Eliza Barrett
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Black Belt Moms

Black Belt Moms

Chapter 1

1

“NO! FUCKING! WAY!”

My chocolate lab cowered in the corner taking cover under the lamp table from smashing knick-knacks and flying couch pillows.

“I hate that fucking couch!” I screeched. “That’s right! Rachel Elizabeth Jeffries – capital J- E – F – F – R – I – E – S, NOT Harris, hates that fucking couch!”

Dutch began to whimper when I threw the sliding-glass door open and headed for the shed in search of some menacing guy tool to take back to the couch. An ax or a chainsaw would have been great. What I found were some pruning shears and the lawn mower.

What the hell? Aren’t men supposed to keep sheds full of useless guy crap for home projects that they never do? I considered dragging the mower across the couch to shred it. It just seemed like too much damn work. Then I briefly thought about using the gas in the tank to set the thing on fire but the thought of a single steel toilet attached to the wall for community use stopped me. The pruning shears didn’t do nearly the kind of damage I was looking for. I gave up on getting revenge on the couch.

I slammed some clothes, a book and my toothbrush in a plastic bag teetering between fury and relief. I turned and smashed my shin on the coffee table and screamed every obscenity I could think of until the blinding pain began to subside to a more bearable ache. I decided to stick with fury for the moment.

I thought about the phone call that had just ended my marriage and that helped with the fury.

“Hey, babe,” he said.

“Hey, babe,” I mocked out loud.

“How’s your day going?” he asked.

“Just fine,” I said.

“Just fine, fuck you! I’m a whole lot better off now, prick!” I shrieked as I jammed his favorite shirt into the garbage disposal with a wooden spoon and flipped the switch.

“How’s the hunting trip going?” I had asked like a fool – stupid, naïve little fool. Man that almost burns me more than anything.

“Alright, I guess. Ain’t got nothin’ yet.”

And then my marriage ended. Right there and then when I heard a woman’s voice. I knew that voice. That slimy, backstabbing little whore was my soon-to-be ex-husband’s client. Some petite little PhD that makes everyone call her “Doctor.”

pfft. Doctor.

“Sounds like you’ve got quite a catch to me,” I growled.

“Shit,” I heard him say followed by a feminine “Sorry, hon” just before I threw the phone across the room.

“I knew it!” I shrieked, though I really didn’t. I knew she was after him though. I really thought the little home wrecker was just trying to tick me off. Some women are like that.

I was kind of numb after that. Wouldn’t you know that pitching the phone into the fireplace would hit just the right button to trigger the speakerphone? There was screaming and denials and apologies but at the end of the day I was packing my toothbrush in a plastic grocery store bag, right?

I sat on the ugly friggin couch in the living room that never felt like home and looked at a picture of myself and a man that felt like a stranger but, incredibly, was my husband.

I got a laundry basket and threw some of the kids’ toys and clothes in to it. I looked around at the house that I always hated. I had tried so hard to make it feel like home. All I could see was his house and he never felt like home either. I suppose I would have to stay at my parents for now. Oh God.

Fury and relief came to an overwhelming sadness and loss and I started to cry. I put my bag and the kids’ laundry basket in my car and came back in for the dog. I couldn’t get Dutch to pee on the ugly fucking couch so I spit on it on the way out. OK, so maybe the fury wasn’t totally dead yet.

2

“You can’t let him get away with it, Rach.”

“What does that even mean, Christine? He’s there. It’s done. I’m gone. Marriage over. What exactly am I not allowing to happen here? I. Have. To. Live. With. My. Mother.” each word punctuated by deeper sobs.

“Well, making it easy on him for one thing,” she whined. I was not in the mood for her whining.

“Huuunn!” Wow, even less in the mood for her growling, screechy thing.

“Jimmy’s getting his truck and Joey’s on his way. We’ll be ready in a few,” her husband told her leaning halfway in the doorway with the phone at his ear. It creeps me out how they always know what the other is talking about. It’s was like listening to one end of a conversation when you’re trying to shop and someone keeps yakking on her cell phone, except both people were in front of me.

