It feels like I haven't shared a teaser with you all in a very long time. I haven't really had anything to share. But now that I'm working hard on Every Wrong Reason, I can finally show you some of it!!! So, like I did with the Five Stages of Falling in Love, I'm going to share the Prologue and First Chapter of Every Wrong Reason!!!!
**This hasn't been edited yet and is subject to change.
1. He is the most selfish person I know.
2. I would be happier without him.
3. He can’t take a shower without leaving water everywhere.
4. If I have to clean up his toothpaste smears one more time I’m going to go insane.
5. How hard is it to put the milk away?
6. I don’t love him anymore.
7. We were never right for each other.
How did we get here?
I just wanted to go to bed. I had the most obnoxious day of my freaking life and all I wanted to do was come home, take the longest, hottest shower in the history of showers and face plant into my pillows.
Instead, it’s three o’clock in the morning and I have a migraine the size of Texas. Goddamn it.
“This isn’t about the water all over the bathroom floor, Nick. God, honestly! It’s about the principal of the water all over the bathroom floor!”
“Are you kidding me? What the hell does that even mean?” His handsome face contorted with frustration. He wouldn’t even look at me.
I thought back and tried to remember the last time he looked at me, really looked at me, and couldn’t remember. When was the last time he saw me? When was the last time we hadn’t been fighting long enough for his clear blue eyes to look into mine and make a real connection?
It had been years.
Maybe he had never seen me.
“It means there’s water all over the goddamn floor! Again! How many times have I asked you to clean up after your shower? I’m not asking for much! I just want the water cleaned up off the floor so that when I go in there I don’t soak my socks every single time!”
“You’re going to take your socks off anyway! Why does it matter?” His long arms flew to his side as he paced the length of our bedroom.
I flopped back on the bed and the pillows depressed with the weight of my head. I felt like crying, but I wouldn’t let something this stupid bring me to tears. I wouldn’t.
This whole argument wasn’t really about the water. He was right; I had been planning to take my socks off. But I was so sick of asking him to do something so simple. Why couldn’t he just listen to me? For once?
“Fine,” I relented. “I don’t care. Let’s just go to bed.”
“Typical,” I heard him mutter.
I peeled my fingers away from my face and propped myself up on my elbows. His back was to me as he stared unseeingly at our closed blinds. I could see the tension taut through his broad shoulders. His thin t-shirt pulled on the sculpted muscle he was so proud of.
It was so late and both of us had to work in the morning, which only proved to fuel my frustration. His run had lasted forever tonight. He left shortly after dinner and hadn’t come home until close to ten. I had started to think that something had happened to him.
When I asked him where he was, he told me his running group had gone out for beers afterward. He’d gone out for beers and hadn’t bothered to text or call or let me know he was alive and not dead in the ditch somewhere.
I’d had a terrible day and my husband got to go out for beers at the end of an excessively long run while I did the dishes, cleaned up the kitchen, started his laundry and graded papers.
And then at the end of all of it, I’d walked into an inch of standing water on our bathroom floor because he couldn’t be bothered to clean up after himself.
And he wants to throw around the word “typical.”
“What was that?” My voice pitched low and measured, in complete opposition to the pounding of my heart and rushing of blood in my ears.
This was not the first time we’d had such a lengthy blow up. In fact, we fought more than we got along. If I were truly honest with myself, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d enjoyed being around him.
“It’s typical, Kate. Just when I finally get to the bottom of why you’re so pissed off, you decide to shut down and turn yourself off. You’re ready for bed and I just finally figured out what crawled up your ass. So what am I supposed to do with that now? Just forget it? Move on and pretend you didn’t keep me up all hours of the night yelling about it? God knows, you will.”
“I’m tired, Nick. It’s three o’clock in the morning. We both have to work tomorrow! What do you want me to do? I guess we could sit here and talk in circles until the sun comes up, but like you said, you finally get it!”
“God, you can be a bitch.”
His words hit me like a slap across the face. “And you can be a selfish asshole.”
