Letting Go


What more can you lose if you've already lost it all?

Clothes flew into the suitcase at an unbelievably fast rate. She didn't bother folding them, didn't bother to make sure they were safely tucked away. She didn't have time to organize everything yet again. She just knew that she had to get away, and if she didn't move quickly enough, she'd take one look at his sleeping form and lose her nerve. Her departure was long overdue. She knew that there were things to be said, but she was all talked out. Just like the dresser in the corner of the room--the one that had been hers only minutes before--she was empty. She couldn't change him, and she was through trying. The pictures still mocked her from the bedside table, reminding her of everything that she was supposedly throwing away.

It was really too bad that the life they portrayed didn't exist anymore.

She had thought about leaving a note, but there was no time for closure. As far as she was concerned, it had been over long before she had been able to admit it. It was time to let go.

Don't call me
Don't write
Don't show up in the middle of the night
You know that we needed
Some time and space to breathe in

Against her better judgment, she walked over to the nightstand and picked up one of the pictures. A couple stared back at her, smiling happily. She felt a smile grace her own features as she thought back to a time when those smiles were genuine, and the two people in the photograph stood for everything defined by love. She almost laughed as she remembered the day they had spent at Disney World. It was just after the Into The Millennium tour. He had come home to find her asleep. The next morning, however, he had insisted that they visit the theme park. She could vividly remember how he'd reminded her of a little boy, running around the park with such enthusiasm. He had been overly excited when Mickey had approached the two, and he'd been determined to have their picture taken with the mouse. When they had finally found a tourist to take the picture, he had pulled her close and told her that he loved her. It had been the first time he had ever said the words to her.

Now, nearly a year later, the only words he'd ever say to her were words of anger and hatred. She couldn't remember the last time they'd had a decent evening, one where she could recline in his arms and know that the entire world was perfect. He had always been the one that she could run to when she was upset. Now, he was one to run from. She didn't dare repeat the names he called her when he arrived home in the middle of the night. She'd stopped asking questions long ago. She kept trying to tell herself that she didn't care, but she knew she did. They'd fallen apart long ago, and she had no choice but to leave before he destroyed her. Lord knows that he had already destroyed everything that they had once shared. Even now, she was nearly numb from the pain. The happy memories like the one in the picture were quickly becoming buried beneath the newer memories of recent evenings.

She glanced through the doorway at his sleeping form. He looked so peaceful when he was sleeping. It was hard to believe that only an hour earlier, he'd been screaming at her. She closed her eyes against reality as the words came rushing back to her.

"Dammit, you bitch! I do what I want! You want to be with me, then you've got to accept that. I don't need your shit. I've got enough pressure as it is!"

She shook her head. "I stay because I love you. Kevin, don't do this to yourself!"

"Don't fucking tell me what to do!"

She fell before him brokenly, hating that he affected her that much. "Kev, please get help. Do it for me. Do it for us. I love you..."

He didn't answer, but simply walked away. His answer was all too clear as the door to their bedroom slammed shut behind him. He didn't love her in return.

I still recall the words you said to me
It's what you did not say that sets me free

She sighed heavily and returned to her packing, delicately setting the picture back on the bedside table along with the others. She didn't need the happy memories to haunt her. They were of no comfort anymore; they were just reminders of what their life together would never be. She had told him that she loved him. He knew that she cared. She had wondered if he'd change for her sake, if nothing else. She had her answer. Regardless of whether or not it was the answer she'd spent the long, painful nights hoping for, it was there. She shuddered at the thought. He truly didn't care.

She groaned inaudibly and turned once more to his sleeping form. A force that she despised carried her to him, and she lifted the throw blanket and covered him with it, removing the empty bottle from his hand. With one disgusted look at the blue-green glass, she set it on the table and shook her head. It wasn't fair. He wasn't the man she loved anymore; instead, he was someone that she hardly knew. Her eyes closed in despair, and then she opened them once more to watch him. Whenever she saw him asleep, it was easy to believe that the present nightmare would pass. He looked no more than an innocent child, one living peacefully in a world of dreams. With a sad sigh, she noted that she had once been the person he had chosen to share his dreams with. Now she was no more than a participant in his nightmare, his new life. She reached a hand out to caress his face, knowing that she'd never get the opportunity once he woke.

