The War At Home

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I’m running as fast as I can. My shoes fell off instantly as soon as I was out the door. All I feel is the cold on my feet as they smack against the pavement. It hurts, but it doesn’t bother me. I can’t remember the last time something hurt; the last time I bumped into something or stubbed my toe. Time is spent not in the present but dwelling on what is to come. My heart is pounding out of my chest. There are people everywhere but I’m running so fast my surroundings look like an impressionist painting. I reach the woods and now I can stop. My heartbeat is so loud, my ears are ringing. But my pulse is all I hear. I am alone. No crying baby, no radio, no telephone, no yelling Mother. The tears are pouring down my face and I can no longer see anything.

I didn’t ask for any of this. None of us did. I was nineteen when I met Eric. Time passed so quick back then. I remember him twirling me at the dance and before I knew it there was a ring on my finger. He shipped out after we told our parents. My Mother had always disliked the arrangement. Six months flew by and he returned home for two days. Those days passed in a second as though I was still twirling at our first dance. We had a brief ceremony and one night together as husband and wife. It was after he left for a second time that time itself began to stand still. Each minute feels like an hour, yet the day I met Eric feels like yesterday. We met at the clubhouse bazaar. He bought a dozen of my gingerbread cookies. Little James will be two next month. I have not been a good Mother to him. I don’t know how to be. I’m distracted by every sound. I have not felt anything but dread for two years. I feel guilty because the dread I feel is not agony for my heroic husband, but the thought of this life and what’s to come on my own. 

Looking up at the sunset as the snowflakes float to the ground,  I feel grateful that it is only snow dropping from our skies. My heartbeat is normal and I think about James, sitting in his high chair for supper by now. God knows what we’ll feed him. I wipe away my tears and turn back. Barefoot through the park, and down our empty street, each home emits a warm light. I walk through the door and after looking at the clock I realize that only ten minutes has passed. My shoes are in the entrance way and James fusses and reaches for me. I pick him up and squeeze him tight. I am home again and I need him as much as he needs me. Suddenly the phone rings and I walk over to pick up the receiver, my heart is a drum once more and James starts to scream.

It’s only the church. I hand James to Mother and grab my coat for my second shift of the day. Tying my shoes on the doorstep I see the sun has finally set. I look up to the night sky with relief that another day is nearly over.  

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