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Authors: Carey Heywood

Stages of Grace

BOOK: Stages of Grace
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Stag
es of Grace

 

 

A NOVEL

 

by

 

Carey Heywood

 

~*~

 

Stages of Grace

Copyright 2013 by Carey Heywood

Cover by Okay Creations (www.okaycreations.com)

Edited by Yesenia Vargas

 

ISBN 978-0-9887713-5-2

 

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via other means without the permission of the publisher
is illegal and the punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

Stages of Grace
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

For my Emma Grace, never settle.

 

 

 

Stages of Grace

 

 

 

Denial

 

a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal

problem
or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality

-Merriam Webster

 

 

 

Sometimes I wonder if the past I'm trying to preserve was even real. That it actually happened and I haven’t created this fantasy in my head of what we were. We were good. We were happy. I believe it so fully I can almost taste it, like that one perfect bowl of ice cream topped with whipped cream and pears that I shared with my father at an out-of-place French-style bakery that closed its doors only months after opening. Jon and I were happy once, and the certainty of that fact, the memory of what we were, was the only thing keeping me from…From what? Leaving? I had nowhere to go.

It was a Thursday, the day the doctor’s office I worked in stayed open until seven. That with my forty-five minute commute gave me the hope that maybe, just maybe, Jon might be out when I got home. Five minutes from home, I turn the radio off. I'm not sure when I started doing this, but the silence calms me, helps me prepare. After maneuvering into our assigned spot, I glance up at our second story apartment. My shoulders sag when I see the light on in the front room. He's home.

After killing the engine, I sit for a moment, listening to the random pop and hiss from the engine as it stills. Maybe tonight will be different, maybe he'll be back. It's cold out, and the inside of my car is already noticeably cooler. Collecting my things from the passenger seat, I hurry up the walkway to the stairs that lead to our second story apartment. I take the stairs slowly, l
ooking out for any slick spots.

Before putting my key in the lock, I force a false smile, opening the door with a cheery, "Hello, honey."

"You're late," Jon is sitting with a book in the leather armchair by the sofa. The TV is on, but the volume is barely a hum.

My smile falters. "It's Thursday, Jon."

"I know what fucking day it is, Grace." Why does my name sound like a curse? Jon stands quickly, forgetting the book in his lap.

I watch it as it falls to the floor, his place lost. "I only meant—"

"Oh, I know what you meant. You think you're so much smarter than me." Jon reaches down to retrieve his book and storms back to our bedroom.

I stand there, the pounding of my heart a roar that slowly fades as my breathing stills. I hang my purse on a hook by the door before walking into the kitchen to rinse my Tupperware lunch container. I keep one eye on the bedroom door and the stream of water low as I do this in case Jon comes back out. As I set it on the drying rack, I catch myself looking around the apartment, thinking back to a time when I was so happy here. Jon had been let go from his job the year before. Before that, I had been so certain we were happy. Now I wasn’t sure if I knew Jon at all.

He was originally from New York, that's where his family still lived. After he lost his job I know he wanted to move back, but he stayed in Cleveland for me. We met at a bowling alley. I was on a disaster blind date and was trying to figure out a good excuse to end the date early. That's when I saw him. I can still remember how handsome I thought he was from that first moment. He was tall, with wide shoulders and short dark brown hair. He had a strong jaw and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. He was captivating. He had been bowling with a group of friends a lane over from us. When my date got up to go to the bathroom he caught my eye and said hello to me.

The maroon and gold plastic chairs of his lane backed up to mine. He was sitting in the corner chair, the one that looked straight out at the pins. I was sitting facing the other chairs. His arm was slung over the chair behind mine. When he said hello I jumped, and his fingers touched my arm as he apologized for startling me. The heat from his touch felt like a brand, like he had marked me. When he asked if my date was my boyfriend I groaned and rolled my eyes telling him it was a blind date. He leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest and said I was not the kind of girl who should be going on blind dates.

I had asked him what he meant by that, and he moved over to the chair right behind me and told me blind dates were for girls who didn’t get asked out face to face. Jon was charming and talked me into leaving my date that night for him. When my date came back Jon told him that we were old friends from high school and asked if it would be okay if I hung out with him to catch up instead. My date seemed relieved, and when he left there was no talk of another date. Jon left his friends, and we sat at a small table by the bar. I could still picture us. My hair had been longer then.

I cut it not long ago, excited to try something different. He flipped. I had never seen anything like it.
Full-blown anger, over hair. When I started crying, Jon apologized, pulling me into his arms. Moments before, I had felt so beautiful with my stylish new haircut just shy of shoulder-length, I had been so excited for Jon to see it. I was growing it back out now. It was taking a long time, but it was now past my shoulders.

My eyes flick back to the bedroom door, and I exhale when I see the light is turned off. He's gone to sleep. If I am lucky I can slip into bed without waking him and be gone to work before he woke the next morning.

Tomorrow is Friday. Most people who work during the week will be thrilled and greeting each other with “Happy Friday.” It is my least favorite day at work because it means I will be home Saturday and Sunday. I used to live for the weekends, for curling up with a good book or taking a day trip somewhere fun. Nowadays, weekends seem like staring contests until Jon finds some reason to scream at me. It doesn’t even matter if I am playing his game or not.

