However self-conscious I had become with M beside me in his home province, where I chocked all the minutiae of his idiosyncracies as well as outbursts to the nature of French acceptible behaviour, I would only come to learn how much more mortified and petrified I could be once we left his much kinder, sweeter family (the one my gut told me I would probably never see again) and we got back to the west and all the familiar, welcoming surroundings made me feel way more planted.
Previously after goading me into using the only money I had left to my name, the piddling stash of retirement savings, to pay for his failed semester in college (because he failed, oh yes he did, the one, very large, very pivotal argument for physically being there), we floated around like nomads in a non-cash flow existence until he found the job that brought us here.
After an exchange I could barely understand (from a cause-and-effect point of view, not language), we left his mom's house to stay with his grandparents. After a feud with his stubborn grandfather ended our few-month stay there, he rounded up enough cash from his part-time job for us to stay at an off-season cabin for a month. After that month was up, his aunt offered her cabin to us until it was time to come here. Because we were staying there for free, I was more than happy to help her with the massive yard work, but M just stayed inside, recluse, on his video game, a pattern that would not change for the remainder of our time together.
As if there weren't enough obstacles to getting back to a place where I could actually feel like myself, there was the crippling surprise that he'd used me and my girls to help him get a better deal with the bankruptcy he was filing and him leaving without me to take the job. He was offered a plane ride, I would be made to drive the full four-thousand kilometer trip with the shitty car I purchased packed to the roof and his little shih tzu, Emma, alone.
I should have used the retirement stash to get myself the hell out of there sooner. It would have paid for the gas, real food, and get me as far as I needed. But where would I go? I had finally become proficient enough in French to get a job, but by the time I could get a job (ironically enough, to teach English), M had already accepted the job here and had already soaked up the last of my funds. There was nothing alive after that that could have stopped me from moving back west. Not after the "my girls" bell was rung. I would be with them. I would be reuinted with them. We'd actually, physically be in other's lives again. And no more airplanes. Which K took the hit for. Which I felt and still feel shredding guilt over. Which was another effect of my irresponsible choices.
But I did it. I made the trip. All forty hours of it. I drove 12 hour days, slept in my car on both sides of Ontario, ate the sandwiches M's mom stocked me up with, and reached the destination needing a serious shower. And then we haggled and scrounged to deke out a living with his money management "skills". He couldn't manage money worth a shit; and I felt the rage of every advantage he'd taken of me, especially because I "wasn't allowed" to look for a job, either. Why? Because it would interupt his bankruptcy status.
The more I stood up for myself, the more vile and caustic he became. The more I resisted, the more polar his reactions became. The more rational my arguments grew, the more his irrationale exploded with vitriol. Often followed by long bouts of retreat and withdrawal, neglect and manic outbursts. I felt the real me surfacing in swells, waiting to be let out. He'd told me I didn't need to be a "badass' like my friend, T, as though he were calling me out on being something I wasn't. Oh, but I very much was.
The very big next problem was having the girls be exposed to the high, caustic rate of stress. K had agreed to let the girls come live with me and try out the town. A colossal, gigantic piece of my soul was restored when they moved in. One of the most problematic things about living in Quebec was the lacking space in which to call home, which could have only happened by having my own place and having my girls dwell in that space.
I enrolled them in what I was told and later learned was still true the best French school in town. The staff were amazing. I loved going to parent/teacher interviews. But the precarious state of fight or flight at home bogged the girls down. I was constantly trying to soothe and manage incident after incident with him, but to no avail. His puratanical, unbending ways exploded an irrefutable disgust, contempt, and done-ness in me.
Both girls were very polite in the beginning but it was C who spoke up and out against him first. She was getting sick of it, too. All three of us agreed to make it through the school year, wait until I got on my feet. We were just trying to make it until I could get out. But we didn't even make it that far.
We were scraping and pinching, getting food at the food bank, taking favours and freebies wherever we could, but it was humiliating. I'd lived like that in Quebec for almost two years, and I was sick of it, but always knew that new beginnings are hard. In the new year, I got on as an accompanist with one of the high schools. While I was away at one of the rehearsals, M decided that I needed an overdraft and applied for it, logging into my account (because I had given him permission early on and wasn't thinking about my severe mistrust of him in relation to him having that access) and requested for two grand. I was furious. All of the red flags I ever missed, all of the behaviour that sent me reeling more than a few hundred times, all of the upset I'd ever diverted away from him came screeching into a fireball of savage rage right at him. We fought about it that whole night and he would not apologize.
