JUST BECAUSE I’M telling you this story doesn’t mean we made it out alive at the end. I could be telling you this from the great beyond or some equally crazy shit. Regardless of how it ends, I’m going back to the beginning, back to where it all started.

This isn’t your typical love story.

Okay, maybe it is. Boy meets girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after. The things is, my happily ever after didn’t go as planned.

Thank God for second chances.

It all happened in the blink of an eye and, for me, nothing had ever felt more right. Maybe you’ll think it happened too fast, that falling in love again doesn’t happen like this.


I’m here to tell you it absolutely does.

It happens when you least expect it, when you realize that a part of your heart and soul always remained in the hands of another.

It happens when your past collides with your present and shapes your future.

We found our way back to one another, so it was easy to fool ourselves into believing that time was on our side.

Time to get to know one another again.

Time to fall in love.

Time to grow old together.

The thing about time is, it moves achingly slow when you’re doing something you hate and it flies faster than the speed of light when you’re doing something you love. Time is a fickle bitch.

I wish I could tell you that this story has a happy ending, but I don’t know the answer to that right now. So much has happened so quickly that it all kind of feels like a dream. Maybe it is. Maybe I dreamed every single second of it—the good and the bad.

God, I hope it wasn’t a dream. There’s nothing I’ve ever wanted more than forever with him.

I pray we make it out alive in the end, but even if we don’t…

Those seventeen days…

Those last seventeen breaths…

Hell, even those seventeen miserable years…

I wouldn’t change any of it for the world if the endgame is him.

Everything happens for a reason, but sometimes you don’t know what that reason is until it’s too late.

Please don’t let it be too late.

Chapter 1—Set Fire to the Rain

AS I LISTEN to the sound of dresser drawers slamming upstairs in our bedroom, I wonder why I can’t find it in myself to care about what’s happening. A few years ago, hell, a few months ago, I would probably have been sitting here at the kitchen table sobbing and rethinking my decision. I might have even run up the stairs, grabbed onto him and told him not to go.

I hear a muttered curse as he stomps down the stairs and I don’t even flinch. I listen to him angrily snatch up his keys from the bowl on the table in the foyer and all I can do is count the minutes until he walks out the door, the seconds until I can let out the breath I’ve been holding since I told him I’ve had enough. Five years of dating followed by twelve years of marriage means I’ve spent over half my life loving this man.

In just a few moments, he will walk out the door and life as I know it will forever change.

I’ve lost track of how many times over the years I’ve threatened to leave him, how many times I told him as tears streamed down my cheeks that I couldn’t take it anymore. He had all of me—my heart, my soul, my body and my life. I’ve given it all to him and, time after time, he violated my trust. Month after month, year after year, he looked me right in the eye and lied to my face. I’ve never lied to him, not once in seventeen years, but he played me for a fool each and every time. He knew I was never serious when I made all of those threats, that I needed him and loved him unconditionally. He was my family, my best friend¸ my soul mate. He knew that no matter what, I would always forgive him. Over and over again, he sucked me right back in with apologies and promises as he begged me not to leave him. His heartbreaking tears always made me forget my anger and disappointment. I think deep down I was always scared about being alone. I haven’t been alone since I was fifteen years old.

I hear the shuffle of his shoes and an irritated breath as he hovers in the kitchen doorway behind me.

“I’m leaving, if you even care.”

That right there, that sarcastic comment, reminds me that I’m doing the right thing. He honestly believes that making me feel guilty will change my mind. He thinks he can make me feel bad about the fact that I just don’t care what he does anymore, but he has officially pushed me past my breaking point. He doesn’t even realize that it’s his actions that have brought us here. His conscious choice to allow addictions and bad decisions to rule his life without a second thought to our marriage has turned me into this person I don’t even recognize anymore.

I’d like to say that I’m sad about seventeen years of my life going down the drain, that it hurts to let go of the man I vowed to love forever, but the truth is, I don’t care. I don’t care if he walks out that door, I don’t care if I never speak to him again, I don’t care if I’m alone and I don’t care if he’s pissed at me.




When I cross my arms in front of me and continue to stare at clock hanging on the wall above the kitchen window, refusing to turn around and look at him, he huffs again.

“Fine. I’m out of here,” he mumbles.

I count his footsteps as he makes his way to the front door.









The silence in the house engulfs me. I close my eyes and breathe for the first time in months.

Chapter 2—Fire and Ice

JORDAN AND I met the second semester of our senior year of high school when his dad was transferred for his job. I can still recall every single detail about the day he walked into my senior English class. I can remember exactly what I was wearing, exactly what the teacher was saying when the door opened and he walked in the room and exactly the way my stomach flip-flopped when I looked up from the doodles in my notebook and watched him saunter in and take the seat right next to me.

I was only two weeks into my recovery that day. My boyfriend of two years, Collin McDaniels, broke up with me via a note delivered by his best friend and shattered my heart into pieces. Like a typical high school girl, I thought my world had ended and nothing would ever make me smile again. Then, Jordan Castillo sat down next to me, asked to borrow a pencil and my shredded heart was never to be thought of again.

We started dating three weeks later. We were voted Best Couple, Cutest Couple and Couple Most Likely to Get Married. After graduation, Jordan convinced me to hold off on my dream of art school and stay with him, close to home, so we wouldn’t have to be separated. Even though I lost some of my passion for art when my old boyfriend broke things off, I knew I had talent and I shouldn’t let it go to waste just because my first high school relationship didn’t work out. I promised myself that once we were making enough money to be comfortable, I’d take some time off and enroll in art school.

