written by Shameka Erby | @ShamekaErby
Savannah slammed the door, turning to lean her back against it. She sighed; her tea-colored eyes drifted shut. The end had come… again. This time, it hadn’t taken as long as Savannah had thought it would. She supposed it was because he’d known it was coming. Even a blind man could see the disaster, the devastation, the decaying mass their relationship had been. She’d had no choice but to end it… again. Tears slid from under her closed lids; Savannah’s heart twisted painfully. She opened her mouth, her full sensuous mouth, to let forth a sob and could barely catch her breath. As she pushed away from the door and propelled her body up the stairs to the bedroom, she wondered what would happen tomorrow. The plush mattress welcomed her; the soft pillows beckoned her tears. Savannah curled into a ball, trying to understand how this could still hurt so badly when it wasn’t the first time.
The sun danced through the curtains the next morning, pulling Savannah from a tortured sleep. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. The walls of her bedroom stared back at her, the baby blue soothing to her frazzled nerves. Savannah scooted to the edge of her mahogany four-poster and dropped silently to the thick-carpeted floor. She began to strip, hoping that a shower might wash away yesterday’s heartbreak. Naked, Savannah walked into her bathroom suite. She looked around at her sanctuary. The pale blue walls to match her bedroom, heated marble floors, double sinks and vanities, whirlpool tub and separate shower closet with eight multi-directional water jets. Her bathroom was an ode to her every luxurious, decadent fantasy; a fantasy that Mike had made possible. Mike, her husband, who loved her, spoiled her, who gave her everything she ever imagined. But Mike was gone. He’d left her in a blaze of anger, pain tinting his hazel eyes two shades darker. He’d yelled that he couldn’t come second in her life anymore; he couldn’t keep sharing her with another man- more specifically, with Justin. Justin, who she’d thrown out, for the sixth time, last night. Savannah knew that letting Justin stay in the house after Mike left her was a mistake. But she never could control herself around Justin, never could say no when he needed something. Her love for him was too strong; it ran too deep. The idea that he could fall without her there to pick him up made Savannah’s blood run cold. She stepped into the shower, turning on the jets, adjusting the water until it was as hot as she could bear it. She soaped her pecan skin, trying not to burst into tears as she thought about Justin, out there alone, with no one to look after him. She finished her shower and brushed her teeth. Savannah stared at her face in the mirror, a face fraught with tension and worry. She wanted to go out and look for Justin, tell him that she hadn’t meant it when she said he needed to leave. But Savannah knew that if she was going to have any chance of convincing Mike to come home, she had to turn her back on Justin. And more than anything, she wanted Mike to come home. Savannah went through the bathroom’s second door, which led into her walk-in closet. The closet also had a second door, which led into the outer hallway, but it was usually locked. The closet was filled with clothes and accessories of every kind, organized by type and color. It was another fantasy brought to life by her husband and Savannah was sad as she stood amongst her clothes, staring at the empty shelves that used to hold Mike’s things. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. Pulling underwear, socks, blue yoga pants and white cotton top from the shelves, Savannah dressed quickly and headed downstairs. As soon as her foot hit the last step, there was a knock at the door. Savannah bit her bottom lip, nervous. It was beginning. This was the part where she told Justin she was serious, and refused to let him back in. It was a scene they’d both played many times. The knocks became more urgent and Savannah headed to the door, gathering her courage along the way.
“Who is it?” she called out through the heavy oak door.
“Vannah, open the door. Please let me in.” Justin called back.
“I can’t. I told you last night- this is over, okay? This is the last time.”
“Please, I’ma do better, I swear.”
“No you won’t. Why do you lie to me? And to yourself? You’re not going to do better and I can’t… I won’t do this with you anymore.” Savannah started to cry, her heart breaking in two.
“Give me a chance, Vannah! Just one more chance! You know you’re all I have… you gonna leave me out here like this?” Justin begged, his voice rising with his panic. If Savannah didn’t let him in, he was as good as dead… and they both knew it. He tuned into her guilt, hoping to remind her of all they meant to each other. Meanwhile Savannah stood on the other side, sobbing, wrapping her arms around her body to keep her hands from undoing the lock on her front door. She wanted to let him in so badly, but knew she could not do it. Not if she wanted any chance of a normal life, or a normal marriage, again. If she could only make him better, magically cure him of his sicknesses and childish impulses… but she knew from experience that that was a battle Justin needed to fight on his own. Savannah wiped her face, sniffling loudly and trying to get herself together. When she could trust her voice, she began to speak.
“You have to do this alone. I can’t hold your hand anymore; I have my own life. And as many times as I keep opening my heart to you, opening my door to you, you still don’t stop. So I can’t help you this time. I don’t have anything else to give.”
