I awoke early the next morning momentarily forgetting where I was. The all-too-familiar feeling of dread washed over me even before I had completely awoke as I braced myself to face another day in the prison which had become my life. But, as I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling of the hotel room, it all came rushing back – the leaving, the regret, and the fear. The sharpness of the longing for things to just be back to normal pierced through me as I sat up.
It was probably not too late to call Ben. I could try to go back and to be happy. Maybe Ben would even agree to make some changes in our life. It would never be perfect, but maybe it could be better.
Even as I thought those things I knew it would never happen. We had gone too far to go back. I had become a shell of the person I once was, however shaky that person had been anyway. Ben had lost respect for me the more and more I had faded silent and uncomplaining into his background. I had lost any respect that I once had for myself as well.
Even as I wanted to go back, I knew that I couldn’t. Even as I felt physically ill at the thought of starting this new day on my own, without the security of a home or an income, I knew that I would have to somehow make it work. There would be no going back because going back would be the death of me. I was pretty much certain of that.
I slipped out of bed silently. It was only 6 am and Nate could use a bit more sleep. I had no idea what the day would hold, but I definitely knew that I needed a cooperative six year old in order to get through it.
I grabbed my cell phone and walked into the bathroom. There were no missed calls or text messages. I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed or relieved. I knew that Ben would be up and running on the treadmill by now. His coffee would be the next thing he grabbed and then his cell phone. That was if he had spent the night at home last night. I didn’t want to think what he would be grabbing now if he didn’t.
I showered quickly and dried off, listening for the sounds of Nate waking. I dressed in jeans and long-sleeved shirt, pulling my hair back into a ponytail.
Wiping the steam off the vanity mirror, I stared at myself. My complexion was pale making my blue eyes seem huge on my drawn face. I had dark circles under my eyes which didn’t help my appearance any and the pony tail only made my hair seem even more limp and lack luster. I had lost weight and my jeans hung off me unflatteringly. Frankly, I looked like someone who had been locked away for a few years. I laughed at the truthfulness in that – hadn’t I been?
I sighed and turned away from the mirror. No wonder I disgusted Ben now. I disgusted myself. Packing up my cosmetic bag I didn’t even give the makeup in there a second glance. It didn’t matter now, just like it didn’t matter then. I would never be good enough.
I began to tear up at that thought. How would I ever make it on my own if I wasn’t good enough to make it with help?
Shaking, I slammed my cosmetic bag back down on the vanity and ripped it open. Pulling out my foundation, I began to smooth it over my face. Next I added some blush and a bit of mascara. It wasn’t a huge improvement, but it was a start. I needed to start trying to feel again: to feel something, anything, good about myself. I owed myself that.
Seeing that Nate was still asleep, I opened up the hotel directory. I knew that we were in Perspect, but I knew nothing of the place. It seemed like a big enough town, and, true to the gas attendant’s word, the directory boasted of the friendliness of the Perspect calling it “a home away from home” for visitors. I thought that maybe we would take a look around here for the day. Studying a street map, I noticed that there were a couple of parks nearby and even a small petting zoo. It would be good to give Nate a break from being stuck in the car all day again, I thought.
Hearing him begin to stir, I walked over to the bed and placed my hand on his cheek. His eyes fluttered open and he smiled at me. “Hi Mommy,” he said.
“Hey bud,” I said as I leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Let’s have some fun today.”
A short while later, Nate was dressed, his teeth were brushed, and was busying himself with tying his shoes as I packed up our bags. Checking out of the hotel, I loaded the luggage and Nate in the car.
Grabbing coffee, juice, and muffins at the nearest drive thru, I followed the map I had snagged out of the hotel directory book to the closest park.
After a few quick bites of his chocolate chip muffin and a few swigs of juice, Nate was all too eager to begin climbing and playing on the play structures. It was still early and so far we had the whole park to ourselves.
I sipped my coffee as I watched Nate exploring.
“Good morning,” I heard a deep voice say.
Glancing up quickly I was startled to see a tall man standing beside me.
I tried to smile, but I’m not sure that I pulled it off. Trying my voice, I squeaked out, “Good morning”.
“Mind if I sit down?” the deep voice asked again.
This time I looked at him more closely. He had brown hair which was cut short, soft blue eyes, and a kind smile. He was dressed in a business suit and held a coffee cup and a newspaper in his hand. While I didn’t really want company, I didn’t have the heart to say no so I smiled and moved over on the bench.
As he sat down, I felt his eyes on me and I shifted uncomfortably. I was silently praying that he would not start up a conversation.
“So, are you just passing through?” he asked softly, as if knowing that he may scare me away at any moment.
I nodded, without looking at him. Go away, please, I pleaded silently.
“I’m sorry to ask, it’s just that I pretty much know everybody in town. And we don’t get many visitors, at least many that tend to stay long,” he said laughing a large, booming laugh.
His laugh startled me, but at the same time it made me smile.
I turned to him, and removing my sunglasses, I met his eyes. I was taken aback at how familiar his eyes seemed, like we had met in another time or place.
As his eyes searched mine, he smiled softly. “If you need anything while you are here, please don’t hesitate to drop in to my office or give me a call.” He held out his business card for me.
I took it silently, not knowing what to say. Staring at the card I read it, Garry Rondell, financial advisor. I opened my mouth to tell him I hadn’t any finances that I would need advising on, but he was already rising from the bench.
“It’s a pretty welcoming place, if you need somewhere to stay for a few days,” he said, seeming to read between the lines of my quietness.
“Ok,” I said, not really knowing what else to say at that point.
“Hopefully I will see you around,” he said still smiling.
I nodded, trying to smile myself, “Maybe.”