A/N 2: This instalment is a little CRAY! I have no idea how I ended up writing THIS. Please forgive me if it bored you to death.
A/N 3: I was so excited to upload it I haven’t even beta read it for mistakes. So all mistakes are mine.
A/N 4: THANK YOU to everyone who’s been voting and commenting on my work. Means a lot and I really mean it.
“If your demons
I would burn my hands
to conquer them.”
February 3, 2015
3: 04 a.m.
It was all pitch black and eerily silent, she tries to scream but can’t find her voice and then the noises around her start rising reaching a fevered pitch---she can’t stop them---she screams again, for Don, but he isn’t there—faint memories of him sleeping peacefully float by—and she slowly descends into the abyss—flailing and trying to save herself but her silent screams are futile and now the sounds become unbearable—she thinks her head might explode, the blackness fades a little---and she wakes up with a soft gasp, head throbbing wildly, drenched in sweat inspite of the February chill.
It’s pitch black around her except for the slim shard of light pouring in from the sliver of a gap in the cream curtains. It directly hits her eye and she turns her face away to the other side of the bed—cold—unslept. Don’s not come home again-for the fourth night in a row. She caresses the sheet beside her and shivers at its coolness. The constant low hum of the heater reminds her of her nightmare; she ignores it and picks up her phone instead. She hasn’t switched it off, like she usually does because she had been waiting up for him to return and had eventually dozed off. There are a million mails already, but a single message flickers:
“Hey, don’t wait up.
Work’s crazy, too tired to drive back.
I’ll be back tomorrow. Or day after maybe.”
Don had been working from Connecticut for the past few days and he’d been promising her every night that he’d be back home, but he hadn’t lived up to it till now. She had suggested going over but had been shut down with “Nah, there’s no need. You’ll get bored. I have work to do.”And that had been that.
She’s home now. She’s been off work for a while now. Generally, Meryl and Don would plan their vacations simultaneously so as to spend the maximum time with each other but this time it hadn’t worked out that way, Don was incredibly busy with a million commissions for Embassies and their city. It had always been easy with Don being an artist, he’d work alone all day long and come up to have lunch with her and eventually they’d spend the night together doing all the things that they did whenever she was home. It all worked well, really well. Except this one time. Just this once Don seemed to be busier than ever. When she’d started the vacation she had high hopes of doing all the things she loved – relaxing, reading, baking, cooking, knitting, taking care of the house, spending time with her kids but the foremost being getting to spend time with Don- spending many an evening wrapped up in his arms sipping on champagne and looking out into the New York skyline talking about the most unusual things in the world, feeding each other, taking care of each other and making love into the morning. She knew he’d be busy so she had reconciled herself to the fact that she’d only be entitled to her husband’s evenings and those occasional afternoons when she’d been a welcome distraction from work in his studio. And yet none of it had worked out that way.
She’d found her husband too busy and stressed to even have a normal conversation leave apart their usual intellectual conversations interspersed with trips to the museum and the theatre. It had been okay for a while---she took it as an opportunity to catch up with her friends and kids, but she soon realized it was nothing compared to spending time with her husband and eventually everyone else got busy leaving Meryl to her own devices.
That’s when it all started.
The sense of insecurity, abandonment, incomprehensible grief spiralling downwards into an abyss of self hatred and vulnerability. She’d hardly ever had such prolonged moments of individual crisis- Don was always there to take all of that away— every time she’d start eviscerating herself over her acting, parenting and loving abilities Don would always be the constant rock, the unwavering grounded anchor securing her ship in the devastating storm—reassuring her, loving her, taking care of her to make her believe in herself again. This time though it seemed asif he had failed and here she was sitting in the middle of her cold bed staring at her phone’s wallpaper—a picture of them from last December’s Kennedy Center Honors. It’s beautifully casual- she’s smiling for the photographers while he’s just looking at her as if she’s were a Goddess-it had been Don’s idea to make it her wallpaper saying ‘this is for those moments of self doubt of yours. Always know I love you and I’ll be there.' So where was he now, she thought as a lone tear trickled down the elegant slope of her flawless ivory cheek-bones.
