Banging on the door incessantly, Nikki muttered to herself as he tapped the toe of one shiny red high heel on the tiled floor outside Victor‘s apartment.
“Nikki, this is a pleasant surprise, what brings you by?“ Douglas asked good-naturedly.
“Where‘s Victor? I know he‘s here, Douglas, where is he?“ Nikki asked as she barged past him and into the living room.
“Yes, but before you talk to him, there‘s something you should know,“ Douglas put in helpfully.
“What? What more is there going on here that I need to know about?“ Nikki snapped exasperated!
“Well, I don‘t quite know where to begin,“ Douglas stated honestly.
“Douglas,“ Nikki replied exasperated.
“Nikki, listen to me, there‘s much more going on here than you think.“ The tone of his voice told her that the situation had become even more serious in the weeks after Victor had moved out of the ranch and back to the penthouse.
“Like what? What could be going on that I don‘t already know about?“ Nikki asked angrily, fed up with the games Victor been playing and Douglas‘s lack of help thus far.
“Well, he‘s been working non-stop,“ Douglas said as Nikki stood there rolling her eyes.
“That‘s nothing new; he‘s always been a workaholic. What else is going on here Douglas?“ Nikki asked very suspicious.
“He‘s not eating, at least not much. Everyday he comes home from work and pours himself a drink, he doesn‘t eat though. He works until the early morning too. He doesn‘t get much sleep either.”
For the first time since she‘d walked in, for the first time in weeks, Nikki saw a picture begin to develop, a clear but haunting picture of what was going on with her husband. ‘Damn it, Victor! If you‘d let go of your stubborn pride for more than five seconds, we‘d be able to work things out, or aren‘t you interested in that any-more?‘
“What do you mean he isn‘t eating? Why not and why is he drinking so much? Doesn‘t he know what that‘ll do to him? Damn it! Why is he being so stubborn? Is he trying to kill himself? Is that what he wants, is that what he‘s trying to do?“ Nikki probed none too gently, becoming angrier and angrier as more details came to light.
“Nikki, he‘s doing what he thinks will protect you the most. He‘s doing what he thinks will give you the best chance at living a happy, normal life. He‘s doing what he thinks will give you the best chance to live the kind of life you want, the kind of life you deserve.“ Douglas did his best to try and explain things from Victor‘s point of view and help her see how scared he really was.
“You damn well could have fooled me!“
Taking a deep breath and waiting a few moments before continuing, Nikki said, “He‘s not doing anybody any good, why can‘t he see that? He needs his family around him, his whole family. Why is it so hard for him to see that?“
“It‘s not about what he needs. None of this is about what he needs, not for him anyway.“
“What? What are you talking about?“ Nikki asked confused.
“Douglas, who‘s here? What‘s going on?“ Victor demanded as he descended the stairs.“I‘ll leave you two alone, good luck,“ Douglas said as he turned to Nikki before leaving.
“What are you doing here?“ Victor asked more harshly than he‘d meant to as he stood there drinking in the sight of the woman who had haunted him for weeks.
“Nice to see you too, Victor,” Nikki replied bitterly as she looked right through him.
Looking down for a moment before meeting her eyes with his own, Victor quietly replied, “I’m sorry. It’s good to see you, I’ve missed you. How have you been?”
Unable to help the smile creeping across her lips, Nikki asked, “Really?”
More serious as the concern returned to her eyes, Nikki replied, “I’m alright, what about you? How are you holding up?”
Stepping closer to her and framing her face with his hands before kissing her with everything in him, he softly, passionately replied, “Yes, of course I missed you.”
“I’m alright.” Victor studied her intently, the dark circles under her eyes and the pallor of her skin didn’t escape him. ‘She’s trying to make me believe she’s okay. She’s trying so hard to stay strong and make me believe she’s okay.’
As they broke apart, Nikki held on to him and tried to read the expression on his face.
