by: Rebecca Taylor

The minute his hand came across her face, Dan Shore took a step back, shocked at what he had just done.
“Kirsten, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you.”
“We’ll talk about this later,” said his wife quietly, her hand still against her cheek where moments ago his hand had been. “You’d better have some coffee,” and she turned and left the kitchen heading upstairs. Dan heard a door close, and knew that it wasn’t the one to their bedroom, but to the spare room.
Why did I have to start drinking again? I knew that, that wasn’t the answer to my problems, why didn’t I say no to that first drink when the guys from the factory were going out after work, to try and have a good time, to try and forget that most of us could be out of a job within a few months. Not being able to stay in the same room, where he had struck the women he loved the most in the world, and knowing that she did not want to see him just now, Dan got himself a cup of coffee and carried it outside.
A few hours later, her face tear stained and still feeling shaking from the events of the earlier part of the afternoon, Kirsten walked downstairs wanting to talk to Dan. His actions scared her, she had never felt threatened by him before and now….She saw that he was not in the house, and seeing the late hour, and the fact that his coat was still there, she put her own on, and picked up his and went out to find him, hoping that he hadn’t done anything rash. Before his hand struck her, she wouldn’t have worried about his emotional state, but everything had changed in a second. Kirsten found Dan in his favourite place, sitting on a rock overlooking the lake.
“Hi, mind if I sit?”
“No, here,” he said moving over to give her more room.
“I brought your jacket, I thought you might be getting cold,” she said handing it to him.
“Thank you. Are you okay?”
“I will be, I hope, after we talk.”
“I love you, Kirsten, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am about what I did.”
“What made you do it, Dan? I know that you’re worried about work, but starting to drink again, just when things are so good between us, when we were thinking of starting a family, and now this.”
“If I lose my job, it means that I won’t be able to support a baby. A bunch of us just went to the bar, I didn’t mean to drink but it started as one and then it led to more. I got a ride home and then you asked me about it, and ….”
“I asked you if you’d been drinking because I love you, because I don’t want to lose you to the alcohol that takes over the man that I love like some demon. You know what it does to you.”
“I know, and I promise you, I’ll go back to AA again. I’ll start again, seven years sober and then one time I screw up and I hit my wife. I hate myself for what I did to you, for the look you have in your eyes right now, the fact that there is a space between us, when we used to be able to sit touching watching the sun set.”
“I thought we had something together, but to think that we could bring a baby into the world, it’s impossible, what if you had hit our child?”
“But I’d never,” replied Dan, the hurt showing through in his voice.
“Before this afternoon, I would have said you could never hurt anyone, but I was wrong. How could I know that leaving our baby alone with you would be safe? How do I know you wouldn’t be feeling sorry for yourself and take a drink? Now that you’ve had a drink, your body has the taste again, you’re going to crave alcohol again and if you couldn’t be strong enough to say no to it this afternoon, how do I know that you can do it now.”
“I’m going to get the help that I need to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
“But you’d had the help, you’d had seven years of being sober and bingo, one minute destroys that. I did a lot of thinking this afternoon. A long time again, when I was in high school in social studies class, my teacher taught us about domestic violence. I promised myself that no man would ever hit me and get away with it, that I wouldn’t put up with the excuses that so many women do, the I’m sorry, the it’ll never happen again, that if my life ever came to that, I’d pack my bag and leave. I wanted to do that this afternoon, but I found out that making that choice isn’t as easy as I thought it would be when I was sixteen. You were turning your life around when we met, you were in AA, and when I married you, I accepted that I was marrying an ex-alcoholic. In the five years that I’ve worn your ring on my left hand, I’ve never had a reason to doubt you. Today is one of the worst days I have ever had.”
An apology was on the tip of Dan’s tongue, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t want what he said to sound generic. He watched the tears streaming down his wife’s cheeks. He wanted to brush them away, but was afraid that his hand near her face would frighten her. He knew that no matter what happened that what he had done would always be there. Kirsten had turned her face away not wanting him to see her tears, but what he did see was the bruise starting to form.
I am a monster, I’ve become any alcoholic’s worst fear, to hurt the ones we love. How do I make this right? I’m going to prove to her that I’m worthy again, that I’m the man she married, the one she loves. The possibility of losing my job is nothing compared to the possibility of losing my wife. Slowly, he reached out his hand and set it on hers. Kirsten turned, her green eyes looking into his brown ones, the pain he felt obvious. She took his hand, and felt his wedding ring and rubbed the silver band with the tips of her fingers.
“Let’s go home,” she said after a while. They stood and walked back up the gravel path, hand in hand.
Dan started out the night in the guest bedroom and Kirsten in the master, but neither of them could get much sleep. It was two a.m., when Kirsten knocked on the door of the guest room. She knew that Dan was awake; she had heard him moving around.
“I don’t want it to be like this,” said Kirsten when Dan opened the door. “We aren’t going to fix this if we avoid each other, and I can’t sleep without you beside me. I know that you’re sorry about hitting me. I know you didn’t know what you were doing when you lifted your hand to me, and I will stand by you while you get help, but if it happens again, I won’t have a choice but to leave because I’m not going to live in fear of you.”
Together they made their way back to the master bedroom, where they spent the rest of the night in each other’s arms, each of them trying to let go of the hurt they felt.
In the days that followed, Dan and Kirsten began to count Dan’s days sober, as he attended AA meetings and tried to make things right with his wife. Another battle had begun; Dan would have to start his fight against alcohol again, and to regain his trust with Kirsten. It was going to be a long road to travel, but they were determined to travel it together.