I continued reading, yes the same page! I couldn’t believe that he actually left me at the airport. Should I have been surprised? No, ‘a leopard cannot change its spots . . .’ Jeremiah 13:23. Well I had taxi money, all I needed to do was wait.
I saw his car return some time later. Saving face I suppose. Neriah’s flight eventually landed. I knew it would be a while before she cleared customs so I took the opportunity to walk around and stretch my legs. I headed to arrivals when I saw passengers starting to come through to the outside. The tension in my face ebbed away when I saw her. You don’t realise how much tension your body stores when you are in a toxic relationship, until you have the rare occasion to genuinely smile or laugh. We shrieked, embraced and giggled. It had been years since we last saw each other. I was relieved that she was here. He would never want to be seen in a bad light, he would always want to be on his best behaviour which meant that for the duration of her stay I would have peace of mind and a little happiness.
He took the bigger suitcase and we followed him to the car. While he was putting it in the boot I indicated that she leave the carry-on at the side for him and that she should sit in the car. I took the handle and wheeled it to him at the back and turned to get in.
“What do you want me to do with it?” He asked. I was totally incredulous. I stared at him blankly. “You were well enough to travel here, you must be well enough to put it in the boot.” He was goading me. I was fuming. It wasn’t a matter of my ability to lift the carry-on case. It wasn’t heavy, but my Dr had warned me against lifting anything and he knew this. He also knew that if he struck the right nerve I would be less able to be congenial on the drive home because I’d be too wound up. I sat in the car and took some deep breathes. He came to his side of the car, his door was still open. He looked at me then at the case and back at me. “I think you forgot something” he said. I shook my head and gritted my teeth fighting the tears that threatened to expose my frustration.
“What is he talking about?” Neriah asked. “It’s not about my suitcase is it? Is he for real?” I couldn’t respond, at least not with a tear flood so close. “It’s ok Byooti, you just stay calm and take it easy.” He got in and off we drove.
Even without consciously trying to, the victim and perpetrator in a toxic relationship can so easily see everything as a win / loose scenario. I may have won the feud of being at the airport but I had lost at being a host. My plan was to point out the villages as we drove past them but instead I was angry. I was resentful that he always knew which buttons to press and irked at myself for not being able to pull myself out of it and play the good host. I was irritable that I had allowed myself to be played. Again. I kept swallowing hoping that at some point I could safely talk without the intimidation of tears but it never happened. For an entire hour I struggled. I’m so sorry Neriah, but I just can’t.
Winning and losing. I was making breakfast for the three of us. I was feeling so relaxed that I didn’t see him until he was standing right next to me. He leaned into my ear and said “I’m sorry. For all the wrong and hurt I’ve caused I apologise. I was wrong.” As he turned and walked away I felt sick. We hadn’t argued that morning so why was he apologising? What was he playing at? I sensed that I had been signed up into a new game but I didn’t know what it was. Again he was suddenly next to me and he repeated what he had just said then he walked back to the bedroom. Fear, panic, dread. I turned off the stove and followed him into the bedroom.
“I don’t know why you are apologising and I don’t know what game you’re playing but stop it. Whatever it is stop it. And I don’t want your apology because they mean nothing to me.” I headed back to the kitchen.
“Byooti! Byooti, I’m sorry, please forgive me.” He implored. Loudly.
“Stop apologising. You never apologise when you actually hurt me. You never even acknowledge that you’ve done me wrong. What is this all about?” But he just kept repeating his worthless confession. And then I snapped. Again. I clenched my fists at the side of my body.
Neriah stepped in. “Woah, what’s going on here?”
“Did you see that? Do you see how angry your friend gets? I was just apologising to her and see how upset she became. This is what I have to put up with. This is the wife I married. I love her but she’s always so angry all the time.” Ah, he’s looking for a sympathy vote. Good luck with that.
“I’ve known Byooti for a number of years. I’ve seen her annoyed on the odd occasion but I’ve never seen her angry, much less like this. Maybe you guys just need a bit of space to calm down and then maybe talk things over a little later. Byooti you go back that way. That’s it just go back into the kitchen and finish sorting breakfast.” I glared at him. The new game was to score points with Neriah. What part of that did he really think was going to work?
As soon as he left for work Neriah and I sat down to talk. “I know you’ve shared a lot with me about whats been going on, but I didn’t realise things were this bad. I’ve never seen you angry before. Is it always like this?”
“Yes. It feels as if we are always building up to an argument or just coming out of one. He knows exactly what buttons to push. Sometimes I’m ok and I ignore him, but other times I get angry especially when he talks about my family in the derogatory way that he does.”
“This is no way to live Byooti. Come back with me.”
It was her turn to be glared at. “Leave? I can’t just up and leave. I’ve got my job, my family. This is my country. I can’t just go.”
“But you can’t just stay either.”
“I won’t stay. I’ll be gone by Christmas. I’ve already started looking for places to stay.”
“Ok Byooti, ok.”
Over the course of that week we visited a number of tourist sites. We took numerous pictures, reminisced on old times and spoke about my present life. Overall, I hadn’t been this happy since I was newly married some eight months ago. I didn’t have much of a honeymoon period. As Neriah’s second week was drawing to its end I felt greyness creeping in. She would soon be gone taking the sunshine with her. As soon as she was gone I had no doubt that there would be countless arguments about everything I did and didn’t do, everything I said and didn’t say. Almost time to lose.
We were laughing so hard and loud that we didn’t hear the car pull up. He said hello as he entered. We replied, took it down some notches and ended the conversation. I dutifully came to him in the bedroom.
“How was your day?” I asked.
“What I don’t like is to come into my own house and be ignored.”
“But I did greet you. We both did.” Please, not another argument. Not now! I walked over to the bed where he lay. “Please don’t start another argument. You literally just walked into the house. You said hello and we answered you”.
“I am being disrespected in my own house.”
“Excuse me for interrupting,” Neriah said, “but maybe you just didn’t hear us. We did say hello to you. You’re probably just tired and have had a long day. Byooti, remember mum and dad want to see both of us. We might as well go now so that he can get some rest.” Neriah had such a calming effect. I thank God for her presence back then and ever since. We left and took the short walk to my parent’s home.
“You know that both your father and I worry about you everyday ever since you stepped foot in that man’s house?” I nodded. “What are your plans?” Mum asked.
“Well I figure at Christmas I will be strong enough to leave. I will find somewhere close enough to town so that I’m not spending a lot of money on transportation.”
“Ok, and what makes you think that wherever you are on this island that he won’t hunt you down and find you?” I didn’t have an answer for that.
Then Neriah looked at me and said “I said it before and I will say it again. Come back with me.”
My whole world collapsed in that simple statement. Mum was right. He would find me wherever I tried to re-settle. The island was too small for me to hide indefinitely. Neriah was right, my safety was in leaving. I would have to leave my parents, my sister, friends, relatives, my church, my job. The country I had always loved so well. I would have to abandon my entire life. Abandon it because I was naive and married badly. Abandon it because my safety came before my marriage. Abandon it because he was never going to change. Abandon it because I was changing and I hated who I was becoming. Abandon it because I was lost and needed to find me again.
“Ok, let’s do this.” I said. This was a costly mistake. Sacrifice. ‘. . . Assuring you, I’m in this for the long haul, I’ll do exactly what I set out to do,’ The Message Bible.