Chapter 4: How To Love A Single Mom: The Most Graceful Days.

Writer’s Note:

Two years after the tragic death of her husband and father of her children, Leah, a 35 year old single mother of two young daughters continues to struggle with her loss. Follow Leah as she begins to heal, find purpose again, discover her passion and find love in the process. 

How To Love A Single Mom is a love story about life, self discovery, transformation and the relationships we create along the way. 

Chapter Four

The heels of my pink stilettos echo off the cold linoleum floor through the endless hallway of white washed cinderblock walls and fluorescent lighting. My white strapless wedding dress tickles the floor with each step. I’m searching for someone but there is nowhere to look, no one to find—all I can do is keep walking. The further I go, the darker it becomes, the lighting dims as my steps get louder.

“Leah! Leah!” I turn around toward the way I came, “Where is this voice coming from?” I face the darkness., “Leah! Leah!” There! It’s coming from there but then the voice becomes voices and they continued to multiply, screaming from every direction—the ceiling , the floor, the walls, the hallway, the light side, the dark side.

I begin to spin, my dress following the twirl of my body and my pink shoes, the ones I saw in the store window that day. “One day, I’m gonna buy those for you just because I can. A ridiculously overpriced pair of shoes you can wear to cook in,” he joked.

Here I am, wearing them with my wedding dress, confused and lost;  and then, here they come, the headlights speeding toward me. “Leah! Leah!” I open my mouth to scream, but I can’t make a sound.

“Ahhhhhh.” I gasp sitting up in bed, weeping, drenched in sweat.

My white nightgown is sticking to my breasts. I clutch the soaking fabric and pull it away hoping my skin will come with it. I’m so hot I wish I could take my skin off too; just remove it all and start fresh.

For a moment, I don’t know where I am.

I glance at the clock on my nightstand, 4:06 AM.“It’s Tuesday.” I say aloud, reassuring myself I am awake and no longer dreaming.

I turn on my lamp and stumble to the bathroom, dropping my nightgown to the tile floor as I turn on the shower. I refuse to go back to sleep after that, I never do after my nightmare. It’s the same one every time. It happens less frequently now, but when it does it disturbs me, shakes me to my core.

My mind starts to race, “I hope the girls ate dinner and are sleeping through the night. I wonder if Karen likes the sconces I found in that antique shop, even though she wanted all materials circa 2014. I need to find a place for the summer, where should we go? Somewhere not too far away just in case Cindy needs something.”

I don’t even remember shampooing my hair, but I think I’ve done it twice by now. I look down at my stomach which is non-existent; my hip bones look pregnant compared to my belly. I haven’t been eating again. Jen always says, “Skinny is to be celebrated! You can never be too skinny.”

I disagree—I feel empty inside.

I’m skinny because I’m void of life’s nourishment. I’ve been starving myself unintentionally; disinterested in food not to mention I’ve numbed myself to most sensation, especially pleasure—my body hasn’t known it in two years, even though it seems like yesterday since that last time.

I’d only slept with two other men before I met Jake. Some of my girlfriends said I should know what’s out there, but I never felt the need to explore. He made me feel sexy and desired. The way his hands chiseled their purpose into my skin… He was never in a rush, even if we should have been. The world disappeared when we were together, like the world bowed down to us honoring our connection.

Two nights before the accident we sat on the couch after putting the girls to bed. He was catching up on SportsCenter as I looked at fabric swatches for my client. I was wearing my evening uniform: my hair tied into a bun on the top of my head, a face free of makeup, one of his white undershirts, a pair of sweatpants and pink gym socks which should be illegal for anyone over 5 years old to wear. I was comfortable around him, like I could lift the veil and I was more beautiful without the filter. I didn’t need to impress him, he loved that confidence about me—he gave me that confidence.

“Do you want to go to the pool this weekend with your mom?”  I asked without looking up. He didn’t answer.

“Haalloooo?” I turned to him, he was smiling at me.

“I love you more now, you know?”  He told me this often and I believed him because it was true. He put the remote on the coffee table, gently removed the swatches from my hands and carefully placed them next to me.

He knew how to seduce me. He could make me go weak in an instant. I felt the zing from my belly shoot between my legs. He embraced my face in his hands and kissed me, the type of kiss a guy gives a girl he’s been waiting to kiss for years and finally has his opportunity to lay it on her. I felt my body turn to liquid (10 years later he still had this effect on me). He reached up and pulled at my bun, hair tumbling down my back as he stroked his fingers through it.

“Let’s go.”  He stood, taking me by the hand as we walked up the stairs into our bedroom. Our bodies always found their rhythm. We had conversations without voices, our bodies wrote the dialogue—sometimes heated, sometimes soft and romantic or playful—but one thing was always the same: he made sure I was pleased. He wouldn’t stop until I was, just as I did for him.

