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The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 6
Matthew felt his stomach drop to his feet. His mouth went dry and though his lips parted to speak, no words came through. “Wha-what do you mean, we’re not working?” he asked her.
“Just what I said,” Kristel coldly told him.
“We can work things out, Kris,” he said, stroking her hair. As he was about to kiss her on the cheek, she turned away.
“Yeah,” she said with an inappropriate chuckle. “We can work things out. Just like we always do.”
“Yeah,” said Matthew, not detecting his wife’s sarcasm.
“Matthew, face it. We’re in a never-ending cycle. You get me upset with your reckless ways, you feel bad about it and you make it up to me with a dinner and a romantic night. Then you improve for a little while and then backslide to your old ways. What’s worse is, we can’t find a way out of this cycle. We’re trapped Matthew,” she tried to explain. “I’m tired of nagging and whining and complaining. I’m sure you are too.”
Matthew walked to the couch and sat down dejectedly. There was a long, tense pause between the couple and then Kristel tearfully said, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Matthew looked down at his lap and felt water accumulating in his eyes. His heart ached from the inevitable. Their marriage was broken and the one who usually fixed things had given up. Kristel wiped a tear from her face as it dropped from her eye. “We don’t have a bond anymore,” Matthew. “We can’t agree on anything. We fight all the time.”
Matthew nodded silently and Kristel noticed, seeing from her peripheral vision. “Oh, but I guess that we can agree on.”
Matthew let out a shuddering breath and looked up. He patted the couch beside him and gently said, “Why don’t you sit?”
Kristel shook her head and turned back to the window. Her eyes filled with tears again as she pressed her forehead against the window. “I don’t want to sit and I’m finished talking,” she said, struggling to keep her voice steady.
“So, that’s it?” Matthew asked.
Kristel looked at him wearily. “I don’t have the energy to argue anymore. I feel like you don’t take the things I say seriously sometimes. Things as simple as hand washing the dishes to save some money - why can’t you do it? You’re so… irresponsible.” She whispered the last word as though it was something blasphemous.
“You’re a good person but you really need to re-examine your priorities. You’re developing a gambling problem, Matthew, and the scary thing is, you don’t see anything wrong with the things you do.”
“I do,” Matthew argued.
“Then change,” Kristel challenged. “But you need to make this change on your own. I can’t have the kids suffer from your recklessness. So, either you move out or I move out with our kids.”
“Are we getting a divorce?” The word tasted bitter on his tongue. Divorce. He never thought he would be talking about such a horrifying topic.
“We can’t afford a divorce,” Kristel said. Matthew looked hurt by Kristel’s response. The thought that Kristel wasn’t divorcing him only because she couldn’t afford it struck his heart hard. Kristel turned back to the window and refused to look at Matthew again.
A few hours later, Matthew was sitting on the couch, making living arrangements with his bowling buddy, Rob. Rob had space in his 2-bedroom apartment and he was willing to allow Matthew to stay with him, at least until Matthew found a place of his own. Hearing this news, Kristel simply nodded and said, “I’m going to pick up Danny from school. Would you like to come with me?” She was already holding Kezia on her hip and the diaper bag was slung over the opposite shoulder.
Matthew was surprised that Kristel was talking to him. She had been so quiet the entire morning and the beginning of the afternoon. “Sure,” he replied. He stood up and followed her to the door, but he continued contemplating what had occurred in the hours before. Kristel buckled Kezia into the car seat and as she got into the drivers’ seat, she realised how deeply Matthew was thinking.
“What are you thinking?” she asked, turning on the air conditioning.
“Should we tell Daniel what’s going on, on the way back home or when we get home?”
“When we get home,” said Kristel, reversing out of the driveway.
“I think we should tell him in the car,” Matthew disagreed.
“Fine,” said Kristel.
Matthew looked at Kristel as though she was crazy. “Fine?” he asked. “That’s it?”
“Matthew, I’m tired of arguing. Do you want me to?”
Matthew shook his head but remained silent. “Just so you know,” Kristel began. “You will be the one to tell him since you’re so eager to.”
Kristel held her hand up commandingly and immediately apologised. “Eager was the wrong word to use. I’m sorry.”
Matthew nodded, accepting Kristel’s apology. Then, for the remainder of the brief trip to the elementary school, the broken couple was silent. An invisible wall parted the passenger and driver seat. Tension hung in the confined air. Kristel felt compelled to open the window from the amount of tautness accruing around her. She turned off the cool air and rolled down her window.
In less than 10 minutes, she arrived at her son’s elementary school. Daniel was already outside, waiting with his teacher and the other children. However, while the other children were chasing each other around the front yard of the school, Daniel sat quietly on the steps, chatting with his teacher, his book bag hugged to his body. He seemed very comfortable and happy.
“Well,” said Kristel, looking out the window at her son as the teacher pointed towards the car. She painted on her best smile and waved to the teacher. Daniel stood from the steps, waved to his teacher and began running towards the car. “Are you sure you want to tell him now?” Kristel asked Matthew.
Matthew also looked at his son as he approached the car. He twisted his mouth in an uncertain manner but didn’t respond to Kristel’s inquiry.
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