Breaking the Cycle by MINA J. MOORE
I slammed my laptop shut and blew out a frustrated breath. Trish passed by and waved, giving me a thumbs up for a great presentation. I waved back but I didn’t feel all the warm fuzzies I should. My relationship with Josh was a disaster and I dreaded going home. At least here, I was busy enough to keep my mind on this side of insanity. There was no choice if I was going to keep the job I had busted ass for.
The room was empty except for the finance director who slaved at her desk until ungodly hours. I had never witnessed her leave before anyone else.
I didn’t mind working late but Kate pushed it to the limit. You could only crunch numbers for so long. I cringed at the thought. Math was not my strongest subject. That’s why I was in the creative side of things.
Clearing my desk to the point of anal land, I grabbed my purse and hurried down the stairs. A few people were chatting at the door and I wished I could just sneak out without having to smile and wish everyone a goodnight. Inside, I was wishing myself a goodnight instead. When I saw Tracy and Mark the gagging sensation at the back of my throat almost got the best of me.
They were the perfect couple, the kind that made you want to spoon your eyeballs out instead of listening to their stories about candy and heart shaped dreams.
“Lydia! I’m so glad we didn’t miss you. We’re heading out for drinks to celebrate our fifth year. Come with?”
My face almost cracked as I smiled the smile I had perfected over the last year. “I really need to get home but congrats on your milestone,” I said as my gaze swung to Mark with his Ken-perfect grin. The truth was, Josh would be a pissy ass if I stayed out too late and he had to take care of my cat. God forbid he had to feed her one night of his life.
Tracy pouted but then forgot all about me as others approached and she repeated herself with more gushiness. It was Friday and I was stuck home with someone who would probably pick a fight and head out anyway. I was a complete idiot. Why should I always stick to the rules when he could bend and twist them to his advantage? Wasn’t a relationship supposed to be a partnership?
I repeated this to myself on a daily basis but nothing changed. The same things happened and they continued because I accepted, forgave and moved onward. Josh had been my high school sweetheart, the boy I had given my virginity to. The only person I had lived with outside of my parent’s home. Anytime I threatened to leave, he swore I wouldn’t make it on my own, that I was too used to him taking care of me. Arrogant bastard. I think I hate him sometimes. So why do I stay?
Twenty minutes later, I pushed my door open and found Josh behind the computer with a drink. I wondered which one he was on and hoped he would just pass out without starting a fight. I never knew which way his buzz was going to take him. It was like playing Russian roulette.
He smiled over his screen. “Are you ready for me?”
I stopped, my heart accelerating to the point of pain. If I said no, he would pout, hiss and bitch until he drank himself into a coma. My other alternative was to bear it and hope it went quickly which depending on the amount of alcohol in his system could be years. I tried to smile but my apprehension took over and I turned before he could notice.
“I had a very long day, presentation and all. Do you want to see the slides?”
I glanced back at him and he didn’t seem very interested. Surely he had stopped listening the moment I declined his offer.
“I see you came home in bitch mode. Fucking dead fuck.”
I should have just gone in the shower and not prodded but the sick masochistic side of me insisted. I wanted him to be interested in my work. I wanted him to take notice in something other than sex for a change.
I jumped when he slammed his laptop closed and downed the rest of his drink in one gulp. “I’m leaving. Be back later.”
I nodded like an obedient child and rushed into the bedroom. The front door slammed and I felt cold relief wash over me.
After ten years, I thought things would settle and we would be married with a couple of kids. Sadly, I was glad we hadn’t taken those steps. It would only complicate an already complicated situation.
Why couldn’t I just pack my shit and leave? What was holding me back? I grabbed my sleeping shirt and tossed it on the bathroom counter. Looking around, I admired the size and the upscale design. Josh had graduated with his law degree a couple of years back and joined a pretty solid firm. Daddy had put in a good word. We did well together although he would never admit that I had any contribution to our current financial situation. It was all him. Granted he made more than double my current salary but did he have to constantly point it out and rub it in my face?
I remember the days he was in law school and I had footed most of the bills. Helping him out was something I never complained about or brought up. But Josh was a different person back then. These two years had hardened him, made him cynical and indifferent. At times, I would still see the old Josh, the handsome man with the dimples. I missed that part of him and in some way, I longed for him to come back. Maybe that was the reason I had stuck it out. I wanted to believe he was still there. Truth is, I hadn’t seen him in over two years.
After a lonely shower, I powered up my MacBook and leaned back on my favorite recliner. Smiling, I clicked on my messages and opened the one titled “Great job”. Link was the best boss ever. Lincoln James was wildly rich and handsome. His father had launched the company and now he had taken the reigns a few months ago. He always appreciated his employee’s efforts and praised them just the same.
The rest of his email was professional and uplifting. I was glad I had taken the time to read it. After the Josh debacle, it was refreshing.
My present life consisted of going home and cohabitating with someone who had become selfish and egotistical. I was exhausted and tired of dealing with the mood swings. Sometimes I though I had it so right and realized nothing could be more wrong.
It was nearing midnight and I struggled to find sleep. Josh would be home soon and I simply could not put myself through one of his drunken sermons. If I pretended to be asleep, he might just plop on the bed and pass out. The noise at the front door had me shutting my eyes quickly. My heart accelerated and I feared he would be able to hear it. Snuggling deeper, I evened my breathing and relaxed. His footsteps came closer. The bedroom door opened and I could hear him fumbling with his clothes. One shoe dropped, then the other.