“I won’t do it no more, Savannah. I swear to you, baby girl. I’m gonna stop. No more taking stuff from the house, no more bringing women here, no more putting my hands on you- everything stops now.” Justin pleaded. She wanted with all her heart to believe him, but her fear brought her common sense to the forefront- he’d lied far too many times.
“You’re right- everything will stop now. I’m not going to let you in here, Justin.”
“What? So it’s like that Savannah? How can you do this to me? Huh? I hope you’re happy when I end up dead!” Justin’s last sentiment was punctuated with hard bangs and kicks that Savannah knew were going to damage her beautiful door and give Mike one more thing to be angry about. But finally, he left. Savannah went to the window and peered out. Justin was sitting on the curb, his head in his hands. Savannah knew he was crying.
“I love you, I really do. But I have to save myself.” She whispered to the lone figure sitting outside. She turned away and went into the kitchen.
Savannah was eating a bowl of pasta when she heard keys in the front door. A moment later, her husband entered the kitchen.
“What you doing here?” he questioned her. Savannah shrugged her shoulders.
“I could ask you the same thing.” She replied. Mike opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of orange juice.
“I took the day off; I wanted to work out, came to use the weights and the treadmill. Thought you’d be at work.”
“Yeah well, last night was rough, so I stayed home.”
“Yeah but-“ Mike held up his hand to stop her explanation.
“I don’t want to hear it. That’s okay.” He said, taking his bottle and leaving the kitchen. Savannah stayed to finish her pasta, her throat full of unshed tears. She’d known that Mike wouldn’t want to hear her story, and that he’d think this was like all the other times. She’d known, but still, his rejection hurt. After she finished eating, she went into the dining room and down the stairs to the basement and exercise room. Mike was lifting weights, his muscles glistening with sweat. He’d taken his shirt off and changed into basketball shorts. Savannah felt a twinge between her thighs and she suddenly missed her husband even more.
“Mike?” she called out. He turned to face her, his dark chocolate face expressionless. His hazel eyes watched her intently, trying to guess what she was going to say.
“Yeah Vannah, what is it?” he answered, his full lips turning downward in a frown. Savannah bolstered her strength and cleared her throat.
“I- I threw Justin out… for good this time.” She said quietly. Mike smirked and shook his head.
“He’ll be back tonight Savannah, we both know that. Why do you even bother with this?”
“This time it’s different, Mike. I mean it, I really do. I’m trying to change and I-“
“I’ve heard all this before, baby. Why should I believe you this time?” Mike replied and began lifting again. Savannah could feel her marriage slipping away; knew that she had to convince Mike that she was serious… even if she didn’t believe it herself.
“I packed his things, Mike. There’s not a trace of him in this house anymore, that’s what’s different. I took back his keys and changed the locks on everything except the front door. The only reason I left that door alone was so you could come in. I took all his stuff to Celeste and told her that she’d have to go back to dealing with him. I asked my doctor to recommend a counselor for me to talk to; I took him off of my insurance policy. And I turned him away, baby. He came back here… and I turned him away.” She explained desperately, needing her husband to believe in her again. Mike put down the weight and stood up. He walked over to her.
“Show me the policy; show me the changed locks. I want to see everything, Savannah.” He said in a low voice. Savannah took his hand and went up the stairs, showing him the empty closets that used to have Justin’s things, the new keys and alarm codes; the papers verifying that Justin was no longer a beneficiary or under her coverage; more papers canceling the policy Savannah had taken out on him. Mike looked at it all with no reaction. When they were finally just sitting on the living room couch, Savannah tried to hold his hand, but he pulled away. She wanted to cry; he still didn’t believe her. Before she could control her body, she was sliding down to the floor, kneeling in front of her husband, tears running down her face.
“Please come home Mike.” She begged. He took her hands and tried to pull her up, but Savannah stayed there. She needed him to know how badly she felt for wrecking the best thing in her life, in both their lives. She’d carelessly thrown Mike to the side to protect Justin, to nurture Justin, to win Justin’s love. But all she’d gotten was heartache and she’d broken Mike’s heart in the process. Savannah needed the chance to prove that she was sorry.
“Savannah I want to… I just can’t, okay? Not right now.” Mike told her, his voice breaking. If there was one thing in the world he could not stand, it was to see Savannah cry.