She wipes it with the back of her hand, snatches the half finished bottle of whiskey from the side-table and makes her way towards the den. She’s still wearing the clothes from the evening when she’d gone to Kevin’s office to tell him she wasn’t interested in doing the next film she’d signed up for. Things had gone crazy with Kevin literally losing it over her doing the ‘I can’t do this’ drill all over again, except he thought she’d taken it a bit too far. He’d refused to cancel her contract saying she was out of her mind. She’d come to think of Kevin as a very good friend over the years and he’d witnessed many of her insecurity driven moments and he knew better than to take her seriously. He’d refused to take any decision without speaking to Don about it and getting her out of her ‘phase’ as he’d called it. At Don’s mention Meryl had strictly forbid him to contact him saying he was busy and had eventually left in a fit without coming to a decision.
After coming home she’d found herself drinking directly from a bottle of JD to forget all about her present state. She had skipped dinner again like she’d been doing she didn’t even remember for how long now.
For that matter she couldn’t remember when she had had her last proper meal and neither did she care.
As she sinks listlessly into the huge sofa, for a moment she has an urge to call Don right then and tell him all about how she is feeling and run to him and bury herself in his chest and cry him a river.
However she sees rationality (or irrationality) and decides against it and instead proceeds to finish her bottle of whiskey and starts her mind cycle of self deprecation, like she’s been doing for the past few weeks, ever since Don’s started distancing himself from her. Not for a second does the thought cross her mind that Don is trying his best to get all his job done as soon as possible without his wife distracting him (because oh does she distract well!) so that he can spend as much time as he can with her as soon as he’s done.
She wonders what’s gone wrong this time – does he not find her attractive anymore, is she too whiney, too needy, too childish, too boring for him? Or is it that he’s found someone else---even the thought stops her heart for a moment and a physical pain courses through her entire being making her shiver involuntarily—she needs to stop or she knows she’ll drive herself crazy---she also knows that Don can’t cheat on her. Not her Don. Neither can he fall out of love with her, not him, because it’s them. It’s always been them. But she ignores all logic and continues her morbid thoughts, drowning herself in the bottle of whiskey and her never ending tears.
She wakes up to her phone ringing and the worst headache she’s had in her life.
She looks at the caller ID and is actually concerned something might be wrong “Mames? Is everything okay?”
“Yup! Why wouldn’t it be..oh..you mean I’m up early. Ha.Ha. Good morning Mama.”
“Good morning sweetheart. Sleep well?” Meryl says trying to hide the exhaustion in her voice and accustoming her eyes to the morning light. She can hear her voice sound hoarse, and her mouth tastes like a mixture of the world’s most disgusting things concocted together.
“Yeah mom! Are you okay? You sound ill?”
“Yeah sweetie, I’m fine! Just a little cold.” Meryl lies.
“Oh your solitary friend!” they share a laugh as Mamie adds “Mom the thing is I can’t come for the play tonight. I’m actually heading to LA today, Mike wants me to audition for something, it’s come up all of a sudden! Can I take a raincheck?”
Meryl had totally forgotten about the plans she’d made with her daughter. She’s always happy to see one of her kids but she can’t be more grateful about the turn of events because she can’t even think of going out in her wretched mental condition. “Oh darling! It’s alright, work. It’s more important, we hardly get opportunities! We’ll go see the play some other time.” And they continue talking for a while about their lives and update each other about the rest of the family. Meryl evades Mamie’s question of ‘how’s Dad? God I haven’t spoken to him since the past 2 days!’ with a curt ‘He’s busy working, sweetheart!’ and decides not to mention that he isn’t back from Salisbury yet.
Then once she’s done talking with Mamie she decides to catch up with the rest of her kids and by the end of it she feels marginally better as she makes her way towards the bathroom to freshen up.
She takes in her appearance carefully only once she’s washed her face and she wants to turn her face away from the mirror as soon as she meets her own eyes in them. She looks pale, much too pale, a shadow of her former self. The dark circles under her eyes stand in stark contrast to her lily white skin and her cheekbones look even more pronounced against the bones of her face. She’s starting to lose weight—much too much weight. She sighs and puts all these thoughts to the back of her head and decides to take a shower instead.
