Right then and there, I knew it was time to stop. I didn't know how I was going to achieve that lofty goal, but I knew it had to happen. What had started as a simple revenge fantasy, had gotten way out of control. Seven years of hell for both of us, with our young daughter caught in the middle.
Anger is an interesting emotion. It has a burning power within it, but it desperately wants to die out. Only a concerted effort by both of us had kept the fire alive. For if it was to vanish, we would be faced with the pain of our loss. The loss of our family and all the love, affection and security that went with it. Though, ironically, it was the distinct lack of these qualities that had ended our marriage.
Sarah was only 6 months old when we separated. The anger between us was almost constant. Life was unbearable, marriage counselling futile. How can two people possibly hope to unravel abusive childhoods while living together and trying to care for a baby? We couldn't, that was obvious, and after 3 months of therapy, we parted. She, with Sarah, to her parents, while I stayed in the flat, alone. And that was the overiding feeling that hit me: loneliness. I missed them both terribly and my hopes rose each Thursday as we continued with counselling, only to fall into a depression after each session when it became clear that there was no hope.
Three months later I called it quits, then recanted a week later. We struggled through another 3 months, by which time it was her turn to end it for good. Still we clung on for 3 months more as we slowly let go of each other and our dreams of family life. The pain was intense, we both fought it, lashing out with vengeful attacks. She denied me access to Sarah, I delayed maintenance payments. The game we played went through so many levels and permutations, I often got lost, and forget why we were playing.
Sarah suffered in the middle of this battle. I remember dropping her back to Angela's place one time, and as we talked, Sarah grabbed our hands and put them together. For years, when I'd leave, Sarah would stand on the verandah with tears pouring down her face, begging me not to go. I would get so upset that I wanted to yell at Angela, "how dare you ruin our lives like this?"
Last Sunday, even though it wasn't my day to see Sarah, I rang up on the off chance that she might be free for a few hours. As it turned out she had a party to attend near my place, and I offered to help Angela by picking Sarah up and driving her. I organised to go early so I'd get to spend some time with Sarah beforehand. An hour later I arrived at Angela's local library (since we had agreed to always meet on neutral territory), and Sarah swapped cars along with all her beach party gear. I loaded her and everything in and walked around the front toward my door. The road had a new wet patch which I sourced back to my car. I didn't want it to be what I damn well knew it was. Leaning in through my window, I popped the bonnet and walked to the front again. By this time Sarah had got out and joined me.
"What's the matter, Daddy?"
"See that water down there? I think the radiator's got a leak. Stand back while I open up the bonnet." My fingers found the catch and I slowly lifted, hoping that a hose had just worked loose. I propped the bonnet on its stand and bent down for a closer inspection. Sarah copied my pose.
"I think I can see some steam near that small hose there, but don't touch, 'cause it'll be really hot."
"So what's wrong, Daddy?"
"That hose has split and the water has leaked out. I'm sorry darlin', but I won't be able to take you to the party. We'd better get you back to mummy's, so she can take you instead."
I closed the bonnet and kept an eagle eye on the temperature gauge as we drove the two minutes back to Angela's new house.
Angela and Jack had bought the house less than a year ago, to start their new family. Sarah now had a baby sister, and I had heard from my grandmother that another one was on the way. I hated them for moving away. It meant that I saw Sarah much less. There had been two phone fights relating to it, and Jack had threatened to punch me in the mouth if I came near their house. So, when we arrived, I was unsure how to proceed.
"Sarah, can you run in and tell mummy that my car has broken down, and to come out to talk."
I helped her cross the road and she ran to the front door. I retreated to my car and waited. Angela came out with Sarah and approached me.
"What's the matter?" Angela asked.
"The radiators got a leak. I need to get it to a service station so they can take a look. I'm afraid you'll have to drive Sarah."
"Are you with the National Road Service?"
"Would you like to use my mobile to call them?"
This is where my memory of events becomes a bit vague. Mainly because, when Angela lent me her mobile, I was shocked. This was the kindest thing she had done for me in 7 years, and when she offered it to me, I looked at her. By that I mean, I really looked at her---at her face, eyes, arms, legs, and body. I took her in as a person for the first time in such a long while. Right then and there I knew the anger and hatred had to stop, because I felt something I had being trying hard not to feel.
I looked at Angela and I missed her.
Copyright ©1999 Mark Hansen. All Rights Reserved.
Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.