“David, you should go,” she said, bent down to scratch Barney’s floppy black ears. He licked her cheek and regarded David warily, hackles raised, tail still. “I would like you to leave,” she repeated, so quickly the words stuck together, a staccato burst of consonants.
“Just leave, okay? Go stay at the apartment in town. Go away!”
He shook his head from side to side, a pendulum marking time. Decades of love, even in these last months of fear and silence. “Did I hurt you?” he breathed, stricken. “When I- Selena, I would never- God, I didn’t mean-”
“I want you to leave.” Firmly. Watching him break before her, because of her. Hot bile burned her throat. The earth was sealing closed all around.
“Why? Why are you doing this?
She spoke the words to Barney, slipping down to sit on the floor behind him. “David, I don’t want you here.” Barney pushed his head under her chin and sighed.
Watching her sit there with her blank face and hot eyes, David seriously considered what it would be to walk away. His practice was thriving. He could send her support payments, and a moving crew to clear his clothes and few keepsakes out of their house. The photos on the fridge could stay. Those reminders of how she once radiated joy like sunrise, and laughed with her head tipped back and her mouth wide open, her hideous, glorious laugh…. They could stay here with the rest of their life.
“What are you planning to say to Ginnie and Greg?”
She snapped, “Excuse me?” His part was mussed. She resisted the urge to smooth it for him.
“You intended to call them, right? You owe them a good-bye, Lena.” He leaned against the blue-painted ladderback with his arms folded. His expression was skeptical but open, his therapist face.
“Fuck. You.” She knew what was coming. She could see it in his defiant jaw.
“Were you planning to leave a note for them, like your mother did for you?”
“Stop it. You don’t-”
“No, you don’t understand.” He spun the chair around to sit, white-knuckled hands on his knees. She wanted to kiss him and punch him in the face. “You’re acting like someone is coming here to kill you, and if we allow that to be true – if we allow that your mother’s husband somehow rose from the grave, tracked you down on the opposite side of the country and wants you dead. If all of that is actually happening, then I deserve to know why. Me. Your husband. I deserve to know.”
She was trembling again, and as much as he wanted to hold her close, whisper comfort, take it all back and make it all better, he couldn’t. He didn’t trust himself not to grab her and shake her until her teeth snapped together and her eyes rolled back into her head. He said, “It’s been a really shit time, Selena, for both of us. Tell me what is going on. Why do you think this guy is coming for you?”
She exhaled into Barney’s warm fur, wrapping her arms around him as he maneuvered his bulk into her lap. “It’s Occam’s razor. He found me before. He’ll find me again. I’m not running away, anymore.”
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012