“Please, please, I’ll do anything. I’ll do anything. We can move away, like you wanted. I’ll never see Justin again, I promise. Just come home baby; please come home.” Savannah could barely get the words out; she was choking on her own tears. Mike stood up. He pulled Savannah up on her feet and then lifted her into his arms. Her arms locked around his neck and he carried her up the stairs. The two of them were crying. Mike had never learned to say no to Savannah; leaving her was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do. But Justin was a cancer, poisoning their relationship, and Mike could only take so much. He entered his bedroom and laid his wife on the bed. He kicked off his sneakers and got in beside her, pulling the drapery cord, to make the thin silk canopy fall, enveloping the bed in a filmy romantic cocoon. Savannah loved this bed; that was why he’d bought it. He kissed his wife, using her surprise to slip his tongue into her mouth. His hands moved down her body, reintroducing himself to her curves. His tongue swept her mouth, making her moan aloud and cry harder. Mike had never known desire like this, could feel his penis swelling bigger with each taste of his wife’s mouth. Savannah squirmed underneath Mike’s hands, begging to be touched. She was shocked at the force of her wanting, could feel her body becoming wet, getting ready to receive him. She ran her hands over his chest, rubbing his nipples and tangling her fingers in the soft curls of hair. Mike’s mouth moved to her neck and his hands found their way under her soft cotton shirt. Savannah lifted her arms and the shirt was removed from her body. She put her arms out to receive more of Mike’s kisses and felt air. She opened her eyes. Mike was looking down at her arms, his eyes dark and dangerous. Savannah gulped; she’d forgotten about the bruises.
“What happened to you?” Mike whispered harshly.
“Mike, it was an accident.” She rushed to explain. He shook his head.
“Try again: what happened to you?”
“Mike, it was nothing. Justin-“
“Justin did that to you? Justin bruised your arms like that?”
“Yes, but it wasn’t like you think. He doesn’t know his own strength-“
“Wasn’t like I think? I think that Justin put his hands on you and by the amount of excuses you making, I think it wasn’t the first time. Why didn’t you tell me?” Mike demanded. Savannah sat up, moving back against the pillows.
“I was afraid of what you’d do to him. It was just this and one other time, I swear. He was out of it and I-“
“What do you mean by that Savannah? Out of it? You mean high, right? He did this to you because he was high?”
“No! He did it because- because I… I wouldn’t give him any money to cop, okay? I told him he wasn’t getting anything and he slammed me against the wall and gripped me by the arms. He only let me go when I… when I…”
“When you what, Savannah?” Mike pressed, moving to cradle her in his arms.
“When I told him I was going to call you.” She answered softly.
“Why didn’t you call me? Dammit Savannah, he could’ve seriously hurt you! That’s what I’m talking about. When he’s in that state of mind, there’s no telling what he’ll do. I know you can’t handle his addiction because he can’t even handle it! He would’ve put you in the hospital for a ten-dollar high.” Mike said. Savannah knew the words were true, but she didn’t want to believe them.
It was true that Justin had been getting high off and on as long as she’d known him, which was pretty much her entire life. She went ten years without hearing a word from him and then he showed up on her doorstep one day, claiming he was clean and sober. Savannah was coming off of the hardest time in her life at that point, and thought that Justin could be a part of her and Mike’s brand new life. Mike saw Justin as a threat from the beginning; he worried about his influence over Savannah. Savannah naively thought that there was room for everyone; that she could keep Justin around. But when he started to regress into his old habits, Mike demanded that she cut her losses. Savannah refused; what else could she do? She loved Justin so much. After a while, Mike got sick of not being heard, and of helping someone who only wanted to take his wife away from him. So he’d left her. Things got worse after that.
When she first let Justin move in, he’d promised her he wasn’t getting high anymore. But soon after that, things changed. Valuable things were missing from the house; strange women would be there when she got home. When she confronted Justin, he’d gotten upset and she asked him to leave. But he was right back the next day, reminding Savannah how much he loved her, begging for her forgiveness. And she’d taken him back. And the cycle began. The last two arguments were especially combative. Justin had demanded money, jewelry, anything he could use to cop. When Savannah refused, he’d gripped her, threatening to hurt her if she didn’t help him. Only the threat of Mike had made him see reason. Savannah had never been so afraid. That was when she knew it was time for Justin to go.
“I know I can’t handle it, Mike. That’s why I told him to leave.” She admitted in a small voice. She ran her hands through her hair and moved closer to her husband. Savannah leaned up and kissed him gently, trying to coax him out of his bad mood. She didn’t want to talk about Justin anymore. She just wanted to reconnect with her husband in the most basic way, and then do all she could to convince him to come home. Mike began kissing her back, caressing her breasts and pushing her back onto the bed. His hands stroked her hard nipples. Savannah looped her arms around his neck. Mike’s mouth moved lower, covering one quivering nipple. His wet tongue set Savannah on fire and she moaned, calling her husband’s name. He stopped and looked at her, his eyes burning into her soul.
