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And the things he promised her were these:
He would always love her.
He would never hurt her.
He never promised he wouldn’t leave. But she left him no choice. Little, sweet Jessica had toyed with his heart, like a game of pinball, hitting him over and over again, sending him back again for more. Her magnetic hold had kept him from leaving before. But Jessica pushed him over the edge the last time. Multiple affairs, stealing money from his bank account for drugs, sinfully perfecting his signature in her hand: there had to be a limit. But there wasn’t. High on cocaine, she had stumbled home the other night, after sleeping with the manager at another rave. He contradicted her, by accident, because she was unreachable in this state, and she had pulled a knife on him. The butcher knife from the kitchen. He remembered her exact words:
“Disagree with me one more time, Joshua, and I swear to f***ing God, I’ll slit your throat. Got it? We may have had something, and maybe we still freaking do. Who knows? But this is my life, and I’m livin’ it. Remember what I said if you leave.” She held the knife close to his throat, his back against the wall. He had collapsed after she staggered into the bedroom, passing out. He was trapped in her little game. Their romance was really shorter than anyone thought, but Jessica’s acting skills were just as good as her ability to forge his signature. The only thing that stopped him from leaving was the single band on his left ring finger. Jessica had deceived him while dating; it was only after marriage her true colors had ringed true. Addicted to cocaine, Jessica began to slowly drain his account for money. Later he found out about her affairs, sleeping with men for admittance to raves, drugs, money for drugs. Her downward spiral was enough to make him file for divorce. His mom, however, didn’t believe in divorce. A devout Catholic, she believed every marriage could be saved. She promised to thoroughly disown him if he ever tried. She believed that his words were lies, when really, Joshua’s words were the very least of what was going on. Combine that with Jessica’s promise to drain his bank account was enough to keep him around for five years.
Now 26, Joshua was done with waiting around for Jessica to change. His bags, already packed (they had been for so long, he was always ready to leave), were tossed into the trunk of his black Toyota Camry, and Joshua climbed into the front seat. His keys slid into the ignition. For a moment, he was sure he couldn’t do it. How could he be kicked out of his own family, and have to start out again emotionally and financially? But then he remembered Jessica, and the knife at his throat. She’d slapped him before, but, true to his promise, he never laid a hand on her. Now as the Camry slinked out of the driveway and onto the highway, he realized he had broken the first promise years ago. He was starting over. He took a deep breath. He was finally starting over. And as he stopped for a cup of Joe, he knew he had made the right choice.
The sun was just rising as he arrived in Keeler, Oklahoma. He pulled into the driveway of his sister Janice’s house. Only she would understand. He hesitated only slight as he rang the doorbell. The door creaked open as Janice appeared with a puzzled expression.
“Joshua? What are you doing here?” He took a deep breath.
“I know I haven’t always been honest with you, and with what Mom has probably been telling you, I don’t know how this will turn out. But Jessica…well, she’s a cocaine addict. She has been for four years. And I finally left her.”
“Oh, Joshy, I’m so sorry,” Janice replied, folding him into a hug. “Why don’t you come inside and tell me what really happened?” Joshua, unable to speak, nodded and followed his sister inside.
Later, as Janice was making tacos in the kitchen, Joshua grabbed his keys. “Jan, I know you want me to stay, but I have to head out. I want you to know that I really appreciate what you did for me, and I love you so much. I have to start over, though, and it needs to be somewhere where I’m on my own. I promise I’ll come back to visit.” Surprisingly, Janice nodded.
“I understand, Joshua. Be careful, okay?” She handed him a cup of coffee and a taco. “Have a safe drive, okay li’l bro?”
“Okay, big sis,” Joshua smiled. He got into his car, ate his taco, and drove. He had the world ahead of him, he thought. He drove all night, and checked into a Holiday Inn sometime around six in the morning. Exhausted, he went to a local diner.
“Hi, honey, what can I get for ya this morning?” a young brunette waitress asked.
“How about a friend? I’m starting over, starting today.” She seemed to think it over.
“My shift’s over at eight honey. See you then.”