing in front of us was her soon to be ex-husband, clutching his car keys and shaking his fist at us.
“What the hell is all this?” he shouted, waving his arm at the stack of packed boxes.
My friend grimaced and stayed in a crouched position on the floor. I stood.
“This is as far as we have gotten today, ” I said, “It’ll look better by the time you come back on Monday.”
“I don’t remember giving you permission to take so much stuff,” he grumbled.
My friend stood up quickly.
“Well I don’t remember giving my consent to be forced out of my house!” she shouted.
Both voices erupted, barreling over each other in sharp punches. My friend’s children and mother stood in shock as the emotions of both my friend and her husband unraveled.
“Nana, you need to take the kids to McDonald’s,” I said slowly. The tension in the room had spiraled to a point of no return. Words like asshole, shithead, bastard and cunt cluttered the air and I didn’t want the kids to see or hear anymore.
No one moved.
“Nana, you need to take the kids to eat now,” I said more forcefully, walking over to the girls who were now crying. Trying to get the three bodies out the door was like moving marble statues. Finally I was able to escort them to the car, buckled the girls up and kissed them each on their head.
“Everything will be okay,” I promised, “I’ll take care of mommy.”
I watched them drive off.
Entering the house, I could hear his deep booming voice, “I FUCKING want you out now!”
I hurried into the living room just in time to see him pull his right arm back, balling up his fist in a fury. Without thought, I stepped right in between them. His eyes widened in horror.
“Go ahead,” I said, “hit me. But I can guarantee that unlike your wife, I WILL press charges.”
We stood there staring at each other for a minute. My heart pounded wildly, waiting.
Slowly, he put his arm down, turned and walked out the door.
Every week you’re invited to join Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop by responding to one of the provided writing prompts posted each Tuesday. The directions are simple:
- Choose a writing prompt from the list provided that inspires you most.
- Come back this Thursday and paste the URL from your post into the list of links that will be displayed…this way anyone can click on your post thumbnail and head over to your place to see what you wrote.
To view more detailed instructions on how this weekly meme works, check out the Writer’s Workshop FAQs.
1.) Share a Whitney Houston song that meant something to you.
(inspired by Mama Mary)
2.) Just when you didn’t think things could get worse…how did they get worse?
(inspired by Confessions of a Semi Domesticated Mama)
3.) Create a reverse bucket list that names the top ten things you never want to do.
(Inspired by The Hairpin)
4.) A memorable day at work.
5.) Share a story about a sibling.