New Winslow S4E32
“Yeah, I’ll be home in a little bit, I just have a few things to finish up here. Alright, love you.”
Roman hung up and locked the doors at the House of Pizza. He wasn’t sure Celine believed him when he said he was staying after at work, but he also didn’t want to deal with the fallout if he told her he was trying a new ritual he’d just found last night. It was a simple one, but the timing had to be just right and there was no time to prepare for it anymore than he already had.
The thought had occurred to Roman that he could just ask Celine to help him. After all, she said she would last winter when he told her he wanted to try getting out again. But considering she wasn’t happy with his approach right now, she probably wouldn’t be thrilled about helping. So he’d save them both the frustration and just do it himself.
When Roman got to the town line, there were still thirty minutes until midnight. According to the little PDF he’d downloaded off of a site he couldn’t even name, the candles had to be lit at midnight exactly. So he pulled over and turned off his truck. His phone battery was low, but there was just enough left on it to let him look over the ritual one more time.
Roman could barely keep his eyes open and the words on the tiny image swam together, making the already-tiny text impossible to read. Fine, he’d rest for a couple of minutes. He quickly set an alarm for five minutes to midnight and closed his eyes. A twenty-minute cat nap would help him focus and then he’d get home as fast as he could.
Roman woke up slowly. Whatever surface he was on was scratchy, and the air was way too cold. As he slowly surfaced, he realized with horror that he was lying across the front seat of his truck.
Fuck. He must have missed the alarm and any window of opportunity for the ritual. It had been close to midnight when he’d closed his eyes and Roman had no idea what time it was now. His phone was dead in the center console and his dashboard clock had been wrong for weeks now. It didn’t look like the sun was coming up any time soon, so maybe he was lucky and he’d only been asleep for twenty minutes.
He started the truck and peeled away from the dirt patch he’d parked on by the town line. There was no traffic as he whipped through New Winslow, but as he rounded past Keegan’s Pub, he noticed the beginning traces of sunrise above the trees.
Maybe Celine was still asleep. And maybe she’d gone to sleep before he was supposed to be home from work. He’d tell her he couldn’t sleep, so he went for a walk.
As he pulled into their driveway, the house was dark and quiet. He walked up the path as quietly as possible, unlocked the door, and stepped inside. It was dark in the front hall and Roman couldn’t hear anybody moving inside. He slid the door shut behind himself and chained it shut. Then he kicked off his shoes and started walking toward the bedroom.
Roman cringed, heart suddenly pounding. He turned to look into the living room, where Celine was sitting on the couch, looking right at him. The lie about taking a walk was on his lips, but it was clear that she’d been sitting there for a while.
“Celine-” he started, but she just waved him off.
“I’m done,” she said, standing up. “Good night.”
Roman took her arm as she tried to walk past him. “Listen,” he said, “I’m sorry, I was trying something and I fell asleep and I know it’s late, but-”
“Late?” Celine repeated. “Roman, it’s almost five in the morning.”
So much for that bit of wishful thinking. “I’m sorry,” he said again.
Celine shook her head. “What do you expect me to say?”
“Nothing,” Roman admitted. “I don’t expect anything from you. I know I messed up, but Celine, babe, I swear, it’s not forever. It’s just-”
“Until the curse breaks,” she finished. “I know.”
“I have to do this,” he said. “I don’t-I can’t lose you and the kids.”
Celine was quiet for a second and he waited, afraid to hear what she was about to say.
“Roman,” she said finally. “You’re already losing me.”
Of all the things she could have possibly said to him, that was the one he least prepared for. Bile rose in the back of his throat and he willed himself not to panic as she kept talking.
“You’re so caught up in what might happen in the future that you’re not looking at what’s happening right now,” Celine continued, not looking at him. “I’ve been watching you pull away and destroy yourself for months now. You say you’re doing it to keep me and the kids. I never said we were going anywhere, Rome. I never did anything to give you that idea. We were going to do this together. But you’re so sure of it and I can’t figure out why. But I know that I’ve been miserable recently, and it’s because I’m watching you push yourself to your breaking point.”
“I’m not at my…” he started, but then she wrenched her arm out of his grip.
“Roman, do you know why I look so goddamn tired lately?” she snapped. “Because I dream about you dying. Every single night. Every night it’s the same thing. I see your heart fail and I watch you die. I wake up so sure that you’re gone and you’re never there beside me. And you know what? I’ve had these kinds of dreams before and the track record for them coming true is pretty damn good. But you won’t do anything to stop it. So every night I deal with the fact that your death is barrelling down on you and you’re not doing anything to stop it.”
There were tears in her eyes by the time she stopped talking and Roman was pretty sure he was going to throw up.
“And Roman?” she continued after a second of silence. “Even if it doesn’t come true, I can’t keep watching you destroy yourself, either when I’m awake or when I’m asleep. I can’t do it anymore. So if you won’t stop, then I’m out of options.”
Roman’s brain was scrambling to keep up with this. Celine still wasn’t looking at him and when he reached for her again, she pulled away, leaving him to grasp at thin air.
“Celine…” he started, mentally flailing.
Celine shook her head. In the dim light of the hallway night light, he could see the way her face was set. This wasn’t an empty threat.
“What can I do?” Roman asked through what felt like a rapidly closing throat.
Finally, she looked at him. “I think that’s what you need to figure out,” she said. “I’ve done everything I can to keep you. This is addictive behavior, Rome. You know that better than I do. And I can’t do anything more to stop you than I’ve already done over the past fifteen years. I need to take care of me and the kids. And I’ll do what it takes to make sure they don’t deal with the kind of pain I see every. Single. Night.”
How had things gone so wrong so quickly? Roman wasn’t even sure what to say, if there was anything to say. Celine reached over, squeezed his hand once, then let go. “I’m going to bed,” she said.
“Do you…” he faltered. “Do you want me to leave?”
“I’m not going to make you do anything,” Celine said. “I just want to go to sleep for a couple hours and hopefully not dream about anything at all.”
She kissed him softly on the cheek, then walked away. Roman stayed rooted to the ground as he watched her go into their bedroom and close the door.
Just as he thought the moment couldn’t get any worse, he turned around in time to see Jamie shuffling into the kitchen. Right, he had early morning hockey practice, didn’t he? And it was time to start the day.
Any hope that his son hadn’t heard any of their conversation was dashed when Jamie looked at him and shook his head sadly. “Just leave Mom alone,” Jamie said as he poured himself a bowl of cereal.
Speechless, Roman just nodded and walked into the living room. He laid down on the couch and stared at the ceiling for a long time.