Mad Men belongs to Matt Weiner, AMC, and Lionsgate.
A cold icy wind blew in through the front door as Betty Draper slowly walked into the entryway, as if in a daze. Reaching for the handkerchief in her purse, Betty blotted her eyes for what felt like the one millionth time that weekend. Bracing herself on the counter, Betty rubbed her temples to block out the harsh memories that were still so fresh in her mind: seeing President
John F. Kennedy shot on live TV, seeing his cruel assassin Lee Harvey Oswald brought down in the very same way. Betty turned head around the dark corner, wondering who was home at this hour. Betty blinked her eyes as she watched her husband soak in more information regarding the shootings. Realizing that he's been lying to me for the past ten years Betty thought to herself, is the very worst memory of them all.
She wasn't ready to face him yet, to try to break free once and for all. She had finally been presented with an exit strategy from another man, Henry Francis, who she had met only a few months before. Like her husband, Henry was a man with wealth and power; someone was willing to take care of her.
And all I have to do is tell him Betty reminded herself, placing a hand on her increasing beating heart. It's only words, she chanted, trying to build up the courage to go in and face him. And in the end, we both get our freedom, isn't that what he always wanted?
Betty peeked in the living room once more, undetected by her husband. It's one little lie, Betty placed her head in her hands. One little lie and I just know that it will come true at some point. If it's the last thing I do. Betty angrily wiped a stray tear as she put on her bravest face.
The light from the television set gave her body a special glow as she approached her husband of over ten years. She wordlessly stepped toward him, hoping the bags under her eyes were masked under the darkened room.
Don looked up at Betty, concern covering his face. Earlier that night she had taken off with no warning. He had offered to go with her, go anywhere with her, but she had wanted privacy. Though it killed him inside, he granted her wish in the same way that he had done dozens of times before. He could sense her tension, her fear over the shootings, her anger at his private life that he had kept from her. He had done it to protect her, to keep her by his side, but she saw it as another betrayal, another let down. "Francine has the kids," he stated to break the silence.
"I don't know where to begin," Betty said hoarsely. She was quickly losing her nerve, a very common occurrence around her husband who was well known for his persuasive tactics. It was rumored that he could talk a person into doing anything he wanted, and Betty had seen it firsthand watching Don make business deals over dinners and make his way up in the advertising industry.
"What?" Don took a sip of his bourbon, waiting for Betty to tell him where she went.
Betty took over her heavy winter coat, her body continuing to clam up. "I want to scream at you, for ruining all of this." She quickly lowered her head to wipe another tear from her right eye. "But then you tried to fix it….and there's no point. There's no point Don." Betty covered her mouth with her left hand, taking a step back toward the kitchen.
Don placed his drink on the coffee table and rose to meet her. "You're very upset; I understand. I know it's very painful, but it's going to pass." He extended his arm toward her, beckoning for her to come closer.
Betty adamantly shook her head. "I don't love you," she murmured, struggling to keep her head up. She needed to convince him that the marriage was over, that there was no point in pretending that there was no locked drawer, or that Don spent most of his time at the office and away from her and the children.
"Betts don't," Don corrected. "You're distraught." He stepped closer once more, slowly bridging the gap between them.
"It's true – that I don't love you anymore." Betty looked past Don, choosing the clock on the wall as her focal point. She couldn't look at him, not without caving.
"Stop it!" Don shouted in a voice that made Betty's fragile body shake. "You know that isn't true," he said gently, instantly regretting shouting at her. He stepped closer toward her again, causing Betty to back her body up against the wall.
"I kissed you yesterday, and I didn't feel a thing," Betty insisted, using her last resource, her last opportunity to push him away.
Don looked down at the ground, his face ashen. She may as well have slapped him in the face with that one comment. All his life he had been afraid of never finding love, the result of living with an abusive father and negligent step-mother. That fear continued to plague him in his adulthood; it was why he often kept her at an emotional distance during their marriage, why he chose to hide his less than perfect past from her sight. Taking a breath, Don contemplated his next move; Don was if anything a champion, and he wasn't about to go down – or lose his wife – without a proper fight. "Birdie," Don whispered, closing the gap with an easy stride. He had her cornered in the room, there was nowhere for her to go. "Tell me that you don't feel this," he challenged, placing one hand behind her back, lifting her chin with his other. Don captured her mouth with his.
Betty let out a soft moan as Don pulled her closer to his body. She felt her knees begin to weaken as she found herself clinging to his body. As Don opened his eyes to look into hers she immediately lowered her head, afraid to look at him. "No," she said softly. "Please."
Don tilted her chin up, forcing her to look at him. "Tell me," he repeated, caressing her cheek.
Betty angrily wiped a tear from her eye. "What are you trying to prove?" she demanded.
