VII. THE HOUSE OF CARDS COLLAPSES
Everything went fine for the first few years. Charles Sidney was born nine months after Connie moved in. then, after Charles was born, we waited for almost a year before any more sexual intercourse. Then, nine more months passed and Samantha Lynne was born, and I had my tubes tied. Of course it had been agreed to previously by both Connie and I. We felt that we had more than enough children. We didn’t need anymore.
Things were going along fine until the day I awoke to a day of nonstop pain and fatigue. It was too much for me to bear, so I went to Dr. Jeffries’ office. He gave me a complete physical, searching for any clue as to what was ailing me. Blood tests became a weekly thing as he searched for the illness that was stealing my energy away. Still, he could find nothing. But, he admitted that he knew that I was ill. It wasn’t just in my head. There had to be something wrong. A vivacious woman such as myself doesn’t just make up an illness and then fade away before everyone’s eyes. No. It was a real illness, whatever it was.
With every blood test, nothing new was discovered. With every passing day, I felt lousier. The fatigue and pain had no end. Some days reminded me of what my mother went through in her last days of life…perhaps that was my problem. Nah, besides…it wasn’t inherited. Or was it?
I no longer had the energy to go to the office and work, so I stayed home. Poor, dear Salina went to my office and gathered my work up and brought it to me. Kaylee, my dear, sweet confidant did all she could to help me with my workload. Sara, as kind as she was, struggled to keep all of us from mental exhaustion. Even Colleen pitched in as much as her schedule would allow. Overseeing it all, Hellena made sure we ate.
Not once did I hear them complain. Not one grumble of displeasure escaped them. They utterly refused to do so. They were merely being themselves…selfless, loving, and kinder to me than I could ever be to myself. And their selflessness made me feel horrid about the way I was treating myself, but I couldn’t bring myself to be that kind. I felt I deserved the punishment I heaped upon myself.
I was determined to deprive myself. I imagined that I had to. It was the only way I could pay for my fancied crimes. I was so wicked, I thought, that I deserved everything I was doing to myself. My fatalistic view of life, and everything specifically dealing with mine, was the driving force behind the changing that was beginning to take place within my attitude and way of treating my friends.
Indeed, I’d begun to become unbearable. My coldness and miserable moping was becoming intolerable. I was becoming impossible to be around. It was as if I was purposely trying to deprive myself of friends, and indeed—looking back—I realize that I was. I could not bear the thought of anyone wanting to give of their time and love to me. All I could see was that I was unlovable.
One by one, I ran them off. First to stop coming was Hellena. She often began to excuse her absences by saying that she was too busy at the office. But I knew why. I knew that I’d been treating her in a deplorable manner. I had been pushing her away, ignoring her, making her feel as if I didn’t want her around. And, indeed, I didn’t.
Then, Sara stopped coming. And, then, Kaylee. And, then Colleen. And, then, Salina. Of course, the men whom I’d known had quit coming around after they’d gotten all they’d wanted from me…all except Connie.
Connie refused to leave me, no matter how deplorable I got. The more I abused him, the more he seemed determined to stay and weather the storm. He simply wouldn’t let me go on alone. No matter what I tried, he remained my only companion. He continued to hope for the best when, all about him, it seemed that there was no end to the hell I could put him through.
I had finally accomplished what I’d tried my hardest to do. I’d run off everyone, so I could die alone. I decided that I could tolerate Connie’s company in my last days, so I softened toward him. I allowed him to get closer to me. I begged his forgiveness for the way I’d treated him. I allowed how I now realized that he truly did love me…or he would’ve left me a long time ago, when I began mistreating him. He only smiled, kindly, and hugged me tightly. His kiss upon my lips told me the whole story, though.
He’d stayed for more than just his love for me. He’d stayed because he’d seen through my feeble attempts to divest myself of all those who cared. He had seen that he just had to wait me out, and then I would come to my senses and see that I needed at least one person at my side until it was all over. And he wanted to be that person.
I, of course, felt ashamed of myself. But he wouldn’t let me dwell on how I’d wronged him. It was as if he’d automatically forgiven me. Still, how could I ever forgive myself? I, personally, had perpetrated these crimes. I, alone, was responsible. I had to pay for them, somehow.
I had to pay for the way I’d treated all of my friends. This was how I now felt. The remorse was too great for me to bear alone. Connie, like the good little trooper he is, stepped in to help out in ways I could’ve never asked him to. And it made me love him even more.