I practically fall in to my tiny dark office under the weight of the enormous box of surveys that I am carrying. I even had to use my elbow to open the door as none of my thoughtless colleagues felt the urge to offer any help. To add to my discomfort I am soaked through to the skin. My clothes are clinging to me like a cold, hard second skin causing me to shiver constantly, and my feet are sliding around in my flat sensible shoes causing my seriously blistered feet to bleed. Who could have known that such innocent looking shoes could be so painful? They feel as though they have built in razor blades installed in to them or something! Well they will be going straight in to the bin when I get home I vow dropping in to the chair at my untidy desk, and breathe a sigh of relief. I haven’t felt glad to be in this tiny, dark, cold office for a very long time! Normally I am awake long before my alarm goes off on a Monday morning. I hate my job so much that I lay there and silently cry until the dreaded noise tells me that I have to get up. It isn’t even just the market research job that I despise; I also hate the office and the vast majority of the people that I have to work with, and it would seem that they feel the same way about me, after all thanks to the invention of email and the telephone I should not have had to spend the last month standing outside of Lewisham Shopping Centre trying to get people to fill surveys in with me. That didn’t stop my manager sending me though.
I am struggling to find anything that I do like about my life right now. Nothing feels good to me anymore. Nothing feels certain or safe either. I have fallen out with my only actual friend because she cannot handle the fact that I constantly complain about everything in my life but never actually do anything to change the things that are making me so unhappy. She just blew her top one day six months ago and ranted and raved that she was sick of hearing about it! She told me to piss off and not come back until I have found some guts and actually done something, anything to improve even one area of my life! So under the watch of far too many strangers I left the pub we were sitting in and haven’t seen or even spoken to her since. I really miss Christine, more than anyone can ever imagine. My life is very lonely without my best friend. I have wanted to call her so many times over the last six months but I simply haven’t dared. I haven’t listened to any of her good advice and done anything to make my life better in any way so how can I face her?
The worst part is that she is right, you cannot keep complaining about your life but never try to fix or change the things that make you unhappy. I wish that I could be a clear cut as Christine but sometimes it just isn’t that easy. Sometimes it is too scary to tear your life apart and try to fix the aspects that are wrong, especially as just about everything in my life is wrong. What would I be left with? I am too drained and too tired to find the energy to do anything right now. I wish I did. I wish I wasn’t so gutless; so bloody lifeless, but sadly I am. I sob as I wallow in these thoughts. The saying ‘the truth hurts’ has never been more apt than it is to me right now. Sometimes I fear that I might actually drown in my own misery, and I really do know that I need to find a way to make things better.
Without any doubt the worst part of my life by far, is my failing relationship. I have been with Justin for 12 years. We went to school together but were nothing more than friends, however on the day that we went to collect our GCSE results he came up to me in the queue and announced right in front of both of our Mothers that the worst thing about leaving school was that he wouldn’t be seeing me every day anymore! He asked me out, right there and then in front of everyone! Although we had been friends I truthfully hadn’t ever looked at Justin that way before, but I was so in awe of his boldness that I immediately agreed to go out with him, much to even my own surprise. Suddenly his Auburn hair, green eyes and freckles became the most attractive things to me ever! I didn’t mind as much that he wasn’t more than an inch taller than me (happily he did have quite a growth spurt soon after that anyway) or that he wore glasses. Something about his charm and confidence wiped away any doubts that I had previously held about him and I became immediately smitten with him.
Being with Justin was wonderful at first. He was a very attentive boyfriend and showered me with love, attention and gifts. We were very much in love and everything was blissful between us at first. The day after my 21st Birthday we moved in to our tiny studio apartment together. I was so excited that we would be falling asleep and waking up to each other every day from then on. My Mother actually laughed when I confessed that I was really excited by the idea of cooking his meals and washing his clothes! Yes I do now realise how foolish that was, I have since learnt that nothing kills romance quite like washing a man’s pants and socks.
Remembering those early days manages to bring tears to my eyes as always. If I had have realised that once we lived together he would turn into a sulky, distant man who never came near me unless it was to complain about whatever I cooked and about the standard of my ironing I wouldn’t have moved in. Although we often wake up in the same bed he is rarely there when I get into it late at night, sometimes he doesn’t come home at all and reacts with such fierce aggression if I dare to question where he has been, that I don’t dare to ask him anymore. We rarely have sex and when we do it is over so fast and is so unloving that it actually makes me feel more frustrated than I was before the act, so it is actually a blessing when he leaves me alone, which he thankfully has been doing for a very long time. I know that I shouldn’t still be with him, I should have left long ago, but I just can’t be sure of what type of man I could end up with next. Better the Devil you know right? The next guy I date could be far worse and I just don’t feel brave enough to risk finding out.
