Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
“What are you going to do?” Mom asked, standing over me. I was curled on the couch, where I spent a lot of my time when the boys didn’t need me. No energy or desire to do much of anything. My illness on top of my life was more than I could handle.
I just shrugged. How was I supposed to know what I was going to do?
“You need a test.”
“I’m not pregnant,” I said, willing her to go away. I didn’t want to do this with her again. No matter the result, I didn’t want her at my side again, playing the concerned mother, judging me with her very breathing.
“Not that test. You need to be checked for other stuff.”
Other stuff? Yeah, I knew what she meant by other stuff. Other stuff I didn’t want to think about. Other stuff that a wife shouldn’t have to think about.
Nate was still gone. Brittany was still calling and hanging up on me. And I was still in shock. It just didn’t make sense.
“You know, I knew this would happen,” Mom said.
“You knew? What did you know? That he’d cheat on me with a kid?”
“I knew he’d hurt you again. And does it really surprise you, Angie, that he slept with her? She offered it, and he took it. Or whatever happened. Not one of them made the other do anything they didn’t want to do.”
“But she’s only a kid,” I said. That was the thing I couldn’t get out of my head.
“So were you…”
She had a point. But weren’t we both kids back then? I couldn’t hold that against him. This. This was something new. Terrible. It made me sick every time I thought about it. And they didn’t just break my heart. They hurt my baby brother, too. He loved Brittany. She was his first love. They even shared the same birthday. He was almost as devastated as me.
But it wasn’t the news of the so-called affair that jolted us the most.
“She says she’s pregnant, you know,” Mom reported, having held back this bit of news as long as she could.
“I’m sure she is,” I said.
“I really think she is. She’s been sick. Her mom thinks she is, too. She’ll be getting a test soon. Do you think it’s Nate’s?”
I wasn’t ready to entertain that idea. There was no way. I mean, yes, it was possible, but it was also possible the baby was my brother’s. That’s what I wanted, even if it meant my brother would be a dad at 15, sharing a child with a girl who cheated on him. It was selfish of me, but I just didn’t care anymore. I had enough.
I asked Mom to leave, pretty much yelling at her, and then took advantage of the baby’s nap time and cried myself to sleep.
When Mom just showed up the next day to take me for testing, I didn’t put up a fight. I let her drive me to the free clinic, and once inside, she pushed me to the desk.
“What do you need?” the front desk nurse asked.
“I need to be tested for STDs,” I whispered. It made me feel dirty, like I’d done something wrong.
“And what is the reason? Unprotected sex?” I hated this small town clinic with its lack of privacy and warmth.
The tears came to my eyes then, and I battled to keep them back. “I…my husband…”
“Her husband cheated on her,” Mom said, always there to help when it came to letting people know how terrible Nate was.
The nurse nodded kindly — finally, a little concern — and handed me some papers to read and sign, and then took me right back. The exam itself, the testing, none of it bothered me. After having two children, I was used to this routine.
“We’ll run a pregnancy test, too.”
But I wasn’t pregnant. Not me. The other girl might be, but not me.
Waiting for the results felt like living through the news all over again. I feared the ones that could ruin my life, a fear fueled by Mom’s constant reminder of how much time Nate had done in prison and how many infections come out with inmates. Funny that this concern only crossed her mind after he cheated, though.
I didn’t really think I would have anything, but it was better to be safe than sorry. I was already sorry enough.
I spent days pitying myself. It was a battle to keep my emotions in check around the boys, and even while on the job at the newspaper. Nate was still gone. I hated myself for missing him sometimes, for feeling that way, for wondering if I was overreacting. It just felt like the rug had been ripped from beneath my world in one fell swoop, and yet I knew I had ignored so much, all in an effort to hang onto a little bit of happiness. What else would I do for happiness?
Nate eventually called and asked to come home, and I was torn.
“Please? I love you so much, baby. I just messed up. I want to be with you, with our boys!”
I breathed in and out, as slowly as I could, my whole body trembling. Hearing his voice made me happy and angry.