I watched his face fall. It was that perfect kind of hit that took all of the wind right out of his sails. His entire body deflated and I knew I hurt him as badly as he hurt me. Except instead of making me feel better about myself, I realized I had never felt worse.
He slumped down at the edge of our bed and buried his face in his hands. His tousled, light brown hair fell over the tips of his fingers and reminded me of the times I used to brush it back, out of his eyes.
Even now, after seven years of marriage, he was still one of the most gorgeous men I had ever seen. His tall frame was packed with lean muscle and long limbs. His face was blessed with sharp angles and deep, soulful blue eyes. His lips had always been dry, for as long as I could remember, but he had this way of dragging his tongue across them that used to make my mouth water.
I fell in love with him on our second date. We shared mutual friends that introduced us. My roommate Fiona was dating his track teammate, Austin, and one Saturday in October during our senior year of college, she finally hauled me along to one of their local meets.
We hit it off after he took first place in the thirty-two hundred and he was in a good enough mood to not stop smiling. I couldn’t stop starting at his lonely dimple and he had the keen insight to know he’d charmed me.
Our first date was an absolute disaster though. I was awkward and he was nervous. We didn’t find much to talk about and when he dropped me back at my dorm, I swore to Fiona that he would never call me again.
I never understood why he asked me out for our second date, but it was that next time, when he took me to my favorite Italian restaurant and then out for a drive that ended with trespassing and a moonlit walk through random fields in the middle of the country, that made me realize I would never find another man like him.
He had something I decided I couldn’t live without. His intentional questions and quick sense of humor held my attention and his big smile made my insides quiver. I had never met anyone that made me feel that way, that made it seem as if I were the only person alive that had anything interesting to say.
If every night could be like that second date I would never doubt what was between us, not even for a second. But after struggling to put up with each other for all of these years and knowing that whatever chemistry we had with each other fizzled a long time ago, I was exhausted.
And I was starting to realize, I was also broken. Or if not broken, then breaking.
I couldn’t keep doing this.
“What are we doing?” he mumbled into his hands.
Hot tears slipped from the corners of my eyes, but I wiped them away before he could see them. “I don’t know,” I whispered. My hands fell to rest against my flat stomach. “We hate each other.”
He whipped his head around and glared at me over his shoulder. “Is that what you think? You think I hate you?”
“I think we’ve grown so far apart, we don’t even know each other anymore.”
It was his turn to look like I slapped him. “What do you want, Kate? Tell me what you want to do. Tell me how to fix this?”
I recognized the pleading in his voice. This was how it always happened. We would start fighting about something mundane that neither of us would give in to, inevitably it would reveal our bigger issues, the ones we usually tried to ignore, then finally we would round out the night by Nick promising to do whatever it took to make this work between us. Only, the next morning we would wake up and nothing would be changed or fixed or forgotten and we would start the delusional cycle all over again.
I was sick of it. I was sick of feeling like this and walking on eggshells every time we weren’t fighting. I was sick of feeling bad for how I felt and the things that I said. And I was really sick of that look on his face right now, knowing I was the one that put it there.
I wanted to get out off of this crazy train. I wanted to wake up in the morning feeling good about myself and I wanted to go to bed at night knowing I wasn’t a huge disappointment.
My hands clenched into tight fists on my belly and I squeezed my eyes shut before they tried to leak out more painful memories.
“I don’t think we can.” My words were a shattered whisper, but they were the first truth that I had spoken in a long time. They were hurtful, but they were freedom. “I think we’re too broken, Nick. I think it’s too late for us.”
“What are you saying, Katie?”
I ignored the agonized rasp to his voice. If I started to feel bad for him now, I would never get this out. “This is over, Nick… We’re over. I think it’s time we were both honest with ourselves and admitted that.”
His response was immediate, “You’re for real? You really don’t want to try at this anymore?”
