Today was a day like any other. Well, except for the fact I was meeting my soon to be ex husband to finalize everything with a lawyer today. We had managed to settle out of court which I was happy with but it still had been an expensive and gut wrenching process. We were highschool sweethearts, had been dating since ninth grade and we both thought it would be forever but somehow marriage had changed all that. It seemed each year after we got married things got worse and worse between us. By that final year we did our best to avoid eachother. I threw myself into trying to help people whose numbers were low and he stayed out with his friends most of the time. What numbers you may ask? I guess I should mention I can see countdowns above everyones head. It’s laid out in the format of years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. Its right there in a long line above their head plain as day to me but nowhere in sight to everyone around me.
Before completely throwing myself into helping others gain time on their clock if I saw they were almost out I had only done it for people I was close to. One time, when my friend Courtney became a new mother, I made her livid with me because when I looked at her baby I looked at him in horror because above that new lifes head should have been years, an abundance of them but this baby only had a week to live. I did everything I could, I bought her books, suggested things, helped her out every chance I could trying to prevent his death. I’d add mere days here and there and it stressed me out beyond belief. I couldn’t let a baby die, I couldn’t do nothing knowing it didn’t have long but I couldn’t figure out how I was helping the baby, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing to give it more time. It just seemed so random when the countdown would add days.
To my heartbreak when I learned what I was protecting the baby from I lost a friendship too. Courtney drowned that baby boy because she couldn’t get him to stop crying and couldn’t handle it. That whole time it was one of my close friends that caused such a small amount of time to appear over little Noahs head. I’ll admit I drank way too much for a few weeks but I did bounce back. I knew I couldn’t help everyone, just because I gave it my all didn’t mean it would all be okay but that didn’t stop it from hurting when I’d fail, when I’d miss something I felt should have been obvious.
I didn’t know why I was so nervous when I finally arrived for my appointment. I took a deep breath, this was for the best I told myself, it had to be. My lawyer’s practice was on the fourth floor so I took the elevator up. As soon as the doors opened our eyes met and he quickly looked away. I didn’t know why it still hurt, but it did. I had loved him and maybe a part of me still did. We had so much history and now it was like we were signing it away. I kept my head down as we headed into the office that had been set aside for us and sat down across from each other. My lawyer pulled out a file and slipped the pages out of it. “You should go over this and make sure everything is good.”
I nodded as I let my eyes move over the words, taking them in and sometimes going over a sentence again if I needed too. My husband shifted and I glanced at him, doing a quick double take when I noticed his numbers suddenly dropping at an exceedingly fast rate. He just sat there staring at me as I stared at his numbers. What was happening? “Dafina.” He said and I looked into his eyes. “What’s wrong?”
I stood up, panicked, we were getting a divorce but no matter what happened between us I couldn’t let him die. I was afraid it was something in this room so I said urgently “we have to go!” I rounded the table, grabbed him by the arm and ran out with him. Thankfully he didn’t resist me but he looked completely bewildered when I stopped. His numbers were going back up, but why? Maybe it had been in that room. Was someone trying to kill him? Would he…no, I almost had a horrible thought, I almost asked myself would he kill himself if I left him but he didn’t care that much, I knew he didn’t, his attitude the last months of their marriage told me that.
“What in the hell is going on?”
I started patting him down without thinking. Did he have a weapon him? “Are you alright? Are you injured or anything?”
“Dafina stop alright, why does it matter? I’m not your responsibility.” He started away from me and as he moved away, his numbers started going down again. I ran after him and grabbed his arm. “What the hell?”
“Stop, just stop moving. Did something happen with you?”
“Like anything bad?”
He chuckled. “Really? Did something bad happen?” He gestured between us. “I wonder what bad things could have happened? Oh that’s right my wife hates me and is divorcing me, that could be bad.” He shook me off. “Let’s just go back up there and get this over with.”
