It's fucking freezing for April. The sun has already called it quits and the gentle wind has progressed into a bitter cold breeze. I look up at the sky, barely tilting my head back; dark clouds are setting in. I should've grabbed that cardigan. I grumble a small sigh and shake my head, silently scolding myself. It was right there, hung over the dining room chair. I looked at it, considered grabbing it but thought, nah, I'll be fine. Damn it. I make an attempt to quicken my pace, even though my bare skin is being beaten as I move against the wind. This is the only route I know back to the apartment. If it hadn't been so nice when I left, I would've taken the car and avoided all this frustration. Regret. One more regret to add to the growing list.
The only companions that escort me are the white plastic grocery bags dangling from my now rubbed-raw pink wrists, and the clinking of my heels on the hard concrete sidewalk. Why did I have to take two hours picking out this weekend's meals? Because you have nothing better to do with your life. You'd rather hide in an aisle of spices you never plan on using, pretending you actually give a damn about recipes that include bay leaves, than face the miserable life you've made for yourself. Ouch. My heart sinks and twists into an unforgivable knot in response to my conscious' honesty. I wince at the emotional battery. That's pretty fucked up, and brutal. But true.
As I think life can't get much worse than this, Mother Nature takes it as her cue to open up the darkened clouds that plague the sky. A drizzling rain begins to assault me. I think this could be a scene from a comic book, but I fail to find the humor. My apartment is just around the corner, but I can't run. These damn bags are too heavy; they're already piercing into the pale, tender skin on my forearms. With my luck, they'll rip open and spill their contents before I make it to the awning.
I let the rain fall onto my face without any attempt at defense. The tiny hairs on my exposed skin stand up straight and send a chill down my spine, making my body shudder. I feel the wetness drip down my shoulder blades, gathering at the small of back, soaking into my shirt. It's more than uncomfortable. Every unprotected inch is being drenched, yet I'm helpless.
I sneer at my choice of words: helpless. I could throw these bags down and run for the awning. I could spill the contents out on the sidewalk and use the bags for cover. But no, instead I sulk, gripping onto bags that hold nothing that really interests me while I fill with more and more disdain as the rain beats down harder and harder. I try to swallow my words but, even though every other part of me is soaking wet, my throat is unforgivingly dry. My misery gets the best of me; I'm so pathetic. If this were a different time in my life, I would have somehow found humor and happiness; I wouldn't have let the rain get me so down. But it's not a different time. And I'm letting it drag me down into a wretched puddle of despair.
I feel the familiar prick at the back of my eyes as I turn the corner but, before I can surrender myself to the tears, which I would have undoubtedly done, I see Michael running towards me, opening an umbrella. I attempt to compose myself, not that I could hide my emotions from Michael. He can read me almost as well as Thomas can. He does me the honorable favor of appearing as though he hasn't noticed that I'm a completely miserable wreck. That in and of itself nearly sends me over the edge. I want to thank him, for the umbrella and for sparing me the humiliation, but my dry throat betrays me, once again.
"Emma," he greets me warmly as he shields me from the striking rain, "I would've run down here sooner if I'd known you were walking." His voice is comforting and puts me a bit at ease until I'm reminded of why he's here, why I'm alone.
"Thank you," my voice cracks with distress. I try to force a humorous tone, as if I didn't mind the onslaught, "I was getting soaked." I manage a small smile onto my face and return kind eyes to him.
"Well, I'm glad I saw you," he says politely with a professional smile.
"Not as glad as I am." I return his pleasant tone as though his presence is not shocking. Well, truthfully it's not. Either Thomas or Michael has been here almost every evening since I moved out two weeks ago. Usually it's Thomas and Michael waits by the car, carrying out his role as attentive assistant.
He graciously takes the bags from my hand in exchange for the umbrella and stands a good distance away from me, careful not to invade my personal space. There is an immediate relief when he takes the bags. I winced when he took the first, but he was much gentler with the others. I instinctively rub my worn wrists and forearms. When I look up I'm hit with a sense of selfishness. Michael's right half is already drenched. The site of his soaked suit makes me feel horrible. He shouldn't have to suffer just because I was stupid enough to get caught in this damn rain.
"Stand under here with me; I don't want you getting soaked too."