My temper shot up again and my face reddened from the hot anger pumping through me. “I have been trying! What do you think I’ve been doing for the past seven years? I’ve been trying every single day! And it’s not enough! It’s never enough! I cannot keep doing this day in and day out. I can’t keep pretending that things are okay and then falling apart every time we start arguing. Nick, I’m exhausted in my bones. You’re a good person, but it’s like… it’s like I bring out the absolute worst in you. And the same is true about me! I’m fun. I’m a really fun person. People like me! All of the people except you. And I don’t blame you! When we’re together I’m a nag and I’m ungrateful and I’m just… ugly. And I hate that person. I hate the person that I am with you. And I hate the person that you are…”
His head snapped up. I hadn’t meant to go that far or finish that thought, but Nick was too perceptive to miss it. “You hate the person that I am with you. Is that what you were going to say?”
I shrugged one shoulder, ashamed that I’d let those words slip out. I shouldn’t have said it, even if it was true. If nothing else, it drove my point home. I was a terrible person with Nick. To Nick. We’d made each other into horrible people.
Our relationship was toxic. He was slowly poisoning me.
I was slowly poisoning him.
“So what are you saying?” he demanded on a rasp. “You want a divorce? Is that what you want? You think we should get a divorce?”
I nodded, unable to get those precise words beyond my lips. “We aren’t good together. We hate each other.”
“Yeah, you’ve made that abundantly clear tonight.”
“Can you think of any reason that we should stay together? Give me one good reason that we should keep doing this to ourselves and I will try. I swear to you, if you can come up with one reason to stay together, I’ll keep doing this. But, Nick, god, this is ruining me. I don’t know how much more I can take before I just fall apart.”
This time when the tears started falling, I didn’t wipe them away or try to stop them. My chin trembled from the force of my emotion and a devastating sob racked my chest. It was true. All of it. I hated myself and I hated him because he was the one that had turned me into this awful person.
I could not do this anymore.
If he came up with a valid reason, I didn’t know what I would do. I knew I told him I would stick it out, but at this point, I couldn’t do it. I would never really try again at this broken relationship. I had nothing left inside of me to give.
He watched me for a long time. I could see him processing everything behind his veiled eyes. I knew he thought he was hiding his emotions from me, but after seven years of marriage and ten years of being together, I could read him like an open book.
This was his analytical phase. He had to weigh each piece of information, emotion against truth, accusation against reality, before he could come to a logical conclusion.
My husband, the cold-hearted thinker. Logic and reason outweighed everything else. If it wasn’t a fact, then it didn’t exist to him.
Or at least it didn’t matter.
“If this is what you want, then fine. A divorce, legal separation… whatever will make you happy.”
Whatever will make me happy. Is this it? Is this what I want? But I had already told him it was. Immediately I regretted everything about tonight, everything I had said and everything I’d accused him of. But I couldn’t keep feeling this way. I couldn’t go through this again, only to have it happen tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. It was time to stand up for myself and fight for my happiness. Nobody else was going to do it for me.
Not even Nick.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
There was a long weighted silence, as if he were waiting for me to take everything back, to make my final words disappear. Finally, he said in a hoarse, tortured voice, “I’ll, uh, sleep on the couch tonight. I can move my things out tomorrow morning.”
I sucked in a sharp breath. Was he serious? Were we really doing this? “Where will you go?”
“I’ll stay with my brother until I can get a place of my own.”
“Noah won’t care? I mean… what will he think?”
“You can’t have it both ways, Kate. You can’t ask for a divorce and then hope to keep it a secret. Besides, it’s better than staying at a hotel.”
“No, you’re right,” I whispered. I rubbed my stomach and tried to ignore the sinking feeling in my gut. I asked for this. I practically demanded the divorce. So why did I feel such a horrific feeling of disappointment.
My body felt like it was being pulled apart in every direction. My heart felt trampled beneath a stampede of bulls. This was supposed to make me feel better. This was supposed to feel like freedom. I was finally digging myself out of the wreckage of our marriage and yet, I felt more wrecked in this moment than any moment leading up to this one.
“We’re really doing this?” My words couldn’t seem to come out stronger than a weak whisper.
“You tell me. You’re the one that started throwing around divorce. It’s not the first time you’ve asked for one, Kate. I’m frankly sick of trying to talk you out of it.”
