There's a wonderful relationship, platonic or romantic. It's the most amazing, wonderful thing you have ever experienced, then something happens. For one or many reasons, these two go from being "two people" to "one person" and "one person".
In circumstances where one party is abusive and the other has done nothing to provoke/create or deserve this malevolence- either physically, spiritually or emotionally, usually, all you have is a gaping void of pain.
Oftentimes there is no reconciliation, no "I was wrong and caused you unimaginable pain and I am sorry". The abuser remains a danger to you and they don't right the wrongs they have caused. Sad as it is, that is oftentimes the reality of relationships gone south.
If you've experienced the pain of someone you once loved (or do love) very deeply, you know how painful it is when a good thing turns into a very bad, harmful thing.
However, I wanted to depict in one of my books how it would look to have a relationship that was beyond messed up, become whole and healthy once again.
In one of the books I'm currently working on, (no title as of yet. It is a Contemporary Romantic Suspense) my MC Devri Harper finds herself in need of a bodyguard and unbeknownst to her, her ex-husband is sent to protect her.
Throughout the book, Devri works through her relationship with her ex-husband, Jonathan (yes, I will most likely be changing his name, cause hello Jonathan Dreggs from Present History- but bear with me, haha) & the mark that his substance abuse- and at times, physical abuse, had on her during their marriage that still affects her, even now. (and no, he's not the love interest in this book. Val Arden gets that privilege.)
I wanted to show what it looks like to have the once-abusive party actually come back to the one they hurt, stick it out with them through the ugliness that their actions caused and rebuild the bridge of trust, not simply expecting the other party to "get over it".
It's a beautiful thing, seeing someone rebuild a bridge they destroyed. Truly. I don't see it happen often, but wow- it is incredibly bittersweet and healing.
So I decided I'd share a scene with Devri & Jonathan for those of you eager to read something new before Phantom's Daughter is released this coming Summer!
Devri Harper | Untitled | Coming Winter 2019
Harper didn’t know what brought her out of the dream until she could feel someone watching her. She opened her eyes and saw Jonathan standing over her, face stricken. Although the old feeling of terror crawled over her skin, it left swiftly as it came. Jonathan wasn’t drugged out of his mind. He wasn’t going to hurt her, but it seemed that her very existence caused him pain. He blinked and stepped back. “Sorry, I-“
“It’s okay.” She moved to sit up, but a cramp forced her back down with a wince. Jonathan lurched forward, then stepped back, clearly wanting to help but knowing it wouldn’t be received well.
“Would you…sit with me for a minute?” she asked.
Surprise flickered across his face before he nodded and pulled up a footstool.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, his tone oddly stilted. Interactions were awkward for both of them, and rightly so.
“I’ve had better days,” she admitted. “How’s your ankle?”
“Strained, they tell me, and swollen to the size of a baseball- but with some icing I should be fine.”
Harper moved to sit up, but Jonathan held her shoulder’s in place against the pillows. “I can get the ice, darlin’.” Soon as the last word escaped his mouth, he paled ever so slightly. “I’m sorry. Force of habit.” He sighed.
To her surprise, Harper wasn’t frustrated at the slip. It was strange, how in the space of twenty-four hours, her feelings about someone could change so drastically.
“It’s not as though you can snap your fingers and change the fact that we were married,” she said, feeling the grief coming off him in waves.
“They say it takes time,” she whispered, not sure why she was so dang emotional. Until she’d met Val, she couldn’t even remember the last time she’d cried. Or maybe that was why- she was used to being the only person to look out for herself, and when someone else started to- her reserves started to show. As did her brokenness. Because, for seemingly the first time in her life, she didn’t have to be the strong one.
“I truly am sorry, Harper. For all the pain I caused you,” Jonathan said, tears filling his eyes.
It took her aback, seeing him cry. Somehow, it didn’t look strange on Val, even though she’d only seen him cry once. Jonathan liked to keep everything locked away. He didn’t do messy.
Or, maybe like her, he’d changed significantly in the last few years.
