We float alone together in the pool. Chatting and talking as we always do. The warm sunshine and bright blue skies, scattered with clouds, reflecting in interlocking shadows on the water. We get in the hot tub. I watch as she relaxes into herself, being the bubbly happy girl she is, talking laughing, making the doh face. We spend the afternoon together, and with the pirate, just an ordinary day. It ends as we go down to get an ice cream, delivering her retro chair to her new home. But bliss turns into drama as once again the bum works his own brand of dark magic. How dare she spend time in her bathing suit, in a hot tub with the pirate. Oh please I say. Oh please. How dare she say, I want to spend time with my family now and yours later, because your sister was being really bitchy to me. He generously leaves her truck in the driveway, her windows open, her keys by the door to the apartment, also unlocked and wide open. She is crying. I sit with her, I clean out her truck which is filled with half full bottles of premium sodas, several varieties. I can see where her money goes, cigarettes and cola and fishing trips out of town. I tell her the river is within walking distance, the creek a short drive away, 4 miles at most, the reservoir not much farther, chock full of fish.
She sits on the floor of her kitchen her face full of fear. You can do this, I tell her. You qualify for heating assistance, you qualify for food stamps, you work in a restaurant, you have me. I say, keep it clean your rent will go down. I have the cat, you have to pay this and this. Pick up an extra shift, work as a cashier in this store within walking distance two mornings a week, you will be golden. I see her fear and as I see it, I realize she will take him back. She cannot believe in herself.
We drive through the city streets, crowded with people, firecrackers and fireworks exploding around us, I dodge cars parked in odd places to view the displays, I dodge people in lawn chairs in the street. I call the police as she gets her things from his house, he manipulates her, I will throw your laptop in the street, I will throw your things to the curb. The police come, I see how fat he has become, on her dime. I see the stress in her face, his false accusation. How does a relationship come back from this, she asks. I see that it will. And my heart aches. She cries why did we get an apartment if he was going to do this? You have paid your month I say, do what you need to do to keep it.
We drive to get her friend on the other side of town. The well to do area has a huge display of fireworks that are bursting in the sky as we rise hills and fall into valleys. The moon is a giant bittersweet orb in the sky, it is more beautiful than the the flashing sparkling lights. They burst in front of it, but it outshines them all.
I read over her shoulder as she gets a text from him, my mom is still here. I tell her as I take my keys to go. If you take him back, I will stand by your side. If you don’t I will stand by your side. But know this, you can do it alone. I promise you, you can, you will see how much money you have without him spending it all.
Ironic that this is all happening on the fourth of July.
I am fitful in my sleep, I alternate between sleep and prayer and worry and when I wake my body feels brutalized, and I can feel the pull of the strain on my face. I have so much to do here, and now I wonder if every choice I make in this life is just one ugly mistake after another.
I ache, inside and out.