And then the Spell was Broken

cracked_rose_colored_glasses

 

I called C.

I told him what had happened that morning. He had been in his dingy hideout.

“Oh babe, oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. My mother had no right to do that. You’re right. It’s too hard all of us living together. You know, I really want to help them, but…I tried. I did my best and sometimes things just don’t work out. This will be better babe. I’ll find a job closer to San Diego. We can get a place over there. It’ll work out, babe. Don’t worry. I’ll pack your things and the boys things and I’ll drive to your mom’s house. I’m so sorry babe.”

My doubts over the relationship grew daily. What do I do? I had been so hopeful about it. It all seemed like it would work out so well. This was going to be my happily ever after. How did it all go so pear-shaped? I don’t know. God help me please? Is this man supposed to be in my life? Lord, if this man isn’t supposed to be in my life, please show me. Show me God.

I had started talking to God a little bit again. I wasn’t ready to fully let him in, but I knew that I needed guidance. I was making a mess of everything.

His whispers still followed me.

C came to my mom’s with our things.

“We can stay here babe. I’ll set up my computer here and I’ll start looking for jobs first thing tomorrow.” More promises. My confidence was waning.

We set up beds for the boys in my little brothers room. My mom still had two children at home. My half siblings, Gaetano and Izzabella.

There was a small family room just off from the living room. We put a blow up mattress on the floor in there for me to stay in, and C when he was there as well.

What a day. I welcomed sleep, but I tossed and turned. Battling my demons. The memories. Dean. Chasing me. Running after me. Me, terrified, running away. I knew it would never end. I knew he would never die. 

Christmas was a few days away.

“Babe, there are some excellent job opportunities in Texas. I mean the economy in Austin is just booming. I have filled out some applications, but I really think I should make a trip down there to interview for some of these jobs in person.”

Texas? Am I supposed to move to Texas with this man? 

“Um, like now? Before Christmas?”

“Yeah, babe, if I leave tomorrow then I can be gone and come back before christmas. I can stay with my friends in Austin. I just need money for gas.”

“Oh. How much do you need?”
“I don’t know, probably $800 should be enough.”

All I had was $800. I didn’t know what to do. So I gave it to him. “Okay. Yeah. Alright.”

That night we decorated the Christmas tree at my mother’s house. I still hadn’t spoken to my dad, my step mom, or my sister. It had been months. It was agony. My family torn apart. Dean dead. I’m sleeping on an air mattress. God help me. This is bad.

We were all spending time together doing Christmas-y stuff. C was no where to be found. I went and found him playing video games in the bedroom.

“You should come out, we’re having fun. We’re decorating and watching movies.”

“Not right now babe.” He was in an alternate reality where he was saving the planet from certain destruction.

What? This man doesn’t even want to spend time with me? Does he even love me? Does he even love himself?

All night he stayed in that room. All alone. Captivated by a screen.

This is not what I want.

The next day he left for Texas.

Anxiety was my constant companion.  Nausea came with her. Heart beat. Heart beat. Pause. BOOM. Flood. It felt like a drug. I need some wine.

I skyped with Sue and Karen. It was so lovely to see them. They seemed a million miles away. It felt like years since I’d seen them. I tried to keep my composure, but my efforts failed. “I’m trying…I’m trying to do the right thing. I don’t know. We might move to Texas. I’m not sure. I really want to do the right thing.” I was fighting a losing battle against tears.

Karen did most of the talking. They were emotional as well.

“Cassi, we just want you to know. We are so happy that Dean married you. We have no expectation of you at all. We just love you.”

Her words were honey from heaven. Love. I feel loved. They really love me. In spite of everything. Wow. The tears streamed. Karen showed me the love of Jesus. Thank you Jesus. You don’t judge me. You aren’t mad at me. You love me, Lord. You love me. All I could do was cry tears of awe of the profound love of God. I had been feeling so much shame and condemnation over my decisions. So judged by people. By Christians. By people who I thought were my friends. Other’s thoughts, opinions and labels as bags that I’d willingly chosen to carry. Karen’s words were that of unconditional love. This unconditional and undeserved love gave me wings. And cleared my mind.  They gave me wisdom to know what to do and the strength to actually do it. This love. This love empowered me. Love and grace gave me power over my sin. I felt strength flood my heart. Not like the ferocious waves of grief. This was different. This was a river of life flowing into my parched soul.