He gently shakes his head and begins to object, but my face must portray my desperation. After everything that's happened, I just want him to stay dry. After a quick moment he nods his head and walks with me under the umbrella carrying my bags of truly unneeded/unwanted perishables.
"Did Thomas send you?" I finally ask as we take cover under the awning to my building. It's a question I already know the answer to; of course Thomas sent him. I turn the umbrella upside down and attempt to shake the droplets off. I'm unsuccessful, making me feel even more pathetic.
"He would've come himself but he's required else where. He just wanted to make sure you're doing well."
"Is he in jail?" The question leaps out of my throat. Michael looks a bit taken aback. I break his gaze and punch in the code so we can walk inside. I attempt to justify my outburst, "I heard about the incident."
I heard about it in depth. Yet again, a reporter was waiting outside of Thomas' office building and, as soon as Thomas set foot outside, the unrelenting nuisance started drilling him for answers. Why I moved out? Are we getting a divorce? Were the pregnancy/miscarriage leaks an attempt to distract the media from the allegations of his abuse? Thomas gave nothing back as he usually does, until the reporter asked if he'd kicked me out because I was a murderer. Thomas' anger got the best of him. He struck the reporter hard in the jaw causing him to fly backwards into the street, landing on his ass.
Murderer, yes that's something I am now and forever will be. The pain thickens in my stomach. I attempt to hold it back, but I'm vaguely aware that the expression on my face is reflecting the distorted, heated mix of anguish and resentment that's slowly taking over my body.
"Mr. Grant isn't in jail; that matter has been sorted out." Sorted out? Paid off is more like it. I don't bother to question further. I don't care to know the details. The thought of Thomas defending me adds to my pain though. I want to let him go, to rid him of my infection. That's why I left; increase the distance to decrease the agony.
I open the door to my cozy beige apartment still filled with unopened boxes, and gesture for Michael to put the bags on the kitchen counter. I unconsciously let out a distressed sigh as I head to the bathroom. I just want to dry off, but as I pat my face with the soft cream hand towel, my body heaves and I succumb to the overwhelming sadness that has been slowly drowning me. I try to keep my sobs as silent as I can, but I know that he knows. I quickly close the door behind me. Too quickly. I don't care. I want to be alone. I left to be alone. Yes, I'm miserable. I'm a complete fucking mess. But it's my mess to clean up and I just want everyone to leave me the fuck alone.
I hear his footsteps approach the door; it's time for me to lie and him to knowingly accept the lie, pretending that it isn't obvious. It's a senseless game that we play. Maybe game is the wrong word to use… it implies that there may be some happiness or playfulness involved. There is none here, and there hasn't been any for quite some time.
"Are you okay, Emma?" I can even hear it in his voice, is it sadness or annoyance? He knows the answer to his question, and he knows that I'm going to lie.
"Yes, I'm fine." I hesitate to come up with an excuse, something to make him go away and leave me alone, so that I will only be a burden to myself. Usually I'm much better at this.
"I'll let Mr. Grant know that you're well then." It's kind of him to not make me struggle; or maybe he's just grown tired of hearing my excuses. His voice echoes in my head as it creeps through the bathroom door. "Is there anything I can do for you before I head out?"
"No - thank you, Michael. I'm fine." My voice is sporadic, I did an awful job of trying to hide the fact that I'm practically lying on the floor, soaking wet, and rocking my body while trying to muffle my sobs with the towel. Pathetic.
"Thomas just wants you to be happy." His words cut through me, a dagger to my heart. Bastard. Just leave me alone.
The truth escapes my lips as a whimper before I can consciously object to it, "And I want him to be happy." I desperately want him to be happy, but I know he can't as long as I'm around. I'm a black hole for happiness, draining it from anyone who nears me.
"He won't be happy until you've come home."
I can't help but to release the heavy sobs suffocating me.
I manage to respond, "You can go now." It's an order. I don't want anyone to see me like this and I don't want to talk about this any longer.
I hear him softly answer, "Yes, Ma'am," and a few moments later the door closes softly behind him.
I grudgingly allow myself to sink deeper into my agony, cooling my tear-soaked, heated face on the cold tile floor. My weak body keeps me still as I cry myself into a deep and much needed sleep.