The Dam Burst/Wet Feet challenge is the first one I’ve taken on for the Story Dam community.
And let me say it was a little painful because I seem to have strained a writing muscle this last week, while working on some profiling/blog stuff for my day job. (It was one of those weeks where trying to get words down on screen is like pulling my fingernails out, one at a time. And the material I did produce just seemed like so much sludge.)
I wasn’t even sure I’d manage to respond to any creative prompts this week, especially after my Friday brain revolt that ended in my re-watching episodes of Doctor Who (11th doctor) and meandering around Skyrim looking for things to send fire bolts through.
But I made myself sit back down at the computer and write. Because that’s what needs to happen.
So here’s what came of my reading the challenge and trying to write through my funk. (I’ve pretty much left it as it came out.)
The sputtering growl of the school bus fades away toward the end of the street.
She’d made sure to get a hug from the twins. Kevin is difficult; he has friends who’ll tease him. Lynn is still at the stage where she gives hugs freely and without shame.
There’s a whimper from the nursery and she eyes the clock, sighs as the whimper fades away.
Sitting at the dining room table, she wraps her fingers around a cup of coffee gone cold and examines her hands. The white gold wedding band, the dry knuckles reddened from washing morning dishes, the flirty red polish—put on in such anticipation yesterday—now chipped and flaking.
It’s their 10th
anniversary. Three weeks ago, he’d promised to find a sitter so they could escape for an evening. Last night, he’d come home with a manila folder full of files and, after planting a quick kiss on her lips, locked himself in his office.
She’d fed the twins, fed the baby, put them to bed and sat down at the table. At 8:00, she heard his cell phone ring, counted two beats of her heart to the moment he unlocked the office door and came out in a rush, pulling his coat on. She could hear the words before they formed on his lips. Working-dinner. Big client. Don’t wait up.
But she left his anniversary card on his pillow.
This morning, he was all contrite tones and apologies that she can recite by heart. He recycles them. They make appearances whenever he misses a parent-teacher meeting. When he doesn’t hear the baby crying at 3 a.m. When he doesn’t notice the dishes piling up in the sink, or the laundry in the basket.
She’s lost count of the number of nights she’s stayed up, putting the house to rights, getting the laundry done for the next day. She’s lost count of the amount of times she’s rearranged her work schedule—though she could probably find it by counting the frown lines developing around her boss’s mouth—to go for a conference at the twins’ schools or pick the baby up from the sitter an hour early.
Today, he’s promised to come home with an anniversary lunch.
Two hours late.
By that time, she’s dropped the baby off at the sitter, picked up the groceries for the next week, and listed the kid’s after school activities and important phone numbers on the dry erase board that hangs in the kitchen.
Before she picks up her duffel bag, she slips off her wedding ring and sits it on the middle of his pillow, marvels at the feel of her hand without the added weight.
He’s in the dining room pulling cold sandwiches from a white paper sack bearing the logo Dana’s Deli
. She identifies egg and tuna salad.
She doesn’t like either of them.
The weight of her duffel hitting the floor makes him turn and the confusion on his face is almost enough to make her go back to the bedroom, put her ring on, unpack her clothes.
Instead, she takes his face between her hands, takes his mouth with her own and kisses him like he did her the day they got married, all sweet, soft lips and tentative tongue.
When she pulls away, he’s staring at her like he’s never seen her before.
And maybe he hasn’t.
“There’s a letter on the counter,” she says.
And she picks up her bag, takes her keys from the wall hook, and walks out the door.
He’ll figure it out.
Or he won’t.