Some would say it was a dark and stormy night. Unoriginal jerk-offs like Todd Winters, that is. He was the type who slid other’s words off his tongue with a cockiness that made the well-read shake their heads and the unenlightened gape all moon-eyed at his wisdom.
Rain pelted the car relentlessly. The windshield wipers screeched in protest as they struggled to keep up. The occasional flash of lightning was a welcomed sight, helping to light an additional few inches in front of the headlights.
My tender knuckles threatened to burst through my skin as my fingers strangled the steering wheel. My purpled jaw pulsed over the grinding of teeth, the taste of salt and copper on my tongue. Vision blurred from the fog of seething anger and an undercurrent of pain and loss.
The deeper I drove into the darkness, the more in sync the weather grew with my mood. Neither of which I would describe as “dark and stormy”. The more I grumbled, the harder the rain seemed to fall. Lightning scratched across the sky every time I relived the moment when had I opened the door. Tessa scrambling to cover herself—with the sheets that I paid for—sent thunder booming right through my chest.
Tonight added way more than insult to the injury. More than salt to the wound. Tonight skinned me alive. So many layers torn away and impossible to piece back together. Things would never be the same. They couldn’t be.
The phone buzzed on the seat next to me again. No need to look. I knew it was my wife. And I knew that no combination of words could make this better. None existed that could heal my broken heart.
Two hours later I realized how foolish I’d been, running away from my own home. Pulling into the driveway, I took a moment to collect myself. The living room curtain pulled back and my wife peeked out. After twenty years of marriage, I could see, even through sheets of rain, that she was relieved I was back. She greeted me at the door, her eyes slick and red.
“Sorry I left,” I said, wrapping her up in my arms.
After a moment, she led me up the stairs and past the flaking plaster where I had punched the wall. We paused outside the bedroom door where a wooden heart, painted with the innocence of pink and purple flowers, hung like a lie. Staring at it only reignited my urge to run.
“I…I can’t do this, Julie.”
My wife studied me carefully. A million emotions passed behind her eyes.
“She’s our daughter, Paul. And at seventeen, she’d not our baby anymore. I’m sure she’s just as traumatized as we are.”
Julie took a deep breath and knocked on the door, swinging it open before getting a response. Tessa sat on the bed, her face pink with tears. In her arms, with one of his ears hanging limply from over a decade of bringing her comfort, was Mr. Bear Bear. And for a moment, all I could see was my sweet little girl.