You Were Mine
The inspiration for this story came from the song by the same title, written by Emily Erwin and Martie Seidel and performed by the Dixie Chicks. (if you've never heard it, find it! It's worth it.)
The sun was setting low over the horizon as she stood at the screen door watching the two children in the backyard. The girl, her glossy black curls bouncing, was dancing and twirling as her younger brother trailed in awe-filled idolism, toddling along as best he could.
The scene was perfect, so peaceful. A slight breeze ruffled the leaves on the trees at the edge of the yard, and the last rays of the sun tinged the image with a reddish-gold hue. The laughter of the little girl tinkled in the quiet, echoed by her brother's quiet giggles. And Angela stood watching through the wire mesh of the screen door, wishing things were somehow different.
At last, she stepped outside, calling to her children. They looked up, smiles on each of their faces. The little girl ran to her mother and wrapped her arms around her legs. "Is it time to go in now, Mommy?" she asked, her angel face gazing up at her in question.
Angela smiled, stroking the black curls gently. "Yes, it's almost time for bed. Why don't you take your little brother inside and start washing up?"
The little girl laughed and, taking the little toddler's hand, began to drag him towards the house, the little boy trying desperately to keep up with her long strides. Angela followed more sedately after picking up the toys left in the children's wake. As she closed the door to the house, she listened to the sounds of the two children upstairs, trying to get ready for bed. She smiled and, laying the toys in the toy chest in the family room, went up the stairs.
The little girl was trying to brush her teeth in the bathroom, but only making a mess of the toothpaste in the bathroom sink. Her brother was standing on a small step before the sink, his tiny head barely clearing the ledge, trying to mimic her actions with his own toothbrush, smearing toothpaste all over his face. Angela stood in the doorway, gazing at the two, a tender smile on her face. At last, the little girl looked over her shoulder, seeing her mother, and smiled.
Angela laughed and wet a washcloth to wipe the little boy's face. "I see you two are having fun, Brianna."
"We're helping you out, Mommy," the little girl said, resuming her brushing actions.
Holding the hand of her little boy, Angela helped the younger one brush his own tiny teeth. When they were finished, she lifted him up so that he could spit into the sink, then turned him in her arms, and set him on her hip as she waited for Brianna to finish. Then she guided them out of the bathroom, turning off the light as she closed the door. Brianna scampered off to change into her pyjamas as Angela went into her son's room to change him.
Brianna came back in just as Angela was pulling the pyjama tops over the little boy's head. "Is Elisha coming tomorrow?" she asked eagerly.
Angela nodded. "Elisha will be here early in the morning, before I have to leave for work. You will both be good for her?"
"Of course, Mommy," Brianna said wish a smile.
"As soon as I put Jacob to sleep, I'll come and say prayers with you, Bri."
Brianna hugged her mother around the legs and ran off to her room. Jacob watched her go, his thumb in his mouth. Angela put on his pyjama pants, then picked him up and put him down in his crib. He sat on the mattress, looking up at her, his green eyes round, his thumb still in his mouth. She gave him a quick peck on the forehead, then moved to the door.
"No sweep, Mommy," cried the toddler, standing up and reaching out for her. "No sweep."
Angela sighed, a tired smile on her face, and came back to the crib. She picked up her son and held him in her lap as she sat in the large rocking chair in one corner of the room. She sat, rocking him for a while, tenderly stroking his hair. Then she began to sing softly a song she knew from her youth: a lullaby she remembered her mother singing to her when she was a child.
Think of me every day
Hold tight to what I say
Then I'll be close to you even from far away
Know that wherever you are
Is never too far
When you think of me I'll be with you*
As she sung the last note, her voice soft and low, she looked down at Jacob, who lay heavy and sleeping in her arms. She stood up carefully and laid him in the crib before walking to the door. She looked back at him once more before quietly closing the door and walking down the hall to another room. She looked in and saw her daughter still sitting up in bed, waiting for her.
"Ready for prayers, sweetie?" she asked, and the little girl nodded. Angela sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at her. They folded their hands and Brianna recited her prayers as Angela quietly added her own. When they were finished, Angela tucked the covers under her daughter's chin; Brianna watched her silently, her eyes bright and observant. At last, just as Angela was about to give her a goodnight kiss, she asked, "When is Daddy coming home, Mommy?"
Angela's face softened, saddened, as she brushed her little girl's dark curls back tenderly with her hand. "I don't know," she admitted with a small shake of her head, her voice soft. "I don't know, Bri."
The brown eyes that looked up at her were reflections of her own feelings of disappointment and neglect. After a long silence, Brianna whispered, "I love you, Mommy."
Tears glistened in her eyes as Angela leaned over and kissed her daughter on the forehead. "I love you, too, Bri." Then, with another tender smile, she stood and turned off the light, closing the door behind her as she left the room. She leaned against it, the tears she held back before now running freely down her face; the tears that she had held for so long.
She walked slowly down the hall towards the door at the end and pushed it open. The inside was warm and cozy, but the cheery walls and inviting warmth was no balm to her shattered heart. With only five words, her daughter had managed to shatter her entire world. One simple question, and the walls she had built around her heart had fallen. The only strength that was left to keep her heart intact was in the knowledge that her children were depending on her to be the strong one.
The desk sat on one side of the room, below the window that looked out over the back yard, into the forest beyond. She had always loved the view---the wildness of the trees, the feeling that one could simply run into nature and never come back. It was that feeling she needed now. The feeling that perhaps, out there, there was an answer, that there was a freedom from this ache that had been inside her for so long.
But the answers never came, and the freedom never existed long enough. The battle was hard and long and uphill all the way, and every day, she struggled through. And every night, as she lay in her large, lonely, empty bed, she wondered what had happened, where everything had gone wrong, praying for the strength to make it through another day. And every morning she woke and went on.
Her fingers caressed the polished wood of the desk, the smooth, cold surface. She looked once more out the window and closed her eyes, the tears running down her cheeks. And with a small sigh, she reached for the handle of the bottom drawer. She paused, steeling herself against the pain she knew would be inside. And then she opened it.
She reached in and pulled out the album that lay at the bottom of the drawer and laid it on the desk before her. She ran her fingers over the gold embossing on the cover, over the two names printed there. She opened the cover slowly, tenderly, and pulled out the invitation that lay over the first picture.
You are cordially invited...
The words blurred as her eyes filled again with tears, and she set the invitation aside, her eyes reluctantly moving to the picture that covered the first page. She ran her fingers lightly over the man that stood beside the woman she once was, a woman with dreams and hopes and a vision. That woman was gone.
The pictures following were of the happiness, joy, and love. A day when the dreams of were happily ever afters, and a truer Prince Charming there never was. Every one of Angela's friends had been jealous of her "catch." He had charmed them all. Even her. He had made her fall in love.
She still loved him, despite what he had done to her, what he had done to his children. There was still a corner of her heart that believed he would come back to her. She was his wife, they were his children; how could anyone run away from that? He did.
*Think of Me from Veggie Tales (Rack, Shack and Benny)
© 2000 Copyright held by the author.
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