In fact, he treated it like it was his own free money and ultimately goaded me into racking that overdraft up for things for living. When I came home with what I thought were frugal purchases like cheap plastic ware, he was livid and interrogated me about it. Not even two weeks later, he logged on again, bumped up the overdraft limit and emotionally beat me into make the rest of the purchases he thought we needed.
For some reason, I had still been trying to reason with him.
The second upping and subsequent maxing of the overdraft broke me.
Finally, proverbially, and even masochistically it would seem, I was taking on the beating of a life time. I didn't have anyone to blame for the $4500 maxed out overdraft but myself. And I blame myself entirely. But the amount of betrayal I felt was incredible. It was done.
And shortly before I would get my first, real-paying job since being back west, the girls went back to Estevan. Because...
M managed to get a vehicle from one of those high-payment, no-credit vehicle places because the car I'd driven home with had been t-boned and smelled like gas after the hit. The car was t-boned because M had pulled out in front of a guy from a two-way stop thinking it was a four and in a super-duper flooded panic from me asking what he was doing, stopped in the road. His consistant, instant flooding of emotion that accompanied him while driving made him a poor judge of character and he was easily made volatile if I so much asked a question he deemed to be cornering him. I knew he wasn't a good driver. He'd only been driving a few years and he'd only been driving a few years because it took him forever to get his license. He saw no reason for it and still carried scars of the time he was 5 and engaged his mom's vehicle that rolled down the hill at his grandparents' house onto the highway and killed 2 people.
And so I felt somewhat, if only barely, entitled to use his truck when I needed to go somewhere. Only he would get pissed and so all four of us would ride in the truck with him to the school (where he worked and they attended) with him angry, emotion-boiled, and flooded behind the wheel. One morning on one of these joy rides, I was making my case with him. He didn't like it. C said something rather harmless if only fed up. That was all it took. He hit the brakes, punched the steering wheel and was nearly jamming in traffic, and screaming. He was pissed about her comment, flooded about my alleged nagging, and over the moon that I wouldn't defend him to her. He was in his own world. I could have said every ego-massaging thing in the world and it would have fallen on deaf ears. I only quite knew he never cared about others in the first place.
I dropped him and the girls off and promptly, if rashly, went back home, called K, and explained the situation. The next week was the winter break for the girls and they were moved back down to Estevan faster than M's head could spin. I would get them out of harm's way, finish my arrangement with him, and, once again, get the girls away from M.
It was rash, it was fast, it was unstable, but I could only think fiercely of removing the girls as far from M as possible. M tried giving me permission to take his truck but I was going to take it anyway. The morning before we were to head out, he insisted on coming to breakfast with us, then on the road trip down. At breakfast, he presented the girls and me with jewelry, which I could not fathom an explanation for, and tried to bribe his forgiveness.
Balls of fire. Balls of fire everywhere in my stomach. All I could do was scream from the inside and fake smooth on the outside. I would have agreed a deal with Satan if it meant getting my girls out of harm's way. I certainly didn't deserve to have those precious angels in my life with all the piss poor decisions I continued to make. But come down he did and stayed at a seedy little dive right outside the city limits while I moved my girls into their dad's home.
With the two-ton of loss bearing down on my heart, I hugged and kissed them several times before heading out (but not before one of the tires on the truck blew and I had to purchase a new one on a Sunday in a small town), picking up M and bearing the brunt that this nightmare was, indeed, happening again.
The Sunday night before the girls were to have returned to school, it hit me hard. They were gone. Again. They were supposed to starting school. Here. Tomorrow. I laid on my side of the bed and cried. Then bawled. Then howled full, body-racking, soul-emptying sobs. I didn't even question why or how they weren't there. I knew why. I knew that this was the consequence of trying to reason with the devil and take less than full responsibility for my life, pull up my big girl panties. I poured all of my hate and contempt for his complete and total lack of empathy into my angry sobs. As I lay there, knowing there was no one to go to, no one to hold me, no one to point me in a direction, I knew that I had no one to blame but myself. I hated myself as equally as I hated him. Blubbering like I was, as unapologetic for my sobbing as I was, M did nothing. He certainly didn't even ask me so much what was wrong. His side of the bed was black and motionless.
