A/N: So this is an idea I had in the car yesterday, and reflecting on when I was young and I found out something I shouldn't have when I picked up the phone and my father was on the line with his mother. It's an awful way to find anything out, especially at the age of seven.
The song is "Paralyzed" by Rosanne Cash.
I picked up the phone, you were both on the line
Your words to each other froze me in time
A lifetime between us just burnt on the wires
Dissolved in a dial tone, consumed in your fires
Your footsteps beside me, the phone in my hand
I can't move
I can't stand
Serena lifted the phone in the bedroom to call her boss back, having decided to work an extra shift, but found the line engaged. "I know," she heard the familiar voice of her husband. "I know."
"Then why tiptoe around her?" the petulant voice of a young woman demanded. "Why not just come out with it and get it over with?!"
"I don't tiptoe around Serena," Edward retorted quickly. "I can't just tell her like that. I need the right time." Realisation fell over Serena like a wave of acid, burning her as she struggled to hold her tongue for fear of being discovered.
"You are going to tell her about us though, aren't you?" the unknown woman asked him. Serena could just see her in front of her now – tall, blonde, skinny, pretty, young...everything she was not. She briefly thought about sitting down on the bed but she could not get the command from her brain to her legs to take her the two feet that separated them.
Everything she had built had just fallen. The idyllic family and the perfect career. The life in front of her. The trust in another person her very nature had made difficult to achieve. The house around her that very suddenly felt empty. The light air around her that was suddenly cold and dense as she was seared by shock.
Her eyes burned and she choked back shocked tears. "Oh, no," she vaguely heard Edward groan. "I've got to go."
The line went dead but Serena did not move a muscle; rooted to the spot she tried to control her breathing but her chest felt tight as all control slipped away into Edward's hands. She distantly heard footsteps running up the stairs but did not investigate, her mind only able to focus on one thing.
The footsteps stopped and she sensed her husband behind her. "Serena," he whispered. "What are you doing?" She couldn't open her mouth to answer, for once lost for words, an occurrence she inwardly admitted was as rare as her mother had always claimed. She was vaguely aware that she had not yet made enough sense of it all to allow her to put the phone down as he moved closer to her.
She could tell just from the tension next to her that he was half-expecting her to break his nose, but she couldn't.
Our faces in pieces, façades on the floor
The pretence between us for a moment destroyed
I don't want to go on with these words in my heart
But the ghost of your anger will tear us apart
How my little world just went up in smoke
I'm too young
I'm too old
She felt him take the phone from her hand, putting it gently back on its cradle. He was staring her in the face and she watched as he attempted to work out if she was angry enough t do any damage, verbally or physically. She was unable to say a word, her mind and emotions refusing to work in rhythm.
She was only able to force one word from her mouth: "Why?"
He did not answer but she saw the anger in his eyes that being caught out brought to the surface. He was immature. She had known that since the day she had met him, but she didn't think he could have been angry with her for catching him out. Or was he angry with himself? She couldn't tell.
The mask of perfection between them shattered, the shards scattered around them. This was no perfect relationship. This was a relationship based on lies. A marriage that relied on her patience and his discretion. It wasn't right. She couldn't understand why she was not enough for him.
She worked in a permanent job while he sauntered off to do locum work as and when he pleased. She looked after their child as if she was already a single mother while he sauntered off to the pub. She sat at home and did all the work while he sauntered off into bed with some woman ten years younger than him. But it was her world, and it had just fallen apart.
His selfish idiocy had ripped them apart. They were no longer a couple. They were separate entities who longed for separate things.
She wanted to know why. She wanted to say what was in her heart and her mind. But she couldn't string the words together. She couldn't make them make sense in her mind, never mind what they would have sounded like aloud.
She was naïve enough to think he was actually sorry, but experienced enough to know in her heart that he was only sorry he got caught.
One day soon I'll know
One day soon I'll just let it go
She decided that she couldn't know which event he was sorry for. Not yet. After she had let the pain and anger fade a little, maybe then, but she knew her husband well enough to know that he wasn't stupid enough to try and defend himself, despite his anger at her. He wasn't going to explain himself.
For her daughter, she had to be civil in the future. She refused to let his actions make her daughter bitter, no matter how bitter she was herself. In front of their child, she had to be polite, but alone with him she doubted her anger and defences would allow her to take any prisoners with him.
I run from the bedroom with legs paralyzed
I carve out my future part prophet, part blind
It's nobody's business, no one is to blame
We'll meet in the distance, new numbers new names
I've lifted the veil, I've walked through the fire
I'll move on
I'll go higher
With that and mind, she consciously made her numb legs force her out of her paralysis, running down the stairs. Anywhere away from him. Anywhere where she couldn't see his lying face. She was hurt but she couldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing that. She was angry but couldn't let him know how much it pained her.
She hastily searched the cupboard under the stairs for his holdall so she could do the only thing that made any sense. She tried to force back emotion and thinking with plain logic, and logic dictated that she had to get rid of him as soon as possible.
She thought briefly about where she was to go from here. The path was dark, and she couldn't see very far ahead, but she saw enough to know that he could not walk that path with her. He was already planning to leave her anyway – she was only accelerating the inevitable, but on her terms. She would have to calm herself before she faced him down, but she would not play the blame game with him. He was sure to find a way to make all this her fault. She wasn't going to say anything to anyone; he would only turn it around onto her.
She knew she would have to move away from here, and she knew she would have to estrange herself from him as much as she could, but that was all she could know just now.
She found the holdall and yanked it out with no care for what else she caused to fall out of place. She ran up the stairs to find him still in the spot she had left him in. She handed him the holdall and started pulling out shirts and trousers and underwear from the drawers, throwing them back to him. She knelt down and chucked a couple of pairs of shoes backwards onto the bed. She pulled his sweaters off the coat hangers, remembering it was still winter.
She had found the truth and was dealing with it; she was doing the most sensible thing she could think of. She knew this was going to be difficult – for their young daughter as well as for her – but she wasn't going to suffer the searing pain of betrayal more than once.
Fifteen year later, she stands at the doors to AAU and watches him read the wrapper of the sweets he has just got out of the vending machine. She is in a better position than he is now. She has made an effort to move forward and is in the best place she can be. He's paralysed her once before. She won't let him do it to her again.
Hope this is OK!
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