This was pretty much it for Ben and Imogen. It had been five years of happiness, confusion, fighting, silence, talking, tears, laughter, adventure, counselling, solitary vacations, and vacations with the kids. They always knew they were fighting for their relationship, never to end it, but things had gotten to the point where the arguments were becoming the object weighing them down not alleviating things and lifting them up.
This trip was meant to be it. One week at a chalet up north to say everything again and some things for the first time. Then they would decide whether they wanted to invest anymore of themselves in the other. The kids had been dropped off and the chalet was booked, but one last issue arose as they were packing. Imogen realized they had not sent out their Christmas cards.
“Why does it even matter?” Ben said as he followed her down the stairs and into the kitchen.
“Because if we don’t send them, people will think we have broken up and I don’t want to have to explain everything if we don’t,” Imogen said dropping the box of cards and pens onto the table.
“So you really think we might have chance?” Ben said.
“I have no fucking idea Imogen.”
“Neither do I Ben. Let’s just do the damn cards and then have bullshit conversation in the car and let the actual bullshit start when we get to the chalet. Should be Christmas-fucking-tastic,” Imogen said.
She sat down in a humph and placed her hands on the table, her fingers splayed out.
“What’s wrong with your hands?” Ben said.
“Nothing,” she said.
“So then why are you staring at them?”
“I’m trying to will them into writing the cards as opposed to choking you.”
Imogen picked up the card from the top of the box and picked out a green marker from the pile. She uncapped it, opened the card and stopped. Ben picked his own card and marker, but left the cap on.
“Dear Laura, Merry Christmas and I hope in the new year you can find a cure for your chronic fucking halitosis and your chronic fucking. You owe me a year of wine and Kleenex from coming over all the time and complaining about the losers you date,” she said while scribbling into her first card.
She closed it and picked another off the pile and began to write. Ben stared at her with an eyebrow raised.
“Dear Justine, I really have no clue why we still send each other cards. I haven’t seen you since you got pregnant with your first kid ten years ago. Every year when I get your damned Christmas letter about your damned, now four, kids with Lenny, I find I care even less about all of you and even myself. Got to hell. Love Imogen, Ben, Olivia and Sam who are all doing the best ever!”
She closed the card and placed atop her first.
“Did you actually write that?” he said.
“No, I said love you babe. Here’s to another merry new year,” she said before running her hands over her face.
Ben began scribbling in his card.
“Dear Dave, Fuck you bud. I do literally hope you get coal for Christmas this year as all you do is burn people in everything you do in life and then blame them and take no responsibility. I actually hate you. Burn in the hell you have created for yourself you piece of living shit,” he said with a smile.
“Did you actually write that?” she said.
“Yes, I actually hate Dave,” he said.
“You know? Me too,” she said, after a pause.
They looked at each other and shared a moment they hadn’t in a while, one of complete agreement and acceptance.
The following twenty minutes of hate-sex felt great, but the post-coital gloss started to thin when she said that if they didn’t leave in the next half hour they would lose their reservation. The chalet owners had instituted a strict 4pm check-in due to the high demand of the Christmas season. If you were late, your reservation was lost and the waiting list visited.
“You can’t delay the inevitable, I guess,” he said. “I have to say that I really do want to make this work. I know things haven’t been spectacular lately, but we are still here, we haven’t given up.”
She sighed. “Why haven’t you?”
“Ya,” she said and she curled herself up next to him.
“Because with anyone I ever dated before, or even anyone in my life right now, I would have just ran away by this point. With the amount of disagreement between us, I haven’t done that. I can’t explain it. I really can’t and something that defies explanation needs to be explored. Even then though, I don’t want to know why I love you, and why I haven’t run off. The mystery is beautiful and you are beautiful and as flawed as we are, we are real. Who doesn’t want something real, that also denies reason? It’s a beautiful dilemma.”
They laid in silence. Ben stared at the ceiling. Imogen, with her eyes closed, placed her head upon his chest.
“I wish I could say I knew why I don’t know, but I don’t even know that. I just want to know why I don’t know,” she said.
“Is that even possible?”
“I have no clue. One thing I think I know is that in one moment I can hate you with all the will of everything in the universe, and then in the next moment, that will flip to the complete opposite.”
Ben cleared his throat.
“So what you’re saying is, I at least make you feel stuff?” he said.
“Yes, I know that you make me feel stuff. Not all of it good, but really I guess that’s just a matter of perspective,” she said and yawned.
“I’ll take it,” he said letting out a tired sigh of his own.
Ben had never driven as fast as he was pushing the car now.
“Fuck Ben, why didn’t you set your alarm like you always do for shit like this?”
“Fuck Imogen, I don’t know. Kind of like you don’t know about a lot of things. I wasn’t the only one that passed out,” Ben said.
“Right now I know that I hate you and if you kill us, know that you died being hated and that our kids will hate you as well,” she said.
“Love you too, babe,” he said and pushed the engine a little harder.