Part 9: Only When I Walk Away

When I entered into a court room in August of 2013 to start my divorce up all over again the judge told us that we were now going to have to pay the “stupid tax”. He was right. Flashback to the Summer of 2012: on my 10 year anniversary I call the police, my husband goes to jail for slapping me, and I pack up and leave Jackson, TN to head for Illinois.

It was late at night and I had 3 kids and a van loaded down with as much of our personal belongings that would stuff inside of a 2007 Honda Odyssey. Driving down the road I can remember talking to my kids and telling them that daddy got arrested because what he did was not okay. I told my daughter to never let a man treat her badly, I made her promise that she wouldn’t.

I get about 45 minutes down the road and Thomas’ mother calls me. Thomas doesn’t have his keys and she’s coming to Tennessee to bail him out of jail.  I tell her I am not home and turn around to come back. I slowly creep down my road, only to find that her vehicle is there and somehow they have managed to get inside despite not having keys. I turn my van around and continue my journey, realizing that now there definitely is no going back. Two and a half hours later I pull into my parents driveway in Metropolis, IL completely exhausted. All I’ve ever dreamed about doing since the fall of 2011 is just finding a beach somewhere and not moving from it for a full week, that has yet to happen!

The summer is kind of a blur.  I went to court and was awarded temporary custody of my children, and Thomas was ordered to come to me on his weekends to pick them up.  From the very beginning Thomas had zero respect for anyone.  He’d fly up the driveway in his black Dodge Charger and march up to the front door, knowing good and well we had a no contact order and he was supposed to stay away.  I’d let someone else hand the kids off to him, but no one seemed to know how to stand up to him like me, but enter my dad.  First a letter was written to Thomas asking politely that he park closer to the street and not fly up in the driveway anymore.  Then the children would be walked out to his vehicle.  The next time he dropped the kids off he practically came in the driveway on two wheels, completely disregarding our request.  It was more of a warning.  My dad then talked to Thomas, but it did no good.  The next time the kids were dropped back off my dad put up a no trespassing sign far enough up on the driveway so that Thomas could still park towards the end to get the children. This time when Thomas came to bring the kids back my sister’s car was backing out of the driveway and he flew in almost colliding with hers. He also had his cousin with him, which was odd. The police are called and Thomas goes to jail for trespassing. I’ll later find out straight from his lips that he deliberately trespassed and went to jail in order to try and change our child drop off location to the halfway point in Martin, TN. Unfortunately for him the judge moved the drop off location up the road to the police department.

Towards the end of the summer Thomas Facebook messages my aunt:

“I never told you but thank you for the email you sent me a few months ago. I have read it several times. I don’t know if you have talked to Jennifer about our situation but i certainly do not want things to end like they are headed. The hard part is that i cannot contact her to express this to her again. I have told her all along that i do not want us to divorce. Even with all that has happened, i still love her and want us to be a family. I fell in love with her when she was 15 and i have been since. She is the only one i have ever loved. Yes i have made mistakes and done things i wish i could change (who hasnt?). We have been together 13 years, married 10 and have 3 children. We know everything about each other and have alot of history. I dont want to try to start over with someone else, especially when i still love her. I dont know what she has told you but has she indicated wanting to be able to work on things? We are about to cross a bridge that wont be able to be undone. I dont want that to happen.”

I try my best, but after reading the message I constantly start to think about him which I hadn’t done all summer.  I don’t act on it but feelings are stirring in my heart. Then one day while sitting in the drive-thru at Chick-fil-a Thomas’ brother-in-law begins to text me to tell me how Thomas feels and how he really wants to work things out.  I still try to pull back but slowly get sucked in.  I even call Thomas’ sister to talk about it and get her perspective, a huge mistake.

The next time I pick the kids up from him I can see something different in his eyes, and part of me just wants to reach out and hug him. I resist and head home. On the way we both stop at a red light right next to each other. I look over and mouth to him “what’s wrong”. He shrugs, the light turns green and I drive away. I pull into my church parking lot and as I’m walking into church hear a familiar text tone. I look down to read the words “I still love you.” A surge of excitement and anxiety fill my body. I choose to wait and think if I should even reply. We still have a no contact order in place and I am deeply conflicted. I decide to reply “I still love you too.” Thomas then reply’s “Then what are we doing?”

If only I hadn’t craved his love so much, and if only I had realized I was being played then I could have avoided a lot of wasted time, effort and tears in the months to come. I also lost such a sense of purpose that summer.  I went from living the only life I had ever known for 10 years as a wife and mother with their own home to living like a sardine with other people feeling completely aimless. Not to mention losing the love of my life which is a whole other type of pain.

After weeks of talking to Thomas we decided to work it out.  He agrees to come to counseling and then last minute changes his mind.  He had failed out of anesthesia school and suddenly that was the only thing that mattered. Instead of coming to see his wife and children that week and counsel to restore his broken family and marriage he decides to go to Missouri. He’s also suddenly really quiet and I start to panic because I’ve already put my emotions back into this thing again.

Not long after his week in Missouri while I’m talking on the phone to his sister she gets kind of weird and asks me an odd question that makes my stomach drop. “If Russ (her husband) were doing something wrong would you tell me?” “Yes”, I reply, “Why?” I just know this can’t be good, and it isn’t. She tells me that one night while Thomas is in Missouri him and his cousin get drunk at a bar and can’t drive home. Her and her husband just happened to be close so they stop by and pick them up. She and Thomas get in one car, and Russ and the cousin get in another. She proceeds to tell me that Thomas is drunk and starts asking her to take him to a woman’s house in the town they are in and even gives her and address and directions. She tells him no and takes him home. She then tells me not to tell him she told me this information, which leaves me in a difficult position.

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