“I’m sorry,” he wrote, hoping for the hundredth time that she’d respond. He hit send and waited while his message was released into the ether. A spark of hope lit through him that maybe, just maybe, today she would respond.
Sandra felt the message before she read it. A subtle vibration in her pocket since she turned her volume to mute.
What is it now, she thought. Already she was late, always late, and Manhattan traffic only added to her considerable irritation.
“Is there any chance you could hurry up,” she asked the cab driver.
“Lady, where the fuck do you expect me to go.”
She sighed and reached into her pocket preparing herself for the berating she was about to receive. Tom was ferocious when his deadline approached. That she was already 20 minutes late for their lunch editorial spoke volumes. She cringed, mentally preparing herself.
Sandra stared at the phone. At the number it came from. Not believing the message. She’d blocked him months ago and when he still refused to relent, she changed her number. Desperate to get away from him, his blocked calls, and his begging voicemails.
She wanted to scream even as bile threatened to rise and her stomach cramped and fluttered. She closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe, to keep it together.
How the hell did he get my new number?
But she knew. There was only one person who still visited him in the personal care facility, his home these last six months. One person who hadn’t given up on him. Sandra scrolled through her settings, teeth clenched as she went through the familiar motions of blocking him.
Five days. My reprieve didn’t even last a full week.
Tears threatened to spill and her fingers shook as she dialed.
“Hello.” Mom’s voice sounded calm, but threaded with a knowing, bone-weary exhaustion. “Sandra?”
“How could you,” she whispered. Not trusting herself to yell, scream, or finally break and sob into the phone. “How could you give it to him. You know why I did it. Why I changed my number.”
Several beats of silence, then a quiet sigh. “Because he deserves to know. He deserves to hear you say it.”
Sandra rubbed her temples. Always the same damn argument, the same battle lines drawn in the sand with Mom and Joseph on one side and her and Lily on the other. Dad flitted in between, sometimes agreeing with Lily, but mostly wanting to stray on the side of Mom and Joseph. Only the restraining order against Joseph kept him in check. An order Sandra believed he now regretted, even as it kept him safe.
“He doesn’t deserve a damn thing. Not from me. Not from anyone. You had no right.”
“I’m not going to abandon him. This whole family is abandoning him and I won’t do it.”
“So you gave him my number knowing full well I changed it because of him.”
“Sandra, he just wants…”
“I don’t give a damn about what he wants…” She couldn’t listen to another word. Not one word, less she began screaming. Already her hands were shaking. She hung up then threw the phone into her purse, not caring anymore that she was 30 minutes late. A single text and a phone call generated much larger problems.