Living In The Shadows
Sophie had been sitting in the dark for weeks.
Nine weeks of walking on egg shells in her own house with no end in sight. She moved thru the house slowly, room by room. It felt more like a mausoleum then a home; the memory of a family that had once lived here. There was no laughter anymore, no love, no playfulness, and no fun.
He was a shell now, a ghost of the man she loved and as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months he had moved further and further into himself. When she saw him she barely even recognize him, there’s was no sparkle in his eye, no life in his words. It was almost like living with a stranger. She’d reached out, reached out too many times and been burned. She barely had the will anymore. The will to fight, the will to argue, it had all been sapped out of her weeks ago and now she moved, felt, acted according to him.
Sophie moved through the kitchen, floated on air without making a sound as she threw together a sandwich. He wouldn’t eat it, he never did but this had just become part of their daily routine and that routine was pretty much all she had now. She picked up the sandwich, grabbed a bottle of water and made her way to the bedroom.
When she pushed open the door the lights were low and the curtains were drawn tightly. The way they had been for nine weeks, not a sliver of light would pour thru them and she doubted that as days turned into nights he’d be able to tell the difference. He’d turned their bedroom into a cave; this place where they’d laughed and cried, talked and made love was now cold. They slept on two different sides of the bed, might as well have been two different states and he hadn’t touched her in weeks. Not a kiss, not a playful shove, there was hardly eye contact if they found themselves in the same room.
A week after the hit he’d come to her. It had been the first time he’d reached out to her and she would have done anything to help. He’d kissed her and touched her, after days of being distant and lost he’d come back to her. She’d seen the man she’d fallen in love with, the wicked gleam in his eyes, the rough hands on her body he’d been the same man she’d sent out into the world a week before. But when they had finished, when she’d reached the highest point and he’d spilled inside her body he’d been over taken by such a blinding migraine and they hadn’t touched since.
The TV hummed low in the background but he wasn’t watching. In the beginning, once the smallest of lights had become more bearable he’d watched the rest of the season. Watched the playoffs and the highlights from the games he’d just finished watching. It had gone on in an infinite loop.
The season had come and gone but he was still stuck there, stuck in that night and she wasn’t sure if he would ever come back from it. The side effects still showed up from time to time, not nearly as violently as they had in the beginning but he was capable of snapping any minute and when it came it hit like a hurricane. He’d said some nasty things to her in vain attempts to push her away, had even apologized after but those things stayed with her, crossed her mind when she pretended to sleep at night curled at the end of the bed.
Sophie used her foot to push the door closed behind her. She’d gotten used to maneuvering in the dark, kicked aside dirty clothing on her way to the bed. She moved towards her side of the bed, pulled down the duvet and placed the sandwich next to him. He looked over at her, down at the sandwich then moved to lie back down completely dismissing her and the food.
“You need to eat something.” She stated moving around the room picking up things that had been scattered on the floor since the last time she’d been in here.
He hadn’t eaten in days, refused for the most part no matter what she would bring him. She was watching him waste away with no control and it just made her angry. Why was he throwing everything away without a fight? Who was this stranger she lived with now?
“The doctors said you need to get back into the swing of things.” She tossed the clothing in the hamper then turned back to him. “Your never gonna be ready for the start of the season if you don’t get out of this house.”
Silence, that’s what she got for the most part when she talked to him. She might as well be talking to an empty room. She looked over at him lying there like a lifeless lump. He wouldn’t acknowledge her or anyone else, refused help and barely left the bed. He’d lost his will and she didn’t know how to give it back to him.
“How much longer are you planning on just lying there?” she asked.
She’d asked that before, had spent weeks asking it with no answer in return but she had her answer even if it wasn’t verbal. He barely left the bed showered occasionally and hadn’t shaved in weeks. He’d given up on himself, on her and on them.
“Why don’t you eat something then maybe we can go out? I can take you down to the gym or maybe we can go for a skate...”
The words hadn’t even left her mouth before she felt the movement of wind and the sound of glass shattering. The plate hit the wall, cushioned mostly by the sandwich as it shattered into a million pieces. When she looked over at him he was sitting up in the bed. His face was red and his chest heaved in anger.
“Just stop already!” he yelled and her body trembled. His voice was raspy from not being used for days and his eyes were wild. “Fuck! Can’t you just leave me alone, just fucking stop!”
Her eyes watered and her body shook. She was so overtaken by shock that it took her a few minutes to register what had just happened. When she looked over at him his eyes were round, he was as shocked as she was and when the tears started to fall she ran out of the room and into the hall, slamming the door behind her.
Sophie collapsed against the wall unable to stop hyperventilating. He’d said horrible things had yelled and complained but he’d never done anything like that. She’d never felt physically threatened or even unsafe until right now. She slid down to the ground, crumpled into a mess of tears when the door flew open in front of her.
“Soph!” he yelled out to her, had probably assumed she’d gotten further then she did and when he looked down at her crumpled onto the floor back pressed against the wall he felt even worse.