“What’s everybody getting ready for?” I asked not really caring.

“Moving you out, hun. That fucker’s not getting away with doing this to one of my girls.”

Huh, I’m one of Jason’s girls. Who knew?

“We’re cleaning the place out. When’s he due back?” he asked.

“Well he’s supposed to be back tomorrow night but then, he was supposed to be hunting, not humping so what do I know?”

“Fuckin-A,” and he retracted from the doorway and disappeared. Where do men learn to speak?

I caught a glimpse of myself in the side of the chrome toaster and shuddered. I was a mess. I’d been crying for two hours on Christine’s shoulder. A rubber band had a tentative hold on most of my hair. The rest was sticking out at all angels. My skin was an awful color but I hoped that was at least in part due to the crusty brown whatever that was on the side of the toaster. I was half shot in the ass. Thank God the kids were away with my parents.

We were halfway through a bottle of tequila so I thought my head might not have been totally clear but somewhere in the recesses of my brain a red flag was waving furiously that clearing the house out might be a little rash. I mean, I was out. Game over. I already knew that she would not be able to get past adultery. I didn’t need to role-play, find myself or cry on Dr. Phil’s couch to know there was no way in hell that marriage would continue. Truth be told, it was over a long time ago. Nor did I want to spend another minute in that house, with that couch. Still, this felt a little hurried…and permanent. If Jason would stop buzzing around so much so I could get him into focus, I would have tried to reason with him.

“Uh…hun? Where exactly are you putting everything?” I called after him. The house was David’s. It was his before we were married. The contents were mostly his too. In one of my numerous unfinished projects, this one to get certified as a paralegal, I learned that I would be entitled to half of the appreciation of the house from the time we were married. Thanks to the tanking real estate market, that was shaping up to be a whole lot of not much. In fact, by that math, I might owe him money.

“I don’t even have a place to stay tonight  (except my parents – sob) never mind a house, or garage, or spare warehouse to put all the stuff,” I said.

“Jimmy’s got an empty apartment on Cedar Street right at the corner of Mill. We’ll get you back in the borough where you belong. It’s not the Ritz but it’ll hold ya for now,” he said pacing with his big work boots clop-clopping. I wondered at what point my life started spinning out of control exactly. Oh, right, that afternoon, on the phone, with the whore.

“I don’t know about this, Jason. I mean, I can’t stand the thought of spending another night in that house, but…”

“You don’t’ worry about it. I’m taking care of everything,” he said. Apparently Jason takes care of his girls. Where was he when I was trying to annihilate the couch?

Joey and Jimmy showed up and off we went. We tore the house apart, packed it up and moved it out like roadies packing up the stage after a one night show instead of packing up my home after a 10-year marriage.

I found a package of hair dye and left all his jeans soaking in the tub with it. Christine broke every last glass all over the kitchen floor and I’m pretty sure the guys peed on his mattress before they left but I didn’t want to look to know for sure.

The couch stayed.

Afterward we went to “my new apartment” and unloaded. By this time, we were all pretty loaded ourselves and we weren’t worried about David showing up so the process went much slower.

We managed to pack most of the contents of a four bedroom house into a two bedroom apartment and the result was, well, not the Ritz but it’ll hold me for now. It was past three in the morning before they all left and I was so exhausted and overwhelmed, not to mention drunk, I just passed out on the nearest mattress or heap of clothes or whatever that was.

3

When I woke up in the morning, my head throbbed and my mouth felt like sand. I rolled off of what turned out to be bath towels and a case of toilet paper and stumbled over piles toward the kitchen. I couldn’t find a glass but did come across a measuring cup and used it to slurp up some water.

My eyes were glued half shut and my hair was sticking to my face. It was hot. I needed a shower; a shower would wake me up. I didn’t know where the bathroom was. Oh right, back there.