“I just… I don’t know where else there is for us to go. Nick, we’ve tried. We gave it our best and now I think it’s better if we move on… away from each other.”
“Yeah,” he breathed. “Tried and failed, I guess.”
I wanted to argue with him. I wanted to tell him that he was wrong and that we hadn’t failed, that there were as many good times between us as there were bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to put up the effort. He was right. We failed.
We were failures at our marriage.
When I didn’t say anything else, he grabbed his pillow and stomped downstairs to the living room. I rolled over in bed, pulled the duvet over my shoulders and cried until I passed out.
When I woke up in the morning, he was already gone.
My life will be better without him.
The bell rang and my stomach growled. I looked at my classroom, at the kids shoving papers and notebooks into their backpacks and the energetic chatter that warred with the high-pitched ringing of the fourth period bell, and wondered if I had some Pavlovian response to that sound.
I had been conditioned to know hunger, but I hadn’t felt it in months.
I smiled at my students as they filtered from the room and reminded some of them about homework they owed me, but I barely heard the words that fell from my lips or acknowledged the concise instructions I was notorious for.
Behind my smiling mouth and teacher responsibilities, I was made of brittle glass and emptiness. I was nothing but paper thin defenses and sifting sand.
I had never known this kind of depression before. I could hardly tolerate my soon to be ex-husband and yet his absence left me unexpectedly battered.
Once my tenth grade English class had left me behind, I let out a long sigh and turned back to my desk. I dropped into my rolling chair and dug out my lunch from the locked bottom drawer.
I set it on the cold metal and stared at the sad ham sandwich and bruised apple I’d thrown together last minute this morning. I couldn’t find the energy to take a bite, let alone finish the whole thing. I’d lost seven pounds over the last three months, one for each year of my disastrous marriage. And while I appreciated the smaller size I could fit into, I knew this was the wrong way to go about it.
My friend, Kara, called this the Divorce Diet. But I knew the truth. This wasn’t a diet. I’d lost myself somewhere in the ruins of my marriage and now that my relationship was over, my body had started to systematically shut down. First my heart broke. Then my spirit fragmented. Now my appetite was in jeopardy and I didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t know if I would ever feel hungry again.
I didn’t know if I would ever feel again.
I used to eat lunch in the teacher’s lounge, but lately I couldn’t bring myself in there to face other people, especially my nosey colleagues.
Everyone had heard about my failed marriage. They stopped me in the halls to offer their condolences or hitman services with empathetic expressions or playful smiles. They watched me with pitying eyes and sympathetic frowns. They whispered behind my back or asked invasive questions.
But none of them cared. Not really.
They liked having someone to talk about that wasn’t them and a topic that didn’t dive into their personal lives. I was the gossip martyr. As long as they could tear apart my bad decisions and argue whether it was my frigidness or Nick’s playboy tendencies that hammered the last nail in our coffin they shared a macabre sense of community.
They didn’t care that each callous comment shredded me apart just a little more or that I could hear them cackling from down the hall.
They didn’t take into account their own divorces or unhappy marriages or faults or hypocrisy or shortcomings. They only saw mine.
And now so did I.
The creaky door swung open and my best friend and fellow teacher, Kara Chase popped her pretty red head in the room. Her pert nose wrinkled at the sight of my untouched lunch and she smoothed down some of her wild frizz with a perfectly manicured hand. She had endless, luscious curls, but as the day went on and she dealt with more and more apathetic high school kids, her beautiful hair would expand with her impatience.
“That looks… yummy.” Her stormy gray eyes lifted to meet mine and I couldn’t help but smile.
I stuck my tongue out at her. “Don’t judge! It’s all I had.”
She walked all the way in the room and leaned against the white-washed cement wall with her hands tucked against her back. “You used to be better at going to the grocery store.”
The small dig cut deeper than it should have. “I’ve been busy.”
Her lips turned down into a concerned frown that I mildly resented. “You can’t wallow forever, Kate. Your marriage ended, not the world.”