I glared at him. “No, I…I refuse.”
“You heard me, I refuse.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re the one who wanted this, tell me what’s going on right now.”
“don’t say it like I’m the only one who wanted this Marlin” He made that face he always made when he didn’t want to cry and my heart twisted a little. ‘It is only you damn it. I may have been too prideful to admit it and beg for you until now but this is the worst fucking day of my life so all pride has gone out the window. I love you Dafina, I may have been the only one that meant forever but I meant it. The day you gave me divorce papers I…I cried until I vomitted. I know we’re broken and damn it I know I started it. I got comfortable when we got married and I quit trying, I quit doing all those little things that made you love me and you know how I know.” his lip quivered and it took him a second to continue.
“I fucking dont want this so much I started seeing a counselor to help me, to help me keep you. I’ve been seeing him for months and he’s helped me admit to myself the things I did that sabotaged our relationship and I may have been a dick but I have always loved you but you know Dafina I may have started it but you have your own guilt in this. I love you, I always will Dafina and I don’t..Ever since I was a teenager I can’t imagine my life without you Dafina. I just want us to fix this. As I said I know I’m the one who started the downfall, I know I never asked you to stay until now because I’ve never been good at swallowing my pride but damn it Dafina stay. I’ll go through with the divorce because I’ll be the last person to force you to be miserable but stay and fix what we have with me. We can be us again, we really can”
I stood there absolutely floored. I could barely believe my ears. Marlin actually cared, he wanted me to stay. Maybe me going in there to sign the end to our divorce was what was dropping his numbers. Maybe me leaving would actually devastate him to that point.
“Marlin, I…it’s just…”
He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I get it okay, you don’t want to, it’s fine. I’ll sign them okay, no more stalling.”
“What happens afterwards?”
“What do you mean?”
“To you, what happens?”
“Nothing, I go to a hotel I guess.”
“What do you want me to say, Dafina? Do you want me to tell you how devastating this is? I feel like I’m dying. I just need time, just a little more to prove to you that I can be a better man, that I am still someone who loves you and who you can love.”
“Okay, we dont’ have to sign these papers today. Lets go in and tell them we’re trying to work things out…maybe…maybe we should try and date again.”
“well, an idea my therapist had was we could recreate our first date since we still live in the same town we grew up in” I was grateful for an idea of where to start because I was at a complete loss. This was so surreal to me, hearing he loved me, hearing he still cared and wanted us to stay together. Hearing that he, Marlin Laval was seeing a psychiatrist for me. “Okay, well…how about tomorrow?” I saw his countdown practically sky rocket up and it made my heart hurt. I would have carried such tremendous guilt for the rest of my life if he killed himself over me divorcing him. Logic would tell me it wasn’t my fault but still…today, me being able to see peoples countdowns was a bigger blessing than ever.
We went inside and we explained we didn’t want the paperwork filed just yet and we’d keep them posted. They were more than happy to keep everything on hold and let us work it out if we could. I knew I couldn’t be with him simply because he might kill himself if I didn’t but I could at least give him a chance to try and salvage what was left of what we had as teenagers.
To my surprise again he asked me a question as we were leaving “I know I’m going to sound like an idiot but would you hug me Dafina? I can’t even remember the last time you hugged me” I wrapped my arms around him and we just stood there a few moments in front of the lawyers office. I let him break the hug since he was an obvious emotional wreck then went home, still utterly confused but honestly. Happiness was starting to stir now that it all had sunk in. I loved him, at least the Marlin he used to be. I allowed just a small amount of hope to stir up I could have the old him back but he was right. He had started the downfall and he had done along with said things that hurt but I hadn’t been innocent in the destruction of our marriage.
I needed to soften my heart again, be kind to him again. Just like the old him needed to return so did the old me. If he was willing to try to get over everything so was I.