Jordan and I were polar opposites in every way, but there was something about us together that just worked. I was quiet, studious and not really big into partying. He was loud, outgoing and the life of every party. He was the bad boy of every parent’s nightmare and, in the beginning, I think that’s what attracted me to him. I wanted to be with someone who didn’t remind me of Collin. I wanted someone dark, edgy and exciting and that’s exactly what I found in Jordan. Looking back, maybe I should have seen the signs. Maybe I should have realized that someone’s core personality never really changes as they get older. We fought many times over the years because of his constant need to go out, his tendency to drink too heavily and come home too late and his refusal to grow up. I thought he would settle down after we got married. I thought he would be content in the life we built together and his need to hang out with people who weren’t the best influences would be pushed aside.

I thought I would be enough for him.

Looking back on our relationship, I know that my insecurities are what made me continue to stay with him even though he hurt me. When you’ve only had sex with one person, when you’ve only really loved one man your entire life, how can you even think about walking away? How can you even begin to move on when he’s all you’ve ever known? Every time I uncovered another lie and thought about leaving, this is what ran through my mind. We grew up together, we knew everything about each other… how could I ever have that with anyone else and why would I even want to? All that time, all that effort, all the memories and the life we built together… throwing it all away just seemed like the worst possible decision.

The first time I caught him in a lie was a few months after we were married. He was working the night shift at a local manufacturing plant. I knew he was miserable there. I knew this wasn’t his ideal job and I constantly felt guilty that he was forced to take it so we could make ends meet. For years, he talked about being a tattoo artist and, initially, I really thought he’d make it work. He was a talented artist and I knew if he settled down and focused, he could make it happen. I let a lot of things slide with his behavior during that time because I knew it was hard for him to go to a job day after day that he hated. He was even working overtime, which he definitely wasn’t happy about, but helped our financial situation. Time and a half should’ve meant that we were able to pay the bills with plenty of money left over. Yet every week, we were in the negative. He always had some sort of excuse as to why there was money missing from our account. He got a flat tire and had to pay for a new one, he donated money to a charity at work, his friend lost his job and he let him borrow some money. Week after week, the lies flew smoothly from his mouth and I accepted them without a second thought.

Why would he lie to me, after all? What reason would he have to make up things like this?

I quickly found out that reason when one of his friends sent me a text that was supposed to go to Jordan.

The first time I told him to leave was the day I found out that, while I was losing sleep, crying every night wondering how I was going to pay the electric bill and contemplating getting a second job, he was spending hundreds of dollars each week gambling.

The second time I told him to leave was after I found out he was addicted to prescription painkillers.

The third time it was alcohol.

The fourth time it was cocaine.

The fifth time it was everything all at once.

Each time I caught him in a lie, he promised he would never do it again. He promised he was done with the pills and the booze and the blow. He promised he would be honest with me and he promised he wouldn’t let me down again.




He broke every single one time and time again and I forgave him. Year after year, I felt myself growing weaker and weaker where he was concerned as he was fired from one tattoo apprenticeship after another. I saw his dream slip right through his fingers and overcompensated by being too sweet, too forgiving, too understanding when I knew, deep down, that he was screwing up these opportunities all on his own. He was going into the shops late or sometimes not at all, he showed up hung over half the time and full on drunk or stoned the other. He couldn’t handle the pressure and the realization that his dream might never come true and pretty soon, there wasn’t a tattoo shop within a hundred mile radius that would hire him.

I stood by and watched as he slipped further and further away from me and became more and more bitter.

Even though I’m naturally a quiet person, I believed I was strong and confident and would never rely on someone else for my happiness. Every time I forgave Jordan and believed his promises, my confidence and my strength slowly disappeared until I couldn’t imagine my life without him, no matter how bad it got.

I hate myself for allowing him to manipulate me this way. I hate that I gave up on my dream of art school to help him achieve his goal of being a tattoo artist and he pissed it all away. I hate that when I look in the mirror I can’t stand the woman looking back at me. I hate that he’s always known the hold he’s had on me, that he’s always known my threats were empty.

Until a month ago.

When I caught him in another lie, I didn’t break down and cry like I did in the past. I didn’t curl up in our bed fighting tears while contemplating whether or not to even tell him I found out he’d been lying to my face again because I was more scared of losing him than of dealing with his betrayal. I stood in the kitchen staring at a bottle of OxyContin, a razor and a small plastic tube that he used to snort the pills for a greater high and I felt… nothing.

I found the items in a zip lock bag in the back of his sock drawer. I discovered them after I questioned him about money missing from our account and he told me with a straight face that the two-hundred dollars supposedly went to pay a speeding ticket. When he left the house to run to the store, he forgot his cell phone and I’m not proud of the fact that I went through his text messages as soon as he walked out the door. I didn’t even get upset when I saw a text from an unknown number minutes before he left that simply said “$200 for 20—20mg.”

I blindly set the phone down on the counter and started searching the house until I found what I was looking for. When he came home with a gallon of milk, a good effort on his part to make me think he really went out just to go to the store, I tossed the bag of paraphernalia at him and he caught it with a guilty look on his face.

He tried; I’ll give him that. He attempted to make up yet another lie. That bag of pills was from months ago. It’s not what it looks like. I’m not doing that shit anymore.

I looked at him, this man who had been my whole world for seventeen years, thought about all of our ups and downs and everything we’d been through together and I felt nothing. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t hurt… I was nothing. I was empty. I’d cried enough over him in seventeen years that I couldn’t make the tears come even if I tried. Even though he attempted to make excuses and beg for my forgiveness, I think he could tell by the look in my eyes that this was the final straw. He could continue with his addictions and he could continue screwing up his life, but I would no longer be along for the ride.

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