But he was my world. I kept that thought to myself. Now was not the time or the place to sift through my complicated feelings regarding Nick. I wanted this. I wanted this divorce. I had no right to be this upset or depressed.
Deep breath. “You’re right,” I told her. “I just haven’t gotten the hang of cooking for one. Last time I went to the store, I ended up way over-shopping and then I had to throw half of it out when it went bad.”
As gently as she could, she said, “You’ll get the hang of it.”
I pushed off in my chair until the back of it slammed against the white board behind me. “I hope that’s true.”
Because if it wasn’t…
Had I just made the most colossal mistake of my life?
No. This was right.
But then why did it feel so… unbearable?
“Until then, let’s sneak out and grab something better than… than whatever is on your desk now.” Her expression brightened until I felt myself smiling at her. We had been friends since we started at Hamilton High School eight years ago. We had that kind of natural connection you only find once or twice your entire life. We were instantly inseparable. Even though Nick and I were already together we were only dating at the time. Kara had been my maid of honor at our wedding and my closest confidant over the years. She knew the lowest lows of my marriage and the hard adjustment I’d faced since I ended it.
I didn’t want to think about where I would be without her.
I looked at my wrist and checked the time. “I have twenty minutes. Can we be back in time?”
“We’ll hurry.” Her kitten heels clicked against the polished floor as she moved to hold the door open for me.
She was the only teacher at this school that had any sense of style. Her expensive taste didn’t mesh well with her public high school teacher’s salary, but thankfully for her, her wealthy parents supplemented her meager income.
My parents questioned my choices and thought I was a failure at life.
And yet we both knew what it was like to struggle to please impossible parents and feel insignificant in the wake of their busy lives.
I might not have a designer wardrobe, but at least my parents didn’t try to buy my love.
I grabbed my purse out of the same locked drawer I’d tucked my lunch into and straightened my pencil skirt as I stood. I felt my spirits lift immediately.
Kara usually had that effect on me. And it helped that we were sneaking out of our jobs, to do something forbidden.
I loved breaking rules.
We were halfway down the hall and laughing with each other when we were found.
“And where are you ladies off to today? I’m certain Ms. Carter has class in a few minutes.” The deep voice made my skin feel too tight and my insides warm slowly.
I turned around and met Eli Cohen’s rich brown eyes and tried not to smile too big. “Checking up on me?” I raised a challenging eyebrow.
Eli moved closer. “I was just in the lunchroom and heard a pair of junior boys discussing their hot English teacher.”
That wiped the cocky expression off my face. “Gross. Don’t tell me which ones. I don’t want to know.”
Eli’s face split into a grin and a rich baritone rumble of a laugh fell from his full lips. “On one condition.”
“This is blackmail!”
He laughed at me again, but when he raised his dark eyebrows and gave me a pouting look, I couldn’t help but soften toward him. He was adorable. “Bring me back something from the deli.”
I couldn’t believe him. “How do you know we’re going to the deli? We could just be… just be… going to the bathroom together.”
He shook his head slowly at me and grinned. “I see the determined look in Kara’s eyes. I know that look. She’s hungry. And she’s enlisted you to help her sneak out.”
“He’s good,” Kara mused. “I think our science teacher is a little too good.”
“I’m starving,” he admitted. “I’ve been watching the hall for five minutes hoping to catch a teacher on their way out.” He held out his empty hands. “I forgot my lunch at home today and I have a meeting in three minutes.”
I looked at Kara and tried to figure out what she was thinking. Eli had transferred to our school two years ago and over that time I had gotten to know him slowly. I could now say I counted him as my friend, but for a long time I had kept him at a distance. He was too good looking, too perfect. His skin was nicely bronzed, his hair perfectly quaffed and for a science teacher, his body was surprisingly filled out. I had found him intimidating at first and then, because I was married to a handsome man and supposedly in love with that man, I found it utterly ridiculous to be so affected.
I was a mess. Even back then.
“I suppose we can take pity on him,” Kara sighed. “He does look famished.”
I ran my eyes over his broad chest and flat stomach. “He’s practically starving.”
