Nothing Without Me (Flash Fiction)

Dan sighed. It was about the thirtieth time he’d done so during the twenty minute conversation he’d been having with Melina, his girlfriend. She was going on with herself again. Did she not realise he had better things to do?

“You just don’t see it, do you Dan?”

“What don’t I see?”

“Point proven! You don’t give a shit!”

Why did she always do this? Whenever they had an argument, she’d corner him by asking a question she knew fine well he couldn’t answer and then make out like he didn’t care because he couldn’t answer it. No matter. He’d continue to do what he’d always done: remain quiet, let her have her tirade, and then give her a kiss once she’d calmed down. Simple! That’d give him another few weeks of peace until she started sounding off again!

What Dan couldn’t have known was that Melina wouldn’t be bought off with empty gestures this time. She’d had enough. For ten long years she’d suffered Dan’s ignorance, chauvinism, and passive aggression, even blamed herself for a lot of it. Things had changed. They’d changed irreparably.

For the longest time, Melina put up with Dan’s attitude for the simple fact that she loved him dearly. He was the father of their children and had worked hard to provide for them. His inability to perform the simplest of tasks to help around the house, look after the kids, and show any real affection could be ignored.

Then, one day, she woke up to what he was like and decided she really wasn’t happy with it anymore. She dropped hints that he could try harder to be a better father and partner. He either didn’t get the hints or chose to ignore them. Her feelings towards him began to dwindle.

She approached him about it and told him that it might be best if they were to break up. Dan was mortified. He begged and pleaded to her for another chance. He promised he’d change and be a better, more devoted partner to her and a role model to his kids.

The new Dan lasted all of a couple of months before he quickly slipped back into his old ways, obviously feeling as though the danger had passed. He returned to usual form with a vengeance, perhaps even topping what he’d been before.

Dan felt perfectly vindicated. He was the breadwinner. If it wasn’t for him then there’d be no food on the table, clothes on the kids’ backs, or even a roof over their heads. He was the sole reason they even survived on a daily basis. If he wanted to get home from work and then sit down and drink beer until he fell asleep then he was well within his rights to do so.

Melina felt differently—very differently!

The very idea that she was viewed as only a housewife and mother—and something for Dan to have his way with when the mood took him—didn’t sit well with her. Not anymore. She’d gone well beyond the stage of looking forward for him to return home from work, preparing a wholesome meal for him, and ensuring he was comfortable while he sat down with a beer she’d chilled in the freezer for half an hour. None of that appealed to her anymore if he couldn’t bring himself to give her even basic respect.

“Do you remember a few months ago when we were sat out in the back garden with my family?”

Dan rolled his eyes. Here she goes again! “Vaguely.”

“Can you recall what you said to me?”

“I said a lot of stuff and drank a lot of beer!”

“There’s one thing you said that’s stuck with me ever since and whenever it comes to mind it makes me sick to look at you!”

Dan didn’t respond. He knew what response she wanted. There was no need as he really did remember what he’d said. In truth, he hadn’t forgotten about it either. He’d hoped she had, but she never forgot anything! He knew she’d wait all night for him to ask, so it was best to cease the agony. “What did I say?”

“You said that I’d be nothing without you; that our kids would be nothing without you. You said we’d all wither and die within a month if you weren’t here. The worst thing about that is the fact you meant every word of it!”

“Ah, come on! I was drunk. I say daft stuff when I’m drunk,” Dan nervously dismissed.

Melina screwed up her face in anger. “Don’t insult my intelligence! You’re not getting out of this by saying ‘I was only joking’ this time Dan. You’re always ‘only joking’. That doesn’t get you off the hook as much as you seem to think it does. Neither does kissing me half an hour after an argument in an empty gesture to fool me into thinking you care!”

The words cut through Dan and hit him directly in the heart. She really wasn’t as gullible as he assumed. It was time to up his game. “Yeah… well… you don’t give me head anymore!” The words left his mouth before his brain could prevent them.

Are you fucking kidding me Daniel? You sit there every evening with a can of beer welded into your hand watching TV and doing nothing until you fall asleep where you sit. When you do finally come up to bed, do you really think I want to be woken up by you and your beer breath for sex? Then the weekend comes around and you spend about twelve hours of each day drinking and doing your best to ignore the kids—and me!”

“Excuse me! I work all week, something you wouldn’t have a clue about. I think I’ve earned the right to relax with a few beers and occasionally get laid off the girlfriend I provide for!”

“And who provides your meals, clean and ironed clothes, and tidy house?”

“Yeah, using the oven, microwave, washing machine, iron, and vacuum cleaner I bought.”

“So we’re even then. You buy everything and I use it to provide for you. Stalemate! Therefore I don’t owe you extras like sex, especially when you throw into the equation that I pretty much singlehandedly raise our kids.”

“You should want to give me sex because I’m your boyfriend and you love me.”

“There’s a lot of stuff you should do because you love me, but you don’t. You swan around acting like you’re king of the castle and that everyone owes you something. You genuinely believe your responsibilities end the moment you clock off from work.”

“If you weren’t so huffy and demanding I’d probably do more to help you out. There’s no incentive. All I get is you acting a cranky bitch and never putting out.”

“The very fact that you think the entirety of our problems are down to me not giving you sex shows exactly how out of touch with reality you are. I’m not doing this anymore Dan. I want you to leave.”

Dan looked at Melina for several seconds before returning to look at the TV and taking a swig from his can of beer.

Melina continued to look at him.

A minute passed.

Two minutes.

“Did you not hear what I said?”

Dan continued to stare blankly at the TV. “What?”

“It’s over Dan. I don’t love you anymore. I haven’t for a while. I want you to go.”

“You want me to leave my own house?”

“I’d leave myself, except my family live over twenty miles away and someone needs to look after the kids.”

“Who is he?”

“Who’s who?”

“I’m not stupid, Mel. I know exactly what you’re like. You can’t last without a fella, so who’s the replacement you’ve got lined up?”

“I don’t fucking believe you! You’re such an arrogant prick! You can’t accept that I might want to break up because you aren’t a good boyfriend. No, it simply has to be my fault in some way. You’re pathetic!”

You’re pathetic!” Dan mumbled petulantly.

“I’m done with this conversation. I’m done with this relationship. It’s over and that’s all there is to it. I’m sick of waiting for you to realise I might be worth more than minimal effort. You blew the chance I gave you last year. I want you gone tomorrow.”

Melina stood and made her way for the stairs with irritated stomps.

Dan stood also. “Melina, wait!”

She stopped at the doorway and turned her head to face him again. “What?”

“Don’t do this. I swear I’ll change this time.”

“You won’t Dan. If you didn’t the last time then you never will. I’m going to bed. I’ll help you pack in the morning.”

“But…”

Melina waited for Dan to carry on; he said nothing. She continued out of the door and up the stairs.

Dan flopped back onto the sofa, his heart heavy. “…I’m nothing without you!”

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