Saturday, December 15th 2007 –
"Lila you have to leave. I'm not kidding. You say this isn't affecting you but you know damn well that it is and even more so it's affecting your daughter."
I looked away from my best friend as she spoke, my previous smile and nerves-of-steel platitudes were fading fast under her glare. She was right of course and for her to say this to me was huge. She never likes to risk people being upset with her, especially her friends, but for days she'd be watching me deal with the horrible situation between myself and my husband. She would listen to me as I cried into my cell phone while sitting in my car outside our apartment.
"Look at me." She demanded
I looked. I saw the love in her eyes and I felt water start to fill mine.
"You don't have to worry about us never seeing each other, we will always be friends and we'll visit each other. Just make the decision and go."
The tears dripped and were briskly swept away. I pursed my lips and creased my brow. I was not going to cry because of him ever again. She reached forward and grabbed my hands that had fisted on the restaurant table.
"A few more tears won't kill you." She smiled
I laughed at that and felt better. Yes, she would always be my friend, but I had only met her a few months ago and it was an instant kindred spirit sort of thing. We talked every day and spent as much time together as we could. Like lost sisters who found each other, and she wanted me to leave. It was too much. My burning chest heaved and I finally allowed the tears to fall freely as she put a tissue in my hand. I didn't want to be without her. She had become my spot of sunshine in a thick foggy world. Living with the man, my husband, had become like a jail sentence.
If he was not home we loved our little apartment, I had dressed it up cute and stylish, and absolutely loved the open kitchen. When he was home my daughter and I lived in her bedroom, hiding. I was drained and had not had the stomach to eat properly for weeks. I think I lost 10 lbs already.
We left the restaurant and she drove me home. At least I could trust to leave my daughter with her dad. He never hurt us, he just yelled, and not even at us really. He was just angry, always angry. He played video games non-stop at full volume, or his music that same way. In the home, in the car, it didn't matter, always noise and yelling and stress. We didn't like being around him anymore. It was time to decide if I was moving back home with my parents.
Monday, December 17th 2007 –
"What the hell do you mean you're leaving? There is no way I'm going to let you take my daughter away from me!"
He was screaming at the top of his lungs and had actually become hoarse in a matter of seconds. I was in our bedroom, the one with no bed because when he announced before we even moved in that he wanted a divorce, I threw the bed out. I was not going to share a bed with a man who wanted to ditch me.
So now I slept on the floor on all the piled up blankets I could find save one. His. He usually slept in the living room now, but once in a while he would come in and lay close to me, saying he just needed human contact. I'd get disgusted and make him move over. I never made him leave, but he'd never touch me again. He would also ask me to rub his shoulders and back. My thoughts were generally along the lines of "you have got to be kidding me." We only stayed living together because he was getting out of the army and conveniently that's when I heard he wanted a divorce. I wasn't surprised and I wanted it to, but my stubborn ways kept me from being the one to say it. We were too busy moving and surviving outside the military life to think about moving away from each other yet. There was really only one factor that kept me from moving home sooner. My friend. I needed her too much.
Near the wall I just looked at him while he screamed. It had become normal if you can believe it, but I had to try not to roll my eyes or risk further tirades. This time though he kept going on his own and actually slammed the wall beside my head, and leaned in and screamed inches from my face. I felt spittle hit me and my own anger grew and I grit my teeth. I never yelled back, I never wanted to test to see how far he would go, and this was no different. He backed off after a minute and announced he was talking a shower, but before he slammed the door…
"It's not like I never loved you!" –slam.
I shook my head in complete disbelief. I wanted to scream, but stalked to the kitchen instead and waited to call my friend until I heard the water running. I dialed my friend's number with shaky hands. No answer. Tears of anger started to come. I called my mom. No answer. My eyes burned and throat was tight. I'm not sure I'd have been able to talk anyway, but I left my messages and slammed the phone down.
Tuesday, January 1st 2008 –
Today is the day. The moving van was packed and left yesterday. My daughter's room had held all of our belongings, neatly stacked and labeled up against the walls. Now there are just the few personal bags, our cats in their carriers, and dust in the air. My gut was tight, but my heart had been lighter since the decision to leave had been made. I had cried for days, non-stop it seemed going back and forth between staying and leaving, but the very moment I had decided there was a sort of inner peace that carried me forward.
