The Exception(5)

By: Adriana Locke


He knew the things that made me reconsider walking out. It was an endless, exhausting roller coaster that I couldn’t get off of … until I literally walked in on the truth.

I knew the cheating was happening; I had known that down deep for a long time.

My heart splintered with each thrust Decker delivered to our neighbor as she held on to my dresser with both hands. As he pushed Sarah over the edge of ecstasy, he pushed me out the door.

The difference was that I had not just suspected it—I had witnessed it and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I called my friend Mandi and moved my things in with her that night after Decker went to work. Her husband, Mason, was a professional fighter; it was the safest place I could go. Decker had never hit me, but I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be.

As I feared, he went ballistic. He begged me one minute to return and cursed me out the next. In one drunken binge, he showed up at Mandi’s door. I’m not sure what transpired between Decker and Mason, but he didn’t come back. He just complicated my life from afar by fighting me on the divorce.

“You can’t make it on your own. You’ll be back.”

I rolled my eyes at the memory.

“How are you?” I asked, making my way down the sidewalk.

“Ah, I’m okay.” Ice clinked against a glass. “Just thinking about you.”

“Oh, really? What brought that on?”

“I found some pictures today in the back of our closet.”

I smiled sadly. “Yeah, I left those there.”

Decker was quiet for a few moments. I knew the conversation was getting ready to turn and I fought the urge to disconnect the call.

He needs to hear, once and for all, to leave me alone. I am safe here.

“You don’t want them?” The sadness in his voice hurt me. The self-help books called it co-dependency, but, to me, it was just being a human. I had loved him for a long time, before he was this Decker. I couldn’t just forget that.

“No, I don’t want them. It is easier to try to forget everything, I think.” I worried my bottom lip between my teeth, hoping this wouldn’t set him off. Every word was a gamble when he was drinking; an arbitrary line could be crossed at any time.

He chuckled into the phone, a hint of anger surfacing in his voice. “Really? You don’t want to remember me?”

I let out a long breath as I slowed my pace. I needed to focus.

Stand up to him. Don’t back down.

“Honestly, no. Not really. That wasn’t exactly a happy part of my life. You of all people should know that.”

“You were never happy with me? You can really say that?”

“I don’t know why it matters at this point.” I shook my head, feeling the exhaustion that accompanied dealing with Decker begin to creep into my bones.

“I miss you,” he whispered.

“Don’t do this.”

“You know we were great together. We had some bad times, yeah. Everyone does. But just admit that we had some great ones, too.”

I continued walking, contemplating what he said. All of the good memories now had a big question mark on top of them.

I let out a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. I felt noticeably less guilty than I normally did when he tried to manipulate me and I smiled at the realization. Maybe I was making progress.

“We could have worked everything out. You didn’t give me a chance.” The anger in his voice was heavier, his tone more accusatory. A few months before, I would have started backtracking, trying to find a way avoid the confrontation that was about to happen.

But that was then and this was now.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I said, entering the park and spotting a picnic table. “I gave you so many chances it isn’t even funny.”

“You just didn’t want it to work out.”

I recoiled at his accusation, my blood beginning to boil. “How can you even say that? I put up with so much from you! So many nights I sat at home, scared you were going to come barging through the door, irate about something stupid. And how many times did you cheat on me? How many before I walked into our bedroom and found you fucking Sarah? I ignored so much, Decker,” I seethed, the words pouring from my soul, “in order for it to ‘work out’. I put up with so much more than anyone ever should! And all that ended up happening was that you made a fool out of me!”

“Jada—”

“Do not ‘Jada’ me!” I had never felt free enough to truly defend myself before. My heart pounded in my chest as a weight lifted from my being. “You made me feel like I was worthless for so long! But that is my fault because I let it happen.”

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