Two days after Jack had left, I decided I had better get some photos ready for printing and mounting. I put the card in my computer and uploaded the ones I had. I was excited to see some of the photos I knew would be amazing. I gulped in panic when only six photos popped up and they were all of the carpet in the hotel room, like someone didn’t know how to use the thing. But the last one was a picture of a note.
“Don’t be mad. I’m sorry.
But I hope a few dollars in the bank will help out. ~Jack”
My ears were pounding with my pulse. I found it hard to gulp at the air. He had taken my pictures. While I had been sleeping, he stole my property. The anger I felt at the thought that he had messed with my livelihood did anger me more than his gracious rejection. I decided it was a good thing he had left or I would have told him what I really thought. Oh, who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have said anything more than I already had to him.
Curiously, I opened the internet browser and looked up my online banking. My hand flew to my mouth and I stifled a cry. I had three figures sitting in my at one time, overdrawn bank account. There was $100,000 sitting there. He told me everything was taken care of, that I didn’t need to worry. I believed him and I had felt safe with him.
Angry that he stole my pictures, I decided I wouldn’t use his money unless I absolutely had to. But I began to spiral into a depression, not unlike the one I’d had a few years earlier. It was a natural response to the lot I had been dealt in life.
But that depression continued and I sat on that couch just watching television and eating ice cream for months. Pathetic, I know. But I could barely get myself up to go to the bathroom.
Daniel turned 18 on me and that was hard because he was my baby. He was doing well in school and worked at a local pizza joint, applying for colleges to major in theater. But he was wise beyond his years and talked to me about how I had been acting.
“I miss my mom,” he said at last. “I don’t like this person who sits here and cries all day long. This isn’t the mom that raised me.”
How could I explain?
“I’m sorry, Daniel. I never planned for this to happen, I don’t like it either,” I said with obvious tears in my eyes.
“I know,” he said pulling me into an embrace. “But you need to get out. You need to take a shower. I think he’s around and not happy that you are just throwing your life away. I can’t seem to bring myself to move out on my own and leave you here like this.”
I cried, okay? I bawled like a little baby in my son’s arms. He helped me to the bathroom and started my shower water, laying my towel out on the counter beside my bathrobe. Then, he left me alone.
Stripping off my clothes, I didn’t even recognize myself. Where I was once a size 5, I was now in a size 14. That fun little rockabilly girl had flown the coop and left behind and old fat woman.
The shower felt so good and I just stood there a while feeling each stream of water hit my skin. I really had wasted so much of my life and now my baby was a man ready to leave the nest in search his own dreams.
Daniel cooked dinner that night and we all sat together at the table for the first time in several months. His fish was just the best. We made small talk with each other and it was then that they asked to hear the whole story. So I told them.
Neither one had much to say. It wasn’t their heart that had been broken or their pride that had been shattered. But I told them I would never trust another man as long as I lived. They just smiled.
“Well not from the couch, you won’t,” Daniel said shoving fish in his mouth.
I had to give him that one. I wasn’t doing anything from the couch.
Sleeping in my own bed that night made me feel strange. It was a combination of missing my husband being there and those nights sleeping at Shore Lodge with Jack on the couch. I didn’t quite know what to feel. But I uttered a prayer and fell into a deep and restful sleep for the first time since I had been back home.
I woke to snowflakes outside my window. It was late and the boys were gone to school so the house was quiet. I contemplated just staying in bed and remembered the conversation with my son the night before. It was time to get back to normal.
“Ruby, you have to do something with yourself. This isn’t you!” I scolded myself.
I slid out of bed and threw on my robe to make me a smoothie instead of having my usual bowl of sugared cereal. It was the first step.
I flipped on the television and changed the channel until it fell on the news. There was Jack, walking out of some fancy building with some young model hanging on his arm dripping in diamonds. He was all smiles, a little older but still handsome as ever. The headline at the bottom of the screen said this woman was his fiancé. I snorted out loud and shut off the television.
I felt steam build within me and a fury like none other fueled my soul.