Chapter 17, loren
Our divorce happened so quickly that I barely had time to even comprehend the severity and finality of it all. It took only a couple months to hear the judge hammer the gavel, sealing the fate of my old life. Within moments, a man who never truly felt “mine” legally was no more. I signed my name on our divorce papers that day, never again to see “Mr. and Mrs. Kirk” on anything thereafter. A weight did not just lift off my shoulders, it flew off. I was 170 pounds lighter, and this freedom tasted better than anything my lips had ever touched.
I knew we still had business to attend to as far as the custody of our boys went. Deep down I felt as if he did not want to be an active father and would likely see them here and there when he had time. After all, he had a new love interest and a new life to consume his happiness. We were his old life, and I had come to terms with that. I thought this might work out well, all things considered. Perhaps he would be kinder to me, seeing as how he now had the life he always wanted. I felt left in the dust..with three babies in tow.
Life after divorce started out fairly smooth. I had recently hit the dating scene, my ex-husband had not caused any stress on me in weeks, and I was ready to embrace single motherhood once again! I shouted to myself, “You’ve got this!” I enrolled back into school for my master’s degree and set out to achieve all that I had planned prior to my divorce.
To say I was not completely anxiety ridden would be a lie, because I knew this peace may not last much longer. John would be returning from training soon...this time he would be moving into the home just one even number different from the one we once shared. There would be a storm approaching soon and instead of waiting it out, I needed to out run it.
There’s no way I can stay and reside next door to this! Surely, he would not expect me to.
I had no job, no income, and three small boys that depended on me night and day. What I need now is help. I needed to start my life. I thought to myself, “Isn’t that what women do after divorce?” I must follow in the footsteps we are shown: Take your babies, go home, get a job, work hard, and be the provider for your family.
I went to college for a reason, this was my chance! My free-spirited soul longed for a fresh start, and I was ready to pack up my gypsy crew and start a new life…a life far away from the place I had only called home for one short year. In that year alone, I lost all of who I was or thought I would ever become. My faith had been rocked to the core, and I found myself longing for stability.
As a protection for my heart and sanity, I blocked John’s number on my phone. I wanted nothing to do with him and felt that if he needed to contact me or our sons for any reason he could do so through email or our respected attorneys. I had nothing nice to say to him, and I felt it was best to distance myself in order to ‘keep the peace’. By now, I assumed he was happily living his best life with his new love and would keep preoccupied enough with that to leave me alone. I had hoped he would finally allow me to heal from all pain and heartbreak that he put me through for years. I needed this most of all from him.
I moved back home to Georgia with my babies and settled us in to an adorable two-bedroom apartment only minutes from family. I started my first semester of graduate school, and I was accepted to be a counselor at a local women’s shelter to complete my clinical internship. My plan was to go back to school and become a licensed social worker, specializing in families and young adults. So far, my journey was looking up!
May 2nd, I received a call from an unknown number and answered...it was John. He wanted to know how the boys were and asked why we had left without telling him. I responded, “We are all in Georgia, you can speak to the boys, but things are still rough between us, so I do not fully trust you.” He was harsh and I could tell he was very upset that we had moved without his notice. I had no explanation to possibly give, other than I had done what was best for the boys, for us.
To my knowledge, things seemed to remain calm. He asked if he could come see the boys and pick them up for a week, to which I agreed. The boys missed their dad, and being a single mom for so long, a break seemed like a nice idea. So, we arranged all the details, I packed their little backpacks to the brim with clothes, toothbrushes and toys, and off they went for a week with dad!
That week I accomplished more than just finishing a single meal without interruption. I caught up on all of my homework, spent time with my sisters, slept in, worked out, and even got my nails done for the first time in years. Overall, that week spent alone gave me the reassurance that I could handle this new life we were going to live. We could be great co-parents, and we would coordinate FaceTime and exchanges whenever possible. I missed my babies something awful, but was reassured by the fact that they would soon return home to me, and I could smother them with love once again. This was going to be fine…or so I thought.
The week came to an end, and as we had discussed via email the week prior, John would return them at 6pm Friday evening. Friday at 6pm came with no sign of the boys. I calmly checked my phone to see if perhaps he was just running late. A notification appeared that I received an email from John. I checked my inbox; there in the subject line were three simple words that started a war: Our Amazing Boys.
Before even opening it, my heart sank. The John I knew was back. The eerie calm had lasted too long and had been too good to be true. Fear, accompanied with panic, set in.
While the full contents of that email are still difficult for me to read, it began like this:
The boys are home by Friday at 6 where they belong, in their legal state of residence in Jacksonville, NC. Had you chosen to go about things in a more sensible manner, and not taken them from me against my will and without my consent, then we would not be in the situation we are in today. My attorney has advised me that I have every legal right to keep the boys in their state of residence and re-enroll them back into school that you took them out of for the third time. Our son might have to start kindergarten over next year because of your selfish actions. You have shown multiple times now that your judgement cannot be trusted, and I do fear that if you were to be granted visitation you would take them once again and cross state lines.”
The paragraphs that followed ripped me apart in ways that I truly cannot put into words.
I lost my world.
I threw my my phone across the room as hard as I could. My mom happened to be witness to it all, and she rushed over to me in a panic. “What happened?”, she said with complete bewilderment. I could not get a single word out. All I could do was fall to the floor in a mess of tears, and point to my phone. I am certain that any words that did come out of my mouth after that, made absolutely no sense and were likely punctuated by every curse word known to man.
My heart stopped beating, and my entire body went numb. I could not believe the words and accusations I had read. Why is he doing this? How could he do this? Will this man ever let me go and stop hurting me? How could he accuse me of such horrible things? That moment was so surreal - frozen in time - and I needed for someone to wake me up from whatever this was. It could only be described as a horrific nightmare.
My boys were gone, and the fight to get them back had only just begun.