Like Clare thought, Alex loved her. She didn’t doubt it for a minute, but hearing it let her breathing relax. “And I love you. I make it a point not to yell at me, and as long as we love each other… As long as you love me, and I love you, we’ll be fine,” Clare whispered, taking a moment to lift her head and stroke Alex’s cheek, her gaze meeting Alex’s, as much as she really could muster that feat. “We’ll be okay. I’m okay, and I know you’re confused, but we’ll make this,” she continued as tears welled in her eyes once again. This conversation, as necessary as it was, was painful, as well it had destined to be all along.
Alex didn’t know what more to say on the subject. He knew how he felt but he didn’t want to upset Clare anymore. So just like their last fight, he kept it in. Covering up his pain with a small smile and a nod. “Please don’t cry, Clare. I’ll start again if you do.” He tried to lighten up the atmosphere with another light chuckle. At the moment, he wanted nothing more to brush his teeth to rid his mouth of the gross taste lingering there. He wanted to hug and kiss Clare and wanted to hold Emilia.
What could Clare say to that? Knowing that Alex was upset with himself was hard enough to deal with, but it absolutely broke Clare’s heard to hear him say, painfully, that he didn’t deserve her kindness. At least, that’s what Clare thought her husband meant, because she wasn’t being angry or rude or anything like that. She couldn’t be. “Can I ask you something, then?” Clare murmured. She was fairly sure she knew the answer, but needed to hear it. “You still love me, right? I mean… Right?” she asked, glancing up to watch Alex as he answered. Hearing that Alex still loved her would be enough, at least to Clare, for her to justify the kindness and love she was receiving him with right then.
That question shocked him. Of course he loved Clare. He would never stop loving her. Taking another breath, he found his small, sore voice. “Of course I love you, Clare. But look at what I’ve done. I’ve hurt you. I’ve ignored you and I almost didn’t recognize my daughter and I have absolutely no fucking idea where the damn time has gone. I’m so confused right now, Clare. I don’t understand how you’re able to look at me with any remnants of kindness.” His voice sounded pathetic. He was quiet and his voice cracked often. “You should be yelling at me right now.”
There was, at least, a response, but Clare sighed at it. “Alex, I’ll always love you. Sure, I’m upset, I’m angry, I’m pissed, but I love you,” she murmured, glancing down. The truth in her statement hurt, but it needed to be said, because she couldn’t ignore her needs and emotions. Yes, she was hurt and angry, but Alex needed her, and Clare wasn’t going to stand by and ignore the fact that he was probably, and obviously, very upset with himself. “We’ll work through this, I promise,” she added after a brief second of silence, her voice cracking as she spoke.
Clare’s words hurt. Of course they did. He was to blame and he knew it. He wanted her to yell. Wanted to her release her anger on him right this moment. Her kindness was the last thing he deserved. Mercy was the last thing he deserved in his opinion. Everything going on in his head was insane. Most people would think he was overreacting. But he hurt the woman he loved and abandoned his family. How could he not overreact. “I don’t deserve this.” He whispered as he looked at the ground; mind made up. He could practically feel his heard disintegrating.
Seeing Alex so lost hurt Clare, although she’d been lost in the same way fairly recently. And it seemed like the only thing she could do was sit by Alex’s side and stay with him, which she fully intended to do. Clare was still mad, but she’d deal with that later. Right now, she wanted her husband back, she wanted to hold him and love him and act as if nothing had happened, although that wasn’t what she really needed to do, and she knew it. “I love you,” Clare murmured in a broken breath.
Alex looked over at Clare when she said I love you and his chest ached. With much strain and red eyes, he managed a word in his hoarse voice. “How?” He was genuinely confused. He’d ignored her for months. Practically ignored their baby for months. Didn’t know that she’d been pregnant. He thought he deserved to be cast out. Thrown out into the cold where he could think about what he did before Clare ever said those words to him again. It down right confused him. His legs shook, wanting to run away and jump off of something tall but he kept it at bay. For now.
Nothing Clare had done up to this point was helping any, so she did what she’d always done for any of her kids when they needed comforting, although she couldn’t quite pull Alex into her lap, what with him just having been sick and her baby bump. However, the stripped down version was of her wrapping her arms around Alex gently, as well as she could, and kissing his forehead a few times. “Take as long as you need, baby, I’m here. It’s okay, everything’s okay,” she murmured as she tried to comfort him.
Alex shook his head and opened his mouth as if to speak, but no words would come out. He had so much he wanted to say, so much he needed to so. So many apologies but his voice wasn’t working. Another thing to add to his worry. He wanted to stay and talk and hold Clare and apologize; make everything better. But he also wanted to run. Run away so he could never hurt Clare or Emilia again. He felt like a terrible father. He felt like a terrible husband. And he was right to think that. All at once he felt like a child and a brokenhearted adult. As tears streamed down his face, he kept trying to speak as his head shook in frustration.
A frown crossed Clare’s face and held it tight. She was just worried, as she should have been all along, because even though she was suffering, it seemed like Alex was lost. Which is what had fueled her forward- that, and knowing how awful she’d been- and to kneel down so that she could get a better look at her husband’s face. “It’s okay, baby,” she murmured as she stroked his cheek. What could she really even say?
