Chapter 33

Forever & Always

I had hoped the constant worrying would go away after we got married. After all, wasn’t that what I had been waiting for? And then we had Hailey, and a year later we had a mortgage in Copperdale, far away from everyone we knew. I was also pregnant again.

I loved my little family with an intensity that scared me, and it made my anxiety even worse.

Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and go to Hailey’s room, just to check that she was still breathing, and hadn’t been taken or hurt somehow.

I couldn’t go back to bed until I felt certain that she was fine.

In the mornings I woke up next to Samuel, wondering how much longer it would take before he was tired of me.

Or maybe he would fall in love with someone else. Or get in some sort of horrible accident or get sick and die, leaving me all alone.

I was constantly on edge.

Some days it felt like my anxiety sucked all the air from the house and even Samuel was struggling to breathe around me.

On those days, the fights got bad.

“I am not asking for much, Samuel, I just want you to spend a little time with your family sometimes! But you always put work first, like Hailey and I aren’t important! Like you don’t even care about us!”

“You’re being ridiculous, this has nothing to do with my work. This is about you and your own fucked up issues, Freya. Just like no amount of medals or trophies were ever going to make you feel good enough, there’s nothing I can do or say to convince you that I care.”

“You keep expecting me to manage all these feelings you’re having about random shit. You don’t just wear your emotions on your sleeve, you make them other people’s problem. My problem. And I can’t bring my bad mood to work, people depend on me. I’m a doctor, I have a responsibility to my patients, and -“

“I am aware that you’re a doctor, Samuel – because you never ever let me forget it! But you’re also a husband and a father and you have certain responsibilities here too!”

Yesterday had been pretty bad.

Samuel was quiet the next morning. I walked up to him as he was getting ready to leave for work.

“I’m sorry about last night. It’s just hormones. Promise you’ll come back.”

“Dammit, Freya, why are you so afraid that I’m going to leave you? Do you really think I’d give up on my wife, my daughter and my unborn child just because of a stupid argument? Do you not trust me at all?”

“You did once leave me for several years just because I wouldn’t kiss you.”

“Are you serious? That was a decade ago! We were fifteen, Freya!”

“I know, I’m sorry. I guess I’m just having my stupid feelings as usual. I’ll try not to bother you with them.”

“Freya, don’t. Please. Not now.”

“Listen, I promise that I will be back tonight, but right now I really need to get to the hospital. I’m already late.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Everything I did wore Samuel down, and I knew I was doing it, but I couldn’t stop myself. I needed him to stop me, to calm me down. I’d argue with him about things I didn’t even care about, just to have him look at me and tell me that everything was fine. To make him remind me, just once more, that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Only in bed were we in perfect sync. By now it was like a precisely choreographed dance, the same every time. We’d go to bed, turn off the lights. Most nights, we would kiss and say goodnight and then turn around, falling asleep with our backs to each other.

Occasionally, maybe once or twice a month, one of us would make the kiss linger ever so slightly, and then Samuel would move his hands down my body, making sure I was ready before entering me. On those nights, we’d fall asleep with our bodies pressed close. It was nice. And it was a break from the reality of what we had become.

But as I got close to my due date, even that stopped.

When Ivy arrived, I tried my best to curb the anxiety, fought to just enjoy my family.

I devoted all of my energy to Hailey and Ivy, did everything I could to be cheerful and shower them both with attention, making sure that Hailey didn’t get too jealous of her new sister.

Samuel doted on the girls as well, but by now the lack of sleep was really getting to us.

Everything in our life revolved around Hailey and Ivy.

At least the arguments died down.

We were simply too tired, often falling asleep in front of the TV at night before staggering to bed.

It was the closest we got to sleeping together these days.

I missed Samuel terribly. Even if our sex life had never been as… exciting as I had once hoped for, it had still been better than nothing.

But between the constant nightly diaper changes and feedings, his crazy work hours, and the lack of sleep, neither of us were really in the mood.

Often, both girls would be awake at dawn, and I’d take Hailey to our bed before going to feed Ivy. If we were lucky, Hailey would fall asleep again and Samuel would get a few more minutes as well.

When I came back to wake him up for work, I would sometimes just look at them for a minute. I loved them so much that it made my heart ache, but my mind kept racing with all the bad things that might happen to them.

I wanted to make it stop, but the harder I tried to ignore the thoughts, the more intrusive they became.

I was still trying to settle into Copperdale, it didn’t quite feel like home yet. But I wanted to make an effort, so I invited our closest neighbour, Amelia, over for tea.

She was a retired teacher whose husband had passed away a few years ago. Now she lived alone in a small house on the outskirts of the town, not too far from us.

Amelia was easy to talk to, and it was nice to have some grownup company for once.

She had three kids of her own, and several grandchildren, although they all lived pretty far away now.

She asked me how I felt about living in Copperdale.

I told her that I loved the nature and living near the water, much like where I grew up in Brindleton Bay, but I also told her a little about my frustrations, about how I felt lonely this far away from my friends and family, especially since Samuel was so rarely home.

