I LOOKED STRAIGHT into the eyes of my husband and saw a complete stranger.
“What did you do, Hunter? How? When were you going to tell me?”
“I’m sorry, London. I’m so fucking sorry.” He sounded desperate, but he had no answers. Only a pained look of regret as his work-hardened hands tugged at his golden blond hair. Strands of beautiful waves that I used to curl around my fingers after we made love or fooled around in the back seat of his car.
But everything was different now. He was different. Not the man I fell in love with ten years ago. Our marriage had been strained for some time now, and it had been so long since I touched Hunter’s hair, my fingers had forgotten the texture. Like so much as of late, that sensation had slipped from my memory. Everything had changed. And there was no turning back.
How did I let this happen? I thought we were stronger than this.
I wished with all my might for those sensations to resurface, that I would feel that soul-soaring, heart-pounding love again. But they were too far gone, buried too deeply beneath the mess Hunter’s gambling put us in.
Pain and frustration marred his ruggedly handsome face. I’d always imagined his features were etched of stone, perfectly carved, without even the tiniest of imperfections. But tonight, that stone-like precision was faltering. And even though it killed me to see him this way—weak and helpless—it wasn’t enough to fool me into forgiving him again. Not this time. This time he went too far.
“Are you telling me it’s all gone? There’s nothing left?” I fisted the papers in my hands, rustling them as I waved them in his face. Collection notices, past due statements, overdraft statements, a notice of default on our goddamn mortgage. “We’re in foreclosure, Hunter! You lost our house!”
“What do you want me to say?” Unshed tears garbled an agonized scream. He ran his hands through that beautiful sun-kissed hair and collapsed onto the couch, hiding his eyes from me. “I’m so sorry, London.”
I was sorry, too. For so many reasons. For failing to see the severity of my husband’s problems and for not being able to change them. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Oh, no. We’d tried many times. But with work scarce and his time idle, I guess things had gotten out of control. So out of control, there was no reigning it in now. Even if we somehow, miraculously came out of this, I was certain it would only be a matter of time before we wound up in this exact position again. There’s no fucking fixing this. Everything’s gone.
Maybe this was all my fault for relying on him so much, for ignoring what was right under my nose. When we got married only two years out of high school we were young and naïve. Love was supposed to be enough. I trusted my husband to take care of the things he promised to take care of. I never imagined giving him full responsibility of our finances would result in him gambling practically everything away and then keeping all of this from me.
The trust was gone. Our love had faded. This was the breaking point I never imagined a couple like us would reach. But we had, and even though I didn’t want to admit it . . . I was done. I didn’t have it in me anymore to fight and now we were dirt poor on top of it.
“I can’t do this anymore! I don’t want to do this anymore! I need you to leave!” The dam finally broke. I had nothing left to give. It was over. We were over. A crashing halt to our happily ever after.
As I cried into my hands, everything good we shared together flashed before me like a feathery soft vision in a romance flick. Homecoming and graduation, an elaborate proposal in front of our closest family and friends, an intimate backyard wedding, our first home together, making love in the hopes of starting a family of our own.
Those precious milestones should have shone brighter than the tensions that weighed us down. They should have been enough to fuel me to forgive him and start over, in hopes of building everything back up again. I just didn’t have it in me to fight any longer. All we did was fight and struggle and then fight some more.
It broke my heart. It wore me down. There was nothing left of who we were or of the dreams we once had for our future. There was no future because everything good had been replaced with a shit storm of bad.
Lies, gambling, Hunter losing his job, my mother’s failing health, working my ass off to keep us afloat, and now this.
Everything we’d been through in the last year played a part in unraveling the ties that bound us together from the time I was sixteen years old. And now there was nothing left to keep those ties secure.
Hunter and I had been through it all. He was all I’d ever known; the only man I ever loved. I was certain we’d grow old and gray together, with children to carry on his name and enough love to build a legacy. Unfortunately, love didn’t pay the bills, and along with our savings, our love for each other was currently depleted. I couldn’t look at him without resenting him for doing this to us.
“I’m sorry,” Hunter repeated for what seemed like the hundredth time that night. He rose from the couch and stalked off toward the bedroom. “I’m so sorry I failed you.”
Those words were a knife to my heart, but the truth was we had failed each other.
For a moment, I thought about chasing after him, telling him we could fix this. But I knew that would only be another empty promise to add to the pile that had suffocated this marriage.