Harper reached over and brushed away his tears with her thumb, then took his hand in hers.
“I forgive you,” she whispered.
Not in her wildest dreams could she have imagined Jonathan coming to her and asking her forgiveness. Not once, but twice.
“Let it go, Jonathan.” She squeezed his hand, wishing he would look her in the eye, but knowing his dignity wavered.
“I can’t let it go,” he said, voice tight. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for what I did to you. I was so messed up I don’t even remember most of it.
Doesn’t mean I didn’t do it. It doesn’t mean you didn’t suffer at my hands,” he whispered, his tears falling onto their hands.
It was the strangest thing, but she didn’t want to hurt him anymore. She certainly had, at one point. She’d been mad enough that she’d wanted to murder her husband for what he’d done to her.
But now…after seeing how his actions had not only affected her, but him…the anger was gone. Maybe it would return, but for the moment, she felt nothing but…love. Not in a romantic sense, but in a way she couldn’t quite describe.
She sat up and scooted closer, her knees brushing against his thigh, his doing the same with hers. He still wouldn’t look at her, his shame so tangible in the air.
“Jonathan.” She gently worked her fingers through his hair, then lifted his chin with her other hand. The regret in his eyes stole her breath and brought tears to her eyes.
“A year ago if you had’ve put a gun in my hands with you in front of it, I might have killed you. I certainly wanted to.” Her brows pinched together. “I’m not in denial. I worked through my feelings, deadly as they were…but I don’t want to punish you, and…” Her voice caught. “I don’t want you to punish yourself. Not for my sake.” Their foreheads pressed together and she was brought back to the time, just before they’d divorced, when, for a few hours, everything had seemed like it was heaven.
She’d never wished that she could go back and change what happened between them, only that she had never met Jonathan.
Now, she wished that somehow things could have been different. But there was no undoing the past, no going back. Only forward.
A deep yearning struck her, for Jonathan? For their marriage? It wasn’t desire, rather something more bittersweet, something she knew existed, not to be fulfilled, but to be acknowledged.
One look into Jonathan’s eyes and she knew he felt the yearning, but also desire. Desire that he loathed himself for feeling.
“We can’t go back and undo anything, we have to move forward.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work, Dev,” Jonathan said, jaw clenched tight.
“Why won’t you look at me?”
His eyes met hers, fire burning there. “Because if I look at you, I’ll smother with guilt that I can do nothing to absolve-“
“I told you-“
“I’ll never be able to punish myself enough, for my sake. Let alone yours. And while your feelings towards me have clearly and, might I add- rightfully changed, my feelings towards you are…” He motioned to himself, then her, disgust lacing his words. “Not at all platonic.” He shoved to his feet, looking all the caged tiger ready to run.
“Jonathan-“ She stood.
“No, please-“ He held a hand out. “I’m leaving, because if I don’t…I’ll do something I’ll very much regret.”
“Regret?” She stepped toward him.
“Yes!” he shouted, chest heaving.
“I’m sorry.” He closed the distance between them, pulled her against his chest and planted a kiss on the crown of her head, then stepped back, looking anywhere but at her. “I’m trying to be good, Dev.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Please don’t tempt me,” he said hoarsely, then fled the room.
It's a tricky thing, addressing the issue of abused relationships being mended.
Of course, each different relationship is different- not all things can be healed without a literal creative miracle.
But I so desperately wanted to (and still do) want to depict a relationship that was very broken, beyond dead and was resurrected and made whole.
In the case of Devri and her ex-husband Jonathan, they couldn't go back and remarry and "pick up where they left off" which is challenging because there is irrevecable loss. But, despite the bittersweet pains of the loss, there might...or might not be healing to be had for both of them.
We'll have to wait and see until Harper's book is released in a year or so!
If you're looking for something to read in the meantime, be sure to add Present History to your TBR list on Goodreads!
If you're looking to buy a copy, they are now available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle. For those of you subscribed to Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Owners Lending Library for those of you who have Prime!