I had our daughter say goodbye, but I didn't say a word to him, and as I shut the door on him and the apartment I heard him crying down the hall. I shut the door anyway and we slowly silently walked to the car. My daughter started crying silently and I hugged her.
"Don't worry; you'll see him again soon." I assured her.
It was true, I'd never keep her from him, but I knew my words could never sooth her broken heart. I started the car, drove through the still sleeping complex and started down the road to home.
Sunday, January 13th 2008 –
The day started out and ended cloudy and cold. No one wanted to do anything but be lazy. Mom and Dad had plans to go to Portland and pick up some hand-me-down furniture from family, but they didn't want to go. I felt it was time after we settled in to go back to church since over the years of having an anti-Christian husband I hadn't gone. It was a bad excuse for not going, but I was fine with blaming him at the time. My parents left the house first and I was dealing with getting my daughter ready and cats that were seriously going bonkers. In, out, in, out, I was growing very annoyed. My two cats with my parents' two cats all in one house was a bit interesting. I had just started to introduce mine to the back yard, but I wasn't ready to leave them out while I wasn't home and as I was about to leave the house I made sure they didn't go out with the others. When I finally walked out the front door, Tucker had been tossed back in because he wouldn't get out of the way for me to shut the door. Jake was the only one out. I heard a meow, I rolled my eyes, and we left for church.
My daughter didn't want to be in Sunday school yet on account of being too shy and sat with me while I listened to the service. I was relaxed and it felt nice to be there. I grew up there and it was like coming home without all the stress. I knew it was where I needed to be. After the service I was smiling and saying hi to the older folk who had been there since I was very little. We ate the breakfast treats and listened to people talk.
I saw a woman come in and talk to the priest who had joined us all, she was looking around and he pointed me out. He had known me from when he married me and my husband. He came over to me and asked me to follow him over to where she was standing. I did, curious. As I got closer she began to look more serious. She talked quickly.
"Hi, I'm your mom's boss. I was told you'd be here and so glad I found you before you went home. Your house burned down."
The words she spoke really didn't compute at all, it's not something you think you'll ever, ever hear. So when I heard them I didn't actually hear them. She looked awkward and worried and completely serious. She repeated the part about the house having burned down and I could feel the disbelief and shock setting in. It had to be real or why would she have tracked me down. How did she track me down? Others overheard what was said and I was still trying to compute what was going on. I started to walk away from them looking in my purse for my keys. I called for my daughter and before I could get my keys out a woman, a neighbor of ours said with a very firm voice that she was driving us . It was a good idea because on the way I started to shake uncontrollably.
We didn't live far from the church, but she was speeding a little. I don't remember when the tears came, but I remember the scene. There wasn't any room to drive down the main road; we had to swing around the back way. Very large fire trucks and a few ambulances with flashing lights were all along each side of the road, but I couldn't yet see my house. I was desperate to get to it. My cats were in there. I fumbled for the belt talking several tries to get it off. I told my daughter to stay with the woman who drove. I walked toward the house chest heaving and a man, a fireman, walked toward me. He stopped me before I could go any further and I was forced to look at him and pay attention. He confirmed that I lived there and told me what to expect, then he lead me around the truck and my throat caught. I stopped crying though and only shook. He needed me to answer a few questions and lead me to the front of the house.
Thank God the fire was put out before I had arrived. The large front window was in tiny bits on the walk and the new door was warped and torn off. Well, the screen door, I didn't see the main wood door. The house was originally white with green trim, now it had angry smears of black smudge going up from every window and under the eaves. I wasn't really ready for the living room. I couldn't go in because the air was still toxic, but I was lead to the front window opening and looked in at a smoldering black mess. There was honestly nothing left, just a pile of metal bits and ashy fluff. I had to tell the men what furniture was where, if there were candles, that sort of thing. I did really well and remembered every detail they needed. It was to determined where the fire started and what caused it.
