A short story attempting to explore a woman's perspective.
|Spring came early the year her mother died. She was near death last winter, but, loving Christmas as she did, she hung on as long as she could. Despite her doctor’s prediction, she made it into the new year before cancer took her on January 6. The cold winter retreated in early March and by the end of the month flowers were budding, very unusual for that part of the country. She was sorry her mother had missed it, she savored each season and the changes they brought. The new beginning of spring, with it’s fresh warm breezes; the bright sunshine of summer, the vibrant colors and bountiful harvest of fall and the joyous celebration of Christmas gave her great joy.
She was a confident woman; a teacher, a writer and a photographer who enjoyed spreading the word of her pleasures to anyone who was willing to come along with her on one of her adventures. Field trips were golden opportunities to share the joys of life with her students. Her excursions were anticipated by all her charges, whether they be adult students from her night school classes, or her high school and college students in the middle of their education. Everyone was invited, after all, a trip to an abandoned stone quarry is great fodder for all the arts, as much, if not more than a trip to a museum.
She felt lucky to have a mother that so many people loved and respected. While her mother’s death was expected, it still came as a shock to know that she would no longer be around for her. The pain she was in was unbearable, that was obvious, so it was a relief that her pain was finally over. But she had lost not just a mother, but a confidant and best friend.
Her mother knew that she was unhappy, yet she never let on, never pried into topics that she wasn’t ready to discuss. There was never any criticism or nagging, even when she would have been wise to have done so. She encouraged her to take care of herself and follow her heart.
She had set her dreams aside for so long, too long. A friend from high school had been trying to talk her into coming south for a visit. Her marriage and life had prevented her from considering it.
She was near the top of her class in school, as were her friends. They dated boys at the top of the class. It was expected, they were the stars of the school, the top athletes, the top students in a school that was run by the best athletes, the best students. It was during her senior year that she started dating the boy who would become her husband.
He was the star player on the football team. The thought would later make her cringe, being so, well, cliché. But, when she was a teenager, and life was simpler, he made her life better. That’s how school was then, if you were important, you had to be dating someone. So she dated him. And, through their senior year they fell in love, well, that’s what she thought it was.
They made their life together after graduation and through college. Staying close to home so they could be together, they started sharing an apartment after their Sophomore year of college. Their life was good. It was just as it was supposed to be, or so she thought. That nagging sense that things weren’t quite right wouldn’t go away, so she ignored it.
Marriage, of course, came not long after graduation which was followed by the arrival of children. That’s how life was supposed to go. But, things were different. She felt wrong. The passion of their teenage years had started to fade. Their interest in each other wasn’t as strong. She didn’t know why, but she could feel it. She ignored it.
She worked through her life and her career. She took solace in raising their children, immersing herself in career and motherhood. She was proud of them, and she felt that she should be since her husband was seldom at home. As the children grew older they would make jokes about the strange man who would appear at their house at odd times. They never knew him and he had no interest in knowing them. She acted as a buffer between the two parties, the children and their father.
The inevitable occurred, the children grew up and started their lives, leaving her to the house with her husband, their father, the strange man they never knew. She was sad to see them go, she knew they had to leave, but now she was left with a life that she wasn’t sure she wanted.
Her marriage had been suffering, or she had been suffering. There were indications that her husband was finding gratification elsewhere. He certainly hadn’t been spending his energies at home.
A most tenuous relationship struggles against the ravages of alcohol, drugs and infidelity. She had hoped for more, would willingly have accepted less, but got nothing and smiled through it all. The brave face applied for family and friends never had a basis in truth, it was there because she couldn't admit her mistake so she found a way to pretend to be happy.
Her friends knew, her family knew, but said nothing. They wanted to help but they didn't know how. So they watched her vanish into a shell of the person she was.
She hoped for something better, someone better, who could love her despite her baggage. So she cried at night alone in bed, waiting for the inevitable.
The door would open and she'd feel him get into bed next to her. He'd breathe his cigarette and alcohol breath in her face as he'd kiss her as he had his way with her body. She had long ago given up on any resistance. It was over quick, she closed her eyes and held her breath until he completed his clumsy attempts at, what she was sure he considered love.
When finished he'd roll over and pass out snoring loudly. She'd turn away and cry quietly into her pillow. On nights like this, it seemed like morning would never arrive. She rose from bed, carefully so he wouldn't awaken and left the bedroom.
This, all of this, had been on her mind for quite some time. She knew she needed to do something, and she knew what that was. But, she held out hope for it to change, for him to change. They had talked, or she had talked and he had listened. Or he had sat quietly while she spoke of her hopes and dreams and desires. She tried to ask him what he needed from her. She got no response.
She opened the glass door to the patio and walked into the warm spring evening. She had found an old pack of cigarettes and remembering the joy they had given her, brought them with her. She lit the candle that rested on the table and ignited the cigarette off the same match. She remembered that was bad luck, or something like that, but it didn't matter, not now.
The pool had been built for the kids was full but unused since they had grown and moved on with their lives. It was soothing, watching the growing wind send ripples across the water. A sense of serenity coursed through her body.
Her life wasn't supposed to be like this. They were supposed to be happy. They were the king and queen of the high school prom, the class couple, it was a fairy tale. She wondered what happened to happily ever after.
Somewhere along the path they got lost. She knew that, she also knew that it couldn't continue like this. He wasn't going to change.
It started to rain. Huge, warm buckets of rain poured from the sky, soaking through her bed clothes to her skin. She looked at the sky, it felt good, the cleansing of the rain. She cried, she couldn’t help herself. She knew what she needed to do.