His head sunk into the pillow and he stared at the dark ceiling. All he could think about was how Jen would most likely leave him soon. And if he was honest with himself, he couldn’t blame her. He was out of work, out of shape, and out of money. If he couldn’t even manage to provide for himself, how could he expect any woman would want to be with him? He was barely a man at this point.
These negative thoughts swirled around and around in his head, but eventually his eyelids grew heavy and he fell into a restless sleep. And once sleep took him, so did the nightmares.
Images of his smiling wife took hold of his mind. She wasn’t smiling because of him, though. There was another man. A faceless, perfect man who knew all the right words and did all the right things. An able-bodied man who swept Jennifer off her feet and took her away. Ryan chased after them, panting and sweating and hollering. But no matter how fast he ran or how much he screamed, they were always just out of reach. She smiled as the man carried her in his strong, muscular arms—far away from the pitiful man she had wasted the last 16 years on. Ryan ran and ran, with his lungs on fire and his heart exploding with pain, but he never caught up with them.
Jen awoke to Ryan squeezing her arm. “What?” she snapped. Even though the room was dark she could tell he was asleep. So she slapped his hand away and rolled back over to her side.
Once again she felt his hand squeezing her arm, but this time his grip was weaker. “Quit it.” She shoved his arm away with more force than the first time. She thought about how she didn’t have the luxury of napping all day like some people. All she wanted to do was get some sleep, but the idea annoyed her enough to keep her thoughts flowing like an open tap.
After some time she managed to close her eyes again, but as soon as she did a hand fell limply on her shoulder. “What the fuck Ryan?” She rolled over and glared at him in the dark. All she could see was the whites of his eyes as he looked directly at her. “Quit fucking around. Some people have to work in the morning.”
With that, she grabbed his wrist and chucked his hand against his chest. The contact made a loud slapping sound that startled her. It was as if he didn’t try to stop it from hitting him. But by this point she’d had enough. So she buried herself under the covers and scooted as far to her side as she could. Ryan didn’t bother her for the rest of the night.
” He was all alone.”
The next morning orange rays of sunshine poured through the blinds, bathing Jen’s sleeping face in light. She woke up confused. The sun never came out this early.
Jen picked up her phone from the nightstand. It was 8:17 in the morning; over an hour after she was supposed to start work. “Fuck!”
After texting her boss that she was running late, she jumped out of bed and rushed to the bathroom. She took a quick shower, brushed her teeth, and dressed as fast as she could manage. The one thing she had grown dependent on was Ryan waking her up for work every morning. Looks like another thing he failed at, she thought.
She barely acknowledged his presence as she hurried about. How he could sleep through the commotion she didn’t know. Maybe he was mad about her not eating his shitty lasagna and decided to get revenge by not waking her up. It was all very childish, but she didn’t have time dwell on it. She would deal with him when she got home from work in the evening. With that, she hurried out the door without a word.
She stayed at work later than normal to make up for the time she’d missed that morning. When she got home it was already dark out, and for some reason all the lights were off in the house. Exhausted, Jen didn’t think much of it.
She was starving and was kind of hoping Ryan had made food. But much to her disappointment, he was already in bed when she got in and there wasn’t anything left in the oven or microwave. Then she remembered the lasagna. It wasn’t ideal but at least she didn’t have to cook anything.
She wolfed down a piece of cold lasagna—which tasted much better than she was expecting—and washed it down with a cold beer. Practically falling asleep on the couch, she changed into her night-clothes and went straight to bed—not bothering to so much as brush her teeth.
She fumbled through the dark and crawled into bed next to Ryan. The bed was much colder than she was expecting and she immediately felt like something was amiss. “Ryan?” she called out.
Her eyes had trouble focusing in the dark but she could tell something was wrong. She stared motionless at Ryan for several minutes. She couldn’t hear the sound of his breath or see his chest moving up and down. Her heart sank like an anchor.
With a trembling hand she reached out into the darkness. And just as she reached his cheek, she paused. All she could think about was how he kept squeezing her shoulder the night before. He needed her. He needed help, but she was too stubborn; too absorbed with the things going wrong in her life to realize he was suffering, too.
Jen placed her warm hand on his ice-cold face. 16 years. 16 years together and she had let it all slip away at the first major challenge in their relationship. Why couldn’t she see what she had before it was too late?
She placed her head on his still chest and cried silently in the dark. For the first time in 16 years, she was truly alone. She was all alone.
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