I couldn’t help but text him to make sure he was safe. I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep tonight if I didn’t. He sent a message back saying he was good and grabbing dinner and I let out a sigh of relief. I couldn’t tell how he was feeling via text, but I hoped he wasn’t too down. I couldn’t remember when I had stopped seeing him as the sweet, funny jock who had begged me for our first date. I couldn’t help but smile at that memory. I had rejected him the first time, thinking he was just out to get some and the had come back the next day with flowers and begged me. I hadn’t been able to keep myself from giving him a chance. Now hear we were again, back at the beginning and he had practically done the same thing, only the circumstances were different. I decided to go through my closet and see if I had anything similar to what I wore on our first date. I remember it had been chilly, but I didn’t know that until I was dressed and ready to go. I had never seen someone hand a jacket over so fast and he hadn’t even complained about the cold, he had just wanted a day with me.
I was elated to find a skirt and top that from my memory, were almost identical. I guess my taste in clothes hadn’t changed much. His really hand’t either, aside from the negative attitude we had grown for eachother we were the precise same people. I at least hoped as much as I set the clothes out to pull on tomorrow. I didn’t really know what to do with myself now. All there was was waiting and I already knew it would take tomorrow forever to get here.
~ Marlin ~
I hadn’t know a higher point of stress was possible but all I could do was pace. She had actually given me a chance and all I seemed to be good at anymore when it came to the love of my life was fucking things up. This was the final chance I’d ever get, I knew that, I could see it in her eyes when she agreed and I needed to win her back, to make her love me again. I know I’m practically the poster child for pathetic as I now finally sit down and pull up a picture on my phone of us together. It’s us at our engagement party and we looked perfectly happy, we always were up until we got married and I bombed everything.
At this point I can’t even remember my thought process, how I went from wanting nothing more than to make her happy to well shes mine now so screw trying. What kind of an asshole had I let myself become. The therapist says it happens and I’m by far not the only one but damn it this was Dafina. Nobody had ever stirred in me the intense emotions she had and I let myself destroy everything. I take a deep breath in and out, deciding to shower to calm myself down. I needed rest so I could be a normal human being tomorrow.
I tell Dafina I love her as I push the button to make my screen grow dark. I know she can’t hear it but I can’t help but say it. I do love her, with all my heart and soul. The shower does just what I expect it to. It helped me unwind and run through the memories of everything we had done together the first time I took her out. I wanted to replay that date for her to the t, remind her of whatever it was about that date that had started her falling in love with me too.
After I’m dry I pull out my old jacket from high school. I’m hoping to pull a surprised smile from her since I’m not sure she knows I still have it. It has a ton of sentimental value and I could never throw it away. Now I was happy I hadn’t. I hung it on the doorknob so I wouldn’t forget it then settled into bed for the night.
~ Dafina ~
I was woken by my father calling “Hey dad”
“Are you okay?”
“well you finalized the divorce yesterday right?”
“Oh, about that”
“don’t tell me that baby”
“Listen, he wants to fix things dad” I could hear my father sigh so I continued “daddy, we were so incredibly happy together. I’m just giving him a chance, us a chance. We got married, promised until we died to be together. If he’s truly willing to work on our marriage I want to give him a chance. Just remember who he was before we got married. I know I’m your little girl, I get that. I know I called you crying countless times but I promise you, I’ll go through with the divorce if things really haven’t changed”
“I can’t say I’m not worried but I’m proud of you”
“I love you dad. I’ll call you tonight. We’re going on a date”
“we’re recreating our first. HIs counselor gave him the idea”
“He’s seeing a counselor?”
“Yeah, surprised me too. I’m telling you, he really wants to make things better between us”
“Just be sure you don’t forget to call me.”
“I wont dad. I love you for caring so much”
“You’re my baby, always”
“I’ll come see you and mom soon, I promise”
“good, we miss you.”
