I wandered into my neighbor's kitchen last weekend during her son's birthday party, her kitchen for two rightful years now and I made myself at home.
It's fraudulent, this familiarity with another woman's space, but in my mind it stills belongs to T, the previous owner.
I used to sit at that very counter nearly every morning after the bus took our bigger kids off to school, and we drank countless cups of coffee. In the corner, I hear faint laughter, the days past with preschoolers underfoot, playing dressup. Running. Skipping.
Lunchtime would approach, and I'd show myself out, another morning spent in the ease of a friend, before I took Zack to school.
Rinse. Repeat. Two years passed.
I never much liked her husband; he seemed overbearing. My gut feelings were on target, but I didn't grasp how deep their troubles ran.
She had been hiding secrets from me, scary secrets about stalking charges, and previous attempts to leave him. He had punched their teenage daughter in the jaw, weeks before we moved in. The police had been involved. He was terrorizing her family, spinning out of control again.
She poured her story out in my lap and then she was gone for a while.
Soon there were restraining orders, and divorce lawyers and coffee at my place.
I wrote a letter, supporting what I knew of the situation to aid in her custody battle.
I kept my heart and door open to her, and her 5 kids.
And then one sunny morning, she came to the bus stop and announced that he had repented. He had repented and she was positively giddy to announce that he was moving back in. To stay.
My mouth dropped open, but there were no words. There was never a single word I said until she packed up and moved, some months later, that made a difference.
I told her we couldn't come to her house. I told her I was concerned. I told her I cared.
I told her that I was consumed with worry for her kids' safety. That when she said he would never hurt my kids, what that implied.
I didn't go outside much that summer. I didn't sleep well.
I would never have another unfiltered conversation with her again. The emails we exchange a couple times of year now are filled with Christianese, praise for her perfect marriage, their perfect reunion.
I wish it was the truth. With all my heart.
And I hope there is someone else, drinking coffee with her the next time she needs a friend when things undoubtedly spin out of control. Again. I hope someone else helps pick up the pieces.
I will never say I told you so. I hope she is safe.