My babies are gone. I can’t shake the sickness and the dread I feel. I can’t stop thinking about how scared and confused they must be—basically kidnapped, by strangers. And how I can’t reach them. I can’t comfort them. Tell them it’s okay and I will be there soon. And I can’t shake the fact that it’s all my fault.

The parenting books, the Lamaze classes, the breast feeding, the family bed, the homemade baby food…this seems like another world now—so very far away from where we are now. How did we get here? But that’s another story.

Keith is no longer the soft-spoken, easy going man I married. His anger and desperation have twisted—distorted him into a hard, immovable force.

“No! Fuck no! I’m not going to let some other dude raise my kids!”

“This is your answer???!! Sending them off to live with your mom? You know what she’s like! After we always said we would never trust anyone to babysit OUR kids!”

We rage at one another now, across the telephone lines, because we can’t be in the same space with one another. I bring a Sheriff’s deputy with me to collect the rest of my things from the apartment where I find he has broken into my locked box containing the secret letters from Bryan. The ones he wrote me when we were living up north. The ones he sent to the secret post office box I rented. His words of love and desire that were my lifeline through that cold, lonely winter.

His earnest, pencil-scrawled pages lie scattered amongst my sentimental souvenirs from other past boyfriends…movie ticket stubs, cocktail napkins, and matchbook covers from restaurants ripped and strewn across the bedroom floor. What was he looking for? More evidence?

As the months wear on, I continue to play house with Thomas, but my heart is no longer in it. We try to save money, but we are living hand to mouth. I try to stay in communication with the kids, but it’s hard. They are too young and don’t understand what’s going on. My in-laws are being difficult. There is talk of them wanting to adopt them outright.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am in love with Thomas. But, my guilt eats me up inside. We are starting to argue over petty things when my mood turns dark. I become vicious in my verbal attacks, sending him into fits of anger just because I know the buttons to push. I turn everything good and every vulnerability he has revealed against him.

We are spending more time apart. He is working in the  kitchen at a steak and seafood place nearby.  He brings us home aluminum containers filled with food that we could never afford–lobster newburg, steak, ribs. Sometimes we share a meal at the end of the night after work, but more often than not, one of us has already gone to bed by the time the other gets home.

One night after work we meet at New York Bar & Grill, the late night watering hole where the people in the biz congregate and talk shop after their restaurants close. We share a couple beers and end up in an argument. This happens lately when I drink. He slaps a twenty on the bar and walks out. I know better than to follow, because the fight will only get worse.

I stay behind, restless and angry. I scan the bar for anyone I know. My eyes rest on Scotty, a line cook from a restaurant I used to work at. He smiles. He is sitting with another cook and they are in conversation, but periodically he glances back my way. Perhaps he notices I am alone. I always thought he looked kind of like Jimmy Page. Cute, but shy.

I make small talk with the bartender, but always return my gaze to Scotty. Now we are flirting. I follow him down the corridor when he goes to the men’s room and I wait outside the door. In my relaxed, inebriated state, I stand there, back against the wall, knowing full well what I want to happen.

To be continued…