Love Might Not Be Enough

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Lanie tried to quell her fear every time Ben walked into a room. She sent Dre to the garage now, whenever she needed something, and refused to go to Ben’s room anymore when he had nightmares. The yelling was becoming less frequent now, anyway, though at times she could still hear some of the whimpered words through the walls. Dre seemed more cautious around Ben now, and Ben glared at her as though he blamed her for it. Desperately, she tried to work through the situation in her mind. What should she believe? What was the best decision? She refused to let her kids end up in the same childhood that still haunted her dreams. Would they never reconcile, but never divorce, living in this hostile house forever? Would things continue to deteriorate until they were screaming and arguing all the time? Throwing things? Hitting each other? He said he would make sure she could never take Dre again. What did that mean?

And the girls. When they were older, and starting to blossom, would he ever get angry enough, drunk enough, to – ?

She cut off the thought.

But if things went too far, and never got better, and they never shared a bed again, would he become frustrated enough to –

No.

But?

No, she yelled inwardly at her thoughts. Shut up. Ben is not your father.

But lately, whenever she saw the rose bushes on the far side of the yard, she couldn’t help but remember the first few times she was pregnant. Before Sean. Little matching dolls, all in a row, growing like rosebushes outside the window.

One night, it was Ben who woke her from a nightmare. The rose buds had faces, in her dreams. And the little babies were pierced with thorns and roots, dripping red that fertilized the bloodthirsty plants, chasing her, reminding her of what lay beneath the surface. Of why she could never leave this house.

When she woke to find Ben standing over her, she cowered in the dark, mistaking his identity for one split second. But then she was still afraid, even when she did realize it was him.

“Lanie. You’re dreaming,” he said quietly, sitting down beside her. She couldn’t read his mood. He didn’t seem furious. But she wasn’t sure that he was warm.

“Sorry if I woke you,” she whispered, trying to clear the fog from her head. She felt sweaty, and sticky, and her heart was beating too fast. “I didn’t mean to.”

When he looked at her, his expression was sad and conflicted, but for one refreshing moment, not angry. 

In that moment, she was hit with how much she missed him. Like a physical blow, she realized she wanted nothing more than for him to wrap her up in his big arms and stay with her, hold her through the night like he used to. Before everything had changed. The force of her despair and longing was so powerful she felt almost crushed by it. Right now, it was the good memories between them that flooded her mind. And there were so many. Before this whole mess, she couldn’t really remember them even fighting. He had been a little impatient with her about when he could adopt Dre. Every now and then he had commented about how she still held him at arm’s length emotionally. But truly, she had been happier than she had ever been. Could it be true that if she had heard him out at the baby shower that they could have worked through it, and he wouldn’t start to resent her babies, and they would have continued in the life of their dreams? At that moment, she wanted nothing more than to turn back time and do it all over. She would have at least listened. Tried to see whether he was lying. She would have been able to tell, she was certain.

Everything was clear right now, and she was so certain that Ben was different. They had been happy. He had been attentive and enthusiastic about the babies in a way Sean had never been, even before the cheating and the abuse. Ben had always treated Dre with love and kindness, always able to reason with him and comfort him. He had reasoned with her and comforted her, too.

He had cherished her, she realized. He had given her every reason to trust him, and show her that he cared about her dreams. And he continued to come to her, over and over, no matter how many times she instinctively pushed him away. Except for this time. This time she had pushed him into another dimension. In this alternate universe, he hated her, and could barely stand to look at her. This was like a nightmare, what she had always feared would happen, but somehow, she knew, that by holding on to that fear, she had manifested it.

“You’re always so quiet, Lanie,” he said softly, and she jumped.

She had never felt more desperate. “Every time I open my mouth I say something stupid. I just never know what to say.”

He was silent for a moment, then got up to leave. “Sometimes there’s nothing to say, I guess.” Very un-Ben-like.

