It took me an hour and forty-five minutes to make the two-and-a-half hour drive. When I pulled up, the house was black. I didn’t know if she would answer, didn’t know if she was even up still, but I knew deep in my soul that she needed to know someone cared. Someone was going to hold her hand. She answered after one ring and her voice was much the same as it was two hours ago.
“Open the door,” I tell her, and I disconnect. I stand here waiting to see movement. I don’t at first, and then I hear soft footsteps coming down the stairs. The lock clicks on the front door, and ever so slowly, I see her. Her pink pj top goes off the shoulder with matching pants. Her brown eyes puffy from crying.
“What are you doing here?” she asks me, shocked I’m standing here.
“I figured you needed a friend.” I smile at her, and she doesn’t say anything; she just crushes her face into my chest. My arms go around her, the wetness of her tears soaking through my shirt. I pick her up in my arms and walk inside. Sitting on the couch, I cradle her in my arms, rocking her as she cries.
“I gave him everything,” she says, grabbing my shirt in her tiny hand. “I gave up everything for him,” she says quietly so as not to wake the girls. “My dream job,” she says as her sobs soften and her breathing hiccups. “I was a social worker,” she says with her head tucked into the crook of my neck. “I was going to make a difference, even if only to one child. I was going to do my best to make a difference.” I’m so tempted to kiss her head, so tempted, but I don’t. I just listen to her. “But then I got pregnant with Lizzie. I was so happy, and I didn’t think I could be any more in love with another person in my life. The moment they placed her on my chest was overwhelming; it was everything. Eric was the one to tell me perhaps I should stay home. It would be better for her, so I did it. I left my job, but I got to spend every single day with my girl. Then Daisy came, and it was an overabundance of love. My heart grew tenfold, and I thought I was on top of the world. I thought it just doesn’t get better than this. And then to be told that I just wasn’t that up to par for him.” She stands. “That I was just okay, but Hailey was the one who completed him.” She lifts her head to look at me, and I want to hold her face in my hand and wipe away the tears. I want to bring her lips to mine, but I know I can’t. “I gave him two beautiful girls,” she tells me. “They are so beautiful.”
“They are,” I agree with her. “Just like their mom.”
“How didn’t I know?” she asks. She’s looking at me like I have all the answers in the world, but I don’t.
“You trusted him and believed in him. This isn’t on you,” I tell her, my hands itching to touch her.
“I believed him. I believed that he was just as fucking complete as I was. Boy, was I wrong.” She shakes her head, standing in the middle of the huge room. I finally see her with the moonlight streaming in, and her face is fuller. It isn’t sunken in. Her eyes, even though she has been crying, are different.
“When was the last time you looked in the mirror?” I ask her, the question surprising her.
She opens her hands in front of her. “I have no idea.”
“Well, I suggest you do,” I tell her, standing up. “I saw you less than a month ago, and you’ve changed.” She looks at me, not understanding, so I grab her hand in mine. Our fingers fit almost perfectly. I push aside the feeling of her hand in mine and bring her to the kitchen with its sunny paint. I turn on the light and look around. “It was dead before,” I tell her. “The walls were white and dead, and now it’s sunny and full of life.” I release her hand and turn around. “This is your sunshine; you did this, and you did it for your girls.” I take a picture of the three of them with yellow paint on their hands off the fridge. “Look at the girls. You did that, not Eric.” I don’t stop there. I grab her hand and lead her back into the living room. “This,” I tell her, “you’re living, you’re doing what he isn’t. You’re fucking living, and you’re doing it, telling him to fuck off. You’re doing it for your girls; don’t let him win that. Not again.”