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Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and now they had lost complete control of their marriage. Ever since the day Ariel was burned, Joe had stopped getting close to her. She had no idea what had happened to him because now he didn’t bother trying to comfort her. He would come home from work, completely exhausted and head straight to the dining room table to work some more on his lap top. They hardly ever went to sleep at the same time, and they hardly saw each other when they woke up.
It had been going on, quietly, for some time now and Ariel hadn’t spoken about it with Joe. They stopped communicating about their relationship now, and lived together as if they were just roommates. She tried waking up early to cook him breakfast, but he always complained about not having time to eat and that he’ll grab something on his way to work. Things started getting worse when he took time off their weekend to work overtime. He was consumed with work and Ariel had to brunt the worst.
Ariel had had enough. Forget being understanding, she thought. She wasn’t about to lose her husband to his obsessiveness. Tonight was their anniversary and even though he had forgotten birthdays and holidays, she wasn’t going to let him forget this even if she had to drag him away from his computer with the jaws of life. He wasn’t going to miss this. She set up a nice dinner for two at home, wore a new dress she bought a few weeks ahead of time, and waited for him like she always did to come home.
Time ticked away and he was late, as usual. Ariel was beginning to think he wasn’t coming at all, but she had to encourage herself. She had already reminded him in the morning that it was their anniversary, just in case he thought it would be wise to work overtime. She checked the clock and her heart sank, he wasn’t going to make it on time. Blowing on the candles, Ariel sat back on the seat and waited for him. This time she wasn’t planning on eating until he got home, whenever that was.
If it hadn’t been for the previous times he’d missed, she would have cried, but this time the bitterness was in his insincerity towards her. She knew what it meant to marry a man who was the bread winner of the family, she just didn’t know that it meant she wouldn’t have a husband. It was near midnight; a few more minutes and she’d return to her former life pretending that their anniversary had never happened.
By the time he came home, she had fallen asleep on the dining room table. Joe accidentally slammed the front door shut, in haste to get to bed and hopefully forget the day had ever happened. He was so exhausted that he didn’t even see Ariel drowsily approach him. Obviously upset, she turned to look at him, hoping he’d see how angry she was but instead she held back. As he swung his coat on the floor and slammed his brief case on the table. She knew it was best to hold back this time.
“Hey,” she called him. “Are you okay?”
“Do I look okay?” he snapped. “God, it’s near midnight! Why aren’t you asleep?”
Taking a step towards him, she put a hand on his shoulder. “I was waiting for you.”
“Don’t!” he suddenly flinched at her touch. “Don’t touch me, don’t do anything!”
“W-What happened?” she asked, worriedly. Something was wrong and it had nothing to do with missing their anniversary. “What’s wrong?”
Joe glared at her, shook his head and said, “nothing.” He walked up the stairs, pounding each step he went and Ariel could feel the uneasiness he left behind.
She went after him, walking towards the bedroom as he started to undress in the middle of the room. “Do- do you want to talk about it?” He didn’t say anything, but she could tell he had trouble when he couldn’t get some of the buttons to unbutton. His exhaustion hadn’t settled and his irritability began to kick in when he gave up on the buttons and started with his tie.
She saw how frustrated he was and if he had tugged any more, he probably would have choked. So she rushed over and offered a hand. “Here, I can help,” Ariel smiled, hoping to calm him down.
“Stop,” he cringed as she worked on his tie. She had almost gotten it off but Joe was already steamed. For some reason he didn’t want her to keep helping him. The closeness was too much for him, all he wanted was for her to back off. “I said, STOP!”
She felt his hands wrap around hers, and then a strong push came afterwards. Ariel ended up with her back against the door and a stinging pain rippling from her body to her core. For a few moments, there was silence and no movement from either of them. Ariel took a breathe and kept her hands to her chest. By the time she let the breathe out, a pool of tears gathered in her hands.
She didn’t get a chance to look at his fear stricken face, when she grabbed for the door knob and ran out of the room. He chased after her, but was too late when she slammed the guest bathroom door in his face. The only way to drown out his pleas and her cries was to flip on the vent. Joe began pounding on he door, desperate to fix the mess he had made, and fearing she would never open up again.
Ariel backed away from door. She could still hear Joe screaming from the other end. Her knees gave in first, and then her whole body toppled onto the floor as she cried, hoping that she’d be able to let it all out now. The hands that pushed her away was not from the man she loved. The feeling she felt when she hit the door, was not pain brought on by her husband. This man-she did not know. This man…she had spent too much time with and she had had enough.
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