The door slammed so hard it bounced open again, quivering, before it swayed back again and closed with a click. Rose was left sitting on the couch with tears clotting her eyes and her hands shaking. It always seemed to go like this – she would get upset, and somehow end up sitting alone after he wouldn’t accept her apology. She had been stammering sorries as he left, sniffling. This time, though, it was worse.
When she’d walked in at first they’d sprung up from the couch. Sure, they had gone through this so many times already, and from each of them, but they had just had this conversation. Just last week. They’d had a long conversation about trust and love and commitment and all those tired words, only for her to walk in on Helen squirming on top of them, right on their living room couch. She’d shrieked. Helen had twisted and leaped back, scrambled for her clothes and fled still clutching the bundle of sweater and jeans to her chest. John had just lain there, looking baleful at her. Then she’d started screaming at him.
It had gone like all the other fights. She’d yelled, shouted until her throat was scraped by the words, and he’d, well, mostly rolled his eyes at her. Then he’d started accusing – he’d say, “sweetheart, don’t you even trust me?” and “well it’s not like you’ve never done this, darling.” Sounding reasonable and affectionate as if she hadn’t walked in on it twenty minutes before. Then he’d switch tones – “my God though, Rose, you’re practically suffocating me. You just need to give me some space, you know that.” When she protested, he’d revert to “this relationship will never work if you can’t even trust me. Come on, baby, a little effort wouldn’t kill you.” She started to stutter and sob while he glared at her, contemptuous, and then he got louder and angrier until he stormed out. It was like a repeat of the fight they’d had so often. Except much louder, of course, and this time instead of staring bewildered at his retreating back, she was curled on the couch and sobbing as though her heart was breaking. Maybe it was.
She didn’t see John for another three days. She went to work and the grocery store, numb, until she came home and he was in the bedroom. He was seated on the bed, tossing clothes all tumbled into a cardboard box, humming. His head snapped up when she came in, to see her standing there in the doorway still hugging a paper bag of toilet paper and canned beans to her chest. They’d both started talking at once, and she had laughed a little when they stopped short. She stopped laughing after that.
He said, “Hey there, though, I’m getting my stuff. I’m going. I can’t take this anymore.”
“Take what?” Her voice was already weak. She hated herself in those moments.
“You, baby.” He smiled. “This relationship is a goddamn death trap. I should’ve done this ages ago. God, you should’ve done this ages ago. I just don’t even like you very much even. You do this to me – ”
“Me to you?” She interrupted. Often perhaps she had let him say this, tell her that his betrayals were all her fault, but it was too raw and she was too angry to let it twist that way before it reached her. “Me to you, John? I’m not doing anything to you, you asshole, you’re hurting me and I’m so done letting you. Jesus, I can’t believe you.”
He frowned now, and stood up. His arms came up and she flinched, so he paused. “You are just awful. I’m glad I’m finally leaving.”
She sprang forward at that, anger flashing up to her face like a wave of heat, her hands rising without her thought.
She slapped him across the face, and when he put his fingers to his cheek and looked at her, astonished, she hit him again. He brought his arms up and she just kept hitting him, hands curled into fists now and knocking into his face with a satisfying thwap each time. He backed up, turned around, and then he ran from the apartment bent forward. She chased him for a few steps before giving up.
The door swung shut and clicked closed just like the last time he’d run out of the apartment. Rose walked back into the bedroom and knocked his box of clothes off the bed, and sat heavily down. The sound of her breathing slowed and evened, and she closed her eyes. Her hands ached, but she stopped feeling them after a few minutes. Then there was nothing left but a small dry hurt in her chest, and nothing else.