February 8, 2015
Don sighs as he opens the front door of their apartment and takes off his coat. Home sweet home, he thinks as the familiar warmth removes traces of the chilly New York night from his body. He’d spoken to Meryl and told him that’d he’d definitely be back tonight although he might be late, and so he was, given the ever-present New York traffic. He’d noticed her clipped answers to him over the phone for the past few days and had wondered how angry she was. However, he knew he needed to finish his work and he’d obviously ultimately make it up to her and all her anger would soon ebb away. He smiles as he realizes he can see his wife at last—oh how much he’s missed her—he nods sideways when he realizes yet again that he can’t live without seeing her for too many days on end.
Generally, whenever either of them would come back home after being away for a while the other person would always make it a point to welcome them in the most romantic manner especially ever since the kids had gone. However, tonight doesn’t seem to be one of those nights—it’s all dark and eerily quiet and none of the aroma from the food or the candles are enveloping the place like usual.
Either she’s asleep or angry. It is late, he admits, but not enough for his wife to not wait up. He wonders if she’s really furious and he knows he’s in no mood to pick up a fight especially when he’s been away from her for so long. All he wants to do is to wrap her up in his arms and love her till the end of time and he hopes that’s exactly what he’s able to do tonight.
As he reaches the landing of the floor where their bedroom is located he sees that their bedrooms door has been left ajar, through it the yellow light of the bedside table pours out onto the carpeted floor. Maybe she’s awake after all, he wonders as he quickens his pace to reach the room.
As soon as he enters the room, the first thing that he registers is the strong smell of alcohol and soon after his eyes fall on the person who’s responsible for the smell. The room’s a mess but his eyes focus on the sole thing of his interest who’s sitting on bed wearing one of his oversized shirts and drinking directly from a bottle of Vodka.
“Meryl?!” he enquires tentatively and moves towards his wife.
At this she looks up from her half stupor like state and stares at Don for the longest moment.
“Oh! Look who’s here. Donnn Gummer. So, how come you’re home?”
“I told you I’d be back tonight. Why are you drinking? Is everything all right?” he goes ahead and holds his wife as she struggles to get out of bed. Once she’s up on her feet, she quickly struggles away from his grasp and laughs.
“Everything is granddd. What? I can’t drink now? You’re bored of me being me—sober Meryl, are you bored of drunk Meryl too?” she said and proceeded to take a swig from the bottle. Don snatches the bottle away from her and fumes. He’s never seen her this way
“That’s enough for tonight. Come, let’s go to bed.” He knows there is no point talking to her tonight, better to approach her tomorrow, so he starts guiding her towards their bed.
“Get away from me.” Meryl screeches and snatches the bottle back from his hand and pushes him.
As much as Don is angry at her he’s equally scared. He knows something is really really wrong with his wife but as his anger takes the better of him, in a rare occurrence in their house he shouts at her “Are you fucking insane?”
“Am I? I thought you were, fucking someone insane.”
“Oh, don’t play innocent. You haven’t been home for a week Don!” and then it dawns on him that his wife thinks he’s seeing someone else. Oh that stupid girl of his with her insecurities. How can he ever stop being in love with her. He’s about to open his mouth to erase all her insecurities away when---
“Sorry Don, your ‘this’ whore is too drunk tonight. Go back to her.” She drawls while gesturing.
Before Don even knows what’s happening he sees his hand coming in contact with his wife’s face and the sound of the slap reverberates through the eerie silence of their home and she staggers back weakly and falls onto the bed preventing her from further injury.
As soon as he realizes what he’s done he’s filled with guilt, remorse and has an immense urge to chop off the hand which was raised against his wife’s cheek. Oh God, how could he do this—never had he let his anger get the better of him, especially when it came to his wife, he’s never ever physically hurt her till tonight—and then as realization hits him—he proceeds to take her in his arms but then turns and makes his way towards the dressing table and smashes his hand into the glass of the mirror. The mirror breaks into a million tiny pieces and blood is spattered across them. His hand feels like it’s on fire but he can’t seem to bother.
From out of nowhere suddenly she’s at his side, examining his hand as the tears stream down the elegant slope of her cheekbones. Suddenly she doesn’t seem drunk anymore as she makes her way steadily towards the bathroom to retrieve the first aid kit. Don just stands there flabbergasted, unable to process anything anymore-except for the fact that he’d raised his hand to his wife.