“Make me forget about him, Mike.” She pleaded. He stared at her a moment longer and then began to make love to her again. Savannah gave up her body, her soul, hoping for some relief from the pain in her heart.
Banging on the front door woke Savannah from the soundest sleep she’d had in months. Mike lay next to her, his body still, but Savannah knew he wasn’t sleeping. He was waiting to see what she would do. Savannah turned on the lamp next to her bed and sat up. She rubbed her eyes, and contemplated her options. If she let Justin in, not only would Mike leave again, but Justin would suffer his wrath for the bruises on her arms. If she sent him away, he might not make it through the night. Savannah made her decision quickly and moved to get out of bed. When her feet hit the floor, she turned to her husband.
“Come with me.” She whispered. Mike hesitated, and then got out of bed. Savannah wanting his support was a monumental thing. Normally, she demanded the space to deal with Justin on her own, saying that no one loved him, understood him, like she did. Asking for his presence meant that not only was she allowing Mike to help her deal with Justin, but also that she had no plans to let him in. Mike pulled on his shorts and a T-shirt and waited for Savannah to find her slippers. They went downstairs and Mike unlocked the front door. He pulled it open. Justin stood on the other side, looking tired and weak. His face was drawn and had a grayish cast.
“Hello Justin.” Mike spoke quietly. Justin stared at him with hatred in his eyes.
“You’re the reason! You’re the reason she’s turning her back on me! You’re the reason she doesn’t love me anymore!” he said loudly. He tried to push past Mike and enter the house, but Mike easily held him off.
“I told you this morning- no more Justin.” Savannah said, stepping into his line of vision. Justin sneered at her.
“You didn’t mean that shit- you never do. You love me, and the two of us are supposed to be together. Hell, we’re all we’ve got.”
“That’s not true. You may feel alone in the world, but I’m not. I have Mike. I tried to help you; God knows I tried. But this is too hard and I’m not equipped for this. I just want some peace; can’t you understand that?” Savannah poured out her feelings, warring between sympathy for Justin and her own sense of self-preservation.
“I just need a place to rest my head, Savannah.” Justin said in a low voice.
“You should go home, to Celeste. I mean, technically it’s your house too.” Savannah reasoned. Mike was silent during this exchange, knowing that his opinion wouldn’t be the deciding factor either way. Justin shook his head.
“She won’t let me in. I don’t want to have to deal with her; I don’t want her to try and deal with me-“
“But you don’t give a damn about me having to deal with you, right? How could you do this to me? How could you take advantage of me? How could bring that shit into my house when you know what I went through, when you know how hard I worked to get clean? I thought you cared about me!” Savannah’s voice was rising with her anger and frustration. Justin held a place in her heart that no one could touch, but he was everything that she spent the better part of three years trying to overcome.
Mike was surprised. Savannah always said she tried to avoid bringing up her past drug use. She didn’t want Justin to feel bad, she would say. It was always a sore point between them. Justin using and coming to Savannah for help sabotaged her recovery, Mike thought. It just made his resentment of Justin grow.
“I care about you Savannah. I love you and you know that. I just need a break, that’s all.” Justin begged. Savannah angrily wiped the tears that had begun to fall. She wanted to scream. Mike looked at her and stepped forward again. He could see Savannah fighting with herself, mentally tearing herself in two.
“Look Justin,” he began, hoping he wouldn’t regret what he was about to say, “we have a little room over the garage. All it has is a bed. It has a private entrance so you could rest there whenever you needed to. We’d leave you food every day, but you wouldn’t be allowed in the house. Could you handle that?” Savannah stared at her husband, amazed. Even after all that had happened, he still had enough forgiveness in his heart for Justin. Savannah fell even more in love at that moment and made a promise to God that she’d never hurt Mike again. Justin stared at them for a long moment, and then he nodded his head. Mike nodded also.
“I’ll get some shoes on and we’ll get you settled. Stay here on the porch until I get back.” He instructed and went into the den. Savannah leaned against the wall and let out a deep breath.
“Please forgive me, Savannah. I just need- I just need…”
“A place to catch your breath, I know. I needed the same thing. But eventually the occasional breath wasn’t enough. I had to give that life up… before I lost everything. You have to give it up too.”
“I’m too old and I’m not like you, Vannah. You’re the strong one; you always were. I love you.” Justin finished just as Mike came back into the foyer. He stepped outside and started closing the front door.
“Go back to bed; I’ll be there soon.” He instructed Savannah. She nodded and wiped her face.
“I love you so much, Vannah girl.” Justin called as he went down the front steps.
“I love you too Daddy.” Savannah called back. Mike closed the door and Savannah went upstairs to wait for her husband.