My mom sat down with me.

“Cassi, are you giving him money?”

I squirmed in my seat. Well, yes I am giving him money, but…well, how do I excuse that?

“Uh…yeah.”

“Listen to me. That stops NOW. If this man is for real and he wants to take care of you, then you sit back and see if he can do that. You don’t give him one more cent.”

She looked intently into my eyes.

“Cassi. Not one more cent, you hear me? You watch how fast this relationship comes to an end when you stop. You just watch.”

I felt good about that decision. It seemed right. It was put to the test sooner than I thought. He called that afternoon.

“Babe, I need some money.”

“Oh, you do? What do you need money for?” He blew through that fast.

“For gas, to get back to California.”

“Oh. What happened to the $800 I gave you?”

“That’s all gone babe. I just need it okay? Can you put a deposit into my account?”

I paused. Courage. Be strong, Cassi. “Um, no. No I can’t.”

“What?” He sounded hurt. “Why? How am I supposed to get back?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I don’t know. I guess you’ll have to figure that out.”

I hung up. I smiled. Wow. That actually felt really good. I can be strong. Being strong feels good. 

C got back Christmas morning. He was looking less and less appealing. He looked dark. Empty. Angry. What was he so angry about? God, please help me. Show me what to do God. Show me, Lord. 

A couple of days after New Years, I woke up. C was asleep next to me. We were on the air mattress in my mother’s house. As I stirred, he woke up.

“Good morning.” I smiled at him.

“Morning.” He yawned. He looked bored.

“I’m gonna go have a shower. Do you wanna come?”

“No babe. You go. I think I’ll try to go back to sleep.”

I walked down the hall into the bathroom trying not to be disappointed. The house was empty. Mom must have taken the kids to the park or something.

I didn’t turn on the light. The light coming in from under the door was just enough. I ran the hot water and breathed in the steam. I got in. Finding therapy in the heat and sound. I hung my head under the water. Jesus. Help me, Jesus. The tears came. God I need you. God help me. I pray for this man, Lord. Show me what to do. If this is not the man you have for me, then show me what to do. Help God. I leaned me forehead against the tiles. The hot water gliding down the nape of my neck and down my back. I soaked in the moment. The quiet. The hot. The dark. The solace. God I need you. Help me Jesus. After a long time adrift in a sea of thought and prayer, I turned the water off. Grabbed my towel, and dried off. I wrapped my hair in one towel, and wrapped another around me. Opened the door and walked down the hall. I went into the family room that was my ‘bedroom’ with the air mattress and C’s computer. He was sitting at the computer. I looked up at him sitting there. He didn’t look back. Not noticing I had walked in. His computer screen caught my attention. What are those pictures of? It looked like something odd. He was scrolling down. Slowly. Carefully. Studying the images. What is that? Intense panic surged through me.

He clicked on one and a video started. It filled up the screen. A woman got up. My heart was pounding so hard it was jolting my whole body. She had no clothes on. C pulled down his shorts and started to play with himself. Oh my God. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak. I was horrified. Mortified. I can’t watch anymore. Lord. Oh my Lord. I took a step forward and touched his shoulder. My stomach, sick.

He swung around, shocked and startled. He got up.

“Cassi! Oh shit!” He started mumbling. He started apologizing and excusing. I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn’t look at him. He reached out to touch me and I shuddered. I finally saw him. I finally saw him for the man he really was. Depraved. Perverted. Disgusting. Completely given over to evil. What’s worse is he preferred that image on a screen to a woman in the flesh. Me. I wasn’t satisfactory. I felt complete betrayal.

And then, the spell was broken. In that instant. Any love I thought I had for him was gone. The illusion was shattered.

I sat down numbly.

He was looking at me. Grabbing my shoulders. Shaking me. Making promises. Making vows. Giving excuses, saying sorry. Talking. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. In fact, I think that’s all he ever really did, was talk. And look at porn. And drink. And smoke weed. How could I be so stupid? How could I be so blind? I was amazed at my own naïveté. How could I possibly think I could change this man? How could I love this man? How could I want him to be a father figure to my children? He’s not a role model. He’s weak. He’s a sick, weak, pathetic man. My dad was right. Everyone was right. He was nothing compared to Dean. He wasn’t half the man Dean was. He wasn’t a shadow of the man Dean was.

