• Cate

One Last Chance

Updated: 5 days ago

Eleven years ago, I was married to a monster. I didn’t realize it at the time. He’d woven a woeful picture, one in which he was the only person who could love or tolerate me. I was so isolated, I thought it was true.

My mom had died nearly 2 years before. My daughter, Mina, was 4-years-old and my son, Parker, was 1-year-old. Their father, Patrick, and I had been married nearly 2 years now. That was no coincidence.

My mom had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while I was pregnant with Parker. I had left Patrick in Colorado. Again. My mom had nearly convinced me to leave him behind for good.

But then she got sick. I got scared. How could I raise two small children on my own? My mom was the only one who’d helped me at all. Without her, I’d be on my own. In the end, she’d agreed. Patrick and I got married 5 days before she died. That story is here, if you’re interested.

History was repeating itself. We had moved back to Minnesota. I’d come first, got a job, he’d followed and got his own job. We stabilized for awhile. He got homesick, sabotaged my job. Quit his job. Now we were hopelessly broke and the only solution was to go back to his home in Colorado.

It had happened a few times before. I knew just what this was. But I thought it was different this time. He already had a job waiting for him out there. It was a good job too. He’d have a work vehicle, which was good, because we’d been driving around my mom’s convertible, that I’d bought from my step-dad after she died.

I always had a job in Colorado at a camera chain. The store manager and I had hit it off and he’d hired me back every time I returned to Colorado. This time we’d be able to get a place of our own and start a new life. We’d be a real family and have some help with the kids from his parents and his cousin.

Patrick had orchestrated a complicated picture. He’d spent years undermining my family. He’d spent the last two years showing me that my home state of Minnesota didn’t want me. He painted a beautiful picture of a day off from the kids. Friends and date nights. We’d be happy this time. This time would be different.

He left ahead of me. He was going to start his job and come back and get us. I’d pack up the townhome and get ready to move. He took the car. What was supposed to take 3 weeks took 8 and soon we had days left to move.

He’d taken the car. I’d been on foot for nearly 2 months with two kids. We’d walk to the grocery store and lug groceries back. I was lucky it was summer. Things were stressful and I was feeling the burden of being alone with the kids with no transportation.

I resolved that this would be Patrick’s last chance. I would give him a year, and I’d tell him so. He had to get his shit together and we had to have our own place and everything had to be stable in one year. If not, I would leave him for good and I would take the kids with me, since he was not a very attentive father.

With help from his aunt and cousins, we moved back to Colorado in an unceremonious heap with everything happening at the last minute. We landed at his cousins house and that was where we’d stay for the next 3 months.

It was awful. We were all sharing one room. His cousin regretted taking us in before the first day was over and the situation was miserable. I tried so hard to find an apartment. But Patrick wouldn’t agree to anything.

Things kept getting worse and finally we ended up moving into a hotel. It was awful. I was working as much as I could. I was paying all the bills. I was feeding the kids. They had clean clothes and shoes that fit. We had a membership to the Denver Zoo and I took them every week. We went to the park every week, multiple times. I did everything I could to make it better for them.

But as time passed, things just got worse. Patrick was angry. He was so angry at all of us. He would fly into a rage and scream and yell and hit the wall. The front desk would call and ask if I was okay, but it did no good. What could I say with him staring at me?

I made friends with the other occupants of the hotel. There was a sort of community there, at the place where everyone was barely holding on. We all knew that it was between this crappy hotel and being on the street. We didn’t want to admit that we were all homeless.

Things were going downhill fast. It was summer again. I lamented to Patrick that the hotel’s washing machines were stretching out my clothes. He looked a little shocked and said, “can’t you see how much weight you’ve lost?”

The next day he handed me a shirt and it said it was extra small. He told me to go put it on. I was amazed that it fit. I couldn’t understand. I’d never been thin a day in my life. Now as I looked in the mirror, I saw my hollow cheeks. I saw how my clothes hung off my body.

I started to understand why I’d felt so weak. I had been becoming confused. Every night I had a dream about another life. I had friends and a job and I was happy. I started to doubt whether the reality I was living was real, when the dream was so much more plausible. I was starving to death and I hadn’t noticed.

One day, I picked up my kids from my mother-in-law’s house. She took me aside and she said, “look at your children.” I looked at them. They looked tired. They looked scared. None of us wanted to go back to that hotel room to see which Patrick would be there, the scary one, or the one that pretended not to be scary.

“This is no life for you.” She looked me in the eyes. “This is no life for your kids. You take them. You go home to Minnesota. Never take him back. Never come back here to live. You take them and you go.”

If his mom was telling me to go, I ought to listen. By this point, my aunties and cousins were begging me to come home anyway. There were a few offering to come get me. I never realized any of them even cared about me. But here they were, worried about ME.

But now that I knew that I had to leave, how was that to be accomplished? That was going to take some work.

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