She stopped herself immediately. She wouldn't be there when he woke. She stole her hand back as though she had touched a hot coal, and a sigh escaped his lips, sending the long bangs on his forehead askew. He shifted in his sleep and she jumped up from her position on the armrest of his chair.


The word was spoken in no more than a gentle whisper, thick with sleep. However, it had been the first time in months that he had said her name in peace and not in anger. Of course, he was asleep. Shaken by the force of that one word, she rose and went back to her packing. It didn't seem fair that every time she'd gain a piece of the man she remembered, she'd lose him again. The next night would be no different. She knew the routine all too well. While the one moment he had said her name had meant more to her than words could explain, he would never know of its existence. He would come back to her in bits and pieces, but only for a moment's time. He was no longer hers.

Now how can I find peace of mind
When you keep coming back again?
It's not okay for you to play
This game of see-saw with my head

One by one, the shelves on her side of the closet were emptied into her suitcase. She knew from experience that it would be difficult to remove the house of any reminders that she had ever lived there, but she fully intended to do it. She wanted him to have his memories, but she knew that she didn't have the power to change him, to save him from himself. Perhaps fame and fortune had gotten the best of him at last. She felt another tear trickle slowly down her cheek and brushed it away angrily. Don't cry for him. He doesn't deserve your tears.

Her heart seemed to scream in anguish as it argued with her head, but she knew that her intellect would win in the end. In all honesty, she'd stayed past her breaking point. She was only so strong, and she knew all too well that she couldn't take any more of the hostility that he constantly threw at her in place of the love that he had once so freely lavished upon her. Every time that she saw him, she was bombarded with memories of the love they had once shared, memories like the one in the picture. Coming to terms with the fact that he was no longer the man that loved her required too much effort to remain in his presence. She had to leave in order to save herself. She could feel the pain slowly pulling at her heartstrings, and it was killing her. Every time she woke from a dream of the man he was and saw the man he had become, she lost him all over again. She shook her head at the thought. There was no way that she could handle the emotional drain if she were to continue to live the way she was living now. He had no idea of how his habits affected her.

Man by day, monster by night. It sounded more like a horror flick than a life, but it was her reality. And the reality of it ended that night. No more pain, no more heartache. She set her jaw in a grim line and let out the breath she'd been holding.

You can do this. You can do this.

She continued to repeat the sentence slowly in her head, hoping to God that it would have some affect on the emptiness that was already taking her over.

Now it hurts too much
And it hits too hard
And I won't play this part

She zipped the first suitcase shut and looked around the bedroom, scanning it for any reminders of her existence. None of her things were anywhere in sight; they were instead tightly packed in the black bag that lay flat on the bed. With a sad smile of satisfaction--one that quickly bled tears of despair--she lifted the bag off of the king-sized bed and set it upright on the floor. As quietly and calmly as possible, she led the bag out of the bedroom and down the hallway, closing the door behind her with a sigh. She had cleaned the bedroom first because it would be the most difficult. In her eagerness to leave, she'd been praying that having the most difficult part finished would make the rest of her job a slight bit easier, but it was slowly becoming clear that God wasn't interested in answering her prayers that night. Every step to the door was more difficult, and she had only come to drop off the first bag. Given the amount of pain she was feeling at that moment, she didn't want to imagine what the final departure would be like. Once again, she began to question whether or not she could handle leaving him. With a glance to her right, she caught sight of one of the broken plates in the kitchen that were a reminder of the latest rampage. Her answer was all too clear.

She didn't have a choice.

Her anger boiled over as the night's events filled her head, quickly replacing the happy memories that had caused her heart to ache only moments earlier. She felt a tiny burst of relief at the knowledge that she wouldn't ever have to see him like that again. The words he would say and the fear that followed were enough a part of her now. She was finally escaping him. Even in her endless love for him, she made a small promise to herself that she would never return to the nightmare she was so accustomed to. It was a life lived by many, perhaps, but deserved by no one. She wouldn't wish the pain he had caused her on anyone, and she didn't ever want to give him a chance to cause that much pain again.