 

Swimming to Shore

1

 

We moved in. C, his parents, me and the boys. The boys shared a room. C and I had a room and his parents had a room. The house was quite lovely inside. This will be good. We can settle here. We can make memories here.

“Cassi, you have to be very strong.” C’s mother would speak to me in her thick accent. Offering her advice on all areas of life. I mostly enjoyed our conversations. She was a fiery Hispanic woman. Her face was lovely, but weary with lines of battle fatigue. We talked for hours about love, life, men, and housework. She was pedantic about housework. Not long after I moved in, I realized most of my days would be spent cleaning.

“If you use the oven, you must clean it.”

“The benches must be wiped and cleared at all times.”

“The floors must be swept.”

“The banisters must be wiped and dusted individually.”

“The bathrooms must be immaculate. No drops. No drops of water.”

“The toilets must sparkle.”

The washing. The windows. Emphatically she went through every area of the house with me, showing me how it was to be cleaned. If there was a drop of water left on a bench or the bathroom sink, she would call me over to wipe it down. It was “unacceptable.” I tried to embrace it as good training. But over the days and weeks I became a slave in my own house. She made all the rules, while I was still paying the majority of the bills. Rent, utilities, groceries, etc. I walked on egg shells trying to do everything right. Trying to keep the house up to her immaculate standards.

C came to church with the boys and I. I hoped that something said would penetrate his hardened heart. I silently prayed for God’s intervention. I noticed that He was texting on his phone quite a lot during the service. I was wrapped up in emotion, he looked bored. “We’ve got to make a stop on the way home, babe. Do you have fifty bucks?”

We stopped at a quaint neighborhood nearby where he exchanged the money for drugs in a mailbox. God, I can’t do this. 

Most of my family was estranged at this point. My mother and her husband, Brian, were the only ones I was really in touch with. I felt forsaken by almost everyone. Where were all the people that supposedly cared about me? Or the boys? Why didn’t anyone care? Why didn’t they reach out? There were only two friends I kept in contact with. They were life to my veins.

C would spend all day in his “office” looking for a job. I had to knock and be invited in before entering.

“C?” I knocked.

Nothing. What is he doing in there? 

“C?” A little louder this time.

“Come in. What is it babe? I’m working.” His tone was short. As though he were inconvenienced by my visit.

He would be in a pair of basketball shorts, no shirt. Sitting in his office chair in the dark. The only light coming from his computer screen. A haze of smoke encompassing his desk. Half empty bottle of whiskey on the left. Small bong sitting on the right. The smell of marijuana hung hot in the air. An open bag of sunflower seeds next to the mouse. Its shells scattered across the desk and floor. His leg was shaking. He always had a nervous, shaking leg. What was that about? He looked up at me with a dazed, vacant, somewhat annoyed expression. “What do you want babe? I’m working.”

You’re working? I wanted to be supportive. I was spending hours cleaning every micro millimeter of the house. My back was sore, my hands were dry.

“How are you going with finding a job?”

“It’s hard babe. The economy isn’t very good. I’ve put my resume out to every job offer that comes up on Craig’s list. I’m doing my best babe, it’s gonna take some time.”

My patience was wearing. “Well I can’t keep spending my savings paying for rent. One more month. That’s it. I’m done.”

“Fine.” He said flatly. With a tone that said he didn’t believe me.

I stood there looking at him. Was he even hearing me? Was he actually looking for jobs? Is he an alcoholic? What does he do in here all day? Why doesn’t he want to spend time with me? Why does he look so empty? Even through this pathetic exterior, I could see a glimpse of the ambitious and playful young man that I had grown so fond of in my young years. I had so hoped that my unyielding respect and affection would make an impact. Make a change. Why hadn’t it? 

New York. He let her ruin him. He gave in to every carnal desire. Every fleshly appetite. He didn’t deny himself any of her indulgences. He partook of all her snares. All her seductive vices. And now here he was. Bound. Chained. Chewed up, spat out. Cynical. Skeptical. Addicted. Empty. A shell. It had cost him his soul.