“Where are you?” I asked instead of responding to his pleas.
“Tampa. I’m working here.”
“You know you’re not supposed to be gone, out of town at all, right? Did you tell your probation officer?”
“No, but you won’t tell,” he said, sure of himself.
I thought about it then. I thought really hard about turning him in. But he’d probably get off with a warning, and then I’d be screwed even more.
“Who do you think?” I asked, my voice raising.
“It’s not mine.”
Again, so sure of himself.
“Maybe not, but you should know.” And I had to keep that in my head, too. Brittany, now 15, was indeed pregnant. Possibly with his child. He cheated on me with her. Don’t let him off the hook!
“Can I come home?”
“No. We’re done,” I said.
“No, we’re never done. You know you love me. You’ll forgive me for this. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
And he went on and on, and I let him. Finally, he told me he had to go, but he promised he’d send money soon and gave me his new beeper number in case I needed him.
“Did you make sure she has it, too, or do you need me to give it to her?”
He hung up on me. Good, I got in the last word.
Despite his promise, he didn’t send money. Not by the end of that week or the next. Or the next. I heard from him every so often. He’d call to ask if he could come home and then remind me I was still his wife. It was ok for him to do whatever he wanted, but I needed to be reminded of my vows.
As money got tighter, I started babysitting for a friend. And then she helped me get hired on at a restaurant in the neighboring city. I barely had time to think about Nate between my day job at the newspaper and my night job waiting tables. Plus, on my days off, I still watched my friend’s children (who in turn watched mine on her days off), and then there was trying to actually spend time with Scott and Brian.
I grew thinner and thinner, more and more tired, but I pushed on. I didn’t want to lose my home, and I didn’t want to end up on welfare all over again.
And then I grew angry. I missed Nate terribly, I thought, but perhaps it was more the fatigue, knowing he had money but wasn’t helping, and if I did let him come back, at least he’d help. Maybe because he was all I knew.
I called his beeper over and over, but he ignored me. He only called when it was convenient for him, not when I actually needed him. I grew obsessive, thinking about where he was, who he was with, why he didn’t care enough about us. And I called and called, leaving 9-1-1 over and over.
He was my husband. He belonged here, not doing whatever he wanted, as if he had no obligations. That wasn’t fair. I worked my fingers to the bone, and yet, nothing from him? I didn’t make these boys on my own.
“What do you want?” he yelled when he finally returned my calls one evening.
“I want you to come home,” I cried. Somewhere deep inside, I screamed at myself at what a stupid idea that was, but I ignored that voice.
“You didn’t want me there. I’m not coming back.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I do want you back. I was just hurt.” Why was I apologizing? And yet I couldn’t stop myself. “Please come home. I’ll be better.”
He hung up on me. I paged him again. And again. And again.
When he finally called back to tell me to stop or else he’d change the beeper number, I said, “Fine. You never have to worry about hearing from me again.” And I hung up on him.
I knew what I was insinuating. I’d never try to kill myself, but he didn’t know that. As far as he knew, I was just that desperate. And as far as I knew, I was very desperate, enough to threaten something I didn’t even believe in, enough to want the man back who had raped me, threatened my life, left me over and over, and cheated again and again.
He called back right away.
“What do you mean? Baby, don’t you dare do something to yourself.”
“You don’t care. Why should I?” I was going to play out my hand.
“I do care. I just can’t come back. Not now. Maybe soon, ok?”
We talked for a long time, and when we hung up, I was sure he’d be back by the end of the week.
But he didn’t come back. And he didn’t call anymore. I didn’t call him, either. Time passed slowly, and, I suppose, I slowly came to my senses. Sure, I was tired from my two jobs, but I could do this on my own. I didn’t need him.
I grew to accept this new direction in my life, that I’d simply be a single mom. I could handle it. I’d do just fine. We didn’t need him to get us through life. We were used to him being gone anyway. And good riddance.
And then he called and said he was coming home for Christmas.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!