“Should I get you the cobb salad?” Kara asked innocently.
Eli pointed a playful finger at her. “Don’t you dare. I wouldn’t know what to do with something green. I’d probably make my students dissect it.”
It was my turn to shake my head. “You’re hilarious.”
He smiled at me, wide and carefree. “I’ll owe you one.”
“Sure you will.” Kara and I started walking again. “I’ll be sure to collect.”
“I’m counting on it.” His low voice followed us down the hallway and I had to turn around before he saw my inflamed blush spread across my cheeks.
I pressed my cold hands against my face and tried to ignore the burn in my abdomen. It had been a long time since I flirted with someone, even longer since that someone wasn’t Nick.
Kara’s elbow found my side playfully. “What was that?”
“A favor?” I turned my wide eyes to her and silently begged her to tell me it wasn’t as forward as I thought it was.
She pressed her lips together to hide her smile. “Sure it was.”
“We’ve been friends for years.”
“And now you’re single.”
A shuddering breath shook my lungs. “Not really. Not yet.”
“Soon,” she argued. “When the divorce is finalized, you’ll officially be back on the market. Obviously, Eli knows that.”
The flirty tingle turned sour in my stomach and suddenly I’d lost my appetite all over again. The blush drained from my cheeks and I felt myself turn pale and see-through.
Kara noticed immediately. “I’m sorry, Kate. I didn’t mean to… to upset you. I just thought… It’s been three months, babe. Nick hasn’t even reached out to you. Not really, anyway. I thought you might be ready to move on.”
Ready to move on after three months? Was that all it took to get over the last ten years of my life? I had been with Nick in some form or capacity for a decade, but I was supposed to erase him completely from the important parts of my heart in three months?
I wasn’t against the idea. In fact, I would have loved to forget about him and the poisonous relationship we’d created. I would love for this pain in my chest to ease and the sickness that seemed constant and unrelenting to ebb.
But it wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t shake our relationship or the hold he had over my heart.
Not everything about him was bad. In fact, most of him was good and beautiful and right. But with me, he wasn’t those things and I wasn’t either.
But how was I supposed to let go of him? I loved him. I loved him for ten years and knew nothing else but loving him.
How could I walk away from him and even entertain the idea of a man after everything I had been through? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to date again ever, let alone so quickly after my last relationship failed.
No. Epically failed.
Nick was supposed to be my forever. Nick was supposed to be my “until death do us part.” And now that the rest of my life had taken a sharp, life-altering turn, I didn’t know where I was headed anymore.
I was lost.
I was rudderless.
I was floating in a sea of confusion and hurt. I needed something to tether me, to pull me back to shore. But I knew, more than anybody else in my life, that I wasn’t going to find that with a new man.
“It’s okay,” I told Kara with a throaty whisper. “I just wasn’t… I wasn’t expecting that from him.”
She squeezed my forearm and gathered her thoughts. “I know that what you’re going through with Nick and everything is intense, but you’re still young. You’re still gorgeous. You still have a lot of life left to live. I don’t want you to give up, just because the first try wasn’t successful. You’re a catch, friend. You have to know that Eli isn’t the only man lining up to take advantage of Nick’s colossal mistake.”
“The divorce was my idea,” I reminded her. “I’m the reason we ended it.” The words felt like stones on my tongue. I felt their gritty, dirty wrongness and I wanted to spit them out and wash my mouth out with something cleansing.
Something like bleach.
“Yeah, maybe,” she sighed. “But he should never have let you get away with it.”
Something sharp sliced against my chest. I felt the same way too. If he had really loved me, he wouldn’t have let me go through with it. Right? If he really wanted things to work out between us, he wouldn’t have moved out.
He wouldn’t have stopped talking to me.
He wouldn’t have left.
Desperate to change the top, I pushed through a back door and blinked against the bright fall sunlight. “So, lunch?”
“Yes!” She smiled at me. I could see the concern floating all over her face, but she held her tongue in an effort to keep me together. “Garman’s has the freaking best pastrami on the planet.”
