They sat across from each other in a busy restaurant neither of them had ever been to. He debated taking her to her favorite or their favorite restaurant but why introduce something negative to a positive place? He sighed deeply and stared down at the cup of coffee in front of him, void of any sugar or creamer. He hated coffee, but purposefully ordered it in hopes that it’d be one less excuse to postpone the impending moment.

 

    “So, you wanted to talk to me?” He glanced up to see her nose in her phone once again. But she was still as beautiful as the first time he’d met her. In fact, almost everything was the same as the day he had met her. Her long, chocolatey hair still glided through his fingers with ease, her smile still made him smile, hearing her laugh was still the best way to turn a bad day into a great one. Almost everything was the same except she was somehow different. Little quirks about him that once made her laugh now irritated her, she neglected to appreciate the things he did for her and the time he took to do them, and she wouldn’t tear herself away from her phone long enough to give him the time of day; however, she would give him plenty of attention to point out a flaw of his that she thought maybe he hadn’t already seen. “Well?” She glanced up from her phone, an old glare worn on her face. He opened his mouth but no sound came out and next thing he knew he was tasting a swig of hot, black coffee. She let out an exaggerated sigh and place her phone on the table. “So, what? You invited me down here just to waste my time? Couldn’t you have done that at home?”

 

“No. I-I-“ He stumbled over his words. It was like the words were getting tangled in his head and coming out in clumps, jumbled and nothing but nonsense. She sighed again and grabbed her bag, obviously ready to leave. He put up a hand, stopping her in her tracks. “I want to break up.” The words slipped out with ease this time as the look on her face turned from a glare to an expression of panic. She sat down and for the first time since stepping into the restaurant put her phone in her pocket, making full eye contact with him.

“Well, I don’t want to. We’re not breaking up.” He stared at her in disbelief. Could she do that?
“No, she can’t.” A familiar voice entered his head and he immediately recognized it as the voice of his best friend.
“She can’t treat you like this.” Another voice entered his head—his mother’s. His father’s voice followed hers,
“She has no right to treat you like you’re less than her. No one has the right to mistreat you.” Then his sister’s,
“You wouldn’t let a guy treat me like this. Don’t let her.” So many voices filled his head. All of them voices of people who loved him and cared about him. A new type of butterfly fluttered in his stomach than previously and he felt courage build up inside him.
“Yes, we are. You don’t just get to decide we’re not. A relationship takes two people and by those standards our relationship was over a long time ago.” And at that moment he felt a twinge of serenity enter him then leave. He knew it would take him awhile to feel okay again, but he was going to get there someday and this was the first step he needed to take to get to that point. He smiled at her, put some money on the table, and exited the restaurant. He didn’t look back and he didn’t hesitate.
Abuse doesn’t favor one gender over another. Either person can be the abuser and either person can be the victim. It’s important to recognize that there are people who love and care about us. With their help and by taking the first step, no matter what that step might be, we can move forward with our lives.

Published by Skyler Winder