As she unpacked her and Elise’s things in her mother’s spare room, Arie couldn’t help but let a few stray tears fall down her pale face. When did everything get so messed up? Looking back she realized that he probably never quit like he said he did. Every time that she asked him why he was acting weird and he claimed he was tired, or didn’t feel good was a lie. Arie felt like a fool. She was in denial for so long, but it got impossible to deny the truth; Troy will never quit. Not for her, not for Elise. She thought she was in control, having seen addiction in her father her whole life; she thought she was wise to an addict’s trickery. She knew she had to take everyone’s advice and stop beating herself up, but all she could think of was that she put Elise in danger every day she stayed with him.
Arie was home from work by 12:30 in the morning, bored out of her mind waiting for Troy to get home from work. She decided to straighten her hair and dress nice for him since they’d had a good couple weeks. As she was brushing her hair waiting for the flat iron to get hot, she saw a bag sticking out of the top of the vanity. She didn’t even know there was a compartment there since she wasn’t tall enough to see it. Arie stepped up onto the toilet intrigued by her discovery but was appalled by what she found. The baggie was an eighth of the way full of little pills. With her heart pounding, she put her hand further into the compartment and found a soda can cut in half with burn marks on the inside and a dried piece of cotton stuck to the indent on top. By this time her heart felt like it was going to pound out of her chest. Just as she was trying to calm herself, Troy walked into their small studio apartment with a smile on his face, “Hi Tiny!” Arie ran out of the bathroom with Troy’s “tools” in her hand throwing them at his face. “What the hell is this, Troy?” He had a terrified look on his face but stood, unmoving, silent.
That was the first of many times Arie caught him using. And every time she caught him it was a slap in the face for so many reasons. She didn’t want to become her mother, so afraid to be alone that she stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship and put her daughters in danger every day. She didn’t want her daughter to grow up like she did, scared and resentful. Why couldn’t she break the cycle? She could see that all of the decisions she was making were the wrong ones; why couldn’t she stop? After so long Arie grew tired and cynical, every yawn and nap was cause for a screaming match.
Troy denied using so often that she began to doubt herself. Arie felt like she was going crazy, and began to sleep all day and became depressed. She started to let the two bedroom apartment they moved into when they learned of Elise’s coming slip. She ignored the dishes in the sink and the garbage on the table, Arie became a zombie, floating through life on auto pilot. Their home became a danger to their daughter.
One day Elise crawled into Arie’s bedroom and started to coo and form pretend words, and something clicked in Arie’s mind. She knew what she had to do. For two days Arie cleaned and played with her daughter, seeing her through new eyes. This beautiful, impossibly intelligent baby girl was hers. She was a gift from God, sent to make Arie a better person, and to show her how to love unconditionally. She thought of how to tell Troy that she was leaving, not that it mattered as long as she got out. She felt so hopeful and happy, just knowing that things were going to change.
After two days of re-discovering herself and her daughter, while Troy drifted in and out of sleep ignoring his surroundings, Arie called Troy into their bedroom, and began the conversation that changed their lives forever. “We need to talk,” Arie said while looking down at her hands. “Ok, what’s up Tiny?”
“I know that things are not going to change between us and I think, no I know, that we need to break up.”
“Wait what? Where did this come from Arie?”
“That’s not fair. You know I’ve been unhappy for a long time. I tell you every day. I’m done, done with the lies and the drugs and the anger. I don’t want my daughter to grow up knowing me as an angry person. I’m angry all the time. I hate waking up pissed off, and sometimes I hate you for making me this way.”
“Ok but why now after so long? You have to give me another chance. I can change. I can get clean.”
“You say that every time Troy. There’s nothing you can say or do to make me change my mind. We’re done, and Elise and I are moving in with my mom.”
As Arie and Elise played in their shared bedroom, she felt like she could breathe for the first time in two years. She had no idea what the future held for her and Elise, but she knew that she would never let that poison back into her life. With this new direction, life would be different for Arie and Elise, she would never take her beautiful daughter for granted again.