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”Candace became more controlling after that night. Though, I didn’t realize it at the time. She was so hot and cold that I would just soak in the moments she was sweet and attentive and then quiet myself and submit when she was angry.”
”What would she get angry about?” Tina asked.
”Small things first. If I’d burn dinner, forget to buy her favorite snack, things like that. She would rant about how I must not really love her to forget things like that, or I’m trying to hurt her by serving her inedible food. I was a pretty terrible cook Tina; I mean really bad; I only cook so well now because I took classes and bought a ton of cookbooks so that Candace would be proud of me.”
Tina softly glided her fingertips over Bette’s arms that were tightly wrapped around her waist. ”I hope you know this now, even though you didn’t recognize it then, but you never needed her validation; you never needed her approval and love.”
Bette takes several deep breathes. ”I wish I had known you then. I wish…”
Tina grips the arms around her tightly, comfortingly. ”Shh, shh, don’t think of what could have been. Our experiences, no matter how terrible and harmful, contribute to who we are. You are such a thoughtful, caring, and protective person – truly, but maybe that would not be true if not for this experience. Don’t misunderstand me Bette, I’m angry about what she did to you, and I know I haven’t even heard the worst yet, and I want to tear this woman limb from limb; but just as I would not have met you on that bridge had I not been… brutalized… it stands to reason if not for this abuse you may not have been on that bridge anyway, and then I would not be here laying in the comfort and safety of your arms… and you would still be alone and feeling unloved. So, we cannot change the past, but from it we can mold our future.” Tina brings Bette’s hand to her mouth placing kisses in the palm before holding it lovingly to her cheek. ”Please continue.”
Bette pulled Tina to her more firmly. “As time went on, I spent less and less time with Shane and Alice until I wasn’t communicating at all. In the beginning, they would point out Candace’s manipulation. I would take it into consideration and try to distance myself from Candace, but Candace would come to me crying. She’d say, ‘they’re just jealous; look how hard we worked to get here – are you really going to let them tear us apart?’ I would then distance myself from Alice and Shane. I felt… I was so afraid of being abandoned… when Candace came to me crying, I felt like I was doing to her what I’d fear she’d do to me.” Tina could feel her hair becoming wet with Bette’s tears. “I didn’t realize she was just manipulating me; that the tears were for show and she was saying what she said to isolate me further.” Bette rested her forehead to the back of Tina’s head, the tears falling steadily. “It worked Tina; I was so blind. Candace asked me to move in with her after 9 months together and I eagerly agreed. Of course, Shane and Alice protested, but I wouldn’t hear any of it. I eventually stopped talking to them altogether… and they stopped reaching out.”