I sigh wearily and try to push these miserable thoughts to the back of my mind. I really need to focus on my work. I have to analyse the finding of the surveys that I have completed and start compiling the report. However given that I am soaked, cold and miserable and that I only have a couple of hours left before I can escape for the weekend I persuade myself that there is no point in starting the report right now, so I find myself procrastinating with my favourite pass time. I pull up a blank email document and begin writing:
How should I put this? I don't know how to say all of the things I need to say to you right now. If I ever actually had the guts to send this, then this would be one of the hardest things that I had ever done in my life, but I admit that I haven’t exactly done very much with my life to date so I don’t really have much to compare it to. My lack of confidence in myself just seems to get worse and so I take all of the rubbish that life throws my way and do nothing about it. I know that it is weak of me and therefore the consequences are my own fault, entirely, but because of that my life isn't all that it could or should be. I am deeply unfulfilled and unhappy at work, in a couple of my friendships and most of all, in my relationship with you. I suspect that you already know all of this and just don’t care about my feelings any more, but if I am wrong and you somehow didn’t realise then I really want you to know that this is how I am feeling, and that I have been feeling this way for such a long time.
I know how gutless I am to do this by email, but I also know that it is the only way that I can say everything that I need to say, because if I were to do this face to face the words would escape me and I would probably just end up a blubbering mess, every time I have rehearsed this little ‘speech’ in my head I have just broken down and cried. I think that is mostly because I am so angry with myself for living this way for so long. I have written you endless emails and letters but have never, ever had the guts to send them. As I write this I honestly don’t know if you will ever actually get to read it, but it’s probably not likely.
Right now I am at work. I am sitting in my office, and I’m meant to be writing the findings of that shoe survey I carried out, you know the one, you have mocked me about standing outside of shopping centres and accosting people about their shoe preferences! Anyway I just cannot do it. My mind just blanks every time I try to focus on anything sensible because this pain and unhappiness is practically burning a hole in my brain and if I don’t finally do something soon then I might just go crazy. I won’t be able to think straight ever again until I do something to change my miserable life.
So I just have to get it done.
I am just going to say it! But how?
Justin, I don't love you anymore.
This relationship has got to end.
Sorry but, I want out.
Justin, I haven't loved you for the longest time-years in fact. I think that I first realised that I had stopped loving you at my sister's wedding. God! That has been about four years I think! Actually maybe nearly five years and I have simply been too gutless to say anything! That is seriously shameful. Anyway, there I was sitting in that stunning church watching my beautiful little sister walking down the aisle looking so radiant and so unbelievably happy. I can remember that her long blond hair was tied up showing of her slender neck and back. The sunlight danced on the diamanté on her dress, and the scent of those beautiful white lilies filled the church with their heady scent. That was the most perfect wedding that I have ever attended, and all I could think was 'please God, please don't let Justin think I want to get married. Don't let him propose'. Only my Mother commented on how much I cried at the wedding. She thought that it was because I was upset that you hadn’t proposed yet and assured me that you would soon. She was so confused when I burst in to tears again on hearing her assurances and fled from the reception. For weeks she kept trying to meet me so that we could discuss her concerns. I avoided her right up until Jess announced that she was expecting and then her mind was so happily diverted that finally I could breathe again! Fittingly you were too drunk to even notice that I had left!
Well, of course you know that you didn't ask me to marry you, and I was glad as I would have said no, but I also took note of the fact that my boyfriend of six years didn't even test the water to see if perhaps I might like to marry him, you never even made a single hint at all. Perhaps you don't really love me either. This letter might actually be a relief to you now that I think about it that way. Are you looking for a way out? If you are than all you have to do is say so and I will ‘let you go’.
I need to tell you that for a long time I have suspected that you have been cheating on me and I don't think that it is the first time either. There are so many reasons as to why I am suspicious about this, not least because you haven't touched me in six months, even though I am quite glad about that really, sex is horrible once you realise that you are no longer in love with your man! When we were first together we couldn't keep our hands off of each other, do you remember how much we craved each other? We were the most 'touchy feely' couple in our group. We were the only couple that seemed to be 'going the distance' too. Everyone said how good we were together. It feels like that was a whole lifetime ago now. These days most people who dare to voice their opinion about our relationship only have negative things to say. I just cannot understand how we have managed to go from one extreme to the other as we have, but here we are. I kept hoping and hoping that we would find our way back to the loving couple that we once were but I accept that this hope is dead now. I cannot see any way back for us now.
Of course lust fades over time and we all accept that, but you go through long periods of not even noticing me sometimes, and naturally it makes me wonder who has captured your attention. Let me tell you that the endless late nights at work and weekends away with the boys, new clothes and aftershaves and silences between us that spring up every 18 months or so, and last around six-eight months at a time haven’t gone unnoticed and don't exactly help to ease my suspicions either. This latest one seems to have gone on significantly longer than normal though. I definitely think that over a year has passed now and that makes me feel very nervous.