That night was no different, it was all of it in one as if he knew or I knew it would be the last time.

I can’t imagine making love with another man, the idea makes me sick as though I’d be unfaithful to him. I’ve only been on a few first dates because of these feelings. No one compares and they never will—I’m coming to terms with this.

I’m shivering now, having out-showered the shower. I slip on another nightgown and a sweatshirt, not his, mine. I got rid of all of his clothes except for a few items that I have hanging in a garment bag at the back of the closet.

I’m too tired to change the sheets. I don’t even want to look at my bed or be in my bedroom right now.

~

There is something hopeful about coffee—nothing sad happens over coffee, at least not at 4:45 in the morning.

Coffee is the drink of productivity, sunrises, hot eggs, freshly applied make up and perfume; unpolluted by the day’s exhaust. I like this time of day, albeit I wish I had slept a little longer however the days I do wake before the sunrise, are my most graceful days.

The house, usually haunted by vacancy when the girls aren’t here, isn’t today, it feels full. I’ve returned to calm again having cleaned off the terror from half an hour ago. Maybe it is possible to wash away the pain sometimes?

As I wait for the water to boil, I stand at the butcher-block island in the kitchen. I love the process of making coffee in my French press. I’m sure my coffee maker feels neglected, but I don’t care, I love doing it myself. It tastes better this way.

Just like everything does when I put in the effort, for example, this kitchen. I designed the interior of the entire house, but the kitchen was extra special, it was the one place Jake said he wouldn’t attempt to give any input because it was my territory. White cabinetry, slate counters, stainless appliances with splashes of Tiffany blue accents all around from the cookie jar to the Cuisinart. The floors are my piece de resistance—dark mahogany and heated; I always wanted heated floors.

There is safety in material things, at least I trick myself into thinking so. Being surrounded by beauty comforts me in some strange way. My home is like a loving parent, she’s always there, whatever I need and whenever I need it.

The shrill whistle of the teapot calls to me. The scent of the roast mixed with cinnamon fills the room with a promise of taste better than aroma; it usually does, I’m rarely disappointed.

My laptop under one arm, coffee in the other hand, I walk into the living room. The house is still dark but I know my way without even looking, I use my elbow to press the light switch to the lamps by the couch.

I snuggle into one end and open my computer. I check my emails from the day before—

An e-vite for a birthday party for Brooke.

Williams Sonoma 20% off linens sale.

An inspirational email from my mother.

Work correspondence with the furniture importer for the design center.

Confirmation for my writing class.

My therapist recommended it—Writing As Therapy. I’d shared with her how much I’ve always enjoyed writing.

Since I was a teenager I’ve journaled consistently, but in the last couple of years it has become my outlet, I need it. Without it I feel like a caged tiger, but when I finish an entry I’m released for a time—scrubbed clean like a good shower.

I begin the class in a few weeks, four Thursdays in a row at the Presbyterian church a few miles away. Why do support groups always meet in places of worship?  Why not a coffee shop or a bookstore? Can’t people heal and be saved amidst the well adjusted, normal folk? Or do we need to stay hidden, outcast from society?  Who decided I can’t go to therapy, share my loss and drink espresso at the same time?

I notice dawn leaking through the cracks in the shutters but I’m enjoying the dark, like it’s all for me. I’m not ready to meet the day yet.

Since last night, I’ve been thinking about the conversation Jen and I had over dinner, about letting go. We were debating whether letting go is an active choice or a subconscious one. Jen, the woman in control at all times believes it is a decision a person makes, that we are in control of our actions and our thoughts. She chose to move on from the death of her father when she decided it was time.

I said the opposite—that it is out of my control and when I stop trying to let go, stop thinking about letting go, I will and it will happen naturally. The jury is still out on this in my case, but I keep thinking back to the elephant and the day she started to live again.

Did she decide or was the decision made for her?

4-5-14 Journal Entry 

Letting Go?

I’ve got this fear of letting go,

Cause it would mean I have no control.

Lost in the flow,

Not knowing which way to go.

I attempt to move but I don’t,

Cause if I fall I can’t float.

Caged here drowning in the sand,

I try to claw my way outta this land.

I sink deeper in, no help from a hand,

I just keep wondering when,

When will I stop watching the moments?

The way of the clock is no matter.

Time is nothing when I’m aching.

There’s no value to the hour.

The minute I release my limits,

Without need for permission.

I lose strife,

Cut the tether with a knife.

No more holding on for dear life.

Letting go happens without realization,

Just one day I’ll turn around and I’ll be surrendering.  

~

My eyes adjust to waking. My computer screen is staring at me from the floor. I lift my head to see the time on the cable box—8:41 a.m.