God, what am I going to do? God show me what to do.

Thanksgiving came around. I came down stairs, smiling. Wearing one of my favorite dresses. It was something that I felt pretty in. Determined to find gratitude where I was. I was met by the disapproving eyes of C’s mother.

Shaking her head. “Go change, honey. You don’t want to wear that. You don’t want to show all of that. Go put on something appropriate.” Dejected, I walked up the stairs. Slow tears stinging. Any joy I had was gone. I can’t even wear what I want. Heckled by her words of shame, I sat on the floor of my closet. Cried into my hands. Hurting. Alone. Lost. Broken. God. God. Help. God what do I do? Crushing weights pulling my heart down. Down into an abyss.

Weeks went by. Fighting became a normal part of life. C’s parents would start shouting at each other in Spanish. I had no idea what it was about. C and his mom fought too. Screaming in each other’s faces. I had my fair share of disagreements with mine, but never had I seen family look at each other with such hateful disdain. Sometimes I tried to mediate. I soon realized they didn’t want to stop fighting. The angry binge put a venom in their veins and they loved the high.

I found joy in my children as I always had. In their innocence and playfulness. There could be darkness all around and they would find the light. Dance in it. And they would lead me to it. I hate yelling. I hate shouting. I despise it. It makes me sick. Nauseous. When the shouting would ensue, I would take the boys into their room and play with them. I would play music and talk to them, trying to distract them. Forced to retreat to a sequestered corner for safety. Hiding in our home. The home we paid for.

“Mom, why are they yelling? Why are they fighting?” Asher was looking at me with those big brown eyes. Pools of innocence where there is no gauge for hatred between family members.
Oh my love. My love I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry we’re here in this house with these people. I don’t even know what we’re doing here. Jesus help me. God help me. What do I do? I don’t even know what to do.

“Sweetie, sometimes grownups disagree on things and it makes them mad and they yell. Let’s build some train tracks. Why don’t you show me how?”

Panic flooded my body. My heart on the roller coaster. Skipping a beat. Pause. THUMP. Rush of adrenalin. This became my normal. Incessant. Over and over. The roller coaster. Dozens of times per day.

At nights I looked forward to being held. C had his many faults, but at least I had someone. Someone to love. Someone to lay with. Lie next to. Enjoy. We watched a movie together one night and I showed interest. I craved touch. Affection.

He was preparing to go “work” in his “office.”

“Don’t go,” I gave him my cute pleading face. “Stay here with me.” I tried to pull him onto the bed by his arm.

He shook free. “I’ve got to work.” His tone was indifferent. He wasn’t even trying to be insensitive or hurtful. He didn’t have to try. He just was.

And he left the room. All I had done. All I was putting up with. Was so that I could have companionship. Affection. And after all I’d given. Forsaken. And spent. Still, I had it not.

Tension mushroomed in the house. C hadn’t found a job yet. My patience with his mother was waning. Her intentions may have been good, but I felt like her slave. Cooking. Cleaning. Constant. I was spending money like water. Paying all of the bills. Money that was supposed to be for me and the boys. I knew I had to put a cap on it before it was all gone. C’s drug and drinking habits were getting to me. There was something dark about him. I was getting glimpses of it. Suspicion grew in me. It was a sensation I hadn’t felt before.

One morning, in usual fashion, an argument broke out amongst C’s parents. The boys got caught in the crossfire. I was in another room. I overheard something and went to see the boys. They were in their room. They told me that C’s mom had yelled at them and sent them to their room.

That’s it. As far as I am concerned, these boys are paying for this house, and no fiery, Latina woman is going to yell at them and shove them in a bedroom. I put the boys in the car and drove to McDonald’s up the street.

I was in tears. Almost hysterics. No matter how much I run from Conflict, he corners me. Is there any escape from this drama? Drama after drama. 

I called my mother. The one link to my family that I still had. I recounted the events of the morning to her. She could tell how upset I was.

“Cassi, you get you and the boys in your car and you drive straight here, you hear me? Don’t even go back to that house. You come straight here.” She had that firm, “mom” tone.

So I did. I got the boys in the car and drove the hour to her house in Cardiff.