|Tears fell into her pillow, silent tears she only shed at night when she knew nobody would see or hear them. Her husband slept, snoring until he rolled to his side with a groan. She shouldn't wake him, not with a ten hour shift waiting for him in the morning. So she wept, a hand clamped over her mouth to keep him from hearing, and all her strength spent trying to still her shoulders with each silent sob.
She was so tired. The dishes remained undone, dinner had been put away but the casserole dish still sat on the stove. The floor remained littered with the crumbs she hadn't found time to vacuum, laundry scattered throughout, mingling with the toys she never found time to pick up. The red numbers of the clock told her the baby had been asleep for almost two hours and would undoubtedly wake at any moment. She still hadn’t slept. An hour of rocking her mewling infant, silently pleading with the child to fall back asleep, only to have him wake when she tried to put him down.
For the first hour he’d finally slept she held her breath and rocked, half asleep in the wooden chair with its slats bruising her back. The tears had come when he’d only sighed as she set him in his crib and crept from the room. She wept, because these silent tears were her only release, day in and day out. So little got done and yet she was so tired. How could a day that felt so empty of any accomplishment leave her so drained, day after day?
Sound crackled over the baby monitor. She pressed her face into the pillow and allowed herself a moment to regain her composure before throwing the covers back and creeping down the hall. Tiny feet kicked away the covers as her infant son began to wake, his round lips pursing and his head turning as he searched for his source of food and comfort.
The toddler’s voice sounded behind her as she lifted the fussing infant from the crib. She smiled as she turned toward the low toddler bed, one arm gently bouncing the grunting bundle against her shoulder. “Go back to sleep, sweetheart,” she murmured, stroking blond curls with her free hand.
Still smiling, she bent to rescue the marker stained baby doll from the floor and tucked it into the drowsy toddler’s arm. The young child snuggled against the pillow, eyes drifting shut, thumb in mouth, content.
She sat again in the rocking chair, deftly unsnapping the clips under her nightgown and getting the squirming infant latched to her breast. He sucked and gulped and inhaled in the soothing manner she had grown accustomed to. Her head fell back against the wood beam across the back of the chair and her eyes drifted shut, heavy from their previous tears.
Soon, the sucking and gulping stopped and the infant’s breathing softened into the sweet sounds of sleep. Gently, oh so gently, she moved him away from her body and leaned over the crib. He twitched once. Her eyes closed instantly and a silent prayer flew from her heart. The infant sighed and fell back asleep. Heavy with relief, she tiptoed from the room, quietly latching the door closed behind her.
Her body ached as she lowered herself into her bed once more and tucked the covers under her chin. The pillow still held the damp evidence of her tears, but she was too tired to care any longer. Exhaustion took over. She fell asleep wondering how she would ever find the energy to wake when the crying came over the monitor once more. She knew it would come again. It always came.
Word Count: 609
Inspired by and written for a contest.
Prompt: Te, a Taoist concept of the strength in small, unexpected places and overcoming obstacles that seem impossible.