He watched from the armchair, draped somewhat awkwardly. He watched her finely boned fingers tremble while she packed away the last of her things efficiently. He stared as she shut her last suitcase resolutely, the trembling more evident as she took off her wedding rings. She smiled at the photo of her with their family, his children, even the beautiful little girl who looked just like her father. She’d hoped they could make it.
Resting them on the bedside table, her eyes drifted towards the armchair where she could always find the man who had been her life for the past eight years and was startled.
She began to work her mouth silently, not knowing what to say. “J-Jon.” It hurt to say his name, the name that’d been the sun and the moon to her. “Haley told me you had meetings today.” Her normally forceful voice came out shaking. He remembered how that husky voice had whispered to him in love.
Bloodshot, piercing blue eyes pinned her to the spot. She hadn’t wanted him to see this. She’d always love him. Richie had called her repeatedly, begging her to give Jon another chance, talking about how depressed he’d gotten, how he wasn't the same... “Jon should’ve thought of that before he had an affair. It was supposed to be in sickness and in health, Rich. I can’t have this conversation right now. It’s too raw. Let him deal with his own demons.”
Had she been cold? A little. But was she supposed to run back to him with open arms knowing that while their child was fighting for her life, he was out screwing her friend’s cousin?
She stared at the man who was once the picture of vitality. Now he looked gaunt and ragged, his blue eyes dull and lifeless. Tentatively, she rose from the bed that they’d shared for nearly a decade and knelt in front of him as he remembered making love to her there and the mornings where they’d romped with the kids. Arabella.
As she was removing the almost empty bottle of wine from his hand, his right thumb traced features he had memorized years before. She shivered at his touch and tried to mask it. He stared into jade green eyes which were glazed with tears, while his thumb drifted over her freckled, almost too straight nose. It continued on its path to the bow shaped lips that had enticed him upon their initial meeting and her proud chin. There the lock that she’d cut for Ara rested against alabaster skin.
“I thought I’d imagined you...” Jon watched her in wonder and couldn’t figure out why he’d ever strayed. “Oh God Giselle, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, baby. I never meant to...” Jon broke down, his hand clasping her now ringless hand.
Giselle noticed he still wore his platinum band and it hit her like a freight train. She felt nauseous, but tamped it down.
“Shhh... it’s over. It’s okay now.” It’ll never be okay... Over, but not okay, they both thought simultaneously. Giselle’s graceful hands cupped Jon’s haggard face, pressing her forehead to his, the closest she’d been to him in 4 months. Her touch was like a balm, and he calmed by degrees.
“Jon, it’s really over...”
“I can see that,” he snapped, not wanting to think about it.
“What I’m saying is that I’m not going to be here anymore, so you need to take care of yourself.”
She sniffed him, remembering David’s phone call imploring her to come home because he’d found Jon passed out next to the pool. Her reply was always I can’t. “You smell like a wine barrel. Promise me you’ll lay off of the drinking? This isn’t you.”
“You don’t know me anymore.” Jon said angrily.
“I don’t think I want to know this Jon. Clean yourself up. Someone will come get my car in the morning,” Giselle declared and dragged 3 bags to the door. “Nicholas is waiting for me outside. He won’t need to drive me, so he’s just going to help with this, and I’ll be out of your hair.” Giselle watched him slowly descend into despondency once more with sadness and irrational anger.
She marched back towards him and gave him the mother of all slaps. “Fucking Christ, Jon! You did this to yourself, but by God you won’t become this person because of me. You have children, pull yourself together.” When he didn’t respond, she tugged at him. “Get up,” she ordered with deadly intensity.
Giselle strode to the bathroom and turned on the water for Jon, automatically setting it to what he liked in the shower.
“Get in, get clean. I’ll make dinner.”
She sighed as she left the door ajar so she could hear him. I know I’ll never stop caring, but why do I still nurture him? This is his problem. She went down the stairs, feeling like a stranger as she opened blinds and windows, letting fresh air and light pour into the dark house.
Giselle went to the kitchen, finding things with ease. The room appeared to be untouched, and she was upset that he'd internalized everything. What kind of ex sticks around and makes dinner? She snorted as she chopped onions, tears coming to her eyes not solely due to the vegetable. Her hand rested on her womb as she stirred marinara sauce simmering in a pan.
Jon emerged as she was plating the food, looking much better than he did when she had seen him earlier. He was shielding his eyes from the sunlight. His craggy face was still unshaven, and he looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole. He watched the woman he loved, her beautiful face pale and her eyes, which always seemed to bore into his soul, surrounded by dark circles.
“H-have a seat.” Jon could hear the tears straining her voice and obeyed wordlessly. She set the table detachedly and placed a steaming plate of pasta in front of him. A bowl of steamed broccoli and a glass of water followed as Giselle frowned at how thin he was. “I saw the pizza boxes and the McDonalds bags, don’t even think of complaining about the broccoli. Eat.” Jon frowned at the bowl like Romeo would, she smiled inwardly, missing her stepson.
Giselle slid into the chair at the other end of the table, trying to keep as much distance between them as possible. There was tense silence throughout the meal that was only broken with Jon’s strained "Thank you."
She stood to clear the dishes and was deterred by Jon’s brokenly rasped, “Please talk to me.”
Giselle cleared her throat, stiffening slowly before she replied, “About what?”
“About everything,” he responded quickly.
“What’s there to talk about? You cheated, I buried our daughter, we split, I moved out: you need to move on.”
Jon laughed humorlessly, “Well, fuck, darlin’. Because it’s all that simple right? I didn’t lose her, too, right?”
“You sure as hell didn’t act like it,” she retorted coldly.
“You ever think that maybe the way I acted was my way of dealing with it all?”
“So Diamond Harris was a coping mechanism? She sounds like a porn star, was she good? I still don’t understand why!”
I promised I’d never show emotion to him. Never again.
“Because I needed you!” he yelled at her retreating back as she abruptly cleared the dishes and took them over to the sink.
Giselle gripped the edge of the stainless steel sink as her entire body tensed. “Well, I needed you, too. I was alone when she died. I had to watch my only baby...”
Before she could finish her sentence, she felt the bile rising in her throat. Giselle ran towards the bathroom off the kitchen, retching up everything she’d just had. She felt Jon’s hand rubbing the tense muscles between her shoulder blades while the other held her hair back.
For a second, she let him hold her weakened body before pushing him away, upset that she’d let him see her vulnerability once more.
“Damn it, why won’t you let me help you?” Their roles had reversed once again.