I wonder does she kiss them goodbye before she goes? No, that would be too hard. And after all, she is just going for milk.
Maybe she holds them a little more closely the night before as she tucks them into bed, takes their little faces in her shaking hands, trying to memorise the soft skin, cheeks still pink from the warm bath, gap-toothed smiles and minty toothpaste breath. And though she wants to be sure she remembers the exact colour of their eyes, she cannot look at them directly, can’t bear to see the trust reflected back.
And now, she is heading out the door. Just going for milk. She leaves off the “Be right back” because some lies feel heavier than others.
And then there is the weight of the front door closing. Slamming it would be too definite, too final so I think she just pulls it gently to, but still, the soft click of the lock falling into place is deafening.
Has she tried to do this before? Or have little arms curled around her legs and upturned faces begging to come for a ride in the car thwarted her plans?
It’s not that she doesn’t love them. I bet she thought about leaving a letter, but the emptiness of the words as she wrote them seemed worse than offering no explanation at all.
It doesn’t matter. This time, the front door has closed behind her and the late afternoon air is cool on her face as the sun deserts the day.
Her heart races.
She hurries to the car, fumbling with the keys in the lock and yanking the door open. She sinks into the car seat and again, fumbles with the keys in the ignition. Her hands won’t stop shaking. Turning the key, she exhales with relief as the engine comes to life first go. The car is in Drive and she is depressing the accelerator. She is a series of actions, and almost robotic in performing them because if she lets herself stop and feel, even for a moment, it will be over. She will stay. And her desperation will eventually seep into their bones. Her poison will destroy them.
The car lurches forward and out into the street. Earlier that day she had the presence of mind to reverse the car into the driveway.
Perpetual forward motion from the moment the front door closed.
She does not have to look at what she is leaving behind.
This post has been floating around in my head for months now. I have often wondered how a woman can walk away from her family. Before I had children, I couldn't fathom it, and I judged those women furiously. Now that I am a mother, I still can't fathom actually going through with it, but I can see how a woman might get to that point of desperation. Rather than judgement, I feel sadness – and empathy. Empathy led me explore just how she might have gotten to the point of no return, and in writing this, I sought to understand her choices better. Maybe I'm way off the mark. I don't know. But my experience as a mother has taught me that we are all in a boat with no paddle, and we do what we must to survive. And what we need to survive is different for all of us.
Thank you to Red Writing Hood whose prompt this week, Freedom, finally got this piece written!