Dottie’s knees went soft as she pushed open the front door to find her whole family assembled in the living room waiting for her, Chester seated between his sons on the sofa trying to look regular. She had sensed this day coming—in all honesty, for many months. Saw it in eyes no longer able to meet hers, hands that had grown accustomed to touching without any discernible intent. From the way they were all sitting nestled together, it appeared he’d convinced the boys to leave with him.
Her face quickly swallowed up its initial shock, mild surprise masking her expression as she busied herself putting away her things while Chester sent the boys off to bed. She measured his gait as he returned from the back hall, turmoil brewing inside his dull eyes.
Chester used to have a way about him that Dottie found endearing—a quiet brooding that exposed his vulnerability without coming off as pathetic. He attended to her principally as a way of satisfying his need for companionship. His mounting insecurities didn’t much matter, depending on the frequency of his attempts to woo her and how agitated he became whenever she wasn’t immediately receptive. Dottie recognized, now, that she hadn’t been entirely fair having him dial back his need for her, space it out until she was content being close with him again. But he didn’t need to leave her this way.
“Tell me you’re not leaving to be with her,” she insisted, genuine hurt showing in her voice, the thought of being alone crashing in on her.
Chester ventured a glance in her direction as he bent to gather the rest of his things: one last bag of clothing, a box of high school memorabilia he’d kept on display in their bedroom.
“I’m leaving because my needs no longer seem to be a priority for you.”
She curled her lip at him. “I don’t care to remember when last my needs meant a thing to you.”
“Think what you will, but I’ve considered your feelings in everything I’ve done.”
“You certainly have a funny way of showing that consideration, wouldn’t you say?”
He steadied his look on her face, willing his eyes to show the emotion stirring in his head. “It’s only out of consideration for your feelings that I didn’t leave sooner.”
She returned his stare, a full range of emotions on display. Let him pass through the doorway for the last time as a resident under the same roof with her.
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