Do you love her?
Why is this one so special?
What does she have that I don’t?
Is she beautiful?
I can also see how preoccupied you are all of the time and you have become blind to me. Justin, I am not just talking about you not noticing my new haircut or top or something trivial, although you never do notice those things, but you sit in the room with me in such silence that anyone would be forgiven for thinking that we were strangers. You make me feel invisible. If I do force you into a conversation you just use it as an opportunity to sneer or mock me. Like with the survey. I have told you so many times that I am unhappy at work; I regularly cry on a Monday morning because I don't even want to go in! I feel like an unhappy school child and you never so much as ask me if I am OK! You didn't even notice that I had a black eye from falling out of the bath last month. It wasn't until that guy at number 40 quizzed you about it that you even bothered to ask me what happened! It's crazy that the loving, attentive man I started dating has changed out of all recognition. You have become completely unfeeling towards me; it is distressing to feel so uncared for. Why am I not worth noticing Justin? Just explain that one thing to me!
Long gone are our evenings out, or even an evening in with a curry and a DVD, you haven't remembered my Birthday for three years, our Anniversary for five years and I can't even imagine what excuse you could use for not buying me a gift at Christmas for two years in a row! Not that I made a fuss of course, but only because I didn't want anyone to notice. I felt so humiliated. The first time it happened we were with my family, I thought that perhaps you had bought me something special or intimate that you would surprise me with later, so you getting up and leaving straight after lunch really did take me by surprise. Mind you, my family were more than surprised when you claimed to be working! You didn't even make the effort to come up with a decent excuse. The only reason that I backed up this ridiculous lie for you was because I was so embarrassed in front of my parents. I should have left you that day. I wish that I had. I have never forgiven myself for staying with you after that. I don’t think that my Mum has either, she never even asks after you anymore and looks in pain if your name as much as come up in conversation.
I admit that it is crazy that I have stayed and tolerated this disgusting treatment for so long. I agree with anyone who says that I am a crazy, gutless fool, and there have been more than a few people who have said exactly that. But that is slowly changing. I have been using ‘self help’ books for a while and even though I never thought that they would work I actually feel a little stronger in myself now. I have been re-evaluating my life and have finally decided that I deserve more than this. In almost every respect I deserve more in life, and I am going to try to make sure that from now on I don't settle for less than I deserve. I am going to try to face the changes that I need to make: starting with us.
I will move out tonight, I have paid the rent for the whole of this month and what you do after that is up to you. Given that I have paid the full rent by myself for the last three years I won’t be worrying about paying for anything more, you can take the responsibility now and let’s face it, you earn almost triple the salary that I bring home so you can afford it. If your name wasn’t on the tenancy I would throw you out rather than leave, but I know you well enough to know that you would make it as difficult as possible and would refuse to leave, so I will go. Perhaps it would help me to make a fresh start to leave anyway as I won’t have to live in a place that has so many memories of you.
I hope that one day you fall in love Justin, and when you do I really hope that she treats you exactly the same way that you have treated me. I don’t hate you, but I do hope that karma makes you see what you have put me through for all of these years, perhaps then you will learn change, too late for me but it might save someone else from suffering this way.
I read the letter at least three times and then stare at the screen blankly. I know what I should do; what I really need to do. I move the cursor over the ‘send’ icon over and over again willing myself to press it and let Justin go. I fantasize about sending him the email for a second and wonder how he would react. My instinct tells me that he wouldn't really care beyond the annoyance of receiving it at work. I don't doubt that he would let me leave unchallenged and that would be it, finally finished. How would that feel? I ponder the possibilities briefly. I cannot even picture a scenario where he would even come back to the studio apartment to say 'goodbye', rather I imagine that he would wait until the coast was clear before he tried to return home.
This train of thought sits like a cold, heavy bulge in my gut. It doesn't feel good to feel that you know so absolutely that you are unloved. I feel that my pride, confidence and my womanhood have been completely eaten away until I have become unsure of who I even am anymore. These days I doubt absolutely everything about myself, who I am and what I can achieve in life are just HUGE question marks over my head. Most of the time I feel nervous and anxious for no apparent reason and I am fully aware that my absolute lack of confidence makes me an easy target in life. People really have started to take advantage of me and I have felt powerless to speak up for myself. I feel a failure. It hurts to admit this even to myself, but of course I know the truth.
Just for the fantasy as I continue to hover the cursor over the 'send icon' I try to imagine him getting the email and being devastated. What would I do if he suddenly realised that he wanted to save our relationship and rushed home with his arms filled with flowers and mouth full of apologies, promises to change and kisses? How would I react if he took me in his arms and wanted to make love to me? Would I let him touch me? Would I stay with him if he asked? Probably I sigh. I probably wouldn't have the nerve to leave if he did that even though it really is not what I want anymore as I am far beyond doubt that he would never really change in any meaningful, lasting way. It probably is just as well that he would never do that, not ever! Perhaps for the first time since we moved in together I should feel a tiny bit grateful for his total indifference towards me and our relationship.
