Going home after months of being absent felt…exactly like anyone might expect. He no longer knew a rhythm, and he had no idea how to communicate with the woman who had allowed him to return.
A few months ago, he wouldn’t have thought it possible, yet here she was. She seemed to have forgiven him, and, what was more, she seemed willing and eager to begin again. It was like he was looking at a completely different woman. He was not sure about it all yet, wasn’t sure if it was a trap so she could begin her reprimanding of him, but he wanted to at least try.
Therapy followed. Lots of therapy. Long nights of talking about feelings, waking up exhausted from being up late from the talking, unsure if he could continue it all.
Again, he couldn’t believe it, but she was patient. The woman who had insisted on timelines for years, who had planned every last detail of every decision they had ever tried to make, who had always needed things to go according to plan, was now not planning a single thing. She was taking it day-by-day with him, not pushing him to divulge anything he wasn’t ready to talk about yet.
She had only asked him once, upon his return home, what had changed his mind so suddenly. When he didn’t answer, she didn’t pressure him. Instead, she welcomed him home with open arms.
It was this show of change, perhaps, more than anything that made him want to keep trying.
. . . . . .
It was one day in therapy, as they were walking through what had gotten them to such a situation to begin with, it came up again.
“What made you decide to go home, Derek?” the therapist asked him.
Vanessa looked at him, every feature on her face begging for an answer. She remained silent, waiting.
Derek sighed. He knew this would come up eventually, and he knew he had to come clean. How else could they even begin to start over?
“I, uh…” he began, not making eye contact and looking at his hands clasped in front of him. “I was having blackouts.”
Vanessa gave a short and quiet intake of breath. Not quite a gasp, just a noise of surprise. He chanced a glance at her and found a look not of dismay, as he had anticipated, but pure concern.
“What sort of blackouts?” The therapist’s voice was calm and collected.
Derek furrowed his eyebrows. The kind where I don’t remember anything, obviously, he thought in frustration. “I just…I don’t know,” he began, frustrated. “I couldn’t remember how I got to work or tasks. One morning, I…” he paused, unsure, then went for it. “I woke up covered in blood.”
This time, Vanessa did gasp.
The therapist nodded, listening. “Did you hurt yourself, Derek?”
“Did you hurt someone else?”
“I…I don’t know.” He could feel himself getting angry.
He felt a tentative hand on his forearm and looked down to find it was Vanessa’s.
“What’s that you’ve got there, Derek?” the therapist asked, inclining her head toward his hands.
He hadn’t realized he had taken out the gold watch and was now running his thumb along the engraving. It, too, had blood stains.
“You kept it,” Vanessa said quietly, in surprise. “I’ve been looking for it. I had no idea where it went…”
He was surprised and glanced at her. “You threw it at me…that day.”
She flushed. “I’m sorry. I was so angry.”
“I know,” he told her, and he realized, for the first time in a while, he wasn’t angry with her. Not anymore.
“This is clearly valuable to you both,” the therapist said.
“It was an anniversary present. To Vanessa,” Derek told the therapist.
“Our second,” Vanessa said quietly, and he could tell by her voice she was about to cry.
Derek looked at her and gave a small smile. He told the rest of the story without taking his eyes from his wife.
“I did some research,” he concluded, “and it said…it said…” He was struggling to get the words out, worried about the aftermath. Would she take it as an accusation? He looked away from her.
“What I found said emotions can be attached to objects and…”
The therapist nodded. “Sometimes we attach so much meaning to things they almost pulse and come alive with energy.”
“You mean…I did this?” Vanessa whispered, and she sounded terrified.
Ah, here we go, Derek thought. He could feel his anger bubbling just under the surface, could feel his heart rate increase. He hung his head, back arched, staring at his knees, and chanced a glance at Vanessa.
She was crying. Large, crystal tears were catching on her bottom eyelashes. As she blinked, they smeared her mascara and left wet tracks on her cheeks. “I’m so sorry, Derek,” she said quietly through her tears.
Derek looked at her and felt sorry he had gotten angry. “Hey, it’s okay,” he told her. He reached out to her and took her hand. She looked up at him, apology etched on her face, and he squeezed her hand.
The therapist smiled gently. “Meaning can create an energy all its own, especially when something is attached to such volatile meaning as love or anger.”
“I didn’t mean to be volatile,” Vanessa said.
“You were angry,” the therapist said.
“I was stupid,” Derek conceded, and this time tears were forming in his eyes. “I’m sorry, V. I’m so sorry.” He brought the watch between them. “I’ll never leave you.”
. . . . . .
The therapist looked between them. “How are we today?”
Vanessa gave a small smile and glanced at Derek. He smiled.
“We’re better,” he told the therapist. “We’re working on things.”
“Are you still experiencing some symptoms?”
Derek sighed. “A little,” he admitted, ashamed.
Vanessa gripped his hand gently, supporting.
“What do you think you can do to help it?” the therapist asked.
Derek was silent.
“We can…” Vanessa began quietly. Derek looked at her. “We can get rid of the watch.”
“What?!” he asked loudly, surprised, almost angry.
“You bring it everywhere, Derek,” Vanessa told him, nodding toward his hand.
Derek looked down. He hadn’t even noticed he brought it out of his pocket. “But…”
“Derek,” Vanessa said evenly, “it’s time.”
“This should be a mutual decision,” the therapist told them, hands together, fingers peaked.
Derek nodded. “Let’s get rid of it.”
. . . . . .
Together they cleaned off the blood, the memories, the depression, making the watch look brand new. Together, they washed off the past.
“Nice watch,” the shop owner told them. “I can offer you one hundred for it.”
They knew that was below value, but their desire to start over was too strong.
“Sold,” Derek said.