I would never understand how Kara could eat so much and stay so thin. She did what the rest of us did, which was an insane amount of cardio and limited alcohol. But she could eat whatever she wanted.
I looked at a piece of chocolate and my thighs expanded.
Well, until recently.
We hurried across the lengthy parking lot and busy downtown Chicago street until we reached the tiny corner deli that boasted whole pickles with every purchase and sandwiches the size of my head. It was a favorite spot for everyone that worked on this block, but especially for the teachers at Hamilton. When given the choice of bad cafeteria food, a quickly packed lunch from home or a thickly-meated, moist-breaded, delicious deli sandwich from Garman’s, the choice was obvious.
But after an incident last spring, in which a group of students had left school to corner and threaten a teacher off school grounds, our administrator had banned teachers from leaving campus during the school day and so technically we were sneaking out and breaking rules.
Hamilton was located in one of the under-privileged sections of Chicago. We were firmly in the city proper, not skirting the affluent suburbs or near a wealthier area of downtown. No, Hamilton was directly in the middle of gang violence, low-income housing and race wars.
I’d been offered jobs at some of the more stable schools in the city and even one at a prestigious private school in a well-off suburb. But when I chose Hamilton, it was with my heart. I had examined all of my options, and I knew that taking this job was a risk professionally, but I couldn’t deny that I felt something meaningful for these kids.
I wanted to make a difference. Not the kind that you see on TV or that moves you in a heart-warming movie, but a real difference. I wanted to empower these kids with knowledge that would never leave them and tools for a future that was beyond this neighborhood. I wanted to inspire something inside of these neglected teenagers that had all of the odds stacked against them and had to fight to just show up on a daily basis.
I fought a losing battle every day and I was exhausted. But it was worth it.
I could feel it in my bones.
Kara’s heels clicked against broken sidewalk as we hurried to Garman’s, mingling with the sounds of angry traffic and city melee. The warm sun heated my exposed arms and face and I lifted my closed eyes to soak it in.
There was healing in this industrial chaos. There was a beautiful surrender to the noisy madness that felt cleansing and therapeutic. It wouldn’t last. I would pay for my sandwich, go back to my desk and the reality of my broken life would come crashing down on me.
But for a few seconds, I had the flirtatious smile of an attractive man in my memory and a minute of reprieve from the demands of my life. I sucked in a full breath, taking in the exhaust and grit from the city. And yet, my lungs felt full for the first time in as long as I could remember.
“It’s going to get better,” Kara said so softly I barely heard her.
I opened my eyes to keep from tripping and they immediately fell to the cracked sidewalk and patchy grass on either side. “I’m not sure it is,” I told her honestly.
She dropped her hand on my shoulder and squeezed, pulling me into a side hug. “There’s more to life than Nick, babe. I promise you. And it won’t take you long to figure it out. You just need to get the divorce finalized so you can move on.” Her laugh vibrated through her. “And Eli would be a very good place to start.”
“Maybe,” fell from my lips, but I didn’t feel any sentiment behind it. More sickness roiled through me and a cold sweat broke out on my neck. I swallowed against rising nausea and convinced myself not to throw up.
I was getting a divorce, but even the thought of another man still felt like adultery. Whatever our faults, Nick and I had always been faithful to each other. Moving on seemed impossible when I had dedicated my entire life to one man.
To the one man that had let me down and stomped on whatever remained of my happiness.
Nick and I were over, I promised myself.
I would move on eventually.
And Nick would too.
We grabbed our sandwiches, but I let Kara drop Eli’s off. I had lost any desire to communicate with other people. I practically crawled back to my classroom and sunk into my chair. My deli sandwich went uneaten, just like my one from home, because I couldn’t bring myself to feel good enough to eat.
Kara had meant to encourage me, but she’d done the opposite.
I realized that she was right. That one day I would move on.
But that I was right too. Nick would move on as well.
I knew I could find someone better for me. I knew my life would be better off without him.
I just couldn’t swallow the hard pill that his life would be better off without me too.
That he would find someone better than me.
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