Every inch of the place was hip deep in stuff so it took some maneuvering to get there. I pried a door open and found a closet. Then I really had to pee. I found a little trail of space and remembered that we dug that out purposely because it led to the bathroom. Thank God, I really needed a shower.

“Oh, man!” One look at the shower had me leaning over the toilet. OK, well maybe the night before had something to do with it, but the shower was enough either way. There was no way I could take a shower in there. There were fake nails piled up on the soap dish and that was the best thing about it.

I had to pee though, no matter how bad the toilet looked, and I got a good look. I didn’t even have the squat and hover maneuver in me. I just plopped down and sweet relief. I used the equally nasty sink without actually touching it as much as possible to clean myself up a little. No idea where my toothbrush was. I had it in a little bag. Damn, left it at Christine’s probably. That’s what I showed up with there.

Thinking back that far made me go back a little further and that’s when it first hit me. This wasn’t just some place I woke up at after a college party. I might have made some rash decisions yesterday. I moved to this dump. I moved here on purpose.

I had wanted to get the hell out before he got home so I didn’t have to look at his face. I wanted him to feel swift and dire consequences for his actions. I wanted him to have my foot up his ass and a visit from that woman that took care of her cheating husband with a meat cleaver, but I settled for taking everything and disappearing.

Sure, he came home to an empty house, no family, no furniture but a beat up couch and urine-soaked mattress, shredded clothes and broken glasses everywhere, but where did that leave me? I had to pick up my kids that afternoon. What the hell was wrong with me? Was I going to bring them to the apartment? I’d have to. I couldn’t take them home. I cursed myself for leaving the house. Why didn’t I just change the locks? What the hell had I done?

“Another one of Rachel’s famous catastrophic rash decisions,” I could hear my mother say. “No doubt spearheaded by that Christine character.”

I lost it right about there. I think it was the little pink dress on Becka’s doll that got to me. David had helped her get it from a crane game. We probably could have bought ten dolls for all the money he put in that stupid game to win it, but she had to have it. And he had to get it for her, no matter what. That’s what broke me. I thought of the days when we were a family and did what we had to do to make each other happy – no matter what.

I caught a glimpse of the doll’s dress peeking out from under a pile of household rubble and felt a kick in the gut. I looked around the room and saw the remnants of my home piled around me. I sunk down on a pile of coats and sobbed my heart out. I can’t say how long I was there. I know I had a king-size bed sheet next to me that I used for a tissue.

I got pissed and started throwing things, and then I was devastated and blew my nose in my bed linens. I was horrified at the condition of the bathroom and kitchen. The night before it was dark and we were drinking. In the morning, God turned on the ugly lights. I sat there, a big blob of snot and sweat and tears for another hour. I couldn’t begin to imagine what to do first and I didn’t care.

I walked around in stunned disbelief at the result of the events of the previous 24 hours. It was 11:30. My mother was expecting me at four to get the kids. David was due back at six.

He was going to flip out.

Well, he was just going to have to flip out.

Who did this him or me? I believe he was the one out finding greener pastures. That brought on a fresh wave of blubbering.

David and I had our issues without a doubt. There were times, quite a few of them, that I questioned whether our marriage would last. I didn’t think it would. There were times when I even wished he would leave or do something stupid so that I didn’t have to be the bad guy. You’ve got to question the state of your marriage when you hear a car in the driveway at four in the morning and you sort of hope it’s a cop with bad news rather than your husband with another bad excuse.  I can’t believe that I could ever have hoped for this to happen. My entire life from leaving my dream job pregnant until now has been about my marriage and my family. It’s gone.

“No! No! No!” This could not be happening! I called Christine.

“You have to come over here. You have to bring the truck and the guys and we have to fix this!” I screeched.

“Calm down, Rach. I can hardly understand you.”

Is there anything so incensing as someone telling you to calm down?

“He’s going to be home tonight! We have to fix everything. We have to put it back. What the hell did we do, Christine? Why did we do this?”

