“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”
Toadie sat at the kitchen table, alone and in the dark with nothing but the outside lights from the house next door shining in through the screen door to partially light up the room. Staring at the cup of hot chocolate in front of him, which he'd made over two hours ago and remained untouched and was now cold. As he thought about Amy. What she'd said. The way she'd treated Sonya and everyone else but mainly the way she'd seen straight through him. Through his lies and the facade he'd so carefully constructed the day he got out of that place and in a second, she tore it to shreds with words that were still echoing through his mind.
“You were never like this.”
" Look at yourself! There’s nothing there.”
"You’re just a shell now."
"You’re not even a real person anymore"
It was as though those words were now etched onto his mind - with no way of escaping them and he thought for sure that Sonya must have realised something was wrong. Picked up on what Amy was saying, that she saw something she didn't but, for Sonya it was like nothing had happened. As though Amy hadn't said anything at all.
From the moment they got home, after checking on Nell, making sure she was okay and sending the babysitter home, Sonya had approached him. Wrapping her arms around him as tightly as she could and holding him, burying her face in his shoulder as she closed her eyes and whispered.
"This isn't your fault, Jarrod. I need you to know that. Okay? Don't blame yourself." Before kissing him on the cheek and leaning back, looking up into his eyes softly.
“Are you coming to bed?”
She asked, bringing up her left hand and gently holding the side of his face as he stared at her and just shook his head. Giving no explanation as to his reasoning or what he was going to do instead before leaning in kissing her on the lips.
“Goodnight.” He’d said, softly. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Okay.” Sonya nodded and gave him a halfhearted smile before walking away, heading towards the bedroom. Which was where she’d been for the last six hours.
Her words hadn't helped though because he knew, for a fact that she was wrong. This was his fault and he hated himself for it. For his failure to help Amy. His failure in trying to keep his life from falling apart, that he sacrificed Amy and everyone else and ended up watching everything fall to pieces regardless and making the entire situation worse.
For Amy and every person who had been and would be on the receiving end of her anger - her hatred.
Sitting there, his eyes started to tear up as he felt a presence behind him: It was Sonya. She gently placed her hand on his shoulder as he looked up at her, partially smiling through his tears before she made her way towards the chair next to him.
“Are you alright?”
Sonya asked, softly as Toadie looked at her, his mouth quivering as he broke eye contact and looked down at the table, shaking his head.
"Jarrod..." Sonya whispered as she leant forward, grabbing hold of his hand and pleading with him. “This was NOT your fault!"
Toadie pulled away, retreating from Sonya's touch and surprising her as he turned, looking at her as his eyes filled with a mixture of sadness and anger. “How are you so calm? How... h-how are you so... so detached? You barely even reacted. I mean, it's... It's like it didn't even happen." Toadie asked through gritted teeth as his voice broke up and he struggled to maintain his composure while Sonya broke eye contact, looking in the direction of the bedroom with her hand over her mouth. " I just don't get how this isn't affecting you. What Amy said..."
"Jarrod..." Sonya took a deep breath as she proceeded to speak softly. "I… I knew this was going to happen. I saw this coming. I was expecting it, that's all."
"That's all?" Toadie whispered under his breath before mouthing the words over and over again in disbelief.
"I've been there, Jarrod. More than once and I… I know... I know how bad - how debilitating it is when... when you just can't pretend anymore. When you can’t pretend that everything’s okay. That you… that YOU’RE okay. Once that starts… once everything is brought to the surface and you…” Sonya cleared her throat. “..you start thinking and realising and those blinkers come off it’s…” Sonya’s voice broke up as her eyes teared up. “It’s like living in a nightmare. Seeing yourself and your situation, the reality of it… it’s never good. Never pretty.”
"Doesn't change anything though, does it? Knowing this was going to happen doesn't change the fact that... that it DID happen and it was MY fault that it happened. It makes no difference. I mean, what was even the point of..." Toadie's mouth quivered as he gestured to everything around him. "You know, before... I was TOO involved. You know, I... I couldn't see that line. Couldn't see where it..." Toadie’s voice turned into a whisper as tears fell down his cheeks and Sonya reached across to hold his hand, which he grabbed hold of. "..where it was and... I just didn't know when to stop and I screwed up my life. I screwed up your life and now… I just didn’t want that to ever happen again. I didn’t want to mess everything up and I just... didn't think about what I was going to say to her and... God!" Toadie let go of Sonya’s hand and slammed both of his hands on the table, violently causing Sonya to jump and place her hand against her chest in order to steady her breathing. "I should've gone over to her. That would’ve... “
"What? Who?" Sonya whispered, shaking her head confused.
“Amy…” Toadie’s breathing staggered as he continued to get choked up. “ I saw her… Amy, today and I just completely freaked.”