This was the moment of truth. Would he fall back and black out or roll over and start his shit?
It took everything in me not to exhale in relief when his head hit the pillow and he began to snore softly. The musky scent of a woman’s perfume stung my nostrils and my heart constricted in pain. I squeezed the tears away and gripped my pillow tightly. Finally able to control my racing heart, I closed my eyes and fell into a troubled sleep.
My eyes flew open when I felt someone groping my ass. The hand was rough and offensive, not something I desired.
“Come on, babe.”
The muffled voice was at my ear and I wanted to jump up and scream. How was it conceivable that a woman could want a man after he treated her like a dog the day before? I wanted to yell and loudly.
He continued to massage my behind, moving to the front.
I moved away. “I need to use the bathroom.”
Closing the door never felt so good. If only I could shut everything out this way. I glanced at the shower longingly, knowing he would invade my space and continue his unwanted pursuit. Had he forgotten everything he did and said the previous night? In his world sunrise seemed to erase all previous behavior. It was a clean slate and I needed to “get over it” as he had said in the past.
I turned on the shower and undressed, ready for battle. The pocket door slid open and there he was.
“What the fuck?”
I just stared at him. “What do you want? Didn’t you have enough fun last night?”
He ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t start your shit again. I swear you love to start with me.”
He turned to the sink and began preparing to shave and my shoulders slumped. Was I crazy or did he not see what he was doing?
I narrowed my eyes and stood straighter. What was keeping me? The memories, the glimpses I was offered of the old Josh, the hope that he would come back to me? We didn’t have children and all we shared was space, not even a bank account. Fuck it.
I grabbed a towel and exited the shower. “We need to talk.”
I knew as the words left me, I was in for a huge fight.
The razor in his hand stopped moving, he eyes growing furious.
“I think we are pretty much done here. I don’t appreciate your attitude, the fucking mood swings, the bitches you cheat on me with and all the rest. I don’t want this anymore.”
The razor clattered to the sink and he turned to face me.
He came closer and this time I refused to back away. His hands snaked around my neck, pulling me closer. I turned my face in time for his lips to press against my cheek. Josh drew back, anger streaking an ugly crease between his eyes.
“You fucking ungrateful bitch. Look at how you live,” he said motioning with his hands. “And it’s all because of me.”
That hurt. Bad. I had worked my ass off to help him through school. What a jerkoff.
“Really? Well then you won’ t miss me at all. Have a nice life dickhead.”
I marched out of there and got dressed in two minutes flat.
“You won’t make it out there without me,” he yelled from behind the closed door.
Grabbing my keys and purse I took off, giving time for him to vacate the apartment. It was Saturday but Josh had a scheduled appointment at his office within the next hour. I was sure it was with my slut from the previous night.
My phone went crazy with his texts.
Go fuck yourself!!!!!
It came in over and over, making my stomach sick. Was he insane or just a big asshole? I clicked the sound to vibrate and pushed my phone deep into my purse. I walked forever and it felt great. I felt liberated and in control. No more coming home to the turmoil and uncertainty of which Josh I was going to get. Digging my phone out, I ignored the ugly texts and dialed my best friend.
“Dana. I’m going to need a place to stay.”
“You’re finally leaving the prick?”
“I am always here and you can stay for as long as you want.”
“Thanks,” I said with tears in my eyes. “I’ll see you later.”
I clicked off and dove into the nearest coffee shop. Ordering was a nightmare at this time of day. I turned with my much-awaited cup and managed to spill it all over the guy behind me.
“Oh my God. I am so sorry!”
He jumped back. “Its okay but I think my skin is pealing off.”
He must have seen the horror in my eyes because he busted out laughing.
“Just pass me a napkin. I think I’ll live.”
I scrambled to do just that, grabbing a huge stack. The other customers stared at me as if I were insane. Giving him some, I also tried to help wipe the huge stain on his crisp white linen shirt.
“I think I ruined your shirt. I’ll pay for it.”
He stopped my hands with his. “The hell you will. It was a accident.”
I blew at my long bangs. “Well at least let me buy you another.”
The person in front of us took their order and I stepped up and ordered what I thought he had in his cup.
Handing him the steaming cup with exaggerated care, I smiled up at him. “I still want to pay for your shirt.”
“Thanks and still hell no.”
I smirked at him. “Hmmmm…you look like a large with those wide shoulders,” I breathed in, realizing how this sounded. He quirked a brow in question.
“Well, I am getting you another one. I insist.”
“Really? How are you going to deliver it? I’m not giving you my contact information. You could be a psycho for all I know.”
He was dead serious. My face must have cracked because his smiled
“I’m just kidding you.”
“Yeah well, I’m not,” I laughed nervously. “At least let me pay for it.”
“What part of no don’t you understand? It’s fine. I always keep an extra shirt in the car.”
His abrupt curtness caught me off guard and I nodded. “Fine. I tried. So are you off to work?” It was a Saturday but he wasn’t dressed for play.
He smiled again and I realized how handsome he was when he wasn’t scowling. “Not anymore.”