Don't call me
Don't write
Don't show up in the middle of the night
You know that we needed
Some time and space to breathe in

She wanted to cry with the frustration of it all as she moved to grab the empty suitcase outside the bedroom door. She knew that she didn't have it in her to hate him, regardless of how desperately she wanted to. There were too many happy memories.

Her azure eyes caught sight of the flowered pad on the dining room table, and she pondered writing him a note. There was so much that she wanted to tell him, so much that she wanted to say, and yet there weren't words for it all. Her mind drifted back to the events of that evening, and her breathing quickened at the memory. One more to add to the pile. He had come in late, as usual. She'd been on the phone with Brian, concerned about his well being and anxious to find out his whereabouts. For some reason, he usually told Brian where he was going. She figured that it had something to do with the fact that Brian was family. Brian had to love him, regardless of his actions. At the sound of his cousin's name, however, his green eyes had flared in anger and he had immediately knocked the phone from her hand.

"Who're you talking to, bitch? Since when do other men harbor any interest in you? Is that what you are when I leave the house? Just another slut?"

God, his words hurt sometimes. She had known from the glassy look in his eyes and the stench of alcohol and cigarette smoke that he was already too far gone to know anything of what he was saying. But, at the same time, love was supposed to conquer all, surpass the influence of all other things.

Her own thoughts echoed bitterly in her head as cynicism took over. So much for love.

The words had been no different than those that she heard every evening of late. She had nearly grown accustomed to the name-calling, though she knew she could never grow accustomed to the pain that it caused. He had called her worthless, loveless, weak, disgusting, stupid...the list went on and on, none of the adjectives complimentary. There were always the sober moments, those in which he was kind and loving, but they seemed few and far between with the hours he worked. The only words that left his lips seemed to be negative.

So much that she wanted to say. And yet it seemed fitting to leave all of it unsaid. After all, there were no words that could do her feelings justice.

No, there would be no note. Just a few empty drawers and missing possessions. Somehow, she knew that the absence alone would say more than she ever could.

So now I say the things I want to say
Sometimes it's better letting go this way

She began wandering around the living room, taking her own possessions and setting them delicately in the open suitcase on the floor. The light caught her finger and glinted off the ring she wore. Tears stung her eyes once more as she thought of the day he had proposed to her.

The entire day had been perfect, really. He'd taken her for a horseback ride at the ranch where they'd met and ridden into a field on a hilltop. She could still remember how his longish hair had shone beneath the sun, the way his eyes had sparkled each time he spoke to her. He had to be the only man alive that could make her speechless by simply breathing. He'd been wearing nothing but a loose homespun shirt and faded jeans, but that was fine by her. He was Kevin, and Kevin was generally a relaxed person. He'd packed them a picnic lunch, and they'd eaten on the hilltop that afternoon. He had brought everything that she loved, from the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the white grape juice that he'd served in two wine glasses. For dessert, he'd brought a fair amount of fortune cookies. Her surprise had come when she'd opened the fortune cookie to have a platinum band land in her lap. He'd taken her hand and looked deep into her eyes, making her forget anything and everything around them. With gentle ease, he'd slipped the ring on her finger and taken a deep breath, then smiled softly. He'd told her how much he loved her and begged her to marry him, promising years of happiness if she agreed. She had.

So much for the years of happiness.

She hadn't been apprehensive then, but looking back, she realized that there wasn't any way they could've lasted. As soon as he'd changed, she'd tried to piece it all back together. She had no hope left. Her palace had become a prison, and her smiles had bled tears.

She shook her head in resignation. The dream was over.

I've always known down in my soul
We only had so far to go
I've given all I had to give
And now it's time for me to live

She closed her eyes against reality for a brief moment and tried to calm the beating of her heart as she laid a few more of her belongings in the black bag. She had come to the realization that the dream was over long ago, but that didn't mean that it didn't still hurt. There were days that dulled the pain with a wave of sunshine and the laughter of old friends, but it was always in the back of her mind. She was determined to ride it out. It would hurt to walk out the door, but it definitely hurt more to continue living with him. The pain of the past few months was still fresh in her mind, but she had confidence in her own ability to move on. Eventually, she knew that she'd forgive him, provided that she hadn't already.

