“Hey.” Terra’s voice was right behind her, loud to be heard over the music, and caused Freya to jump. She jumped, causing the piece of glass in her hand to fall, but not without cutting her hand in the process.
She gasped, stood and turned to see Terra looking thoroughly mussed. Her red hair was a mess of waves around her face, and her cheeks were flushed.
“Oh shit,” Terra said, grabbed the rag out of Freya’s hand, and held it to the cut. After a while of lifting the rag and placing it back on the cut checking to see if the bleeding was stopping, Terra finally breathed out and removed the rag again. “The bleeding stopped, and I don’t think it’s that deep.”
“It doesn’t hurt,” Freya said and braced a hand on the counter to steady herself.
“That’s ‘cause you’re wasted,” Terra said on a laugh. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
They made their way out of the house, with people staring at them and commenting on the bloody rag held to Freya’s hand. Once they were outside, across the street, and in Terra’s car, Freya looked at her friend. “You’re good to drive?”
Terra snorted. “I haven’t had anything to drink, although I am a little bow-legged.”
Freya groaned and closed her eyes, resting her head back on the seat. “No details, please.”
Terra laughed, but didn’t respond. They drove the twenty minutes it took to Freya’s place, but it seemed like it took forever. By the time Terra parked in the driveway, helped Freya out, and they walked to the front door, Freya turned quickly and emptied her stomach. It lasted a few minutes, and when the dry heaving finally subsided Terra handed her a napkin.
It wasn’t like Terra was her best friend, or even that close. They went to school together, but it was only when Freya started working at the local coffee shop, which was also where Terra worked, that the two started talking. And that had only happened this year.
“Where the hell did this come from?” Freya asked and chuckled.
“My pocket. You’re glad it wasn’t used.”
Freya groaned. “Nasty.”
“You’re good to get inside by yourself?”
Freya nodded. “I feel better now.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?”
Freya straightened. “Yeah, I feel a lot better now.” After finally convincing Terra she was really okay, she waved at her friend and watched her get in her car and leave. The sound of Meghan yelling came through the front door, and Freya groaned softly and closed her eyes. In the three years since Meghan and Elijah had been married it slowly progressed to where Meghan was a bitching machine. But then again she’d been this way with her father, all the way up until he passed away.
Freya turned and made her way to the porch. She not so gracefully sat down on the cement step, not about to go in there right now. She might be drunk, and able to blissfully walk through that landmine, but no way in hell was she going to let it ruin the buzz she had going on.
It was only about five minutes before the sound of stomping feet came closer to the front door. It eventually opened and slammed against the wall, but Freya didn’t bother turning around. Instead she leaned her head on the banister next to her, closed her eyes, and waited for everything to pass. But she couldn’t tune out the sound of Meghan bitching at Elijah once more.
“I am so sick of this bullshit, Elijah,” Meghan all but shrieked. “I can’t live like this where you are never home because you’re working all the damn time—”
“And how do you expect to buy your Louis Vuitton purses, pay for that brand new Mercedes, or all the other shit you have to have?” Elijah said from inside, in a calm, collected voice.
“And you,” Meghan spat out. “God, you are worthless, coming home drunk and making the porch reek like fucking puke. College can’t come soon enough for your ass.” Meghan stormed down the porch, away from Freya and the house, and a few minutes later was peeling out of the driveway.
Freya lifted her hand and flipped Meghan off even though the bitch didn’t see her. It made Freya feel marginally better, so she supposed that was something.
A second later the sound of Elijah coming toward the front door stirred Freya slightly, but she was feeling nauseous again, and didn’t bother moving to look at him.
“How much of that did you hear?” he asked after several seconds had passed. He moved onto the step beside her, sitting down.
“All of it,” she said softly, not really caring about their fight, because she knew she was about to throw up again. Turning her head, feeling humiliated that she was about to puke right in front of him, she braced a hand on the banister and just let it all come out.
But what surprised her, as she was in the middle of dry heaving in between throwing up bile, was the fact Elijah reached out and grabbed her hair, keeping it away from her face. She would have thanked him, but her body ached, she was embarrassed, and the burping sounds that came from her intermittently had all conversation ceasing with her.
“You’ll feel better once it’s all out,” he said softly, and started rubbing her back.
“I don’t think so, because nothing else is left and I still feel like shit.”
He started chuckling, and after a moment he helped her up and into the house. “Come on, sit down and I’ll get you some water and ibuprofen.”
Once inside she sat on the couch, closed her eyes, and heard him leave to go into the kitchen. The sound of him opening the cabinet, the bottle of pills being opened, and of him turning on the faucet, seemed so overly loud she actually groaned. When she was about to lie down he came back in the living room and touched her hand.
“Here, you’ll feel better after you’ve taken these.”
Freya opened her eyes, took the pills and water he offered, and once they were swallowed she rested her head on the couch. For a second she just stared at him.
“Why do you stay with her? She’s such a bitch.” Freya didn’t care if she was being bold. She might have thrown up until nothing was left, might not be as drunk as she was, but she was still pretty buzzed and wanted to know.
He didn’t answer right away, but he did sit in the seat across from her and brace his forearms on his thighs. He stared down at the ground for what seemed like forever, and then ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
“I don’t know if she ever planned on telling you this, or if even I did. I know you’re leaving for college in the fall, and getting away will be so good for you.” He leaned back on the chair, his dark hair mussed from him running his fingers through it. His eyes seemed lighter, more sympathetic even. “We aren’t staying together. In fact, I’ve already gotten the paperwork for a divorce. I’m already looking for another place, because I can’t stand to be here with her anymore.”
She sat up a little straighter. “She didn’t act like you guys were getting a divorce, not with her screaming at you even.”
He shook his head. “I was going to give them to her tonight, explain it all, but she started acting like, well, herself.” He exhaled again. “I haven’t been happy for a long time, and although I shouldn’t even be telling you these things, I know you haven’t been happy either. We’ll both be breaking away, Freya.”
She didn’t say anything, didn’t know what to say.
“She never treated you right,” Freya finally said and leaned back again. “No one deserves to be trapped with her self-righteous, self-absorbed ass.”
He smiled lightly, not really an act that was humorous, but kind of sad. “She has some self-esteem issues, and I think once she address those she may be able to have a good life.”
Freya rubbed her eyes. “I don’t care if she ever has a good life. She’s an awful woman.”
“And you think that’s why I’m saying it?” she said and dropped her hand to the couch, staring at Elijah again. “No, I am not so drunk that I don’t know what kind of evil bitch she really is. You deserves better than her. My father deserved better than her. And I deserve better than having to live with her.” The sadness of bringing up her father slammed into Freya harder because she was drunk, but she held back her emotions. “I should go to bed.” She stood, surprising herself that she could stand fully.
She looked over at him and saw that he watched her, this guarded, hurt, and angry expression on his face. “Goodnight, Elijah,” she said softly. He smiled, but once again it seemed a little forced, a little sad, as if he were doing the act for her benefit. “I’m really sorry things aren’t working out with Meghan. I meant it when I said you deserve better.”
“Thanks, Freya, and I’m sorry, too.” He didn’t have to say why he was apologizing, because she knew. Both of their lives had clearly not gone the way they planned or wanted, but they would make it work. They had to, because if they didn’t then what was the point?
Four years later
It had been a long time, forever it almost seemed, since Freya had been back to her hometown. She’d finished college, but was taking a few months off before she started job hunting. She may have been undecided when she came to the university, but her mind had been clouded with the thought of just escaping. After she left home, she hadn’t thought twice about the woman or the house where she’d spent so many years.