Christmas, December 25
The boys and I opened presents. Blake was thrilled with his new iPhone. Tom loved his compound bow. We made breakfast together and after we ate, I checked my phone for texts and emails.
“I hope you and the kids had a nice time last night,” JB texted. “I really miss everyone... Hope the boys enjoy their gifts. Merry Christmas.”
I ignored him. At three-thirty, the boys jumped into Blake’s SUV and drove to Troy’s for Christmas dinner with their father. Rachel rang my doorbell. Sean, her twelve-year-old son, was spending Christmas with his father so Rachel and I'd made plans to walk in the woods and go out for Indian food. I threw on my coat and Rachel and I headed down the wooded bike trail by my house.
“JB was never nice to me,” Rachel said.
“I never would have said anything while you were married, but yeah. He would cut me off and walk away when I tried talking to him. He was rude. Whenever I called, I’d ask how he was. He’d say, ‘Hold on, I’ll get Brenda.’”
“Don’t take it personally. I’ve been finding out he’s been rude to a lot of my friends.”
“Oh?” Rachel brightened.
“Paul told me JB was condescending and treated him like a stupid tradesman who couldn’t possibly know anything," I said. "Paul reminded me about a night I’d had him over for dinner. We were talking about Somalia. Paul’s brother had an embassy job there and Paul said the U.S. got involved in Somalia because it’s uranium-rich. JB scoffed at him. Paul told JB to google Somalia and uranium. JB smugly got his computer then began shifting uncomfortably in his seat. He cleared his throat a few times and mumbled something about ‘the point I was trying to make was’ blah, blah, blah.”
“My ex’s opinion doesn’t count for much as you know,” Rachel said. “But after you had us over for a barbecue, he asked, ‘What is Brenda doing with that guy? She’s got far more going on than he does, and she’s way better looking.’”
I laughed. “Makes me like your jerky ex.”
“After your horseback riding accident, I called to see how you were doing and got JB. You were bad off. You could have been killed. I asked how you were and JB said, ‘She’s fine,’ like it irritated him.”
My horseback riding accident happened a year ago the day after Thanksgiving. Margo, Dani, Tabitha and I had started down a trail that led from the barn—a two-horses-wide trail bordered by a tree-lined electric fence and woods. Margo and I were in front, Tabitha and Dani were in back. Halfway down the trail, something rustled and spooked Jack. He spun a hundred and eighty degrees and stopped with his head pointing back to the barn. Tabitha and Dani were blocking his way. I was used to Jack freaking out. His spins, his sideways jumps, his bolts. I began cuing him to turn around and he bolted full throttle between the electric fence and trees. I ducked. I crouched as low as I could on his back. I put my head on his neck as he ran. Branches smashed the crown of my helmet. A limb cracked it hard and tipped my head up. A limb smashed me in the face and yanked me off his back. Next thing I knew I was laying sideways on the grass with blood pooling in front of my face.
“Don’t move,” Tabitha said. “I’ve never seen a body contort the way yours did coming off that horse.” She dialed 911.
I ran my tongue along my teeth. They weren't broken. I inhaled slowly. I felt a sharp pain in my back, in my ribs. Vertebra by vertebra, I slowly moved my spine. It was okay. I gingerly lifted my head. I removed my helmet and rested my temple on it.
“If you think your back is okay you might want to turn over,” Tabitha said. “Your left cheek is filling with blood. It’s getting more and more swollen.”
I slowly rolled onto my right side, carefully placing my right temple on my helmet. I watched dead leaves flutter in the breeze, grass blades bend, a new pool of blood form. I felt detached from my body. I was the observer. It was interesting. Nice.
“What’s JB’s number?” Tabitha asked.
I recited JB’s number. “He and Blake have a tee time. He might not pick up.”
I heard Tabitha begin to tell JB what happened. I turned back to the pool of blood in the grass and watched it glint in the sun.
“They were leaving for golf but they’re coming,” Tabitha said.
“He’s probably disappointed he’s missing his round,” I laughed.
