Owen felt the leather of the old winged chair press against his bare back. The dry, cracked leather bit against his flesh. He pushed himself harder into the uncomfortable piece of furniture. The dilapidated one bedroom apartment sat almost completely dark in the dusk of the day. The distinct smell of black mold emanated from underneath the threadbare carpet. Smoke stained walls, once white, added to the dirt and darkness that surrounded Owen. An empty bottle of Jack Daniels laid on the floor beside him.

In his left hand, he held a bottle of sleeping pills. Owen had truthfully told the doctor he had not been sleeping, but he did not intend to use the prescription for a good night’s sleep. He was going to take an eternal nap. Own placed the pill bottle in his lap and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket with his other hand.  He scrolled through his contacts and found Daisy’s phone number. She answered on the third ring.

“Owen?”

Owen pulled the pill bottle from between his legs and rolled it against his thigh as he spoke. “I just called to say I’m sorry. I knew I was playing with fire when I went to lunch with Fay. She was vulnerable and lonely. I should have said no that day, but the work hours had been so long, and I just wanted a break. No, that’s an excuse. I’m guilty. I’m guilty of betraying your trust, our vows. I deserve what’s coming to me.”

Daisy’s voice was tense. “Honey, I told you I forgive you. You’ve never been that sort of husband. I just wanted us to spend some time apart. I can forgive you, but the healing takes time. I still love you.”

Tears began to stream down Owen’s face. He could no longer hold back the sadness in his voice. “No, I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I don’t deserve you and the kids. When we were young, we had so many dreams, so many goals. Do you remember? Our kids were going to grow up with one family, just like we did. Now, we’re just another broken family. I blew it.”

Daisy’s voice rose in panic, “Owen, what are you doing?”

“The only thing I can to bring some sense of honor back. I just called to say goodbye.”

“How is giving up honorable?”

“I’m guilty as sin. There’s only one recourse for the kind of pain I’ve caused. No divorce, no custody battles, just a clean break from this world so you can move on.”

Daisy’s voice trembled, “No, no! Don’t you dare. Weren’t you listening? I ‘ve already forgiven you.”

Owen placed the bottle between his thighs again and twisted off the cap. “I don’t deserve your forgiveness. I don’t deserve the kids or any of it. I deserve to die in his hell hole I found to stay in.”

“Don’t you dare. I won’t forgive you if you harm yourself. It was a mistake, everyone makes mistakes, but what you’re about to do isn’t a mistake. It’s giving up. If you do this, you’re abandoning us, and that’s worse than anything you ever did with Fay.”

Owen held the cap between his fingers. “I never wanted to hurt you.”

“If you do this you’re hurting me forever. Is that what you want to do to me? Do you want to hurt me now?”

Owen stopped playing with the lid. “No, but can’t you see? I deserve this.”

Daisy’s voice was firm, “No, you don’t. You need to listen to me. The only person you hurt was me. If you do this, you’ll hurt the kids too.  Don’t give into your shame. We can come back from this together.”

“I don’t know. Maybe you’re just saying this because you think you have to stop me.”

Owen could hear Daisy’s frustrated sigh before she responded. “Don’t be so stupid. You know I love you, and I know you love me. Otherwise, why would you be calling, or think about killing yourself?”

Daisy’s words cut into Owen’s heart. Kill himself. He was no murderer, but then his shame reminded him he was no adulterer until he was. Daisy’s voice cut through his darkness.

“Honey, I want you to come home. I didn’t ask you to leave so you would do this. Just promise me, you won’t hurt yourself. Come home, and we’ll get some counseling. Just somebody to help us work this all out. Please, don’t hurt yourself.”

Owen sighed and put down the bottle cap. “I don’t deserve to come home.”

Daisy’s voice cracked, “Of course you don’t, but that is what forgiveness is all about. It isn’t deserved, it’s given. It’s part of love. I love you, and I forgive you. You made a mistake. You don’t want to make that same mistake again, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Then come home. Don’t be a coward. If you love me, you’ll forget whatever you are planning and come home.”

Owen sighed and dropped his head. Daisy was right. Inside he could feel shame begin to darken his mind once more. Fighting against the oppression, he pushed his way out of the old chair before the darkness could press him further into it. The bottle and cap fell to the floor and the pills scattered. Owen took a step towards the wall and turned on the light. A dark shadow appeared to shoot across the room and was gone.

Daisy’s voice was anxious and trembling. “Are you there?”

“Yeah, honey. I’m here. You’re right, as usual. I’m no coward, and I want to fight for you and the kids. I don’t know what it’s going to take, but I want to make this work. Let me get my stuff together, and I’ll be home soon.”

Daisy’s voice calmed, “I love you, honey.”

“I love you too.”

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