“Me too dad.” We hang up and I get ready for bed, my mind on tomorrow and my husband. I grab the extra pillow and hug it to me, closing my eyes. I don’t want to be tired for him tomorrow, I want to be able to completely enjoy our date. My alarm wakes me the next day and I get up, taking a quick shower. My phone vibrates as I’m brushing my teeth and I look at the screen, seeing it’s Marlin. His message says: I didn’t call because I know you’re brushing your teeth, I love you and I’ll be there at three, have a good day. I actually smile that he knows me well enough to know exactly what I’m doing. Maybe he had been paying attention, at least a little.
She responds with a simple you too and I feel more than a little worried. I sigh as I put my phone in my pocket, hoping that she’s looking forward to our date. I feel my heart twist again. What if I try and she still doesn’t want me? It kills me just thinking about it and I hate myself even more for hurting her. I leave, wanting to get her a box of her favorite chocolates. Every detail of that day has to be as perfect as I can make it.
When I arrive at the store I check the time. This would be the absolute worst thing in my life to be late for and I refused to be. I was going to be on time or early. My depression since finding out she was giving up on us had caused me to be late to nearly everything which sadly in turn only turned her farther against me in all this time we had been going through the divorce. I try not to think about it as I walk the aisles. She’s giving me a chance, us a chance, we’re starting fresh and not bogging our minds with everything that’s happened up until yesterday when we agreed to try. I found what I was looking for an near it, a little stuffed elephant.
They had always been her favorite animal. I grab it, it’s different from our first date but I’m a lot less desirable than our first date. I buy everything I came for then check the time again. I decide maybe some coffee before would be good. That should finish eating up the time I need to pass before the date. I walk in and the line is just as big as expected, someone really needed to open one or two more of these places. I check the time every so often until I have my coffee. I sit down and enjoy it along with the smells and atmosphere of this place until I can finally go home and make sure I’m presentable for our date.
I find that I am and I double check that I have my jacket and her presents before getting in my car and driving to her place, our home, where we used to share everything. I hoped that soon I would be lucky enough to be welcomed back. She had never kicked me out in the first place but when I left I was so overwhelmed with my emotions of her wanting to leave me I mad the biggest, most dickish scene I think I had ever made in my life and she would definitely have to invite me back in for me to go. I carried too much shame over how horrible I was the day I left.
I feel so nervous as I get out of my car and walk up to the front door. I take a deep breath and then knock. I wait, trying not to look worried and when she opens the door I nearly drop the flowers and elephant. I just stare at her. “Whoa.” It’s all I can say.
“Good whoa or bad whoa?”
“Very good whoa.” I clear my throat, thinking I probably look like an idiot. “These are for you.” I hand her the flowers and the elephant and her smile makes my heart dance.
“Thank you so much. Come in, I’ll put these in a vase and then we can head out.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t make you wait on the porch.”
I’m glad she lets me come in and follow her to the kitchen. Everything is just as I remember it being when I left though of course, a few of the things I broke on my way out are missing and only one obviously replaced “you got a new cookie jar”
“Oh yeah, shortly after you moved out. I found it on Amazon, do you hate it? I know you aren’t as into elephants as me. I figured..since you weren’t..well weren’t going to be here any more I could have an elephant cookie jar”
“well, even if you let me come back I don’t mind it. Hell, even if I thought it was the ugliest thing I ever saw it serves me right for throwing your old one” She looks at me a bit softer “well then lets just say you can wear the ugliest suits on the planet if you get to come back and I can’t complain”
~ Dafina ~
I was embarrassed to show him my own childish moments but as he said, if we were going to heal we had to own up to our own short coming, our owns fault in the end of our marriage. I don’t know why I saved the remnants but I had, in a big tin container. I opened it up and showed him and he actually laughed, shocking me “when did you do this?” he asked. “My birthday, a few friends and I got drunk together here and it just kind of lead to this. We’ve both had our childish moments because we’ve both been through a lot of emotional pain. I mean if anything was some teenager shit cutting up your suits was”
He takes the tin from me and jokingly says “I’m so going to figure out how to piece these together into some god aweful suit and tell people you designed it” I cracked a smile, I could see that twinkle in his eyes, the one he always got when he was teasing me. It was back, like everything in our marriage hadn’t happened. “If you get to do that I’m taking that elephant cookie jar everywhere I go. When we go out to eat he’ll have his own chair” We both laughed picturing the scene, me with my cookie jar and him in his awful pieced together suit. We were laughing together and I had forgotten how much I loved his laugh.