“Oh God Soph...” he moved closer to her and she pressed further into the wall, tried to melt into it in order to get away from him.
He couldn’t blame her; he’d been unbearable; stuck in a black hole in his head that he couldn’t crawl out of. He was tired, mentally exhausted and completely unsure if he’d ever get back to what he was, what everyone was expecting him to be.
“I’m so sorry.” He knelt down in front of her but didn’t touch her. He wanted to touch her, missed the feel of her but he didn’t know how to anymore. He couldn’t figure out how to connect with her without hurting her.
“I don’t know what to do for you anymore.” She whispered looking up at him.
Her blue eyes sparkled underneath her tears and her words were honest. She’d done everything she could think of, anything anyone had suggested and still nothing had gotten thru.
“I can’t do this anymore...” She confessed. “I can’t sit here and watch you destroy yourself, I’m not doing either one of us any good.”
She thought about leaving, getting away even for a little while but then she’d remember that night. Remembered seeing him lay there motionless on the ice her heart wouldn’t let her go. Despite his friends or teammates she was all he had in this city, the only one willing to drop everything to take care of him.
“Don’t Soph, please.” He begged her. “I won’t be able to get through this without you.”
It had been the most he’d spoken to her in weeks. He looked away from her, into his lap. He couldn’t lose her too, he deserved it, he didn’t deserve any less than being left on his own but he wanted her here.
“I love you Sophie, your all I have in this world.” He reached over and took her hands is one of his, they were so small in his. She was always so strong that he sometimes forgot how fragile she could be.
Sophie’s senses went into over drive the minute she felt his hand on hers. She’d been waiting weeks to hear him say that, just to hear that he loved her. She’d said it, had said it as often as she’d always said it but he’d stopped saying it back. He’d grunted in response in the beginning then had stopped acknowledging her all together. She crawled over closing the gap between them then threw herself into his arms. Her face borrowed into his neck as she sobbed uncontrollably.
“I’m scared.” He confessed pulling her into his lap, holding her as close as their bodies would let him. She felt better then he’d ever remembered, like comfort and home.
Sophie pulled back and looked up at him, that tear stained face broke his heart. He’d been so terrible to her and she always came back to him.
“What are you scared of?” she asked touching his face with her hands, cupping his fuzzy cheeks. She was going to take advantage of this for as long as he’d let her. Touch him until he pushed her away.
“What if it’s never the same? What if I don’t get it back?” he asked finally voicing the thoughts that had been haunting him night in, night out.
“You haven’t lost it; you can’t lose something that’s such a big part of you.” She looked up at him. “And if God forbid that ever happened or anything else ever happens I’m gonna be right here, I will always be right here and I’m so incredibly proud of you.”
He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into his body as he shifted under her, sitting back against the wall while she straddled his lap. He didn’t know how to respond to those words, she was always so much better with her words then he was.
“I’ve missed you so much.” Sophie confessed her hands pressed into the hard muscle of his shoulder.
That was one of the hardest things to hear. He hadn’t gone anywhere, had been here the whole time but he’d been so stuck in himself that to her he might as well have been gone anyways.
“I know.” He acknowledged looking up at her. “I’m sorry I’ve been hard to deal with.”
The words had barley left his lips before a snort of laughter bubbled out of her. She wasn’t even ready for it, hadn’t been expecting it and her eyes were wide as saucers as her hands flew up to cover her mouth. Terrified that laughing at what he just said could ruin the very delicate balance they had just created. He reached over and pulled her hands away from her mouth and when she looked up at him he was smiling down at her.
“I guess I’ve been a little worse then I’m letting on.” He smiled up at her and she laughed again.
“Just a little.” She joked cautiously.
She was scared of going too far; he could see the wheels turning in her head and he hated that he’d put that there. That for even one minute he’d made her doubt herself.
“Oh you’re funny now huh?” He moved his hands down her body and when she tried to scramble away he pulled her close wrapped his left arm around her and used his right to tickle any spot visible.
Sophie laughed wildly wiggling in his lap and it that moment he felt the weight of the world lift off his shoulders. That laugh of hers shot through his body and hearing it again reminded him just how much he’d missed it, how much he’d missed her. He could listen to that lyrical laugh forever; could remember nights when he had. When she finally gave in and collapsed against his chest he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. Her breath evened out and he rested his chin on the top of her head.
“I missed you too.” He started. “I missed us.”
She nodded against his chest; she couldn’t have put it better if she tried.
“I need you help Soph.” He asked sliding his hands up and down her back. “I don’t wanna go back there, I wanna move forward and I need you to help me with that.”
She looked back up at him and there were tears in her eyes.
“Whatever you need, you know that.”
He did know that but hearing it made him feel better. It was time to be done with this, to get back into his routine and be ready to go by training camp. He wasn’t any good to anyone like this and there were too many people relying on him to just give up.
He looked down at her, she believed in him in a way no one else ever had. His parents, friends, coaches, they’d all believed in his talent, his skills but she’d always believed in him as a person. If nothing else it was time to give this up for her.
“Go grab your skates Soph, let’s see if you can still keep up.”