That was the irony of it all, really. Through everything, she was constantly proving that love conquered all.

She chuckled bitterly as her mind argued the theory. Love couldn't conquer Kevin. Perhaps one day it would, but that day wasn't today, nor was it tomorrow.

Tomorrow, she would be gone.

And I won't look back
And I won't regret
Though it hurts like hell
Someday I will forget

She moved from the living room into the den, or the area that Kevin had fondly dubbed the "rec" room. His keyboards were in one corner and a couch in the opposite corner. They had a massive sound system against one wall. She could remember a thousand nights that they had spent lying in each other's arms on the couch, listening to music play softly as they spoke of their dreams and fears, triumphs and failures, proud moments and regrets. He had been the first man she had ever opened her heart to, and she had reveled in the knowledge that he trusted her. She looked around the room with a sad, soft smile as another realization came to her.

If there was one room in the house that truly represented the man she loved, it was the rec room. Everything about it said volumes about Kevin. She had come into the room whenever she had needed another burst of hope. She almost laughed.

She definitely wouldn't be needing hope anymore.

With a nostalgic sigh, she began weeding through the CD's they had collected, pulling out the ones she knew to be her own. They had shared a mutual love of music, and the collection was both vast and diverse. Her eyes widened as she pulled out one of her favorite CD's and glanced over the cover. The irony of the title struck her as she laid it in the suitcase with the rest. It had been appropriately titled "All the Pain Money Can Buy".

The title accurately described Kevin's gift to her for the past few months.

Don't call me
Don't write
Don't show up in the middle of the night
You know that we needed
Some time and space to breathe in

She quickly finished packing her materials from the rec room and glanced around one last time. This room especially hurt too much to look at. There had been so many happy evenings that they'd spent together...

She shook her head as if to clear it. The happy memories didn't matter. Her Kevin didn't exist anymore, that much was obvious.

As she was exiting the rec room, one picture in particular caught her eye. She knelt down and picked it up gently, expressionless as she examined it. It was a picture of the five Boys from a vacation they'd all recently taken together to write for the new album. She sighed when she realized that the vacation had been after the change in Kevin had occurred. Tears once again sprang to her eyes as she recalled the kindness of his friends. They had surely noticed the change in him; Brian had even called afterwards to check up, making her promise that she'd call him if she ever needed to talk. Even Nick had voiced his concerns, confessing to her that Kevin wasn't the man he knew. The fact that they had all taken notice had caused her to close up even more. She loved the four of them, but she didn't want to alter their view of their older brother. Despite the pain he had put her through, she wouldn't dare pull Kevin off the pedestal the four others had him on. She loved him and his friends too much to damage their relationship. And so she left it all unsaid.

She wondered if she should call Brian and warn him that she wouldn't be around any longer, but quickly decided against it. It was better that she vanish without a trace. As far as she could tell, she hadn't held a place in Kevin's heart for a long time.

With a wistful sigh, she set the picture back in its place, turned the light off, and closed the door behind her. As soon as she heard the click of the lock, she gave a small sigh of relief. Every time a door closer, she felt one step closer to freedom.

One step closer to freedom from Kevin. Freedom from the man she loved.

She shook her head at the thought. How could something so wrong feel so very right?

Don't call me
Don't write
Don't show up in the middle of the night
You know that we needed
Some time and space to breathe in

She arched her eyebrows indifferently and wiped a few stray tears from her cheeks. She leaned down and zipped up the second bag, which was now full to the brim. It seemed so wrong that her entire life with him could fit in two black bags. But, then again, she'd only taken the things she knew to be hers. She didn't necessarily want any reminders of their life together. She had been hoping against hope that it would be easier to forget if there were no materials that would allow her room to reminisce.

The memories alone caused enough pain.

Once the second bag was tucked safely in the front hall next to its twin, she reached for an old box they had kept out for storage purposes. With a quick glance in the living room to make sure that he was still fast asleep and unaware of her progress, she slipped into the guest room and took their picture off the bedside table.