Once the flowers are in a vase and the little elephant is resting safely on our bed, we leave. I glance at him, watching his numbers. They’re steady, ticking at a normal pace instead of plummeting. He looks nervous, scared even as he he pulls away from our home. He even looks a bit pale and maybe like he’s lost weight. “Marlin?”
“You’re eating right?” A frown tugs at his lips and I instantly regret asking. “Sorry, I guess it’s not really my business.”
“It’s fine, thank you for even thinking of me. Honestly, I haven’t had much of an appetite. I eat here and there, maybe one of those microwave dinners, but I haven’t really wanted much lately.”
“Hey don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault. I should be able to take care of myself at this age and it’s not like you did anything wrong. I’ll eat until I can’t eat anymore tonight okay?”
“Just, please take care of yourself.”
“I will, it’s just your food is so much better than anything else. Everything is just so bland when you’re not the one cooking it.”
“Maybe if tonight goes well our next date can be at our house. I’ll cook for you like old times and we can watch a movie after
“That sounds nice….it’s going well so far right?”
“yeah” HIs jacket now catches my attention and I smile widely “You don’t still have this”
“The jacket?” he asks even as I pick it up. “yes the jacket, how did I never see it in our home?”
“It was in a box in the attic” I slip it on and I get a sudden and deep urge to cry. I tried to contain it, not wanting to upset him but it still comes. He pulls the car over at a gas station “whats wrong?”
“This jacket…I don’t know…I’m so sorry every thing has turned out this way. I would have never thought it would way back then” He pulls me into his arms and I’m glad he did. I hold him back and sob into him. “I’ll always love you Marlin” I say and he holds me a bit tighter “I know, just as I will always love you”
I press a kiss to her forehead and gently stroke her hair before getting out to fill the tank. I don’t even know if I was allowed to kiss her anymore, but her crying was never okay and I just wanted to comfort her. I could see that she was really at home in my old jacket and I was even happier now about bringing it. If she wanted it, I would let her keep it. Anything to make her happy again. After filling my tank and paying, we were off again. “So, do you remember that little burger place I took you too that night?”
“Yes I do, they had the best milkshakes. Is it still open?”
“Still open and still run by the same people. Same milkshakes, same everything.”
“Yeah, would you like to go?”
“Of course, I’d love too.”
I drove us over there, happy she hadn’t shed any more tears during the drive. “wait please” I say as I jump out and run to open her door. I didn’t know if she’d expect me to do this anymore but I really wanted to. Even if I didn’t want to start doing those sweet little things for her again I did it on our first date and I knew I should do it now. She smiled at me, it tugging at my heart as it always had. I knew she didn’t know that had never stopped but I figured she might think I’m laying things on too thick if I mention that now. “That was sweet..I appreciate it”
“You deserve to be treated like a princess Dafina”
He was right when he said the diner was the same. From the flooring to the paint and even the art on the walls. I couldn’t believe it and I actually stood there for a moment just taking it all in. Marlin taking my hand brought me back to reality and made me realize I had been standing in front of the door. I felt a blush creep up my neck and he let out a little laugh. “I can’t help it, I’m just so surprised.”
“Would I get in trouble for saying the look on your face it cute? It’s the exact face you made when I begged you to let me take you out.” He took my hand and guided me over to a table. “You were so embarrassed that day, like you weren’t sure what to say.”