Alex shook his head as he felt Clare’s calming hand on his cheek. He knew she could more than likely feel his trembling. But stopping it was out of the question. He was in a panic and didn’t know how to stop. Tears continued down his face as he gently lifted his hand and placed it on Clare’s knee. He really wished the he could form some sort of sentence but nothing was coming to mind. He was still trying to figure out where the hell all of the time went and how he’d let himself get so bad.
Confusion stayed glued on Alex’s face, and without warning, he bolted up and to the bathroom. Clare didn’t follow him in, but she did follow to the door, where she waited and, after a few moments, knocked gently. “Are you okay, Alex?” she asked, her voice tiny with fear. This situation seemed to get worse and worse, and Clare couldn’t see an end to this just yet. All she knew was that this was just as hard as being ignored, and didn’t know what all she could deal with. Her stress levels were already through the roof.
Alex still couldn’t find his voice. He managed to scoot closer to the door frame and look up at her as he shook his head. He knew she was stressed and he knew he wasn’t make the situation any better. But he couldn’t just stop feeling what he was feeling. His body began shaking as he closed his eyes and rested his head once again on the wall behind him. What could he say? Sorry? That didn’t even cut it. He didn’t even know what was going on inside his head. So many things. Too much confusion.
Despite the fact that Alex wasn’t speaking, he was, at least, responding in movements, although Clare didn’t know exactly what he meant, a worrying thing. The shaking of his head could mean that she needn’t apologize, or that he didn’t accept the apology, and Clare could understand if he didn’t. However, she had to keep trying, to help him through this, because she’d processed what she’d needed to, at least she was sure she had, so after she sat next to Alex, Clare crossed her legs and sighed. “We, you know, on Christmas Eve, and after that, you’ve been so wrapped up in what you were working on and things just, I just, I missed you like… Like I’d never see you again, and that’s what it felt like for me, and I don’t know what to say,” Clare sighed. There was a lot of that happening, apparently. She just wished she could snap her fingers and make everything better again.
Alex slightly turned his head as she sat down next to him, but didn’t look at her. He was afraid that if he moved he was going to be sick. Something he felt was going to inevitably happen anyways, but he hoped that by staying still he wouldn’t be speeding up the process. With ever word Clare spoke, Alex could feel his heart tear. She’s said since Christmas he’s been like this. Christmas? Four months have gone by? That’s impossible. It couldn’t have been four months, it just couldn’t. There was no way he was working that long. But then he thought again. He couldn’t even really remember working so much so this was completely confusing to him. Alex could feel his head constrict and his breath stop short. Quickly looking around he spotted a bathroom and bolted to it, falling to his knees and gripping the toilet as he was sick. He hoped Clare wouldn’t follow. This was a sight no one needed to see. Once he was done, he flush away what seemed like his organs and leaned back on the wall behind him as his head spun.
Once again, Clare made her way into Mason’s room, guiding her husband by his wrist. He still wasn’t entirely there, but Clare couldn’t blame him at all. This was understandable. Once in the room, Clare sat her husband down and moved to shut the door behind her before sitting down by him. “Where should I start?” she asked herself aloud, wondering what Alex would need explained. She felt bad and selfish, because not once had she even considered how this could have affected him. But before she said anything, Clare had to look up and apologize. “I’m sorry for… hitting you,” she murmured, feeling like she’d done the worst thing ever, and hitting Alex seemed to be that worst thing.
Once Alex was sitting on Mason’s bed, he placed the bags on the floor. He could feel the room getting warmer and his neck and chest begin to sweat. As Clare spoke, she stayed standing. Alex still didn’t know how to think. His mind was everywhere and nowhere all at the same time and it hurt. Her words sounded like he was in a plastic bubble and she was trying to talk to him from the outside. That’s what it looked like too. His vision was blurred, something he attributed to the tears that were rolling freely from his face. No sobs just a constant flow of tears. He started breathing from his mouth which didn’t help the tightness in his chest. Alex shook his head when Clare apologized for hitting him. He wanted to say that he deserved much worse, but his voice was gone. Something that frightened him because he didn’t want Clare to think that he was ignoring her again.
Clare didn’t know what to say. The situation was terrible, completely fucked, an Clare hated it. “I’m… Can we talk?” she asked quietly, ashamed of herself for everything. For how she treated Alex, for how she treated Mason, she’d apologize for that later, for everything. “I’ll explain everything, and I won’t… I won’t hit you,” she whispered, reaching cautiously for her husband’s hand, if he’d still have her, if she hadn’t blown everything. That was the thing. Clare was still pissed beyond belief, but she loved Alex more than she loved herself.
Alex simply nodded. It was all he could do. He still had bags in both of his hands so when Clare reached for his hand, he placed his wrist there so she could tow him where ever she wanted to. He felt empty. Like he wasn’t really there. So many things were buzzing around in his head that he thought he was going to explode. Sweat started to bead up on his forehead and he could feel his hair sticking there. He felt like a lost child. The feeling of Clare’s hand against his skin hurt. It burned. She was so much warmer than him and his body was so cold but he didn’t flinch.