"You can't say it because it isn't true," Don said calmly, knowing that he had found her secret.
Betty sank down in the couch, her tears continuing to fall. He had caught her in the lie, her cover was blown. "I don't understand any of this," she whispered.
Don sat down next to her, resting a hand on her knee. Betty looked up at him with large, curious eyes asking him for answers. Answers for why Kennedy was shot in cold blood, why he had betrayed her for so many years, but most importantly why she couldn't tell him that she didn't love him – why she couldn't walk away.
"Things will get better," Don promised her once more.
Betty shook her head. "Saying it doesn't make it true. How many more skeletons do you have in your closet?" she asked, frightened.
Don took Betty's hand in his. "I told you everything," he promised her. "You know the whole truth."
"Then why don't I feel better?" she asked, leaning back into the sofa.
Don kissed Betty's forehead. "Go upstairs and get ready for bed. I'll call Francine and ask her to keep the kids overnight."
Betty stared at Don as he gestured to the stairway. Shrugging her shoulders, she followed his orders once more. Betty shielded her eyes from the bright lamplight as she reached for the first nightgown that she could find.
Damn him, Betty swore to herself, cursing herself as well for not being able to play his game, to hide her feelings as he always did with her. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Betty rested her head in her hands. You can't say it because it isn't true. Don's words echoed loudly in her head. At the end of the day, she knew that he was right. If I had wanted to leave him, I would have left years ago, she thought solemnly. Lord knows he's given me plenty of opportunities and reasons for doing so.
Betty stood, unzipping her dress from the back, allowing it to fall in a graceless heap by her feet. She still loved her husband, warts and all, inspite of everything he did to her. She had trained herself to believe that she stayed with him out of convenience, because there was no logical way out for her. But then Henry Francis came into her life, and he had offered her the perfect way out; so that she wouldn't have to take care of herself –he would gladly take care of her. All she had to do was tell Don that she wanted out.
Betty reached for her nightgown, pulling the silk over her body – the body that refused to lie for her, the body that still craved her husband. One look from him – one little smile, and she would melt in his arms as she always did. Her husband had the ability to win nearly any argument with his silent power of persuasion. What is this power he has over me, she often wondered during long and lonely nights without him. She could honestly say that she had never felt that way about any other man, any other person really other than her father. It was her love for him that kept her silent during his philandering episodes, his blatant lies, his constant need to put his needs above her own. I should want to walk away, Betty thought to herself as she climbed into bed. Any other sane person would want to leave, wouldn't they?
Betty propped herself with her pillows as Don opened the bedroom door, carrying a glass of warm milk, an empty glass, and a bottle of whiskey. Don wordlessly handed her the milk as he took off his sweater and searched for his pajamas.
Betty sipped the warm liquid, allowing it to slide down her throat. With a heavy sigh, she placed the container on her bedside table.
"Come here," Don beckoned as he crawled into bed. Betty scooted her body into his arms, resting her head on his chest. Don reached for the whiskey, pouring his glass about one third full.
"Let me see that," Betty said as she poured a shot of the whiskey into her milk. Betty methodically stirred it with her longer right index finger.
"I like your style," Don admired, squeezing her shoulder.
Betty took a rather un-ladylike swig of her milk, she needed a drink tonight, and for many nights after that it seemed. She offered her husband a small smile. "Tell me things will get better," she said softly.
"I promise you they will." Don held her a little closer. "This year is almost over."
Betty nodded her head. Craning her head she turned to her husband. "Are there any more secrets that you haven't told me?" Betty closed her eyes. "Because I know that I can't take any more surprises."
Don kissed Betty's mouth, brushing the hair off her face. "I have told you everything important about my past," Don promised her. "And I'll tell you again as many times as you need to hear it."
Betty kissed Don on the cheek. She knew that there were things that she would never disclose to him, namely Henry Francis, who was going to fade into Betty's past. In her heart Betty knew that that was where he belonged. If she had truly wanted a relationship with Henry she would have done more to pursue it, rather than wait and see what would happen. "I'm sorry for everything."
Don pressed his fingers on Betty's mouth. "You have nothing to apologize for."
But I do, Betty thought to herself as she lowered her head on the pillow, thinking about how close she came to giving up on their marriage; the fact that she had nearly sunk to his level and committed an adulterous affair of her own.
"New Year, new start," Don assured her. "It's the only way to move on."
The streets of New York were relatively silent as they prepared for a new year and a new world of promise, hope, and for some despair. The lucky ones were those who had a partner to go with them on the New Year, someone to lean on and walk with during the long months ahead. The unlucky ones, they forged ahead, hoping to find companionship along the way because fresh starts were always better when you had someone to share them with.