Eighteen months later
“I can’t believe he didn’t take the fucking garbage out again,” she yelled without even thinking.
Shit, Heather thought. He’s dead. He’s been dead for over a year and I’m still yelling at him.
And then the tears came again. He’s dead and I’m still talking to him. I’m supposed to be taking care of three children and finding a job and I talk to my dead husband. No less, I yell at him. I don’t cry and say I wish he were here. I automatically yell. What does that say about me? I’m a complete bitch. The thoughts in her mind were racing.
And the cycle continued. Crying and beating herself up because she had forgotten Hank was gone. Hank had been Heather’s world. But in an ironic twist right out of the Alanis Morrisette song, her everything was here today and gone tomorrow.
It was time to wake Hayes up for middle school. Gracie was still asleep in Heather’s bed under the quilt of Hank’s t-shirts Heather had made a couple of months ago. Henry was watching his morning dose of ESPN before he got on the bus. Fortunately, Heather didn’t think Henry had heard her yell at his dead father.
Getting everyone up and ready to go hadn’t gotten any easier in the last year and a half. At first they were buoyed by the constant barrage of meals and help from every which way imaginable but that was long gone. Now, Heather was the pitied one. She was still included in all of the neighborhood get-togethers, but Heather’s Catholic guilt was tired of bringing the party down. Tanya, one of her neighbors, had once mentioned to Heather that she must be jealous of all the women. Heather was astonished to hear that. Of course, she wished that Hank could sit next to her at the happy hour, but she could not imagine being jealous of the other women because they had their husbands. Most of their husbands treated Heather like a little sister and not their next conquest. Some thought Heather might be out to steal their husbands. Tanya kept a watchful eye on her husband whenever he came over to help Heather. She obviously wasn’t sure what kind of plumbing problem he was going to fix. Heather knew that was more Tanya’s problem than her own, but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with.
Last month, she went out with one of the newly divorced neighborhood moms. Heather had noticed an increase over the last few years in the number of divorced women that she knew. She stayed away from the gossip but was able to piece most of the stories together on Facebook between snide comments made by spouses or friends. Heather found herself in a similar single parent situation, but her situation was also different. Her husband wasn’t going to take the kids on alternating weekends or every Wednesday night for dinner. He was dead. He couldn’t help from the grave, and it made her so mad sometimes. Not sometimes…most times. They had had everything, and now she had a hard time believing she had anything. She had three fabulous kids who were holding on to her like she was an anchor. And she felt like she was the worst kind of anchor. The kind that was about to pull them under.
Heather forced all of her thoughts out of her head because it was time to execute the morning routine. Heather popped two frozen waffles into the toaster and went upstairs to wake Hayes up. He jumped into the shower and screamed, “HENRY! You spilled all of the Axe all over the shower!”
Once again, Henry, the early riser, had messed with his big brother’s stuff. Heather wondered what a kindergartener needed Axe for anyway.
Heather peered over the balcony and saw Henry smiling on the couch tossing his ball in the air and catching it with his mitt. He had gotten the reaction he wanted.
Now, to wake up the little angel who seemed more like a saber-toothed tiger when she had to get up.
“Gracie, sweetie. Time to wake up.” Heather slowly lifted the t-shirt quilt off of Gracie in hopes a blast of cooler air would get her up.
“I don’t want to go to school, Momma.”
“I know, sweetie, but you have to go. Let’s get up and get you dressed.”
Picking out clothes with Gracie was one of the most torturous parts of Heather’s day. Gracie was so particular, hating tags and rough seams in her clothes. Hank used to tease her and pretend her clothes were biting her. Heather tried to tease her now, but they both usually ended up in tears. Flip-flop season freed them of socks, and fake Uggs, stinkily, did the same. Heather picked out a t-shirt and skirt that were quickly rejected because they were too green. The next choice, a dress, was too flowery. The third choice Heather presented was a pair of leggings and an off the shoulder neon shirt from Justice. Gracie acquiesced after a few minutes, got dressed and ran downstairs for breakfast. And finally, all three of Heather’s cherubs were awake and ready to face the day.
Breakfast was the same every day - a frozen chocolate chip waffle and a mango, banana, kale smoothie. One offset the other. Henry preferred to eat his waffles frozen, so there was even less preparation. As long as he didn’t break a tooth, Heather didn’t really care. But she really didn’t care about much lately.
Hayes left first, and the other two got on the bus about 45 minutes later. As soon as the kids were gone, Heather came inside and sat at the computer for a bit. First she got on Facebook - a great diversion - and she caught up on all of the other mommies’ going ons. Elizabeth had just gotten back from Tennis sectionals in Florida. Tanya’s daughter had made honor roll for the eleventh time in a row in middle school. It made her feel like a part of them without having to leave her house. That was just what she wanted. She promised herself she would do some writing as soon as she walked the dog and cleaned the house.
Hank’s life insurance policy had stated if he died at work Heather would receive more money. Fortunately, he died at his desk in the office. What a terrible thought, but true. If there was a silver lining, that was it. A $500,000 silver lining. Heather was determined to finish her book this year and submit it to publishers to see if she could be a real writer. Heather had never really given much thought to financial independence. She had a master’s degree and was a smart woman. But she had spent her time raising her kids and now felt lost without Hank and his career. Well, that was only one of the ways she felt lost. There were so many others it was sometimes hard to count. Writing was her dream, so writing was what it was going to be until the money ran out. She lived frugally, but frugal didn’t come easily with three kids. The truth of her financial situation was one that was hard to bear and certainly hidden inside the 3,700 square foot house she lived in. But for now, all she had to do was get through the next two days. Then her mom would have the kids overnight giving Heather a much needed chance to recharge.
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Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
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