She comes back and without a word guides him towards their bed and starts working on his wound. He stops her, takes her hands in one hand and uses the other to lift up her chin to meet her eyes but her eyes are down-cast and won’t meet his. “I’m sorry love.” He wants to fall at her feet for hurting his goddess, his life and love her forever but he knows she won’t allow that. She takes his hand again and puts an antiseptic on the cuts, the pain is unbearable but all he cares about is meeting his wife’s eyes but that seems impossible as his wife seems adamant to not utter a word.
“There is no one.” he offers, then a pause “I know you know.” a pause again “I’m sorry.” As he finishes he feels hollow on the inside, even his sorry sounds hollow for some reason.
This is not how he had imagined the night would turn out at all. He’d imagined a romantic night with his wife with home cooked food and some champagne and all the usual methods of making up for being away by making love into the morning. He wonders what has gotten into his wife-he wonders if it’s his fault that she’s feeling so insecure and the answer hits home immediately—the curt messages, their scant conversations and her absent laugh on telephone calls.
She finishes up bandaging his hand and promptly gets up, puts the first aid back in its place, takes her pillow and makes her way out of the room. Don swiftly gets up and grabs her wrist with his uninjured hand as a plea for her to not leave him alone.
At last their eyes meet and for a moment Don wants to look away—too much hurt in that blue-green whirlpool—too much pain and haplessness and add to it her precious tears.
She wrestles against his strong grip and Don lets go because he doesn’t want to hurt her even further.
Without a single word she leaves, leaving Don alone in their seemingly huge and lonely bedroom.
For the first time in his life he thinks his marriage might actually be in trouble and as it hits him he falls into a heap onto the floor and cries for the longest time.
February 4, 2015
His head seems to be splitting due to the lack of sleep and crying as he makes his way towards the kitchen for a cup of coffee. He’d been awake for the longest time last night playing the events in his head again and again until physical exhaustion had claimed him and he had fallen into a fitful sleep. Waking up he had seen no sign of his wife in the room and as he made his way towards the kitchen he wonders if he’ll bump into her. He thinks of a million different ways to say sorry.
His wife stands near the kitchen counter in front of the coffee maker facing the window, away from him. Listening to him approach the kitchen she fills his cup with coffee and turns to put in on the kitchen table.
That’s when he sees it. The angry red bruise across her left cheek running right down to her chin—it’s already turned blue-black at places and looks extremely painful. It stands out starkly against her pale skin like a tell-tale sign of everything that happened last night.
Don gasps audibly and tries to say something but can’t come up with words. Now, when he looks at her again taking her in, he senses something else is amiss-she’s taken off the shirt she was wearing yesterday and is wearing one of her own which hangs loosely from her frame—she’s lost weight and the dark circles around her eyes combined with the bruise against the pale skin makes her look hauntingly beautiful. How could she have lost so much weight—agreed she had lost some while filming a movie last fall but she looks too thin, fragile, pale and broken-her features schooled to one of indifference. Don wants nothing more than to just go and hug her and soothe her and take care of her but he knows that if her tries any of that now he’ll be met with pure ice.
Before he can get himself to say anything pathetic in terms of an apology she storms off with what Don suspects as unshed tears in her eyes. And that’s when it really hits him that he’s majorly fucked up this time and that he needs to make this alright, whatever it takes.
Looking back he realizes his folly---being away from home, being too involved in his work, being distant with her—obviously she must have felt vulnerable and unloved---he thinks of how beautiful his wife is and wonders why someone like her would have insecurities—but she does and he knows better than to let her wallow in those thoughts.
He doesn’t have a moment to waste. He needs to figure out the best way to win her back, to make her feel loved once more, to show her his love again.
He debates on whether to call Harry or Henry and talk to them about it and settles with talking to his son for advice. Henry picks up on the third ring
“Wow! Someone’s remembered he has a son.”
“Hank, stop. Not you too.”
“Oops! What’s wrong dad? Is it our favourite lady?”
“I fucked up big time son.” And with that he starts narrating the events from last night as his eyes fill with unshed tears.
“Dad. Stop. There is not time to sit and wallow in self pity and lick your wounds. She needs you more. Go and get her. Win her back dad. You’ve done it once, love her once more?”