“What?” Victor asked as he stood there trying to read her expression and, more importantly her mind.
“I’m trying to figure all this out. I’m trying to figure you out,” Nikki replied honestly, unable to hide her frustration, or keep it from creeping into her voice.
“What are you talking about?” Victor asked completely lost.
“I know what’s been going on since you moved. I know it all, Victor. I know about the non-stop working, not sleeping or eating and your drinking. What are you thinking? What are you trying to prove here? What do you think you’ll get out of all this? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to make me worry, trying to give me the scare of my life? Are you trying to hurt me? Is that what you’re trying to do, Victor?” Unable to help herself, or quell the heartbreak tearing at her soul, Nikki peppered him with questions, she was beyond caring about being fair or giving him the time and space he seemed to need. Only one thing was on her mind, only one thing was important now. ‘Whatever I have to do, I will get through to him! Anything less is not an option! He’ll listen to me, no matter what I have to do! He’s pushed me away long enough. He’s spent enough time licking his wounds, it’s time he lets me in! That’s the only way our marriage will survive! And, it will survive!’ Nikki vowed to herself determinedly, passionately, with as much conviction as she’d done with anything and everything else that involved Victor.
“No, of course not! Why would I do that? Nikki, come on you know me better than that! Douglas had no business bothering you with any of this! He should’ve stayed out of it!” Victor’s voice came out very strange indeed, there was a clear note of anger and resentment at Douglas’s involvement, but beyond that, there was something else, something that surprised both of them far more than they could admit.
At first, Nikki was taken aback by the hurt she heard catching in his voice, breaking her heart once more.
“I used to think so, I used to think I knew you better than anybody else ever could, ever would. Now I’m not so sure. What does Douglas have to do with any of this? He’s doing what he thinks is best-what you should be doing! He’s being honest with me! He knows I’m worried sick about you and he’s trying to help me. That’s a hell of a lot more than I can say for you right now!” Deep down, Nikki knew she wasn’t being fair, but she was fed up with him shutting her out and was determined to do whatever she had to do to get through to him once and for all!
“What do you want from me, Nikki? What do you want?” Victor shot back angrily and defensively, as he paced to the window, turning his back on her and fighting back hurt, bitter and angry tears. ‘She doesn’t deserve this, she deserves better. She deserves better than I can give her-she deserves better than me,’ Victor thought to himself heartbroken, feeling completely helpless and hopeless. ‘She’s better off without me, but how can I make her see that? What more can I do to get through to her?’ Victor thought to himself tired and defeated, and more than a little frustrated and angry as he looked at what his life and his relationship with Nikki had become.
“I want an explanation, Victor, you know you owe me at least that much!” Nikki demanded hotly, determination glowing in her eyes.
“What do you expect me to say? I explained everything in the letter, didn’t you read it?” Victor answered defensively, hotly. He clung to his pride as though it were all he had left.
“Yeah, I read it alright!” Nikki replied disgusted!
“What?” Victor asked unable to understand his wife’s attitude at all.
“What do you mean “what’? You really have no clue why I’m angry? Give me a break! That sorry excuse for a letter told me nothing! It told me absolutely nothing! That was your not so subtle way of trying your best to get me to do what you seem to think is best, to try and get me to turn my back on you. Newsflash, darling- it won’t work!“
Taken aback by what he was seeing and hearing, Victor stood there in silence for a few moments. Then, he replied, “This isn’t what I want, I never wanted to hurt you. That’s the last thing I ever wanted to do! But, I’d rather it hurt a little for now than hurt a lot in the long-run. The longer we do this, the longer we try to hold on to this, the more it’ll just end up hurting you in the long-run and you don’t deserve it.”
“And you think I can just give up? You think I can just turn my back on you, just like that?” she asked snapping her fingers. Angry, hurt and completely fed up, Nikki went on, “I can’t do that, no matter how much it may be best for me in the long-run, no matter how much you may want me to, I can’t give up on you. I can’t and I won’t! So, don’t even try to get me to do it!”
