Part Six: Toni, Roy, And Harold’s Old Drinking Buddy’s Girlfriend

TONI

 

Starting my life anew with Roy again.  It’s like the same old song only this time, things were going to be very different for me.

 

For one thing, I had eliminated my greatest distraction.  And, there were no more parties. Roy and I were set on making ourselves an island. I knew that if I was going to make it out of this experience alive, there would be no more partying.

 

No more drugs.  No more extra-curricular activities.

 

For the first time in my life, I was truly and utterly alone. A really good thing because it was time I buckled down and acted like a grown up.

 

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. But I was intent on sticking to this decision. I was going to be clear-headed and full forward thrust ahead with this life. I was going to be a mother. And if I could, I’d try to be a good one.

 

+++

 

ROY

 

I know Toni tried. I kept living with the mantra that good things come to good people. And I was good people. Everyone always said so.

 

There were a lot of times I thought to myself, “Roy, why in the hell are you putting yourself through this?” and every single time I reminded myself that I had made a commitment to this girl. I had promised her when she was just a young lady that I would take care of her. I loved her.

 

And even when doing that was really, really hard, I still knew that God was putting me in her life to show her what it was like to live in his fold. That I was a minister of his Love.

 

+++

 

Toni gave me two beautiful children. Seliah was the sparkle in my eyes, and Lamar Kevin was such a bright and handsome kid. The four of us made a gorgeous young family, and when God gave me a second chance at being her husband, I knew that this time we’d have to commit to building our life up as the honorable Christian family we were meant to be.

 

Of course, I’m not a perfect man. I’ve done some unwise things, especially when I was younger. And probably it was giving in to those vices that upset our family the most. We were drinking and giving in to drugs and alcohol and I guess losing my wife the first time was part of the consequences.

 

And to be sure, I got down on my knees every night after she left and praised the good Lord that she didn’t take my daughter away from me when she went.

 

+++

 

Seliah was a darling child. She was easy, smart, and very mature for her age.  She’d say the darnedest things, too. I’m not quite sure where she got it all from, but I won’t ever forget how she picked up the pieces just like she’d done this sort of thing before. She knew exactly what she was doing.

Seliah didn’t cry too much when she read Toni’s letter. She just got tears in those blue eyes and looked at me. “Daddy,” she said, “I guess I better start taking on some more responsibilities.”

 

And when Toni came back, Seliah didn’t fight it – even though I know that it must have been something else to understand. When I started feeling unsure about that decision to forgive my wife, well, Seliah’d slip her hand in mine, look up at me and tell me, “Daddy, I guess we better make our own dinner tonight.”

 

+++

 

After we got back from Germany, things started to fall into a pattern with us. Seliah went back to school, and didn’t cause any problems – not ever. At the beginning of a holiday break, she’d come home from school and say, “Daddy, I made some good grades for you,” and she’d pass me an envelope with her marks.  Sure enough, there was nothing but A’s in there. And when the winter breaks were over, she’d put her clothes together the night before, laying them all out on the chair next to her bed. I’d kneel down on the floor with her to say her bedtime prayers, and she’d say, “And Jesus? I’d like to thank you for my Daddy and my Mom and my little brother, Lamar Kevin. I’d like you to know how glad I was to spend my Christmas season with my family and that I’m really excited to go back to school tomorrow.”

 

And we’d both say, “AMEN!” really loudly just because I think we were both happy that things were turning out alright for us after all.

 

+++

 

“Seliah, I know you’re putting together a story here, and I’m not exactly sure how to say this, but I have to tell you… I had no idea your mother was going to leave me again. She tried so hard to make it work for us.”

 

+++

 

“They say the average span for marriages these days is about seven years. And that makes sense if we had been married nowadays. But you see, this was the 1950s and divorce really wasn’t a thing back then. It happened, of course, but not to anyone I knew. And I know it was hard for you to try to tell your friends what happened when you were a teenager – I know you were the only one you knew who went through a divorce like that. And to have it happen to you twice… well I guess the only thing I can say is that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.

 

And you were so good at handling everything, it seemed. I know we gave you a lot more than really should have been expected of you.

 

But you turned out alright, didn’t you?”

 

+++

 

Anyway, we got so comfortable in those years. I loved the normalcy of it all – especially after Toni’s illness went away.  ‘Course looking back now, maybe her illness never moved too far from her. Probably should have done more to help her.