“But son I do love her! I don’t think there is anything in the world that I do better than loving her.”
“Show her then. Nourish her with your love and affection. Shower her with flowers. Things you do dad, just do it more.”
“I won’t lose her, will I?"He asks sceptically almost like a little boy and his son’s heart breaks to his hero so broken.
“Nope, there is no you without her and vice-versa. Geez, I can’t believe I said something so cheesy about my parents. Dad, go. Do it. All the best.”
And with that the line disconnects as Don thinks what to do next. He knows there is no way she’s gonna talk to him.
So instead he starts writing her a letter.
I can’t begin to tell you the turmoil I’m going through in my whole being over what I did to you. There is no forgiveness for it and yet I ask that of you because if you weren’t to forgive me I don’t think I could go on living any longer.
Meryl, you’re the only woman I’ve ever loved with my whole soul and ever since the day I’ve met you I haven’t found a single woman to compare with your grace, intelligence, wit and beauty. Everything, every being fails in comparison to you and so when you’re not there around me the world seems morbid and lifeless and all I want to do is rush back to your arms.
Oh Meryl, how could there ever be another woman to compare with you! How could I ever be with someone else when I can’t stop thinking about you.
I’m sorry that I’ve seemed aloof all these weeks, I was only trying to get my work done as fast as possible so that I could spend more time with you. I’ve missed you tremendously but yet I did it to make life easier for both of us, I thought.
I truly never meant to hurt you princess. You’re everything that I am and believe me I mean each one of these words, you know that right? Of course you know that.
Please forgive me this once. Please let me be with you once again. Please let me love you. Please let me love you once more.
P.S. I Love You
He gets dressed quickly and leaves the house to look for the perfect bouquet of flowers, he settles for purple hyacinths to make the message of his asking for forgiveness even more emphatic.
He knows his wife is not someone who’d care the first bit about expensive clothes or jewellery, but he’s pretty certain beautiful flowers can lure her. So can other meaningful gestures—like meaningful words and kisses, quiet afternoons filled with love, candlelight dinners over a home cooked meal and simple joys of life—just not material things.
Once he’s accomplished his mission, he makes his way towards their guest bedroom where his wife seems to have taken up temporary residence and places the flowers and his letter at the foot of the door and knocks. When he gets no response, he decides to send her a text message instead and leave her to it, better not to nag too much ‘Left something for you outside the door.x’
He hides strategically behind a book-shelf, half a minute later the door opens, she picks up the letter glances at it briefly, smells the flowers and smiles—his heart melts seeing her smile and then she closes the door leaving him all alone once again.
Don had thought that she’d come around pretty soon after the flowers and the letters but she’d skipped coming out for lunch and now it seemed she was going to do the same for dinner. So Don decides to take things into his hands once again, no, not that he knows cooking but he decides to order in from their favourite Chinese take out joint and once laden with a tray full of food he makes his way upstairs towards the guest bedroom.
He knocks once and then again but when there is no response he tries his luck with the door knob and miraculously it gives in.
Inside, only a dim lamp illuminates the room and the curtains are all drawn leaving the person on the bed bathed in a soft golden light. She looks resplendent even without make-up and the dark bruise marring her face which serves as a painful reminder to Don.
She still looks pale and tired and horribly fragile and Don can’t stop himself this time as he puts the tray down on the edge of the bed, moves towards her and envelopes her in a tight hug. She stays stiff in his arms for a moment before she relaxes. He buries his head in her hair and takes in the oh so familiar smell that he’s missed. He keeps whispering ‘Sorry’s against her ear and after a while he can feel her body shaking with sobs and he grips her even tighter and soothes her with small kisses.
He doesn’t say anything because anything would sound hollow and redundant at this point so he just lets her cry for a million years. Then all of a sudden, she detaches herself from his embrace and leaves the bed to walk across the room and stands next to the Victorian window, as her eyes trace the moving traffic down below.
The silence pervades for what seems like a million years and when it gets too much Don opens his mouth to say something but doesn’t know what but he’s released of the task when he hears a broken voice
‘Do you still love me? Because if you don’t---
She turns back and is about to say something when the world spins and it’s all suddenly dark. Don’s flabbergasted for a moment as he involuntarily shouts out her name-he recovers soon to take prompt action and runs towards the prone figure on the ground.