I was ready. Ready to be accountable for my life. No matter what kind of hell bills and debts would be, they would just be numbers. The weight of all the money he managed to take me for was a happy, light weight in comparison and would be totally worth kicking his ass to the curb. There would never, not ever, in a hundred more years, ever be a hell like this one. But it would not be over for a little bit more...
By the summer, my part-time job had changed into a full-time one at the dealership. I found an apartment. Told him I was done. I happily conceived that taking on the debt we'd both incurred in my name would well be worth it to be done with him for good. As one, final, last good gesture, the only thing I could summon was not leaving him homeless as his paychecks would stop for the summer and let him follow me to the new place, but yes, I know how stupid that looks to read it. He was a genuine ass about moving but happy to be in a new place. Go figure. I hotly and savagely maintained that we were over and that he was to be out by September. He nodded happily in agreement. And then he lost it.
In an uncharacteristic move one night, I went home with one of the guys from work that I had been drinking with. I didn't get home until 6 in the morning, wherein I was greeted with empty, dark, and hissing black eyes. He harrassed me and interrogated me until I was crying my makeup off, blocking my way in the hall, and I was shouting back at him. I was trying to get to work. I finally made my way past him, got to work, and was horrified to see him unannounced in my tower at work. From whence he came, I did not know, but there he was glowering at me, cornering me at MY work. People were walking in and out of the tower as usual, but seeing M there. I was beyond humiliated, composure eroding in waves.
I hissed at him low and guteral to leave my work. The only bargaining chip I had for his messed up mind was to let him know that whatever minute chance there would have been about getting back together, if he did not leave, he would annihilate that small chance. It worked. I don't know how, but it worked. He clammed up, clenched his jaw, and exited the tower.
I was shaking. It was hard to focus back on work, prep the shop for the day. I hadn't even proven myself at this job and wanted SO badly, and here M was messing it up before I could even decide for myself that I could make it. Just as I was managing to calm down and start thinking about work orders, the appointment coordinator was talking in a heightened, rushed voice, calling to the service manager to come out back, hurry, hurry. Something was going on. I saw movement in the shop, a kind of rushing to the one bay door. I went to follow the action and what to my horror do I see? Blood on the ground and a screaming French man walking backwards, with my service manager yelling at him to get off the property or he was calling the cops.
After leaving my work station, he'd gone out back, found the guy I'd gone home with, tried sucker punching him, and subsequently received a beating by that guy's best friend. The service manager, T, hauled my ass in the office and demanded an explanation. I had none. I swallowed tears as I apologized profusely and explained what information I had. He softened his approach and let me go back to work. The dealership manager found compassion for my situation and had someone bring me a coffee. I was going to be okay.
I avoided going home for days. I went home the day it happened, packed a small suitcase, and left in my new car (that I had qualified for just weeks prior). M tried pleading with me to stay but I would not have it. He could live the remainder of the summer there, I didn't care. I knew he would not leave, so I left. I lied and told him I was staying with my friend, C, but the guy I'd gone home with, S, turned out to be pretty cool and let me take refuge at his place.
Finally, before the summer was out, I took a last minute trip up north to see my friend, T, and celebrated her son's birthday. I left for the weekend without so much as a word to M. I didn't see him, but I knew he'd been there because he hadn't showered in days and his body odour would permeate the air. When I got back from my trip, I found M sitting in the kitchen dazed and clearly medicated with a hospital bracelet on his arm. I didn't ask him about it. I just wanted him out. When he had finally left, citing something like a defeated kid about how he should leave because it's my home, not his, I scrubbed and scoured the entire place down with soap, water, and bleach until it smelled clean again. He must have let himself go. But I couldn't have cared less.
I went to the police to see what I could do about a restraining order. I needed to force this guy out of my life because he wasn't leaving and I didn't have the money to make other options happen. As well, I wasn't going to crash with a friend and invite whatever drama would befall this break up into their home. But the police couldn't do much unless M had physically assaulted me. The officer was very sweet and gave me the phone numbers to all the places I could need and told me they started a file. He gave me his card with this number on it in case anything happened, but I felt better just knowing there was that tiny little prong in the fire.
A couple of hiccups later (a screaming match when he came to pick up some items, an episode with a puppy he'd forced on us to have, and a few seething texts about bills), and he was out. He was finally out.
I got a second job at the mall and ran into him there once, and I was terrified. But he just looked at me like nothing had ever happened, told me I looked good (I had lost all the weight I gained in Quebec). I side stepped him, went back to work, and never saw him again.
That, my old and new friends, is my comeuppance.