 

But that’s all in the past now.

 

What we should do, is to focus on the good things that came from it. You and Lamar Kevin got to grow up with your mother. You both were able to get to know her. And meet her family some. You were able to learn about your heritage and it didn’t take me telling you some fairytale story for you to see the truth about it all.

 

We were as normal as the Joneses down the street, and that’s what mattered most to me.  Your mom and I didn’t fight, we didn’t expose you to drugs and alcohol – we really grew up then.

 

And that’s just what you’re supposed to do! In your early twenties, you make mistakes. And then you figure out how to fix them in your early thirties. Hopefully you figure it out quick enough not to ruin your children. I think we accomplished that.

 

+++

 

TONI

 

For a long time, I thought I was doing pretty good at living the right life with Roy and the kids. It was slow going for the first few years, and I gave myself lots of room so I could do some healing.

 

I took my time and forgave myself when my head took off in the wrong direction.

 

That wrong direction thing happened a lot.

 

Paralyzing stories raced in my head to where I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. Maybe it was coming off of the drugs, maybe it was my weak countenance. Whatever it was, the thought of Harold never really left my mind.

 

It was like I was leading a double life.

 

In the middle of pouring my coffee, I’d wonder if he was drinking coffee, too. He’d find me in my shower. It was his arms I’d imagine wrapped around me as I fell asleep at night.

 

I knew that wouldn’t do me any good, so I had to tell myself to not think about him. And as much as the smart part of me knew thinking like that spelled out disaster, the lazy heart part of me didn’t know how to do it different.

 

I became two people. The old past Toni was alive and whimpering, the new Toni dead inside and walking.

 

Old Toni scratched at the insides of my skin, begging to be let out for just one more time with the man she desperately loved, and new Toni dug her heels in saying, “You’re dead to me. I’m dead to me.”

 

+++

 

After a few years of this isolation, this constant focus, I thought I’d be okay going out for an hour. I’d done so well lately. Hadn’t even cried in a few weeks. Things were looking up.

 

Even caught myself enjoying life at times. Being a parent wasn’t so bad. Just a lot of responsibility. Things to do, mouths to feed, homework to help with.

 

And being a wife wasn’t so bad, either. I respected Roy, and knew what he’d sacrificed to take me back, to support me. So while it wasn’t something I had wanted to choose, it also wasn’t so terrible I couldn’t do it.

 

I had lots of practice doing things I wasn’t really into.

 

+++

 

I found myself actually longing for something. What it was, I couldn’t say – or didn’t say, depending on how honest I’m being here. I wasn’t going back to Harold, and I had thrown myself into art and my music. Still, it was clear I was missing something.

 

Roy thought that something was God. But I knew that wouldn’t get me where I wanted – I had plenty of guilt going on without the hellfire and brimstone.

 

And eventually I decided it was my own version of spirituality that I craved.

 

Of course, given that my interests lay outside of common practice at that time, I had to do a little sleuthing.

 

It began at the library, inconspicuously looking for any books I could on the subject. Of course, even that was lacking because really – you didn’t talk about witchcraft. What little information there was on the occult was diluted into obscure blips in the reference section.

 

I’d seen the stuff before – I just wasn’t sure where to find it. If I could just run into someone from the past who would point me in the right direction…

 

+++

 

HAROLD’S OLD PARTY BUDDY’S GIRLFRIEND

 

Toni showed up on my porch one day. It surprised me, but I hugged her anyway. I remembered her as being so fun.

 

She didn’t stay long. I offered her a drink, and she said she couldn’t hang…

 

The funniest thing – she wanted some reading materials. And direction.

 

I tried to talk to her – like, catch up on things – but she cut me off.

 

Like she didn’t want to talk about the old times.

 

I started to ask her about Harold, but she didn’t know.

 

So I lent her the stuff she wanted and she left.

 

Talk about a blast from the past!

 

+++

 

Man, those two – Harold and Toni… they were so beautiful together. You could just tell they were two sides to the same page. I just loved how they would look at each other – like they were having a private conversation without words.

 

Dunno what happened to them. Just one day, Toni was gone. And Harold never really recovered from that.

 

Shame. Who knows, really.

 

+++

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