Amelia clearly picked up on some of the things I didn’t say.

“Freya, listen. Sometimes marriage gets tough. My husband and I had 35 years together. And some of those years were hard, especially while he was enlisted and the kids were little.”

“But even if we had maybe as much as ten difficult years, that still means that 25 of them were wonderful. And those are the ones I remember.”

She was right, of course.

As we were saying goodbye, she took my hands.

“Freya, you have a beautiful family. It will get easier, you just need to hang in there. And call me if you ever need to talk, or need someone to watch the girls for a while, I would be happy to help.”

“Thank you, Amelia. It really means a lot.”

I tried to stay positive, telling myself that it would get better. But as the months passed, things didn’t improve.

Samuel was understandably drained when he came back from the hospital after yet another 16 hour shift. Sometimes he didn’t even reheat the leftovers I’d saved for him, but just ate his dinner cold in the kitchen at 2 AM.

On nights like that he would just pass out on the couch instead of coming upstairs.

On the days he managed to make it to bed, it probably wasn’t much better. The girls would often get up during the night and it was easier to just let them sleep in our bed instead of wasting time making them go back to their own.

The vegetables are strictly ornamental.

Not only were we exhausted, but we also kept running into another one of what Samuel simply referred to as my issues.

“Do you really have to, Samuel?”

“It’s just a glass of wine, Freya.”

“You say that, but why do you have to drink it?”

“Because I enjoy it. And this one pairs well with steak.”

“There are other enjoyable beverages in the world, why does it have to be alcohol?”

“It’s not like I drink it to get drunk, Freya! A single glass of wine every other week will hardly put me at any risk for alcoholism!”

“I just don’t see why it’s necessary…”

“It’s not, Freya, that’s the point. If it was necessary, I would have a problem. Can’t I have just one thing that I enjoy for no reason around here?”

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to cling to him, keep him in my arms forever and set everything right, but instead I found myself pushing him further and further away.

Samuel was the logical one, the rational one, the one asking if we could please not do this in front of the girls.

I knew that I was pushing his buttons to get a reaction, to see his cool and collected façade finally crack, but it never did. Even when I felt myself dissolving into desperation and tears, he kept it up.

He would look at me like I was a patient and he was my physician, calmly explaining to me that I was hysterical and things would be fine if only I would trust him to help.

Always so professional when he put on the doctor face. I hated it.

He didn’t understand the problem. Having a bit of wine often made him flirty, and I just… couldn’t. I missed him terribly, needed his touch, but when he came to bed with the combination of toothpaste and alcohol on his breath, I wanted to throw up. Sex was definitely not happening.

The rejection always frustrated him, of course. I had tried to explain that I just didn’t like the smell of alcohol on his breath, that it made me not want to kiss him, but he accused me of overreacting as usual.

He seemed to suspect that I was withholding intimacy as some form of punishment and started preemptively sleeping on the couch after having a drink. As if he wasn’t allowed in our bed just because I wouldn’t kiss him.

Who is withholding intimacy now, Samuel?

Some days the thoughts would assault me the minute I heard the car leave the driveway in the mornings. He was going to leave me, I just knew it. Any day now. He said he loved me, but did he really? He felt so distant, closed off. I could never quite reach him.

Had he actually stopped loving me during those seven years after I first rejected him? Or had he maybe fallen out of love with me after we got married? As the days became filled with work and diapers, the nights too filled with crying babies to risk making any more?

Maybe he was just going along with it. Out of pity? Or for the kids?

I thought back to the women he had dated before me. Did he ever lie awake at night and wish he’d picked one of them instead? Maybe someone less neurotic. Less emotional.

Once more I found myself wondering if he would have chosen me, given a second choice. We said ‘I do’, we made a promise to each other – forever and always.

But if he could start over, knowing what would happen to us, would he still be my husband?

Or would he be happily married to someone else right now?

Someone who had their shit together.

Someone who wasn’t me.

It felt like I knew the answer.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 33

  1. I found this chapter very hard to read. Unfortunately, I have known several people in my life who have chosen the path that Freya takes and it has ended with them taking their own lives.

    Neither Samuel nor anyone else is responsible. You can find explanations and feel sorry for her because of her broken past, but that is no help.
    I feel like shaking Freya and telling her to take responsibility for her own healing.
    I know I’ve been very unpopular on that point of view before, but trust me when I say that healing only begins when the self-blame and self-pity stops. I’ve been there myself.
    I have a feeling Freya is already aware of this, so that gives me a little bit of hope.


    • You’re right! And this chapter was meant to be hard to read. I promise that no one in my story will ever commit suicide, though. I have very few topics I stay away from, but that is one of them. (Most of my characters find other ways to be self-destructive, such as Eric’s drinking. And Freya will also find her own way of messing things up.)

      What Freya really needs is therapy, and, as you say, taking responsibility instead of making Samuel responsible for her well-being. Let’s hope her dad Eric knows a good therapist…

      Liked by 1 person

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