A balloon of desperation swelled inside her, and popped. “Au-August twenty-eighth!” she stammered, before he could reach the door. He froze, then turned around slowly, expression unreadable once again.

“What about it?” he asked woodenly.

Impulsively, she leapt out of bed. He watched her warily as she came to him, still a bit stiff from her operation. But she got to him, and fell at his feet.

“August twenty-eighth,” she repeated, voice stronger, grabbing his ankles and touching her forehead to the tops of his feet. “At five o’clock. I promised you, Bennett Murray Goldberg. For better or for worse.” Her words came in a spurt, and she could only hope she was reaching him. “I dishonoured you, Ben. In the worst way. I didn’t cherish you, or stand by you. I apologize. I’m sorry. I owe you everything. My whole life. And I beg your forgiveness, and for you to come back to me. I beg for you to tell me what I can do to put things right.” I miss you, she said to herself. Trembling from holding back her sobs, she kept her head pressed to his feet. She hadn’t touched him in weeks. Not really. The last time, he had been shaking her with his anger. But now she just reveled in touching his skin, feeling his tendons and bones and veins under her hands. Feet she had massaged countless times. That one time in the hospital when she had given him a disastrous pedicure. She couldn’t help but stroke his ankles, gently, even though she didn’t dare look at him. Without thinking, she pressed her lips to the crook where his ankle connected to his feet.

“Lanie,” she heard him sigh above her, and she thought she would die at the weariness, the distance in his voice.

“August twenty-eighth,” she repeated, remembering how he had begged her with those same words at the baby shower, and she hadn’t listened, she hadn’t let herself remember that day.

Now, it was all she could think about. In the dark, secret cover of night, she could admit to herself that she would stay here forever if he let her, just to be at his feet was enough. She would die there, if that’s what he wanted. Only in the middle of the night, hopeless and afraid, could she admit it. She knew the truth. She knew who he was.

Her husband was kind. And good. Selfless, self-sacrificing, patient, ebullient, dreamy and thoughtful. Everything she couldn’t be. He was the better part of her in every way.

“It’s just not that simple, Lanie. I don’t even know what that day means to you. If you didn’t trust me then, how could you trust me now? And after what happened, how could I ever trust you?” He sounded tired, defeated, as though he had been agonizing about it for a long time. “I don’t want to be in a single-sided marriage. I don’t want to be giving all I have while you’re only half in, and not able to trust me, to let me into your heart.”

“You’re in my heart,” she cried out, her voice muffled. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Ben, please. It’s just that thinking about certain things makes me feel like I’m going to die, Ben. All these memories – sometimes it’s all I can do to let you touch me. Even though I want it so badly. But sometimes the thoughts just come and ruin it.”

“If that’s the case, then I think you’ve got some work to do before you’re ready to give yourself in a relationship. And I do too. We’re not good for each other right now.”

She lifted her tear-stained face to look at him, high above her. “That’s not what I meant! You see? I can’t explain it to you. I don’t know how.”

He began to pull away, and she instinctively gripped him tighter. “Lanie, I’ve got to get some sleep. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t wake the kids. I hope you’re able to sleep well now.”

She dug her fingers in, suddenly feeling wild and stubborn. “Stay with me. We will sleep better together.” Hopefully, she didn’t wake in a panic and attack him if either of them had nightmares.

He pulled harder. “Let go, Lanie.”

“August twenty-eighth. We’ve got to get our promise back on track. We won’t survive this if we don’t talk, Ben!”

Finally, he jerked out of her grasp, and she backed away with a gasp amid flashbacks of angry feet pummelling her sides. “Damn it, Lanie!” he hissed. “You just don’t listen, do you? I told you I’m tired. I don’t want to do this right now. Get off the floor, go to bed, and try not to wake us up.”

Then he was gone. She obeyed him, numbly walking back to her bed, leaving her heart on the floor where for a split second, she had believed they might have a chance. But apparently, she was trapped.  

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13

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