John had an array of emotions that weekend. Friday morning, when Mary asked him if he ever loved her, he felt sympathetic. She had been caught off guard by the sudden departure of her oldest children, and on some level she was still getting used to having a young child at home. All of that was stressful. John knew he made it difficult for her, and that was yet another constant stress in her life. He meant what he said when he told her that she had done a fine job at raising Tim and Susie and she should be proud. He didn’t hate her like she thought. There were many things he admired about her despite the coldness he displayed. So, when she asked him if he ever loved her, he didn’t want to add to the stress she already felt. After all, he did care about her well being. He stalled for as long as he could, but she was relentless. He had to speak the truth. The truth landed him here, standing in the hallway of his new residence.
If he doesn’t look happy, it’s because he wasn’t at the time, but we’ll get to that later. After the feelings sympathy, he was in denial and panicked a little. He didn’t believe she was serious and tried to convince her that she was making a mistake. He tried to talk sense into her because her actions were not logical. Why would someone with no job and no skills ask the sole bread winner to leave? That’s just crazy talk. But, she was serious—perhaps more serious than she had ever been. That’s when he panicked. Sure, he had a job and could easily afford a cheap place and would be fine, but then what? He went straight from his mother’s house into Mary’s estate. They had butlers, maids, cooks, gardeners, and every service personnel one could need. He never had to do a thing. After their fall from grace, they moved to Willow Creek. It was a struggle at first, but surprisingly, Mary adapted to domestic life quite well. All John had to do was keep the lights on and food in the fridge. In his moment of panic, he thought, “what am I supposed to do without her?” He didn’t love her, but apart from the resentment he held for her, life with Mary was quite good. There was always a meal in the fridge. And not just one dish. There was always a selection. The house was always spotless. The children were always sorted. And, although he often thought she was corny, there was always some adventure to go on or sight to see. Sure, she was pretentious and spent entirely too much money, but life with Mary was comfortable and stable. It was crazy—and selfish—but he would have been willing to put up with her antics for a while longer just to enjoy the carefree life as long as he could.
After the panic, he felt regret—especially as he watched his daughter break down in front of him. That was the reason he agreed to marry her in the first place. He never wanted his children to experience what he felt growing up. His father was not in the picture. He didn’t even know who his father was. He favored his mother a little, but it was always clear that there was another half of him that was missing. He got along ok, but he swore, if he ever had children, he would never abandon them like that. So, he married Mary for fear of what the alternative would be. They were happy for a time, but when things went south, it was the children that kept him around. He had to honor his promise, and he did. But, then Phoenix came along in the midst of trouble. He was prepared to suck it up and honor his promise to her too, but he wouldn’t be allowed to. That’s when he got angry.
All of John’s adult life was about what Mary said. This woman had been ordering his steps and dictating what his life was supposed to be like. Now, again at her command, he was standing in the hallway of his new residence. He should have been relieved that he was finally out of her grasp, but he was still under her influence. She had no idea where he went after he left, but she still dictated where he lived and what kind of life he could provide for himself. Living in the city was never something he wanted to do, but he couldn’t afford to buy another house and pay child support too; he had to pay a little more than §600 per week. His only option was to find a small place in San Myshuno. However, he was lucky enough to find a decent place in the Spice District. He wanted a two bedroom apartment so Phoenix could have a room at his place too.
John hadn’t always lived the high life, but Mary’s mark on his life had been made. The things he experienced while living in her world were part of his history too, and going back to the drawing board would be hard.
Before he walked into his new home, he took a deep, cleansing breath. What was done was done. Mary may have controlled his life and made all the choices for him up until that point, but everything that would happen from now on would be on his accord. That thought subsided the angry feelings and propelled him to walk toward his new start. He took 15 steps toward his new apartment and turned the knob slowly. He was afraid of what he might find although the ad in the paper made it sound like this was one of the nicer two bedrooms in the neighborhood. Finally, he pushed the door and stepped across the threshold.
John sighed as he looked around. The place wasn’t bad. It definitely had seen better days, but it wasn’t bad at all. It was clean, minus a spatter of food in the kitchen. With a little mopping, vacuuming, and lots of Plumtastik, the place would be as good as new, he thought. He was in no way an interior designer, but he could see the potential. With a new coat of paint, updated appliances, and new furniture, his apartment could be very nice. A small smile began to form on his face as he thought about the possibilities. More importantly, the decisions, that he could make.
He peeked in the bathroom. It was exactly as he expected it to be: nondescript. The room next to it was the second bedroom. It was a bit plain and sparse, but he thought Phoenix could be comfortable in there. She’d probably just be excited to have a double bed to sleep in.
The master bedroom was a lot nicer than he was expecting—and bigger too. It was actually bigger than the room he shared with Mary. It had a tall bookshelf that wasn’t very full. He imagined what kinds of things he could put it in. There was a desk with a cheap computer on it which is was relieved to find. It was very well lit too.
The pieces de resistance was the balcony. And it was huge too!
John had never been the outdoorsy type, but he appreciated the balcony so much and decided that it was going to be his happy place when he needed to clear his head or get away to gather himself.
Standing there, looking over the city of San Myshuno, John felt alive. There was something about the city that energized him. He couldn’t understand it. Life was going to be hard; he knew that. But, he made the decision that no matter how hard life got, life would always be good.