“Hey, Meryl, baby? Wake up darl!’ but her eyes only flutter but do not hold enough energy to look at the world.
He picks her up with the utmost care and lays her down on the bed. She trembles as Don sprinkles some water on her face and opens her eyes slowly, they’re glazed over and teary and Don’s never felt so helpless. His wife thinks he doesn’t love her anymore when in fact he can’t remember not loving her ever; right now all he wants to do is to make her feel happy and loved. So he does exactly that.
He bends down and kisses her on the lips. At first it’s chaste but she soon allows him entry and soon there is a battle tongues and warmth and ecstasy. He’s concerned about her well being and pulls apart to look at her but she pulls him back to her immediately and starts kissing him frantically, wherever she can. Don senses it and tries to calm her down—she’s too weak and needs to get food into her system before anything else. He calms her down with his soft kisses—on the lips, her eyelids, below the ear and all the way across her collar bones-soft, light lingering kisses, open-mouthed and warm.
‘I love you more than anything Meryl, please don’t ever think otherwise. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for having hurt you. Please let me make it up to you.’ He caresses her hair lovingly and buries his head in it inhaling the sweet strawberry smell.
‘Make love to me.’ Meryl says in a small voice and clutches his shirt tightly.
‘Yes sweetheart, yes. Soon. But first you need to get some food into this beautiful body of yours. I need my girl to regain her strength before I have her. Please sweetheart.’
She nods lightly and Don is thankful for small favours. He wipes away her tears with his shirt sleeve and pulls the tray towards them and starts making bite sized pieces of the food for her to eat. She eats quietly without much fuss all the while holding onto Don tightly while he makes silly jokes making her laugh.
Don can’t be more grateful for small blessings. He’s seeing her laugh again and that itself is driving him crazy with madness. It’ll be fine again, it’ll always be fine. He’s conquered his queen’s heart again.
Unlike her earlier request of making love Don finds she fast asleep by the time he returns from the kitchen after having finished their dinner.
He smiles seeing her curled up to one side, her golden hair falling in wispy strands all over her face. The scar's still very much visible against her pale skin but it looks less angry now and there is a slight rose tint to her cheeks. She looks calmer and relieved. Don marvels at her incomprehensible beauty and prays to whoever there is to keep her forever happy and promises to never hurt her again even unknowingly.
He pulls the duvet over her sleeping body and brushes the strands away from her face and kisses her forehead lightly. She stirs a little but does not wake up. He turns down the bedside lamps and decides to stare at her for this one night, drink in all her beauty. He's already missed too much these past few days. Not anymore.
So while she sleeps he stares at the form of his wife, this other worldly beauty and is overcome with gratitude and happiness and he decides to not take it for granted for even one second.
After that night they'd made love every night. She'd been utterly broken and fragile in the beginning but Don's soothing and loving words, his gestures and compliments, the endless bouquet of flowers had slowly revived her and brought her back to her former self. His rose had bloomed again-she’d started eating and sleeping again.
Every day he saw a little of the self confidence coming back and their love making had gone from being needy and frantic to sensual and slow. A sign of her better mental health.
So one evening, two weeks after the nightmarish ordeal Don comes home from his studio to a home filled with oriental aromas and soft candle lights. He smiles and marvels at how his life is perfect again- his beautiful, strong wife with her insecurities and frailties is singing in the kitchen and he can’t remember a happier moment. Then as he enters the dining room his eyes fall directly on the vision in black setting the table. Her beauty is breathtaking and he can’t but audibly gasp at the wonder that is his wife. She looks up to isolate the source of noise and their eyes meet. Don dies a little again as her beauty hits him for the umpteenth time but he’s never felt happier-tonight her eyes are filled with warmth and happiness, a tinge of naughtiness and innocence and endless amounts of love—all the insecurity and sadness is gone, there isn’t a single trace of it anymore. All is well again.
‘Welcome home.’ She mutters as their eyes find solace in each other. All is said and done.
“I once read that in any good marriage, one partner is the gardenerand the other is the garden. We take it in turns to be either”
P.S. I might actually be tempted to write a fic where Meryl and Don are actually stuck in the elevator, depends on our revies! ;))