The Exception(6)By: Adriana Locke
“If you would’ve kept me happy at home, this could have been avoided.”
“Fuck you,” I bit out, catching him off guard.
“Well, well, well. You move away and you get all ballsy, huh?”
“It’s hard to be ballsy to someone much larger than you when they’re breathing down your neck, intimidating you all the time!”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. You seem to have a case of revisionist history going on,” he laughed into the phone. It only fueled the fire that has started to burn inside me and I reveled in the feeling of being able to let it smolder.
“I’m sure you do think that.”
“When you are sick of playing house with your sister, maybe I will still consider taking you back.”
“Oh, if only I could ever be so lucky—”
“Don’t get cocky with me.” I knew his eyes were changing, going from hazel to a dark whiskey. He was sitting taller, his jaw tight. It was like clockwork when his voice deepened like that.
“I should’ve left you a lot sooner than I did.”
“Don’t act like I’m some kind of monster, Jada. I gave you a great life. You are having some early mid-life crisis or something. You’ll come back to your senses soon enough.”
“Yeah. You’re right. It’s all my fault,” I said, my head held high despite the words that I spoke.
“You better watch it.” His voice was almost a whisper, quivering with the fury he was trying to reign in.
The power between us had shifted. Whereas he had always had full control, it was now split. I knew he felt it, too.
“Or what, Decker? What are you going to do to me now? I’m not your wife. I’m not your girlfriend. I’m not your anything!”
“You’re so full of shit. You will always be mine. Do you hear me?”
“I’m pretty sure you have a piece of paper that says otherwise.”
“I only agreed to it in the end so you could see what life is like without me, you dumb little bitch! Once you see what it is like to pay your own bills, to make your own decisions, you’ll be back. You aren’t capable of making it on your own.”
“You’re such an asshole, you know that?”
“Maybe, but you will be crawling back to this asshole within a few weeks.” I could hear his grin and I wanted to wipe it off of his face. “You better just pray I’m willing to take you back.”
I took a deep breath as I watched two little girls enter the park. Their ponytails bounced as they headed towards the grassy field. One of them tossed a giant yellow ball on the ground and they began kicking it back and forth, laughing. I was distracted by them, their happiness almost tangible and I wanted to reach out and grab ahold. I was reminded of the joy I used to feel before I lost who I was, before I let my self-image be destroyed.
The two girls raced around the grass, their giggling tickling my ears, and I suddenly found myself craving that feeling like never before. I wanted to feel happy. I wanted to feel joyful.
I wanted to feel alive.
“Maybe,” I began, turning my attention back to the phone. “But I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. Just stick with what you do best. Go to work, drink some whiskey, and fuck a bunch of whores. And lose my number.”
I swiped the phone off and stuck it in my pocket.
If I let him rob me of happiness, I let him win. And he’s taken enough from me. All he has of me now is a box of photos and my phone number.
I had begun reclaiming my life and the only thing left to take back was my happiness. I knew that was going to be the hardest thing to claim.
It felt just barely within my reach. My fingertips could brush against it if I extended my hand as far as it could possibly go, but I wasn’t sure I could grab it, make it mine.
I wasn’t sure when the last time was that I was truly happy. It may have been in Vegas with my girlfriends a few months before college graduation. We had drunk too much, danced too much, and laughed too much—and it was perfect. Then again, it may have been the day before my fourteenth birthday. Mom and I had gone shopping for spaghetti noodles for my birthday dinner. Then she took me to the mall for a new outfit to wear to school the next day. We picked out a light green dress with yellow swirls and pockets on the sides. She said it was very “Jackie-O”.
I only wore it once.
With one final glance at the little girls with the yellow ball, I started the walk back to Kari’s. Grabbing my phone from my pocket, I turned it on and punched in a few numbers.
“Hello. This is Jada Stanley and I need to get my phone number changed, please.”
The beat of the Mariachi music lifted my spirits as Kari and I sat at a table at Blanca’s, our favorite Mexican restaurant. We had been regular patrons in the “pre-Decker days,” as Kari liked to call them. I thought of them as “the good ol’ days”.