Abandonment is a tricky thing. A strange thing.
It's not a word you hear much anymore. Like orphan, or pity, it's a word, a concept, that's gone out of style. You don't find abandonment listed on too many divorce decrees; instead you find the much more modern, antiseptic irreconcilable differences.
I read that Renee Zellweger slapped her husband of four months with a decree of fraud. I like that one. Fraud seems about right when the person you thought you married isn't that person, not at all.
I've decided to let Sam take care of this divorce. It'll cost me well over five hundred dollars, and it isn't something I ever wanted or asked for anyway. He's abandoning me - that's the correct and only term for it - and the least he can do is pay his own damn fare. It's time for him to take some sort of responsibility for the mess he's made.
My mother came into my room at 5:30 am Saturday morning. She spoke around the toothbrush in her mouth: Ashley, your sister's water broke. I have to go to the hospital. You stay here. We'll call.
Her words pumped liquid nitrogen up my spine. I was aware before I was fully awake that things were very, very wrong.
My sister had placenta previa, a condition where the placenta is placed over the cervix. It's a relatively rare condition, dangerous to the mother and the baby, and it necessitates delivery by caesarean section. The baby simply isn't able to get through the placenta.
Her c-section had been scheduled for November 1. She was never supposed to go into labor.
We live an hour away from Boise, Idaho. A full hour by car. And my sister's contractions were four minutes apart.
I'd barely gotten out of bed when my mother swept out the door. I made sure she had her cell phone, and I settled in to wait for news.
And I made the mistake of trying to call my husband.
Sixteen years of loving someone I thought I knew made me believe that he might possibly be there for me. I was shaking, scared, alone. I called. The phone rang, just as it's rung thousands of times since October 27 of last year. And just like all those other thousands of times, he refused to answer.
I wasn't surprised. Not really. I left two messages, but it was apparent he'd turned off his phone by the time I called a second time. He wants to erase me.
So instead I called Ward. Ward's one of my very oldest friends; I've known him since I was fourteen. He was my confidant for years, my roommate after my first divorce. He's the one who introduced me to Sam.
Our friendship's been strained over the past year or so, because it's hard for Ward to be in the middle of me and Sam. He loves us both, though he's exasperated by Sam's stubborn refusal to communicate with me. But Ward lives in Sam's city, and they are old friends as well. I try not to make Ward take sides.
So Ward called me back almost immediately. He listened to me cry and made soothing sounds. He told me everything would be all right. He took care of me.
We talked for about forty-five minutes, and at the end I couldn't help myself. I asked The Question: Is Sam seeing someone else?
Ward hesitated. Ash, you sure you want to talk about this now? I nodded into the phone, hiccupped a quiet Yes.
Ward sighed. He was seeing someone a while back, yeah. A couple of times a couple of months ago.
It didn't feel the way I'd expected it to feel. Maybe it was the fact that all my adrenaline had been spent on Elizabeth. Maybe it was the accumulated sludge of a year's worth of silence that acted as a buffer to the pain. I didn't really feel anything at all other than a muffled thud in my soul, the proverbial other shoe dropping.
Mostly I felt drenched in a bitter sauce of shame for worrying about this at all while my sister was in labor.
It's over. It's over, I breathed to Ward. Yeah, baby, it is, Ward said matter-of-factly, but you aren't.
God, I needed to hear that.
So everything turned out all right. Lucy Grace made it out just fine. Elizabeth is over the moon for her red-headed little baby girl. My family is walking into walls from a potent cocktail of exhaustion, relief, and straight up joy.
This baby is gorgeous, the way a lot of c-section babies are. They don't get squished in the birth canal, so they don't come out looking as though they just fought the Crimean War. She is pink and red and gold and peaceful. She arrived hungry and nuzzly and perfect.
I am not a wife anymore, but I am an aunt now.
New beginnings. Firm endings. It's been a big day.