It wasn’t like this the first month Jon was out of work. He had still been actively applying for jobs and doing extra chores around our apartment since he was home during the day. Jon would cook elaborate dinners and go buy flowers for me. He would meet me at the door with a kiss and ask me how my day had been.

Now, he had barely talked to me in months. After that first month, his severance package ran out. Still undeterred, he continued applying to places with the hope of some response. He managed to get called back three times that month for interviews. Each time, he heard nothing afterward. With my job I was barely able to cover our apartment and my car payment. Jon filed for unemployment when it became clear that without it his car was going to be repossessed. He was on unemployment for six months until his claim ran out. Ever since then, Jon had become more hostile and withdrawn.

I learned the hard way that certain questions would set him off. Had he applied anywhere? Had he heard back from anyplace? How was his day? These were some examples of potential minefields. I slowly stopped initiating conversations to avoid setting him off. It seemed as though even hello wasn’t safe anymore. When his car was repossessed last month, it had been especially hard. Jon was so angry, and the only one he had around was me. Three months into his
unemployment, he had stopped talking to any of his friends. I was the last thing he had any sort of control over.

I ate a sandwich and set my plate in the sink to wash the next morning before going into the bathroom to wash my face. There was less makeup to wash off these days. Jon had accused me of “painting my face to try and find a new man.” Since then, I had just about stopped wearing any. I was thankful I wore scrubs to work as Jon could not find any fault with those. Every
day, scrubs, insulated Crocs, blonde hair up in a tight bun, and almost no makeup. One time, washing my hands in the bathroom at work, I had looked up myself. It seemed as though I had aged ten years overnight.

I grabbed the pajamas I kept in the bathroom and quietly changed in there before turning off the light and going to bed.

Jon was on his side of the bed, his back to me. I slowly eased into bed, careful not to disturb the sheets or comforter. I slept on one side, my back to his, holding the edge of the bed. It seemed almost impossible for there to be any more free space between us. It was hard not to think back to the days when our love was new and exciting. From that first night at the bowling alley when Jon had come up with a plan to convince my date that we were old friends and that I was going to stay with him so we could catch up. I could not even remember the name of the guy I had been on a date with. I could only remember Jon.

Jon's plan had worked; my date had left, and Jon had ditched his friends to buy me a beer at the little food counter. I had no intention of letting him take me home, I was going to have a girlfriend swing by and pick me up. Jon was fine with that. He just wanted my telephone number so he could call and take me out sometime. I can still remember how attracted I was to him, how my stomach flipped when he had asked me to stay with him. I still hoped we would return to those days.

The buzzing of the alarm on my phone wakes me the next morning. I hurry to turn it off before it wakes Jon. When he moves I freeze, holding my breath until I hear him rustle again, exhaling when it is clear he is still asleep. I rise slowly from our bed and tip toe to the bathroom. I take my shower, then get dressed. After pulling my wet hair up into a tight bun, I brush my teeth and walk out to the kitchen. I pack my usual frozen lunch and a yogurt into my lunch bag and grab a granola bar to eat in the car for breakfast. After slipping on my Crocs and heavy winter coat, I take my purse and keys off of the hook by the door and quietly leave the apartment.

In the past I would race down the stairs to my car and start it before running back up the stairs and into the apartment to wait while it warmed up. Ohio winters sucked, and I dreamed of the day I could afford a remote starter. These days, I waited in my car while it warmed up because of the one morning coming back into the apartment I had woken Jon up.

I had been standing in the foyer giggling because I had just completed some Olympic-level maneuvers on our slippery stairs and had somehow managed to not fall on my ass. Jon came roaring out of our bedroom, screaming at me for waking him up with the door and then my giggling. I had stood there sobbing, trying to explain, trying to apologize. It didn’t matter to Jon. From that day on, I waited in my car.

As the car warms up I wiggle my toes to keep them from feeling so stiff. I have the defroster on full blast, and once the
windshield and back window are clear enough to see out of, I reverse out of my spot and drive to work. We live in the suburbs of Cleveland. My office is closer to downtown. My favorite part of the commute is crossing the Cuyahoga River. The river reminds me of my parents.

As I approach the river I make sure I'm in the slow lane. Each morning, the river looks different. The trees lining the banks shed their last leaves weeks ago, the water ref
lecting the bare branches above. Some mornings, I can barely see the water as a swirling layer of mist obscures it. Something about the river centers me and has a calming effect. The fact that it is also the part of my commute where my toes seem to thaw out may also have something to do with it.

When I get to work I start my computer before grabbing my water bottle from my desk and taking it and my lunch bag to the break room. After putting my lunch bag in the refrigerator, I’m filling up my water bottle from the cooler when my co-worker Nikita comes in. Nikita is twenty-two and some
what of a partier. With her come the obligatory big plans for the weekend question. I have no idea why she still even asks. Maybe it is out of politeness, but either way, my answer is always the same.

BOOK: Stages of Grace
13.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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