It’s such a textbook mid-life crisis that she almost finds it amusing.
Except, of course, that it’s really not.
She wonders now in retrospect when the decline really began and why she didn’t see it back then. Or if she did, but had no clue it was going to end up like this.
Ben has been depressed ever since he lost his job at the law firm due to bad performance and a few questionable decisions – even now she has no real insight in those mistakes but she reckons they have to be fairly bad for the firm to fire a low-ranking assistant. If he’s found something of importance to meddle with, that’s a mistake to begin with.
He’s been depressed, but depression isn’t something that makes you leave your partner. So she hadn’t. She had encouraged him to seek help and get out there looking for new jobs, she had more or less convinced him they should wait with that second child Ben so desperately had wanted back then.
She had worked really hard to sort it all out. For them, for him.
And Ben, he tells her right before everything falls to pieces, had been cheating on her.
At first he refuses to tell her with whom, says it doesn’t matter but of course it does. It hasn’t just been one time either, it’s been a thing.
And just when she thinks it can’t hurt more, Ben finally tells her he’s been cheating on her with her friend, Theresa. That hits something final in her, strikes a raw and painful spot deep inside where she knows that she will never be able to take him back, that no matter what they once promised each other, she will turn her back on him now.
“I want you out of this house tonight,” she tells him. Her voice is calm, cold. Her head spins.
“There i absolutely nothing you can say to make this better, Ben. Just… don’t try.”
Of course, afterwards she still isn’t sure she did the right thing. The necessary thing, perhaps, but not necessarily the right one.
“Of course you did,” Cindy assures her, with that angry frown she has worn ever since Petra explained the situation for her friends.
Josephine agrees, though her verdict is less harsh just as Josephine as a person is less offensive than Cindy. Cindy might be sweet and everything but hurt her and she will unleash hell. At the moment is feels like the kind of person Petra wants to have in her life.
In fact they both are, and the three of them make a very strong, supportive little group of friends that Petra actually trust. Whatever trouble they might run into they’ll be there for each other, she knows that in her bones.
They’re very far from being judgemental and they’ve both had their fair share of issues in their lives, which Petra finds is a very good trait the older you become. The more someone’s been through, the less likely they are to jump up on a high horse and judge your struggling.
She’ll survive. She’s sure of it. Financially her situation isn’t exactly safe and sound but she’s going to go back to work now and ask for as much help as she possibly can. Cindy has already offered her daughter’s babysitting services and Josephine claims that her house is always open for Petra’s kids when she needs it.
She has a small network and she has her kids.
For them, at least, she will have to find solutions to this situation, too, the way she’s always found solutions before.
Ben hadn’t exactly counted on his daughter’s support but it does hurt a little to see how openly hostile Mireia is when she comes to visit him after he’s managed to move out of the motel and into a small trailer. It’s been a month. A horrible, confusing month.
“So this is it? This is what you left Petra for? To live in a fucking trailer park?”
“I didn’t leave-”
“You cheated on her!”
“It’s more complicated than-”
But he isn’t sure it’s more complicated. He isn’t sure what is, this strange feeling inside him that seems to drive him these days. Some sort of desperation, a sensation that time is running out and he’s not doing enough to make himself happy or successful and of course sleeping with Theresa isn’t going to fix that. It’s just that she has no expectations, no demands to make of him and since he has nothing to offer anybody, he finds himself longing for just that.
She doesn’t need him. But he needs her.
“I’m in love with you, Theresa.” He says it in a rush just after they’ve kissed and she pulls away to look at him, and for a second he thinks she will return the phrase, return the sentiment.
Instead she just looks a little bit sad.
“Oh,” she says.
She takes a step back, untangles herself from him.
“It’s just that this is all I want from you. From us. I don’t want a relationship. I’m… I’m in love with someone else.”
Ben blinks. This is just a fucking nightmare year all around, a whole endless road surrounded by crap in every direction.
“You’re in love with someone else?”
She nods. “Pointless sort of love. I can’t really let it go, even if it’s pathetic.”
“Well, then you know how I feel, at least.”
“Ben, look. I think you might need some time alone. Maybe some counselling.”
He doesn’t linger in her house long enough to hear the end of her hobby shrink analyis of him.
That night he goes out to a bar for the first time in what seems like years. He’s never been a bar hopping sort of guy, at least not since the days when he was in his early 20s. He prefers not to think about how long ago that was tonight.
It’s like he can see himself from the outside and still not manage to prevent himself from doing the stupid, pathetic shit he does. Like flirting with pretty girls half his age.
He watches himself, watches Ben walk up to this girl and he knows from the moment she looks at him – with that blend of pity and disgust that he deserves – that she will turn him down. And even so, he sees himself flirt with her.
It’s a downward spiral, he knows as much.
He just wonders when he will stop spinning.
* So Ben made a booty call for Theresa Ceder and this time I let Petra discover them. Theresa is Ben’s One according to ACR and – wait for it – Theresa has another One, namely Michael Smith. (They had a woohoo-based relationship before he got serious with Sarah.) LOL, the drama.