He was standing close, leaning in to her. Some part of him was aware that he was threatening her, that she was too weak to defend herself and that he ought to step back. But he ignored that voice. He smelled of the cigarettes that he thought she didn’t know about.
‘Why did you say what you just said?” He yelled.
She looked around nervously, afraid that the neighbours would hear. Always worried about the neighbours. And then that would open a rabbit-hole where he would then accuse her of being more worried about their public image, rather than his anger.
“Because its true,”
The words landed like acid, “Because I don’t love you any more.”
Even as her body was trembling, her voice was steady, finding the strength that comes from rock-bottom. Propping herself against the kitchen counter, she looked him in the eye, not blinking. He had to look away.
He let go of her and stepped back. A gut kick. Through all the years of fighting, the jealousy, the arguments about his parents and the imagined and real slights she had suffered, the number of times he had grabbed her and pinched her and choked her (but never slapped her, as if that allowed him some concession from entry into the wife-beaters club), she had never said these words before.
She stood up slowly, all the strength draining from her body as well. She had not meant to confess this to him, but couldn’t stand all the abuse, the threat of abuse.
‘Listen,….I didn’t mean..” She trailed off, her tongue tripping on the lie she wanted to say to make things better. But she did mean it. And now he knew it.
He stumbled out of the room, thinking. She always meant the things that she said.