Sweeter- Part I

THIS IS A WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION

It will be serialized over the next several days…the ending will be marked in the classic styling…
THE END

Leanne Jenner sat on her sofa with her laptop across her knees. She wanted to stretch out over the cushions, but she didn’t want to kick Marge and Homer, and even if she asked them to move, they likely wouldn’t. They’d just look at her with their, ‘Yeah, right,’ faces. “So, I’m doing this, you guys,” she told them. They both looked at her with eager encouragement. “It’s gonna be great. Sarah met Mark this way. They’re happy, and they’ve been married like…a really long time. And it was ‘new’ when they did this. Now, everybody does it, right? There are TV commercials and smartphone apps for it and all that.” They continued looking at her, offering happy, tacit agreement to everything she said. “You think it’s a good idea, right?” Marge opened her mouth and let her tongue hang out of one side, smiling. Homer thumped his tail a few times on the cushions. Dogs always think whatever your plan is, is a good plan, unless it involves the words ‘vet’ or ‘bath.’ And sometimes then too.

Leanne was asking her two silent roommates and best friends about signing onto an online dating service. She hadn’t dated in five years. She didn’t expect to be dating again…ever. When she stood up with Kyle a year ago, and said ‘forever,’ she meant it. He apparently didn’t. She’d spent the past six months of separation wondering if it was her ‘sickness’ part of ‘in sickness and in health,’ if she’d committed an unforgivable trespass he never disclosed, or if it was simply his general inability to ‘love, honor, and cherish,’ that ended things.

Kyle never wanted dogs. They’d dated for three years before he proposed, and Marge and Homer were always in the picture, but suddenly, once they were engaged, the dogs became an issue. He asked Leanne to re-home them. “Do you understand what you’re asking me here?” she asked, crying. He coldly responded, not offering her any words or gestures of comfort.

“Yes. Give up the dogs. They’re messy. There’s hair all over everything, and tennis balls laying randomly around the house. They’re in the way constantly. We can’t really ever do anything, because ‘we have to check on the dogs.’ And you’ve spoiled them into thinking it’s alright to sleep in bed.” Those things were all true, but he never complained about her apartment having dog hair and tennis balls all over it when they were dating, or about the dogs being underfoot or a burden when they took trips before they lived together, and he still scheduled vacations around Leanne’s available dog-sitters. And the dogs were bed hogs sometimes, but they weren’t infringing on any intimacy. In fact, Kyle rarely slept in the same bed with Leanne, even when she forced the dogs to the floor, or they’d just returned from a trip, and Marge and Homer were still at a friends’ house. Marriage somehow made the dogs giant problems, but they were also Leanne’s self-selected best friends since two years before she’d even met Kyle. She loved them. Almost like children. And she didn’t want to just give them up.

“So, it’s you or my dogs?”

“I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. You’re making me out to be a monster on your damn blog.”

He didn’t like the anonymous references she occasionally made about him on social media. Yes, sometimes when he ordered her to take her companion animals to the pound because she was taking too long to find a suitable home for them herself, or when he didn’t show for her at a delicate nephrologist appointment, and her feelings were smarting, she called him out on it online. Perhaps it was a little vindictive. But it was also cathartic and a necessary relief valve for her frustration, since Kyle never acknowledged that his actions ever hurt her. Despite her chronic health condition, he played the victim role expertly, and threatened divorce for most of their thirteen month marriage. He used the word ‘divorce’ every time things didn’t go exactly his way, and it worked like a charm. Leanne believed in fighting for marriage, and she had an extreme distaste for conflict, so she did as much as she could to make things up to Kyle’s ever-evolving, exacting standards. She did re-home her dogs with friends for six weeks, but Kyle was still inexplicably dissatisfied with married life. He finally saw an attorney, formally filed, and asked her to move out of the home they’d purchased together less than a year before. His behavior had always been a bit waffling and emotionally manipulative, even before they got engaged, looking back, and she berated herself for overlooking those red flags. She strangely felt as though she was working harder for his attention and affection as his fiancee and wife than she ever did when she was simply someone he took out, or his girlfriend. Marriage had made her feel less secure. She wished he’d simply declare an end. But he didn’t. He gave her just enough agonizing hope to hold on, but not quite enough to feel relieved. He claimed that after months of living apart, he’d know for sure whether or not he wanted to be married (incidentally disregarding Leanne’s desire to be married…her wishes apparently didn’t matter). But at the end of his prescribed time frame, he still had nothing for her but hurt and indecision, and now, while she was obviously disappointed, very angry, and a little scared, she was grateful for some form of closure. “Being away from me for months and still being unsure is being sure, Kyle. It’s over. Why can’t you just say, ‘It’s over?’ You’re weak.”

It was the most hurtful thing she’d ever uttered to another human being. But he was weak, and she finally accepted that she deserved more than someone who constantly made her feel she had to prove herself worthy of love when she knew she was worthy of love. She deserved someone who would make her a priority, and want to show up for her when her Type I diabetes became an overwhelming mountain to climb alone. Her human friends had told her these things for months, but it took the separation for her to realize them herself. So she typed herself up in two paragraphs, answered a few survey questions, and hoped something better would come along.

***

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