Tina Sayward is a twenty-seven year old from South Carolina. She is currently attending Full Sail University online and majors in Creative Writing for Entertainment. She also has an Associate’s Degree in Communications. She is a mother and loves God and her family. She hopes to one day become a well-known author in fiction writing
When I entered the motel room, the first thing I noticed were the horrendous striped sheets that were on the beds.
“It’s not so bad,” I said, swallowing my true thoughts as I had been doing for years.
“It’s just for tonight, right?” said my husband, brushing past me and heading for the patio, where he immediately lit a cigarette. I sighed and followed him outside.
“I thought we came here to talk about it,” I pointed out, sitting down across from him.
“What’s there to say?” Josh asked, taking a long pull on his menthol and exhaling in a cloud of smoke.
“We still have stuff to talk about,” I said.
“We’re getting divorced. We don’t love each other anymore.” His words were blunt, but cut sharply. I had spent over a decade with this man. He had been my first boyfriend. He was the father of my children. But the drugs had cost him everything, and we were spending this night in the room to figure out the details of what came next.
“I didn’t just fall out of love with you. Everything you did—“
“Yeah, yeah, it’s all my fault, I know,” he snapped.
“That’s not what I said! Why do you have to do that every time I try to talk to you?”
“I already know what you’re going to say. I chose drugs. I lied. I cheated on you. I know what I did. I loved everything more than I loved my family.”
“And we are getting divorced because you can say all of that without any kind of remorse. You are not the man I married.”
“You aren’t the woman I married, either,” he said sharply.
“I grew up! I had to! Our kids needed someone to take care of them! I didn’t want it to be this way! And I’m trying to live the way—“
“Yeah, the way God wants you to.” He spit God’s name like it left a bad taste in his mouth. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes but forced them back. He would not get the satisfaction of seeing me cry anymore.
“I want you to still be a part of our children’s lives,” I said. “We can set up supervised visits.”
“I’d rather sign my rights away so the next man you meet can be their father.”
My heart broke. The drugs had really taken everything from him. He cared about nothing but himself. I tried to remember that he was an addict, that this wasn’t the man I had chosen to spend my life with. This was it. There was no going back. We sat in silence for several minutes. It felt like hours.
“So is that it?” he finally asked.
“I guess so,” I whispered.
“Then there’s no point in both of us staying here. I’ll keep the room. Go get the kids from your mom and go home. I’ll sign the papers when it’s time.”
I nodded numbly and got to my feet. I walked to the door and looked back once, seeing him digging the pill bottle from his pocket. The tears finally spilled over, and the last thing I saw before leaving the room were the ugly striped sheets, somehow made beautiful through the blur of tears.
THE BLUE TREE
The room with the blue Christmas tree had always intrigued and terrified me. At sixteen, I had passed this apartment every single day for the last nine years, and the eerie turquoise glow that shone underneath the door each and every day sent a shiver of fear and excitement down my spine. I never knew who, if anyone, lived inside that apartment. No one ever went in, and no one ever came out. But the light from the tree never turned off. One stormy afternoon, as lightning split the darkened sky in half and thunder made the building shudder, I was standing beneath awning with the doorman after school when the lights flickered out.
“The generator should kick on in a moment,” Freddie, the afternoon doorman with the heavy Southern accent, said reassuringly. I glanced up at the blackened windows of my home and saw the limbs of the blue tree illuminated in the window. If the generator hadn’t restored the power yet, how was the tree still on?
“Freddie, who lives in the apartment with the blue Christmas tree?” I asked. Freddie looked upward and smiled at the glow.
“The landlord’s son,” he answered.
“The landlord doesn’t have a son,” I said, confused.
“Ashley, living here doesn’t give you the answers to every question you have about every tenant. It ain’t my place to tell you, but since you have been dead after that room and that tree—don’t give me that look, I’ve seen you staring—I’ll tell you. Not long after he and his wife bought this building, she gave birth to a little boy, right around Christmas. He was stillborn. The wife couldn’t handle it—she took off. Nobody has seen or heard from her since. But our landlord, he wasn’t going to let go. He put up that Christmas tree in the apartment that they had chosen to live in and the color blue is for the little boy he didn’t get to have. It never goes out. Hasn’t in fifteen years. It’s in the window in case his wife ever decides to come home, so she will know he’s still here, ready to make that apartment their home.”
Tears were still streaming down my cheeks when the power flickered back on. The next day, I made a stop after school before returning home. Balancing the gift in my arms, I knocked on the landlord’s door. He opened it quickly.
“Ashley, is there a problem?” he asked kindly. I shook my head and held out the gift.
“It’s for the window in your apartment. So it can be seen from the street, too.”
I hurried away before he could respond, but I had seen the tears brimming in his eyes as I turned away. As I mounted the stairs, I glanced back quickly to see him crying over the much smaller version of the blue Christmas tree that I had placed in his arms.