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The Dark Smothers Me

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The first time Casey MacDonald heard the word divorce, she was five years old. The parents of one of the girls in her class split up near the end of the year and the news spread like wildfire (well, the kindergarten version of it, anyway).

Casey and Nora were halfway home when Casey asked her mom what “divorced” meant.

“Well,” began Nora, trying to find the right words to explain it to her precocious five year old. “Sometimes mommies and daddies can’t stay married anymore so they get a divorce.”

“Oh,” Said Casey thoughtfully, thinking it through. “Do they still love each other?”

“Sometimes they decide to just be friends,” Nora answered after thinking her answer through once again. “They still love their kids as much as before,” she added in case Casey would think otherwise.

“I’m glad you and daddy won’t ever get divorced,” Casey declared as her five year old brain processed the idea but never fully believing it would ever happen to her parents.

By the time they got home, Casey’s mind had moved on to other things. It would be another five years before she’d even remember having the conversation with her mom.

* * *

It was 3AM when Casey realized that her parents were going to get a divorce. A crash from the living room woke her up, jolting her out of a sound sleep. When she went downstairs for breakfast the next morning she’d realize that the crash was the sound of one of their family photos being broken (and it would be a few more years before she’d realize that it was her mother that broke it by throwing it against the wall). But for now, all she knew was that she’d been woken up in the middle of the night once again.

She immediately turned her attention to Lizzie’s bed on the other side of their room to see if her little sister had woken up as well.

Without a word, Casey scooted over to the side of her bed and held the comforter up until Lizzie crawled in bed with her. As usual, Casey tucked the blanket around Lizzie and pulled her sister close to her, stroking Lizzie’s hair until her breathing evened out again, indicating that she was asleep once again.

Casey wished she could fall back asleep as easily as Lizzie, but that was rarely the case. She’d lost count of how many nights she’d heard her parent’s fighting.

“Who is she, Dennis?!” Casey heard her mom demand from downstairs, her voice slightly muffled from the walls between them. “I didn’t quit my job to stay home just to give you more free time to go fucking around with whatever naïve little intern will put up with you!”

“Fuck you, Nora!” Dennis spat back at his wife.

Casey buried her head in her pillow, trying to drown out the argument from downstairs.

The conversation she had with her mom about divorce all those years ago came back to her and she realized how wrong she’d been when she thought her parents would never get a divorce.