Fern stared numbly at the photograph she clutched in her hand. She waited for the tears to come, as they always had, but this time they didn't. Perhaps she had no more left to shed.
She wasn't alone in the photograph she held so tightly, she was with Ron, her husband of five years, who had told her he wanted a divorce.
Still looking at the photograph she recalled how it had been.
It had been like any other Sunday morning, she getting breakfast ready and he reading the morning newspaper at the kitchen table. Suddenly, he lowered his paper and uttered the words that were to break her heart.
"Fern," he said, looking at her uneasily, "I don't know how to tell you this ... hell, there is no way I can break it to you gently. There's someone else in my life Fern, I love her and I want a divorce."
Fern had stood, momentarily numbed, her back to him, scarcely able to comprehend the words he had spoken.
Unbelieving she asked, "What ... what did you say?"
"I want a divorce," he repeated, this time more firmly.
The words cut into her like a dagger; she had turned and looked at him, struggling to find a response. Finally, she asked dully, "Who is she?"
Mandy! Mandy was Fern's closest friend; they had been almost like loving sisters since their high school days. They had even gone to college together. Mandy was the one who had introduced Fern to Ron and she had been the matron of honor in their wedding. How could Mandy do this to her?
Fern felt her world unraveling, it was spinning and the floor was heaving up and down, she felt bile rising in her throat.
"Why--why-why?" beat in her head.
The darkness descended bringing merciful oblivion.
Don't leave me in all this pain
Don't leave me out in the rain
Come back and bring back my smile
Come and take these tears away
When Fern came to, she was on her bed, Ron hovering close by, sponging her face.
She sat up slowly with Ron's help. All that had happened gradually came flooding back to her. The tears flowed. Ron was anxiously fussing over her, but as the mists in her head cleared she pushed him away, saying faintly, "Go away Ron," and then more emphatically, "Just leave me alone for a while, please."
Ron retreated. There was so much pain in her voice that he felt it best to leave her alone to sort through her feelings.
He felt a bastard for breaking this to her in such a crude way, but what other way was there to say something like that?
Ron sighed. He had done the right thing. It wasn't fair to Fern not to tell her, he cursed himself when he heard sobbing coming from behind the closed bedroom door; heart wrenching sobs that spoke of Fern's pain.
Take back that sad word good-bye
Bring back the joy to my life
Don't leave me here with these tears
Come and kiss that pain away
Fern had moved out a week later, not able to bear the thought of living with Ron anymore. Divorce papers had arrived a while later, and she signed them without even giving them a second glance.
The fact that Mandy was her best friend made the pain of her betrayal even more poignant.
She remembered the times Ron and Mandy had gone out together with her consent: To movies, mini golf courses, musicals; things that Fern couldn't attend because of her work. So Ron had gone with Mandy and she had slowly taken her place in Ron's life as partner and lover.
She really couldn't blame Ron or Mandy. She had been a fool; careless of the relationship she should have been building, she had left it open for someone else to step in.
She blamed herself constantly, berating herself with "What if," "If only," "I should have." If only she had taken time off from work occasionally; if she had been perceptive enough to see the relationship developing between Ron and Mandy.
It had been lovely in the beginning, both of them rushing home from work each evening just to be with each other, spending every spare minute in each other's company.
Then Fern changed jobs, and became the editor for Lace, a woman's magazine. She was so engrossed in her work that she saw less and less of Ron. Her work had consumed her, and slowly she had begun neglecting her relationship with him.
Often arriving home late and exhausted from work, when in bed Ron had begun trying to make love with her, she had said, "Not tonight darling, I'm too tired."
She wished she could go back in time and put it right somehow, but she knew that she couldn't. This knowledge only hurt her more, as she thought herself to be a failure as a wife, partner, lover and most of all, a failure as a woman.
She went through everyday blaming herself, and ultimately, hurting only herself.
Un-break my heart
Say you'll love me again
Undo this hurt you caused
When you walked out the door
And walked out of my life
Un-cry these tears
I cried so many nights
She put the photograph down, not able to look at it anymore. It brought back too many memories; memories that she would rather bury away somewhere; memories that would become the skeletons in her closet.
She took the invitation that she had received that morning; it was an invitation to Ron and Mandy's wedding. She smiled a bitter smile. She wouldn't go of course; how could she bear to see them sharing the happiness her neglect had thrown away.
Mandy! Fern hated her now. She was supposed to have been her closest friend, but instead she had betrayed her -- betrayed her in the worst possible way a friend could betray.
After the divorce Mandy had come to explain, to justify, but Fern had not listened to her and bitterly told her to leave.
Ironically, although she blamed herself and Mandy, she never blamed Ron. No; in her eyes, Ron had been the victim of her neglect and Mandy's duplicity. It had been her fault for neglecting him and Mandy's fault for seducing him.
I need your arms to hold me now
The nights are so unkind
Bring back those nights when I held you beside me.
Still holding the invitation, she went to the kitchen, where she tore it into pieces and threw it in the dustbin.
Despair gripped her as she contemplated the wedding.
A knife lay on the table; she picked it up feeling its sharp edge. It would be so easy. There would be freedom from the misery that racked her; there would be no lonely future; no Ron and Mandy to torment her with their new-found bond.
The idea was tempting as she weighed the knife in her hand.
Then with sudden resolution the knife came down, slashing first one wrist and then the other.
She watched dispassionately as the blood spurted from the severed arteries. It was as if it was happening to someone else. Slowly she sank to the floor; the world was slipping away, the shadows gradually creeping over her as she lay in her own blood. Then all was blackness.
Her pain was over now.