Bethany still remembers the first time Anthony crossed the line. It was a just a push. But it opened a door inside him that should have forever remained closed. He crossed a threshold and never turned back. The same precipice his Father crossed many times with many different women. And from there it escalated. He’d come in the house angry at Bethany, before she’d even said a word. Angry at the children for their very existence. Everyone cowered in his presence. Felt sick when he’d pull in the driveway. Their new normal was wrought with pain. Most of it anticipatory. The waiting hurt more than the fists.
Bethany would give everything she had to turn back time to that afternoon. To stop time in its tracks. As if that would fix things. It wouldn’t. It doesn’t. It would have happened another day. In another room in the same house. But a broken woman will believe anything. And she beat herself up mentally from that day forth for unlocking the door.
The push happened on a Sunday afternoon when it was beautiful outside and the babies were taking a rare simultaneous nap. It was shocking and unexpected and according to Anthony, totally Bethany’s fault. He told her a hundred times after, that he never would have pushed her if she just went to Lake with him like he’d wanted to. But Bethany didn’t want to wake the children. It was so rare for them to nap at the same time. There was no way in hell she was going to wake them, even if a stroll around the Lake would have been quite nice. When she opened her mouth and let the first words tumble out, she was only trying to be heard. Something she needed so desperately from him. She had no ulterior motive. She wasn’t trying to shame him or blame him. She just wanted to be heard. Bethany wishes she had kept her mouth shut.
But for a moment, she thought if she said the words to him, just once, he’d finally hear everything she had been begging him to notice over the past few months. She felt lonely and isolated and unloved. And she needed that to change. For her own sanity. Deep down she knew he loved her, she just needed him to say it. To show it to her from time to time. Tell her he appreciated all she was doing. Everything she had sacrificed. Acknowledge her. In the daylight hours.
She knew he had to still love her to some degree. If he heard her, they’d clear this hump. She’d be re-energized. When he made love to her, late at night, when the kids were asleep; in that miraculous window of time between the 9:30pm and midnight when colic took a respite and he was actually home. When there were no diapers to change. No medications to administer. No bouncy seat batteries needing replaced. No swings needing rewound. No misplaced binkies. The only time of the day the chorus of crying that filled their home since the twins were prematurely born was silenced. During that quiet respite they’d make love. And in his eyes she’d see the man she married. Lust-filled but content again. For a little while. And they’d lay there in one another’s arms like they used to. And she’d feel connected again. Even if her hair stank of barf. Even if her breasts were leaking milk. She felt connected again. To the man who had promised they’d make it through this together, even though his time away from home increased each week. In those moments, in his embrace, she could convince herself he was gone so much and so often for legitimate reasons. Work. Working for them – her and the girls. This is where he wanted to be, where she needed him to be, but in spite of all of that, he was a brave man, who would leave their nest for weeks at a time to secure their future. She believed it then. Late at night. When he was beside her.
It was the daytime that was hard for her. Within the endless monotony of parenting premies with a wicked case of dueling colic she’d find her anger. In the moments she was crying just as loud as the babies, that she would reach out to him and get a voice mail or brushed off by his assistant. And that’s what she was trying to tell Anthony that afternoon. A rare Sunday when he was home and the girls were actually napping. She needed him. More than he seemed to know.
“You’re so fucking spoiled!” he shouted two inches from her face. “Look around you!”
“Please don’t scream, the babies are sleeping.” she begged.
“They’re always sleeping!”
Bethany’s face twisted upwards and her lips thinned and she said “Are you kidding me?”
And Anthony sternly said “Watch it!”
And being scolded hit Bethany like a ton of bricks. The careful wall she had built around the pain inside her crumbled and she cried out in frustration “They never sleep Tony! They cry all the time. I mean all the time! Non-stop, no matter what I do. It’s like they can’t be soothed for hours and hours. It’s so hard…I feel like such a failure.” She was begging him to hear her. Begging for some kind of acknowledgement.
“Babies cry Bethany.” You shouldn’t have had these fucking kids if you can’t handle it.”
“You didn’t just say that.”
He leaned in to her face, so they were eye to eye. “I did.”
“Oh, Tony.” She cried.
“Maybe you’re just not cut out for this.”
“I’m their mother!”
“And I’m their father and I’m sick of it. You look like shit … you smell like shit. You need to get it fucking together or I’m…I’m…I don’t even…Stop crying. I’m so sick of all the crying!” Anthony was pacing now. And Bethany was crumbling. Her spine curving. She could barely stand beneath her own sobbing.
“I need you …” she said and then the baby monitors picked up crying. The loud high pitched screeches of babies in pain. And Bethany cried harder and Anthony put his hands on her shoulders and shook her. “Look what you’ve done!” he screamed. And her face registered flabbergast and Anthony didn’t like it so he pushed her away from him. Hard. And she stumbled backwards and fell to the floor. Her head hit the glass sliding door. And he stormed out the garage door and closed it behind him with a slam. And she lay there dizzy. Both babies screaming out for her through their monitors. And in a haze she rose from the ground. Balanced herself against the wall as she climbed the stairs. And she went to the girls and shush shushed them through her tears. Re-swaddling helped soothe Rebecca for a few moments while Katharine suckled Bethany’s breast. And the three of them rocked in the chair in the nursery for an hour. Crying off and on. Bethany tandem fed the girls as life as she once knew it ended and another door opened. Wide.
And she chastised herself for days while Anthony stayed away from their home. And when he returned she was showered and in full makeup. The children were up in their rooms having cried themselves to sleep. And she dropped to her knees and welcomed him home in a way fit for a dirty movie. And she pretended that was it – that it would never happen again. And he apologized, in a small pathetic way. And for a month, it was good. He stayed away just as much but when he was there Bethany believed it was behind them. Until..a month later. When he pushed her again while she was holding a screaming Rebecca. And the week after that when he broke her nose. Time sped up instead of turned backwards. And that became their new life. For eleven years. Eleven years and almost as many broken bones.