If she wouldn't have to deal with the pain the pictures caused, neither would he. It didn't seem fair. After all, despite everything he'd forced her to endure in the past few months, she still loved him. She rolled her eyes angrily at the thought. Lot of good it does me now.

And yet the anger passed as quickly as it had come, leaving her slightly empty. She never had been able to stay angry with him for long. Luckily, the emptiness was a feeling she had grown used to.

As each picture found its way into the old cardboard box, the memories flashed in her mind, replaying themselves over and over. She could remember everything, from snippets of conversations to nights spent lying silently in his arms, just gazing at the moonlight. She had always been able to talk to Kevin. He spoke more slowly than anyone she had ever encountered, but he understood her like no one else ever could.

Well, he used to be able to understand her. Now, it seemed that the words to escape him were nothing worth listening to unless she could bear the inevitable pain that followed.

Don't say that you've been thinking
'Cause I know it's just the drink in you

She slid back into the living room and began to take down the pictures of them that lined the walls. Carefully and gently, she set them each in the box, one of top of another. A tear fell gently on the glass of one of the pictures, and she brushed at her eyes in frustration. How many tears can one person cry, anyway?

And yet there was that nagging voice in the back of her head that reminded her that there had never been enough tears to cry. Too much pain, and not enough tears.

She looked over at him casually to see that he had taken the bottle into his grasp again and was clutching it tightly, hanging on as though it were his link to life itself. She shook her head sadly as another thought struck her.

Only a few short months ago, it was her in those arms. She missed it. And yet, at the same time, the situation was ironically fitting, because the bottle had come to replace her. The alcohol quelled his fear, relieved his stress and loosened his tongue. She could no longer see any part of the man that she used to love. Not when he wasn't reaching out for her instead of an empty liquor bottle.

One more reason to walk away.

It's funny how we seem to end up here
I never thought I'd see this soul disappear

She could feel the tears as they slipped down her cheeks in silent rivers, unable to remain behind her eyelids anymore. She brushed them away with force, but it made no difference at all. They kept falling, just like everything around her. Suddenly, her entire life was falling down around her, and she'd lost the strength to pick it up. She felt half-empty without him there, and she knew that she had to let go before it killed her.

Provided, that was, that it hadn't already. His words haunted her in the silence, taking her breath away with the hostility she heard in them. The absence of his touch made her cold. And, just when she'd thought she had no tears left to cry, a river of pain would prove her wrong again. Which brought the next question.

Had she been wrong to stay as long as she had?

Had she been wrong to fall in love with him at all, knowing that the odds were against them? No, it was my heart to break, she argued inwardly. Falling in love with Kevin had never felt wrong. Losing the love she thought he'd had for her; that was wrong.

Was she wrong in leaving him when he needed her most?

No, she decided. She'd sacrifice for him, she'd proven that much in the past months. But she couldn't save a man that didn't want to be saved. She couldn't save Kevin from himself. Only he could do that, and she didn't want anything else to do with him until that bridge had been crossed. Lord knew that she had tried.

She was tired of trying.

Don't call me
Don't write
Don't show up in the middle of the night
You know that we needed
Some time and space to breathe in

She was about to close the box for good when she remembered the one picture left in the bedroom. With a reluctant sigh, she stood gracefully, lifted the box, and made her way back to the master bedroom; the bedroom she had shared with Kevin. She opened the door and quietly slipped in. She set the box of pictures down on the bed and smoothed the comforter, then moved to the bedside table. She lifted the golden frame of the picture once more and sat down on the bed, experiencing a horrible case of deja vu. It was the picture of herself, Kevin, and Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

As she re-lived the memories once more, realization struck her, and she admitted to herself that she couldn't put it in the box with the others. Somehow, placing it among all of the other pictures would feel like she was denouncing the memory and the words he'd said to her for the first time.

She couldn't bring herself to box up the "I love you." It meant far too much.

With another wistful sigh, she decided that she would leave the picture as a message to Kevin. Somewhere deep down inside of her, the die-hard romantic foolishly believed that it would mean as much to him as it did to her.