“Oh come on.”
JB and Blake arrived fifteen minutes later. They stood next to me looking horrified.
“I’m fine,” I said without lifting my head.
The ambulance took me to the hospital. An MRI showed I had a broken nose, that was it. My teeth had gone through my lower lip and I got ten stitches. I was sorely bruised but overall healthy. I limped out of the ER with JB walking next to me. People glared at JB thinking he’d beaten the shit out of me. I started laughing.
“You need to seriously think about the risks you take,” JB said when we got in the car. “I don’t want to be left with a drooling idiot. Think about getting rid of that horse.”
I stopped walking and looked at Rachel. “I don’t think JB cared. I apologized for ruining his golf day while I was laying on the ground waiting for the ambulance. He shrugged and shook his head. Did I ever tell you about our trip to San Francisco?”
Rachel shook her head.
“One of JB’s bosses turned 50. His wife threw him a big party in the bay area. Everyone in JB’s company was flown out for it. Spouses, too. We brought the kids. JB flew out in the morning and the boys and I left that afternoon. We arrived at night and it was pouring rain. I rented a car and began driving to Marin County. Visibility was bad. I missed a highway ramp and exited in a scary area. I pulled into a gas station to ask directions and locked my boys in the car. By the time we got to the hotel it was very late. I opened our hotel room door. The lights were off and JB was sound asleep. He hadn’t called. He hadn’t waited up. It bothered me a lot. I told my friend, Liv, about it when we got home. She shook her head and said, ‘I don’t know what to say.’”
“I’m sorry,” Rachel said. “How was your Christmas Eve?”
“My expectations were low so that helped.” I told Rachel about my last two phone conversations with Trish.
“She would never treat a friend like that, only a sister.”
We walked back to my house. I hopped in Rachel’s car and we drove to the Indian restaurant. We began eating and Rachel excused herself to go to the bathroom. Our waiter walked over.
“My name’s Raul. What’s yours? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you live around here? I live in a condo right behind here. Do you come here a lot? I work almost every day. You should come in for the lunch buffet.”
Rachel returned to find Raul hitting on me.
“I could tell he liked you,” she laughed after he left. “The way he kept coming over and asking how everything was, the way he looked at you.”
I started giggling. “He’s probably ten years younger than me. Him hitting on me couldn’t have come at a better time. At least I know I still got it.”
“You still got it.”
Rachel dropped me off and the boys came home much earlier than expected.
“How was it?” I asked.
“It was good,” Tom said.
“The usual,” Blake said. “Did you have a good time with Rachel?”
“Yes. Our young waiter hit on me.”
“Really?” Blake said, shooting me a weird look.
“I’m not going out with him.” I laughed.
I turned on the TV and started watching “Prancer.” My text alert dinged.
“I am not giving up on us,” JB texted. “I will do ANYTHING to win you back. I know how badly I've behaved. It's beyond bad. But I love you and only want you. Nothing else matters to me. Nothing.”
The thought of JB moving back in was horrifying. I pictured him next to me and shuddered.
“I don't want you,” I texted. “I want a divorce. You abused me. You violated me. You assaulted me. No going back.”
“I know that...but I want you to know How (sic) I feel...and it won't change no matter what happens next. Everything you say is right. But I love you. I'm so sorry ... And I am going to prove to you that I am a man worthy of you.. I know its a tall order.”
“I have no feelings for you,” I texted. “I don't want to be married to you. Let me know if we can save money and work with one attorney or if you'll be hiring one. We need to move forward.”
“I know how much I've hurt you and violated you,” JB texted. “I am still the same man you met in carol stream (sic) 25 years ago. I get your sense of violation. It's how anyone would feel. I won't stop loving you and I wont (sic) ever forgive myself for throwing it all away for something that gave me no real pleasure. I've been so incredibly selfish and stupid. I've become the person I've always looked down upon. I Iove you very, very much."
“Let me know before the end of the year if you're getting a lawyer or not.”
“Let me know before the end of the year if you're getting a lawyer or not.”