“Because it’s too late, honey. He’s already home, with her. He wasn’t coming back. He isn’t coming back. I’m so sorry.”

 “How the hell do you know this? Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you let me come here if he wasn’t coming home? If he wasn’t going to be there anyway, why am I here in this shitty apartment?”

“I didn’t know until yesterday. Rob came over. He and David have apparently been discussing this for a while. He’s David’s realtor. He was coming over today to assess the house and list it. Don’t worry, I kicked him in the balls for you.”

The room was spinning. My head was spinning. How was all of this going on and I had no idea? How long was my husband planning to move in with this home wrecker and everyone but me knew it? How was my best friend kicking that jerk in the balls supposed to make me not worry about it anymore?

“OK, don’t kill me. I was trying to do what’s best for you.” Oh God, when I think of the things that have followed these words from Christine in years past. “I didn’t want you to get into a war over a house that you can’t afford. Now you’re both out and you can sell it. You’ll need the money.”

“He can’t do that. Can he do that? We’re married! I mean the house was his before we got married, but can he just do that?”

“You need to get a lawyer, Rae-Rae. Jason and I are leaving for the shore house tomorrow. We’ll be back after Labor Day. Call me if you need us.”

I started hyperventilating. I screamed myself hoarse, kicked randomly at stuff and punched the wall. I ended up back on my toilet paper with my king-size tissue. I sobbed those deep baby sobs where you don’t even draw breath for the longest time, then when you do, you just wail it back out in an explosion of pain.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. Well, really it was less than a year ago, wasn’t it? But I think I’ll remember that day like it was yesterday my whole life. I’m a little worried that when I’m old and senile it’s the only thing I’ll remember. They say people with Alzheimer’s can remember 40 years ago but they can’t remember what they had for breakfast. That’ll be me, strapped to a chair so I don’t fall out, urine bag hanging at my feet, oatmeal dribbling down my chin remembering nothing but that horrible day. I hate oatmeal.

4

I pulled up to the real estate office. And there they were, the lovely couple that make me want to puke. That is, the ones that were buying the house that my husband and I have lived in for the past ten years. Former husband. Almost.

He made arrangements so we wouldn’t have to be in the same room for this, he and I and the (vomit) doctor. Oh God, help me get through this. I’ve just got to sign a few papers. I can do that without crying. I can get through that without a psychotic episode. I was almost positive. Do they have to look so happy about it? Yes, hi, so happy to see you too. I was pretty sure that’s the message I was able to convey from across the parking lot. Maybe not.

I stepped into the office and was hit by a blast of arctic air. It was a momentary relief from the heat outside, too cold after a minute. I hate to be cold. It’s been a hot spring so everyone’s got the AC cranked up already. We just turned the heat off a couple weeks ago.

I walked down the hall toward the door where the buyers disappeared. I almost made it before a red curly frizz caught my eye on the other side. Through the glass window of a door I saw my husband, hand in hand with his, whatever she is. He’s giggling for crissakes. I stood there, between the two happy couples and was suddenly much less confident that I could get through this without a psychotic episode. The tears had already started. I swiped at them hastily with an overused tissue I found in my purse and took a deep shuttering breath.

I signed my name on about a hundred documents swabbing at snot and tears every ten seconds or so. I did what I had to do and got out of there. Within a month’s time, everything was divided in to two neat little piles on a stack of paperwork, signed, sealed, delivered, no longer yours. The divorce was final and the work of putting my life back together was to commence.

I managed to make pathways through the stuff to get to where we needed to go, bathroom for me and the kids, backdoor bathroom for Dutch, half-hearted trail to the kitchen. Mostly we ate out.

Thankfully, it was summer and I didn’t have to worry about getting the kids to school everyday. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it. They stayed with my parents for much of the summer while I stayed in bed and cried. I did manage to get myself a job at the nursing home where I volunteered. I had to once the divorce was final and David was no longer paying the bills. I had some money aside but not enough to live without working and he hardly ever made the payments on time.

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