“I don’t know. I just… I couldn't wait to..." Toadie whispered, scrunching up his face and clenching his teeth, ashamed of himself. "..to get away from her. I wanted to get away and she saw that. I didn't even think about how bad it would look or that Amy might have needed someone. I just didn’t want to deal with… with whatever was going on with her. With any of it not again a-a-and look what happened. It didn't even matter. I'm still screwing up everyone's lives."
"No..." Sonya reached across again to hold his left hand and used her right to gently stroke his arm in a bid to comfort him.
"I messed up, Sonya."
"I lied…” Toadie said, apologetically. “I lied to you.”
Sonya leaned back, confused. “What?”
“I… I told you everything went well with Amy but…” Toadie shook his head. “..it didn’t. I didn't know what I was saying. I made it up as I went and I made it so much worse for her and I… I should have just asked her if she wanted to talk. If everything was alright but I didn’t.”
Sonya said, shaking her head as tears formed in her eyes and she rubbed them, making the skin around her eyes red and coughing, to clear her throat.
"Contrary to what you might think... not everything that goes wrong is YOUR fault and I am not going to let you put all of this onto yourself. Now listen to me: This…” Sonya momentarily looked down in a bid to regain her composure. “..this was always going to happen! One way or another, whether you were involved or not... it made no difference. It doesn’t matter who was involved or what was going on with Amy... Something always goes wrong when you’re trying to help someone and I... I need you to understand that. You say the wrong thing, you talk to them at the wrong time or the wrong day, you… you don’t notice something, even the smallest detail. Y-y-you... You..." Sonya took a deep breath. "And you know what? There are a lot of people to blame here. Lots of people are at fault. Paul, Leo, Jimmy,” Sonya leaned back, gesturing herself as she held her hands on her collarbones. “..me and God knows who else and you don't get to absolve everyone else of their guilt for not doing more to help Amy - stopping it from reaching this point because you think you're solely to blame for everything that went wrong. Okay?"
Toadie’s mouth continued to quiver and he stood up and walked off, hurrying towards the bedroom.
Sonya whispered under her breath, reaching out for him before sitting back in the chair, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath as she cupped her face with both hands as her elbows rested on the table.
The bedroom door closed behind Toadie as he turned, facing the door and leaned against it - his head resting on the door as he closed his eyes. He stood there for several minutes for wiping his forehead with the palm of his right hand and walking, moving past the unmade bed and sitting on the floor with his back against the bed as he stared out of the opened window.
Sonya sat at the kitchen table, alone and in the dark. Taking several deep breaths before she stood up and began pacing around the lounge room. Walking in circles and being careful to ensure her dressing gown didn’t get caught on anything and that she didn’t bump into or step on anything in the dark.
She didn’t want to hurt Jarrod. That wasn’t what she was trying to do but seeing him in that state - blaming himself for something that had nothing to do with him. Looking for reasons to make this his fault was like watching him take a million steps backwards.
It was frightening.
To see him slipping back into old and destructive habits. Trying to take on the weight of the world because she knew what would come next. He’d be looking for reasons to blame himself and find a way to insert himself into Amy’s life in order to fix it and it would be like nothing had changed.
And she knew Leo was at the heart of this.
It all came back to him.
It wasn't his fault that Jarrod was in this state but she knew he must've been involved in whatever pushed Amy over the edge. How she reached breaking point so quickly. Either that or Either that or Amy had been in an extremely bad place all along - worse than anyone had even realised. But she didn't want to tell Jarrod this because she knew it would just give him another reason to blame himself and after how far he'd come or to be more specific, how far she'd thought he'd come, it was too much to bear.
But seeing him in this state, it was starting to sink in that maybe he’d never been okay. Maybe she just wanted to believe that he'd finally been able to let go of his guilt. Of his self hatred and the self destructive saviour complex he’d had during the majority of their relationship. One where he felt he needed to save people at the expense of his own health, his own well-being and as much as she loved him, she didn’t know if she could handle that person being back. That he was becoming the person he’d always been again or worse, that he’d been lying to her. Pretending to be okay when he wasn’t. She didn't want to push him but she also knew that she needed to confront this and find out what was wrong and if it was a momentary lapse because of the harshness of Amy’s words or if there was more to it and if that was the case, what was really behind this behaviour - this inability to forgive himself.
It wasn't new.
She'd seen him do this, put himself through this enough hundreds of times but this time - it was different.
Sonya stopped pacing and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath as she walked towards the bedroom, opening the door and walking in to find Jarrod, sitting on the ground on his side of the bed. Walking over to him, she sat herself next to him and held both of his hands softly as she rested her head on his shoulder and he leaned into her.
“I’m sorry, Jarrod. I wasn’t trying to…”
“It's okay. I know."
"I love you, my darling."
"I love you too."
Sonya looked up at him, taking a deep breath and holding it for several seconds in preparation for what might happen next before she whispered. "Jarrod... is there... has something else happened?"
Toadie’s mouth quivered and he nodded as tears fell down his face and he grabbed hold of Sonya’s hands as tightly as he could as his breathing staggered.
"Sonya, there's... I… I have to tell you something.”