I am so engrossed in my own thoughts that when the door to my office swings open I jump. David my manager of three years calls cheerfully to me that it is now 6pm and he is leaving, there is a very heavy emphasis on the time and the fact that the cleaners are due any minute. He wants me to leave. I do not look up from my desk however as I am frozen with horror. When I jumped as the door opened I accidentally pressed send! I sent the email to Justin! As David is praising my dedication to the shoe survey jovially, or perhaps sarcastically, I am only half listening to him, I am panicking that I have sent the bloody email! Now I have to leave the studio apartment and I have nowhere to go! David is completely unaware that I am hyperventilating with the horror of what I have done. My anguish mixes with confusion and relief when a 'failure to deliver' notice flashes up in my inbox. I have no idea how the often used email address for Justin could have been wrong but I am too relieved to care! Oh my goodness that was close I sigh relieved; some kind of divine intervention just saved me from a nightmare. "Is everything OK Abby?" David is asking with genuine concern. Sighing with relief I simply nod as brightly as I can, switch my computer off in a way that is going to cause me problems on Monday morning and leap up from my chair. My clothes are still damp, stiff and uncomfortable as I move but I hastily say my goodbyes to David and practically run from the building. I am sure that I have totally confused my poor manager but I am willing to live with that, just as long as I get out of there I don’t really care!
Once I am on the street I allow myself to lesson my pace and to breathe again. I don't live too far from work and despite the cold air penetrating my damp clothes and chilling my bones and the painful blisters on my feet; I decide to walk the forty minutes home. Within minutes my relief and euphoria has turned to sadness as I realise the opportunity that I have wasted. I could have ended my failing relationship today and could finally have started the process of moving on and of healing. Sure, I might have ended up back with my parents until I found somewhere to live and they wouldn't have been thrilled to have one of their 'little birds' back in the nest, but it wouldn't have been for long. I feel quite ashamed at my weakness but try to shrug the negativity away. There is still hope I remind myself. There is still time. I could still tell him tonight if he comes home or I could call him. I could even just pack my bags, leave and then text him to say that I have gone! I like the sound of that! I could do that, the more that I think about that option the more I realise that I like it. It feels powerful! I wouldn't need to say much, just a simple 'Justin it's over, I have left' would be enough. He could always phone me if he wanted more of an explanation couldn't he? A sense of purpose fills my body and my mind is made up, I'm going to do that. I am going to go home, pack my things and leave tonight! Just like that.
For the first time in years I actually feel empowered with a sense of possibility which makes me know that I am doing the right thing. I am so excited that my heart starts to pound in anticipation and I have to stifle a laugh so that I don’t look like a deranged mad woman on the street. The only sadness I feel is that I won’t be around to see the look on his face when he comes home and finds that I have gone. I feel confident that he would be shocked even if he doesn’t really care. Finally I will at least be able to show him that I do have some backbone.
I practically burst through to the door of our little studio apartment. I really tried to make it look homely and inviting, Justin pretty much stayed out of the decorating which became the theme of our relationship really. The large room which serves as a living room, bedroom and kitchen I decorated in creams and white in order to make it look bigger and lighter than it was. The kitchen appliances that ran down the right side of the room belong to the landlord at least so there isn’t too much to divide. Not that I care about taking items other than my clothes and personal documents. Justin can have everything else. We have two large built in wardrobe style cupboards either side of a row of large built in shelves, I open the one on the right which holds my things to take my large suite case out and realise that it is missing. Everything else is present. Perhaps I put it in Justin’s wardrobe by mistake. I turn to go to his wardrobe when I notice that the TV which we both paid for is gone. I freeze for a good two minutes, but oddly still have time to wonder if we were burgled. Once my legs can move again I run to his wardrobe and throw the doors open. It is empty. Every single item has gone!
He bloody beat me too it! He was here when I left for work this morning, as was everything he owned and everything that we owned! Now that is all gone! He beat me to it by a few bloody hours! I literally scream with frustration!
Reeling with shock and bitterness at having my thunder stolen I stumble backwards and actually fall on to the sofa, my mind is spinning and I feel sick. I try to calm down and take a few deep breaths; which is when I see that there is an envelope on the coffee table, on the front in Justin’s handwriting is my name. I half laugh and half cry on realising that he too is so gutless that he has also left a note rather than look me in the eye and tell me that it is over, and there I had been all along worrying that I was the weak link in our relationship, it seems that I was not alone.
Still sitting on the sofa I put my hand in to my pocket, pull my mobile phone out and call Christine, she at least is going to be thrilled!
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