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Tormentor Mine(84)

By:Anna Zaires

“And he chose the drinking.”

“No.” I shake my head. “Not at first. We ended up in the classic substance abuse cycle, where he’d beg me to stay, promise to do better, and I’d believe him, but after a week or two, things would go back to how they were before. And when I’d point out his moods and ask him to see a psychiatrist, he’d lash out at me, claiming I was the reason he was drinking.”

Peter’s frown deepens. “His moods?”

“That’s what I called them. Maybe it was clinical depression or some other form of mental illness, but since he refused to see a shrink, we never got an actual diagnosis. The moods started right before the drinking. We’d be doing something together, and suddenly, he’d seem completely out of it, like he’d mentally go into a different world. He’d get distracted and weirdly anxious—jumpy even. It was like he was on something, but I don’t think he was. At least, it didn’t look like drugs to me. He’d just go somewhere else in his mind, and there was no talking to him when he was like that, no way to get him to calm down and just be present.”

“Sara…” A strange expression steals over Peter’s face. “When did you say this all began?”

“Just a few months after we got married,” I answer, frowning. “So at this point, about five and half years ago. Why?” And then it dawns on me. “You’re not suggesting that—”

“That your husband’s transformation might’ve had something to do with his role in the Daryevo massacre? Why not?” Peter leans in, his eyes narrowing. “Think about it. Five and a half years ago, Cobakis provided information that resulted in the slaughter of dozens of innocent people, including women and children. Whether it was out of ambition or greed or sheer stupidity, he fucked up, and he fucked up big. You say he was a good man? Someone who had a conscience? Well, how would a man like that feel about causing the slaughter of innocents? How would he live with all that blood on his hands?”

I recoil, the horrible truth of his words slamming into me like a bullet. I don’t know why I didn’t connect the dots before, but now that Peter said it, it makes perfect sense. When I first learned about George’s deception, it occurred to me that his real job might’ve been behind his transformation, but I was so busy coping with Peter’s invasion of my life—and trying not to dwell on his revelations—that I didn’t pursue the thought to its logical conclusion.

I didn’t consider that the tragic events that brought my tormentor into my life could be the same ones that ruined my marriage… that our fates have been intertwined for much longer than I thought.

Feeling like I’m about to be sick, I stand up, my legs shaking. “You’re right.” My voice is choked and raw. “It had to be guilt that drove him to drink. All this time, I wondered if it was something I said or did, if our marriage disappointed him somehow, and it was this all along. ”

Peter nods, his face set in grim lines. “Unless your husband caused multiple massacres throughout his career, this is the only thing that makes sense.”

I inhale raggedly and turn away, walking over to the window looking out into the back yard. The enormous oaks stand like guardians outside, their branches bare of leaves despite the hints of spring in the warming air. I feel like those oaks right now, stripped, bared in all my ugliness. And at the same time, I feel lighter.

The drinking, at least, was not my fault.

“The accident happened because of me, you know,” I say quietly when Peter comes up to stand next to me. He’s not looking at me, his profile hard and uncompromising, and though I know he’s battling his own demons, his presence comforts me on some fundamental level.

I’m not alone with him by my side.

“How?” he asks without turning his head. “The report said he was alone in the vehicle.”

“He drank the night before. Drank so much he puked several times throughout the night.” I shudder, remembering the smell of vomit, of sickness and lies and broken hopes. Holding myself together by a thread, I continue. “By morning, I was done. I was done with his excuses, with the endless accusations sprinkled with promises to do better. I realized that George and I weren’t special in any way; we were just another alcoholic and his too-stupid-to-see-it wife. It wasn’t a rough patch we were going through. Our marriage was simply broken.”

I stop, my voice shaking too much to continue, when a big, warm hand wraps around my palm. Peter’s expression is unchanged, his gaze trained on the view outside the window, but the silent gesture of support steadies me, giving me courage to continue.