I realize I’ve missed my opportunity to go to yoga, but I’m okay with it, I’m tired and sore from yesterday. I know Ben will be there next week and there is no rush ,plus I don’t want to come off as desperate for a friend.

I decide to get ready and go to work. Bonnie, my boss and owner of the store/design center—Nest has been one of my main supports over the past couple of years. She allowed me to take as much time as I needed after the accident.

Last year, I went back 10 hours a week and now I’m working everyday. It is my dream job I never dreamt of.

My mom always told me I was the creative, artistic type, but I never pursued this side of myself or defined myself as an artist. Instead, I majored in Psychology. I was always fascinated with the mind. Someone once told me, most people who become therapists and psychologist do so to figure themselves out and solve their own neurosis. That may have played a part in my motivation to study the psyche, but it was always bigger than that; I felt like a sleuth, decoding human thought and behavior patterns. Life had different plans for me after college and I never followed through with graduate school. I hung my detective hat to have a family.

After Sasha was born and Jake received his promotion at work, we decided it was time to renovate our house. Built and decorated in the 70s, it was in dire need of an update and some taste.

One afternoon, I decided to go poke around some furniture shops downtown and I walked into Nest.

Jake always said I had an eye and style that outbid our financial status, but I told him there was no harm in taking inspiration from the wealthy. Nest was exactly one of those stores—out of my price range and so was Bonnie; exquisitely dressed, accessorized to perfection just like the staged living room in the front of the store.

Her hair reminded me of Anna Wintour’s except it was frosted. Bonnie was petite, well taken care of by her Pilates teacher, personal chef and her husband of 35 years, yet on the inside she was solid in character, generous in heart and wise in spirit.

I saw through the outside straight to her inside as she did, me.

She took to me instantly and to Brooke, three-years-old and Sasha, six months old at the time.

I explained to her my vision—that I was willing to spend most of my budget on the kitchen and design the rest of my home on a bargain budget. She appreciated my savvy and invited I visit her again. Over the next four months, one visit turned into weekly visits. She furnished me with ideas as I decorated her with purpose—she longed for a daughter and grandchildren, it was an equal exchange.

I think she saw herself in me, she’s told me so.

At the end of that summer, her assistant went back to college and I asked if I could work for her. I asked spontaneously and she hired me in the same fashion. She paid for me to attend design school. That was six years ago and now I’m the lead designer at Nest.

Bonnie told me, “You either have a good eye or you don’t. You can’t create a good eye, but you can train a good eye to be a great eye.”  She’s done just that with me—trained me to be great. I love what I do, although I’m beginning to feel like I might be good at other things too.

As I walk into the store, Sadie meets me at the door. If a dog could be described as regal, she would be—beige as the oversized canvas couch by her side, her cocker spaniel coat coiffed as neatly as the chenille pillows upon it. She matches the store just like Bonnie.

“Hi Sadie!”  I reach down and pet her and she wags her nub of a tail, following me to the office in back.

“Hi sweety! Congrats on Karen’s! She called this morning to rave about you.” Bonnie looks past her Chanel reading glasses resting on the tip of her nose, her smile beaming. She smiles with her whole face.

“Thank you so much. She was easy to work with even though I still struggle sometimes to put my tastes to the side to please the client, you know? Always learning.” I shrug my shoulders and grin.

“Well, you certainly didn’t let on at all, she was a satisfied customer. There is someone coming in for a consult today, a gentleman. He should be here in the next few minutes. He just moved into a new place and says he needs some help.”

“Ok. I could use some more clients these days. I’d like to take the girls away this summer, I’m thinking July, for the month. Would that be ok?” 

“Of course. We will plan for it, you deserve a break and I know you’re coming up on another anniversary.” Her smile disappears, replaced with an empathetic loving gaze.

I nod my head. Sadie is still by my side. She always is when I’m in the store, my shadow.

“Thank you for being so wonderful to me.”

“It’s not a thank you kind of thing honey, we are family.” 

She’s right, we are.

I hear the bell on the front door, “dink, dink, dink.” 

I walk past the cloud of teak cabinetry as the horizon clears; I guess I was supposed to see him before Monday.

“Leah? Do you remember me from yesterday at yoga? Are you my designer?” His eyes and smile were the same, but he was dressed as I imagined he would, outside of yoga. He looked important in a casual way, a pressed blue golf shirt and slacks.

How could he think I would forget him?

“I guess I am! Hi Ben,” I extend my hand, he opens his arms. We embrace.

“I was not expecting to see you, I’m a little surprised.” I try to contain my excited relief.

“Well, aren’t those the best surprises? When you least expect them?” He chuckles and winks.

“They certainly are. Ok, well come this way let’s sit and talk about what you’re looking for.” 

The days I wake before sunrise, they really are the most graceful days.

To be continued.

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