“I think I was more amazed you would go so far just for one date. You didn’t even care how it turned out.”
“I just wanted time with you, Dafina. Even if it was one day, it would be one day well spent.”
You were always so incredibly sweet Marlin”
“I’m sorry that stopped”
“I can see that, I really can. I’m glad you asked me to give you another chance”
“But I know you still aren’t ready to undo everything yet with the lawyers which is fine. I wouldn’t be any different at all if I expected you to already, on our first date be ready to completely say you don’t want a divorce”
“Maybe after we order our food we can talk through some stuff, like really talk.”
“Yeah, we did a lot of yelling that last year and when we’re yelling we’re not really listening”
“I like this counselor you’re seeing” He chuckled and asked “would you consider doing couple sessions with me?”
“sure, when would they be?”
“Wednesdays, the time fluctuates a bit”
“Okay, I’m in Marlin” he seems to cautiously take my hand and I give him a friendly smile to let him know the contact is okay.
“I really miss touching you. That sounds creepy doesn’t it?”
We both laugh and then pick up our menus and look over them. I glance at him and find him watching me. He quickly looks away and I smile as I decide on the cheeseburger and chocolate shake. It’s the same thing had had on our first date and he seems to catch on and go with what he had had that night as well. Once we’ve made our order, he takes possession of my hand again, gently brushing his thumb over my knuckles. I glance at his time and it’s perfect. “Hey Dafina, do you remember that time you broke your arm?” He asks.
“Yeah, I hated being stuck in the hospital and then I couldn’t lift anything. You carried everything for me the whole time even though I told you didn’t have to.”
“I was your boyfriend, that’s what boyfriends are supposed to do.”
“And you wrote up all of my reports for me. The look on our teachers faces was priceless.”
“Being able to spoil you like that, it made me really happy.
I smile at him again, actually admiring him for the first time in a long time, he really was the man he used to be and I found myself starting to fall right back in love. My dad would probably call me crazy but I could see the old him in his eyes again, my Marlin. Our dinner was just as good as I remembered and we went for a walk afterward as we had when we were kids. I take his hand and I love how tightly he takes mine. It wasn’t painfully tight but nothing was going to pull me away from him. At the end of our perfect date he takes me home and I invite him in. “are you sure?”
“well, just so you know, I actually mean for coffee. That wasn’t code” He chuckled and said “I know, thank you, I’d love to come in Dafina” we go to our kitchen and I start a pot then pull some frozen cookies out to bake. “still can’t have coffee without cookies?” He asks me and I laugh as I say “that will never change”
Just sitting there with her talking about our happiest memories brings light back into my life. I miss this, just talking to her. I hang on every word until the cookies beep and she takes them out and scoops them onto a plate before bringing them back to set between us. She gets a little bit of chocolate on her chin and I reach out without thinking and wipe it away, making her blush and my heart trip over itself. “Sorry, habit I guess.”
I let out a sigh. “I miss touching you, not even as a sexual thing, just small touches, holding hands, running my fingers through your hair. It’s a hard habit to break.”
“Hey, it’s really okay.” She rests her hand on mine and I feel myself warm at the contact.
“You know maybe you could go ahead and move back in. I don’t like the thought of you at hotels..I mean…you do know I never kicked you out right?”
“I know, are you sure though?”
“Yeah, if we’re going to try and fix this lets do it right. You should be here and we should be working on us daily”
“Thank you Dafina”
“Thank you for asking me to stay. I wasn’t innocent in our divorce and I appreciate you admitting you were most of it but the fact still stands I had my own part in it” we continued to talk about our marriage for hours and I ended up sleeping over, actually getting to cuddle with her again. I nearly cried but managed to keep myself together. If things kept on like this I had real hope we could go back to how we were. I didn’t want to live life without my Dafina, I hadn’t even been sure I could but now, now I didn’t have to face that harsh reality.
~ The End