Since I was asked to add a bit more to my recent short story, I’m doing so here.
The original story is found on the tabs at the top of this blog.
If Rose could live her life over again, there were many things she would do differently. Living again was not an option. Rose was surprised at how easy it was to die. Dying wasn’t hard. It was the living that had been hard.
Life slowly left her body. She no longer had the energy to keep her eyes open but she knew what was going on in the room around her. She could hear the ticking of the clock and her sons breathing punctuated by the occasional heavy sigh. She felt for her sons. This was much harder on them than it was on her.
Her sons. . . if only she could have shown them how much she loved them. She’d been afraid to love. The things she loved most were always the things that life seemed to take away from her. First, it had been her father, then her career and her first husband. . .the boys father.
She remembered the night she first knew she loved him. It was a warm summer’s evening. They’d driven to the beach to get a break from the heat in the valley and because it was a young and a spontaneous thing to do. They’d raced down to the water after parking the car. The moon hung low and bright in the sky. Its light reflected off the water in fractured fragments. That had been the only light they needed on that evening so long ago. She’d looked into his eyes and knew she was hopelessly in love with him. Her feelings frightened her.
It wasn’t long and she was frightened by her life as well. Married life hadn’t been what either of them had expected it to be. After the boys were born she stopped working. It hadn’t made much sense to turn over everything she earned to pay for child care. She thought being a full-time mom would be easy but he boredom and isolation crept up on her until she felt overwhelmed by the simplest task.
She loved her sons but she didn’t love being with them all the time. Of course, she couldn’t admit this to anyone. She was a terrible mother. Cleaning graham cracker residue off doorknobs, changing diapers, settling their squabbles became pure torture. Her husband, the man she loved more than she loved herself, would come home and find the house a mess and Rose in tears. Soon, he stayed out late, stopping with friends for drinks after work. One day he simply stopped coming home. Rose had always expected him to leave her. When he finally did so, she hardly noticed.
A kindly neighbor offered to watch the boys. She felt sorry for Rose. The neighbor loved the boys as if they were her own. Rose knew they were in good hands, better than her own. When the divorce papers finally came, she didn’t contest it. She didn’t ask for child support or alimony either. She felt she didn’t deserve it. She had failed as a wife and as a mother. She just wanted to forget. Those papers were the last she or the boys ever heard from their father. None of them ever tried to find him. She regretted that now. She hoped he had found happiness and what he wanted from life.
After Rose went back to work some of her sadness lifted. Work gave her something to do, something other than herself to focus on. She was a single mother, raising two sons on her own. As they got older she decided it was only right to give the boys a father figure. She sought a husband in a methodical and deliberate fashion, the way someone would research and compare before making an expensive purchase, like a sofa or bedroom set. Marriage became a practical arrangement. Love just got in the way. It complicated things. Rose had no time for complications. She had gotten used to her husbands, maybe even fond of them but she never gave her heart to them the way she had to her first and only love. She never stopped loving him and never stopped trying to hide the pain and loss she felt from losing him.
Losing her first husband had changed Rose. She never forgave herself. She’d always felt damaged and undeserving but his leaving had proven this to her. In order to resurrect a sliver of self worth she used her wit and her attractiveness to charm men. Once charmed, she didn’t know how to love them. Not long after her marriages, she’d look across the table at a man who was a total stranger to her. Each of her husbands remained total strangers until they died. She never knew them and they never knew her. They lived their lives in parallel sadness and preoccupation. They made the best of the circumstances and never talked about their feelings much less their thoughts. It felt too great a violation. Rose learned not to feel because to feel was just too painful.
Now, Rose was dying. She knew that it had been a mistake to have shut off her feelings all those years. She also knew why she had made that choice and for the first time in her life, she felt some understanding of what had driven her. She felt the pain and frustrations her husbands must have felt to discover that the charming and witty Rose wasn’t really the person that lived in Rose’s body. And, then there were her sons. . she had loved her sons most of all. She had wronged them most of all.
This realization flowed through her and she almost moaned under the power of it. Pain and regret filled her and then slowly ebbed away. There was no time left for this feeling. She didn’t have the strength to hold on to it. Relief took it’s place. Regret slipped away smoothly and quietly. It didn’t matter any more. There was no going back.
Eyes closed, Rose began to understand. In the distance, a soft glow drew her to itself. It looked like moonlight. The soft light pushed into her awareness and filled her thoughts. Beneath closed lids her eyes moved rapidly. It was going to be alright. Her sons would be alright. It was time to let go.