After that I retrieved my daughter and we were allowed to wait in the lawn for my parents to get home. But first I needed to call my mom. I hadn't been able to because I had forgot my cell in my room. I had a strong urge to go and get it, but kept halting realizing that I had no room anymore, no cell phone. I don't remember how I found their number, maybe a neighbor had it. I used someone's phone and told my parents we were fine. I was surprised when my uncle from Portland showed up. They were the ones my parents went to go see, but my parents weren't back yet. My uncle must have been driving fast and when he saw me he practically ran to me and hugged me really hard. He said no one knew if we were alright and was so happy to see us.
My parents showed up next, then more aunts and uncles and cousins. We were a family reunion of a different sort. Even co-workers came to offer help if we needed it. Before my parents were allowed to see the house, the same speech was given to them that had been given to me. They asked my mom if there was anything they could look for and retrieve that was of value since it needed to be boarded up for the night to protect it from thieves.
She said her grandmother's ring. I didn't think anything could be left, but the living room was the only room truly destroyed. The soot was like glue on everything, but some things in the back rooms might be salvageable. They found the box my mom described from her room and brought it out to her. She cried. I cried just seeing her cry. They went to look at the house. My dad was a silent wall. That killed me the most. I could see him fighting the emotion, the anger, the fear. We all went around back and was told by a fireman that they found an orange colored cat and had wrapped it in a blanket.
It was Tucker. Without asking any questions my uncle went, using whatever wood he could find and built a small coffin. My guilt over the dead cats still comes and goes. I don't let myself think of the conditions inside that house...
The poor neighbor said he thought my mom was in the house because he saw her car parked there. He went around back while the house was burning and looked for her through the glass door, but he said it was a wall of black. He did see a cat next to the door, found a large rock and broke the door. He said when it broke it blasted outward. Scary, he could have been killed. He pulled my Cannon from the house just as he saw him pass out. He didn't know it was my cat. He did mouth to mouth and when my cat woke he ran off. I didn't see him anywhere so I prayed he was ok. I cried to know that the man saved him.
Well that was two cats, one alive, one dead. Jake had to be outside somewhere, he was the one I left out. He was one of my mom's cats. Lastly was my little Titan. He was black like Cannon, so when the firemen had left, my older brother said he'd go look for him. I told him that because he was still skittish he liked to hide under the bed or in the closet. He was found under some rubble by the closet, and, wrapped in a blanket, he was brought out and placed in the coffin with Tucker. We would have to find the other cats later. I was asked if I wanted to pet Titan one last time but I fervently did not. Why would I want the feel of him dead beneath my hand to stick in my head forever? So, no, I didn't pet him. They were buried, the house boarded, and we were given a free hotel for a week and 5000 cash for necessities by the insurance company.
Saturday, January 19th 2008 –
We moved into a temporary house provided by the insurance. A blessing, and for nine months we slowly came out of numbed state of minds. It was all a blur really. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. I'm sure we all felt that way. I remember talking to my friend on the phone all the time. At one point it was about a guy she met. She's married to him now. I had taken a job without really wanting to, but it was a start.
Saturday, August 9th 2008 –
The day we started moving back into our house. It had been rebuilt. Completely torn down and created again from scratch. It was beautiful. Why then did I break down crying during my walk? I had to get away for a minute because I could feel it coming, all that emotion that I had been pushing to the bottom of my gut since I before I left my husband. I was happy to have a house again, and yet it wasn't really my house. It was my parent's house and I was just staying with them. They said it was mine too, and built us each a room, but I knew it really wasn't, not in my heart. I was still a wayward soul.
Sunday, February 8th 2009 –
My mother's birthday and the day I found my home. The one I'm still in today. We had been looking for little mobiles because that was all I could afford on my own. I wasn't thrilled about it, but I really needed my own home. My parents were going to use some of the insurance money to buy one for me and I'd pay them back over the coming years. The first many we saw did nothing for my motivation. They were either really poorly kept, in a crappy area of town, or just didn't feel right.
Then, the last mobile of the day came into view and my eyes got big. It didn't look like much but it was the only one that made my heart stir a little. I knew it was mine before I stepped foot on the property. I started to buzz while we met the man who now claimed it after his mother died. She was a nice German lady I heard. He spent over an hour showing us every detail of the house. I think he knew it was to be my home as well. He wanted it to go to a nice family and he saw I had a daughter. I wanted it and could hardly breathe wondering if anyone else would claim it first. My dad gave the man a check the next day. It was perfect. I was finally home.