“Do you honestly think this is what I want? Do you? This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! Don’t you get it? This isn’t what I want; it’s never been what I want! Do you think if I could’ve stopped any of this, if I could change any of it, that I would still be living here instead of at home with you? Come on, Nikki, we both know that I’d be there in a heartbeat!” Victor couldn’t help the anger and hurt, nor could he help the defensiveness creeping into his voice as he tried once more in vain to get through to his wife. ‘Doesn’t she realize that I don’t want this either? Doesn’t she realize this is killing me as much as it’s killing her? Doesn’t she understand that I’d do anything to change this if I could, I’d do it in a heart beat?’ Victor thought to himself as tears stood in his eyes, burning them.
“Then why aren’t you? Why are you doing this to yourself, to me, to us? Why are you pushing me away like this when you know what it’s doing to both of us? Why are you pushing me away like this just when you need me the most? This doesn’t make any sense!” Nikki shot back angrily, hurt not just because of what he’d done and hadn’t done, but because of everything she knew it was doing to him. ‘Why can’t I get through to him?’ she thought to herself frustrated.
Walking over to him, she softly, tenderly whispered his name and turned him toward her. The pain raging through him clearly shone in his eyes and she shivered as their eyes met. “Let me in, let me help you! That’s the only way this marriage can survive, it’s the only way we can survive! Otherwise, none of this makes any sense, none of it means anything. If we don’t fight for what we have, if we don’t fight to keep what we have alive, it doesn’t mean anything, nothing at all; it never did.”
“Doesn’t it? Doesn’t what I’m doing make the most sense, given our options?” Victor asked unexpectedly.
“What are you talking about, Victor? You’re not making any sense!” Nikki exclaimed frustrated.
“Nikki, come on think about it. We both know exactly what would happen if I stayed there.” Victor tried in vain to reason with her. ‘I have to get her to see reason, I have to get her to see this the way it really is; for her own good!’ Victor thought to himself determinedly, ‘If I don’t her whole world goes up in flames, if I stay, her life won’t ever be the same, it’ll never be hers again and she’ll never, ever be happy! She doesn’t deserve that! She deserves better, she deserves more. She deserves so much more, so much better than I can give her now,but she can’t see that. And, until she does, she’ll keep fighting me on this. How do I get through to her, how?’
“Yeah, we’d both be happy, what a shame,” Nikki replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm and fury.
“Nikki, come on; be serious for a minute will you?!” Victor exclaimed angrily, frustrated that he still wasn’t getting through to her. ‘What do I have to do to get her to leave me alone, to move on with her life? What do I have to do to get her to just move on and forget about me? All the fighting isn’t doing either one of us any good, so why isn’t she seeing it, why doesn’t she just cut her losses and move on?! She must know it’s the best thing she could do, it’s the best thing she could do for both of us!’
“That’s rich, coming from you!” Nikki shot back angrily, her gaze burning through him. ‘Why is he doing this? Is he trying to get me angry or is he just trying to get me to leave? Doesn’t he get it by now-I’m not going anywhere!’
“You know, you’d be wasting a lot less energy if you just worked with me on this, let me help you with all this instead of fighting me every step of the way! You’re not helping yourself!
You’re only getting yourself in more trouble! This is the worst thing you could be doing under the circumstances! It’s the worst thing you could do for both of us!” “What?” Victor asked defensively, angrily, his temper slowly reaching its peak.
“Victor, you can’t possibly think that this is what’s best for either of us. You’re putting both of us through hell! If you’d stop and think about this for a second, you’d see that.” Nikki replied as calmly as she could under the circumstances. ‘Why is he being so stubborn, it’s like he doesn’t care about what this is doing to him, what happens to him as long as he thinks I’m happy. But, how can he think that when he knows how happy we’ve been together. How can he think that when he knows the happiest times I’ve ever had were with him?’