The platinum band on her finger glittered in the light, and she realized that she was still holding onto him. It was as though wearing his ring ensured her a happy ending. Despite the fact that she was leaving, she still ached to believe that he would go after her, that he would change for her.

As an afterthought, she slid the ring off her finger and set it down gently, right in front of the picture.

There was no need for a note now.

And this is letting go
This is letting go
And this is letting go
This is letting go

She stood up and moved to grab the box of pictures. She stopped down and slid the box under the bed. It was the only place that Kevin never cleaned. Everything else was spotless, but the underside of the master bed was cluttered with more junk that she ever cared to identify. They had used to joke about it, but he hadn't cleaned in awhile. She shook her head as if to clear it and stood up to her full height, giving the room one last glance. When she caught sight of the wrinkles in the bedcovers, she reached down to smooth them and froze when realization dawned on her.

They had first made love in this bed.

She closed her eyes against the memories of the first time he had grabbed her against him and kissed her roughly without consent. Their union had once been beautiful, both of them full of adoration for the other. Now, however, it was full of lust and liquor. He no longer asked before he entered her, no longer cared about the pain he might have caused. It ended not with "I love you," but with loud snores that proved he was asleep and fed her relief.

He no longer made love to her, he raped her. The thought made her skin crawl. As she closed the door, anxious to get out of the bedroom, she felt her anger boiling over again.

How dare he put me through this! How dare he say he loves me and strike me all in one night! Does he even know how much I love him?

Of course he does
, she reminded herself gently. He just doesn't care. He's proven it time and time again.

She heard him stir and looked over at his sleeping form, waiting in fright for his eyes to open. When he resumed snoring softly, she heaved a sigh of relief.

It was time to go. She couldn't stay any longer before it drove her insane.

Don't call me
Don't write
Don't show up in the middle of the night
You know that we needed
Some time and space to breathe in

She walked over to him one last time and bent to kiss his cheek. She held her breath against the smell of alcohol and said a silent prayer that he'd be all right without her. With a sigh of reluctance, she brushed his long brownish-black hair from his face and smiled sadly, allowing a few tears to slip over. She caught sight of a tear on his forehead and frowned. For once, he could finally feel a tiny bit of the pain he had put her through. And yet, looking at him now, none of it seemed to matter. She was actually saying good-bye.

"I love you, Kevin."

The whispered words had left her lips before she even knew what she was saying, and she turned away in pain when he didn't reply. She didn't expect him to; he was asleep, after all. However, his silence fit the pattern that had begun months ago.

It was the last push she needed.

She walked to the door and opened it quietly, lifting both of her bags and rolling them out the door. She walked to the trunk of her car, keeping watch on the open door in front of her all the while. She opened it gingerly and lifted both bags into the spacious area. When she was satisfied that they were safe, she slammed the trunk closed and locked it, then turned back to the house. She finally gave into the emptiness she felt and cried.

She would never set foot in the house again. She would leave, and she wouldn't look back.

She couldn't. She wasn't sure she'd have the strength to walk away if she did.

Don't call me
Don't write
Don't show up in the middle of the night
Don't say that you've been thinking
'Cause I know it's just the drink in you

She walked up to the front door for the last time and closed it carefully, then slipped her key in the lock. She turned the key and listened for the click, ready to lock her past away. It was time to move forward.

She turned to the mail slot and opened the flap, letting the keys fall through the door. Her tears fell harder as her hand fell from the door.

She had just let go of the one thing that still tied her to Kevin. There was no turning back now. The full weight of good-bye rested on her shoulder, and she turned back to her car without a second thought. She knew all too well that if she stayed any longer, she wouldn't be able to leave it. She loved him that much.

She crawled into the driver's seat and revved the engine. With a deep breath, she guided the car out of the driveway and along the street. True to her word, she didn't look back. When she turned the corner, a sigh of relief escaped her and her tears ceased to fall. Slowly, a feeling of release crept over her, and she smiled genuinely for the first time in ages.

She was free.

"Letting Go"
performed by Sozzi
on the Dawson's Creek Soundtrack, Volume 1