She slowly put the rest of her clothes into the antique Chester drawer. Pausing over the last winter blue sweater. When she left, four months ago she was wearing this same sweater. Guilt still plagued her over her departure. The anger simmering in the eyes of her husband even as he said he understood, even as he rocked their new born daughter. How could she make him understand that she didn’t want to leave? How could she make him understand that from the moment she pushed the child out into the world, that warmth most mothers talk about…was absent from her. She didn’t want her baby. She didn’t want to be a mother. But she wanted to want it.
She sat gingerly on a bed that no longer felt like her own. She had kept in touch with her family of course. Calling and video chatting with them four or five times a week. With each call however, her husband seemed more distant. More withdrawn. She felt guilty, unwanted. Unsure of what her next moves should be, she went into the kitchen. Cooking had always calmed her and before she married, she had dreams of being a chef. She’d put those dreams aside in favor of being a wife and now…mother.
She went into the fridge and found it almost bare. How in the world has the man been living? Grabbing her purse and coat she headed towards the door with, unannounced to her, a new bounce in her step.
As soon as he entered the house he knew she was home. No one filled a house with the scent of herbs like she did. His mother had been a great cook but his wife, his wife had a gift. He wished now that he had encourage heck, even forced her to continue. Perhaps she would’ve been happier. Perhaps it would’ve kept her mind from…well that’s done now.
He brought the baby stroller in. She was asleep, thank goodness. She’d been restless most of the day and finally calmed down as we neared the house. For the first time since his wife left the child seemed peaceful. The idea alone made his blood start to boil. The child could sense her mother but the mother couldn’t muster up the strength to yearn for her own flesh and blood!
Locking the door, he brought the baby with him as he walked toward the kitchen and placed it beside the dining room table. He hadn’t spent much time in the house since she left. He’d stayed with his brother first and then his mother. It was hard at first living with his mother again but he soon adjusted and it meant that his little girl had someone he could trust to look after her.
Turning from his daughter he slowly walked towards the kitchen. There she was. Standing over simmering pots, stirring this one, tasting this one, smiling and nodding. Her hair pulled back off her neck. He could almost taste her. Just being this close to her stirred feelings he hadn’t felt since before…before. She’d gained back some of the weight she lost, some of the coloring had returned to her skin. He longed to touch her, hold her, but the thought alone seemed like a betrayal. How could he when she had abandoned them?
Covering the pot, she turned to leave the kitchen when she saw him. Her breath caught, trapped in her throat. A million emotions whirling around in her heart. The same, she realized could be said for him. Fussing with the bottom of her sweater she fought for something to say.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call first. I-I-I, I just wanted to, I just..ugh! I just wanted to be home! God knows I’ve missed you. I missed my daughter.” When his eyes narrowed the panic set in.
“Please! Don’t! I did miss her! I just- I just..”
“You just what?!” He exploded. Hands clenched with the pain of emotions he’d buried for months, it was all he could do to keep from hurting her.
“What did you want?! You wanted to come home? Put some pots on the stove and play wife? Did you think I’d be home just waiting on you to come back?! Did you think we’d just freeze in time, eagerly awaiting your return?! Did you think she wouldn’t grow? Did you think I wouldn’t adjust to an empty bed? An empty heart!”
Tears that had threatened to fall now heaved over, coursing down the sides of her cheeks unchecked and unnoticed. She had feared that he might have found someone else during her absence. One that could love a child that wasn’t her own as if it were. But she wouldn’t have it thrown in her face!
“Is that what you’ve been doing? Having someone play wife while I was away?”
He caught her tone. Saw what she was implying and he could strangle her for it. Another woman?! When it was her scent that constantly assaulted his senses! Where could he go where he wouldn’t be reminded of her? He saw every sunset, thought of her, every time the moon shone brightly!
“Another woman?! Only you would confuse and angry broken heart for signs of an affair! Do you think I could even dream of loving another woman when I’m so full of you?! Do you think I could even want one when there’s a tiny replica of you that needs me?”
Her response was cut off by the beginnings of a cry from her daughter. Instantly she rushed to stroller. Picking the child up she set to work, rocking and cooing to the child to calm her. Stroking her soft hair and cheek. Holding her close to her chest.
He watched her in stunned disbelief. She looked so..so natural, so at ease. An ease he hadn’t seen in her since she found out she was pregnant.
“I hope I’m doing this right. I know I haven’t had much practice…” A slight frown appearing on her brow.
The urge to say something unkind crossed his mind but how could he? Watching her with their daughter…well, there it was. She was their daughter. Crossing over to her he placed a hand on hers. Her hands always chilled when she was angry, or scared.
She looked up from the sweet sleepy face of her daughter and into the warm, confident, eyes of her husband. “You’re doing fine, we’ll figure everything else out together.”
Tears welling up in her eyes, she nodded. “Can, can..I want to get her ready for bed.”
The warmth of his smile filled her with hope, “We’ll both get her ready for bed. After we eat, I’m starved.”
For the first time in months she laughed until her sides ached.