I’m cheating. This is the beginning of what I hoped would be a novel in short stories, different tenses, different perspectives, different people. I’m hoping that by putting it here I will be motivated to write the next parts and finish a story that needs to be told.
This was not at all the way she thought it would be. As she draped an oversized t-shirt over her thin body she recalled the horror of her wedding night; first the bliss in the temple and the joy of being David forever and then the rush of the reception, the cake, the dancing. She waded through those patiently, trying to savor every moment but eagerly awaited what was to come, when they were alone in their honeymoon suite.
It wasn’t exactly as she imagined. David’s impotence resulted in an early, frustrated bedtime with the promise of everything being fine in the morning. Cara smiled and told him it was okay, that they’d figure it out, that they had their whole lives ahead of them for sex, but secretly she was dying. It wasn’t easy, waiting eighteen years to have sex. Cara met David right before he left on his mission, and she kept writing him dutiful letters every day until her respect for a lonely missionary turned to affection and then to love. He sent her a letter saying he wanted her to be his eternal bride, complete with paper engagement ring on July 7th, eleven months before he returned home from his mission. They had never gone to dinner, never kissed, never embraced. The closest physical contact they had was a chaste, firm handshake. It didn’t matter to Cara, she was elated. She wore her paper ring every waking moment and when her eighteenth birthday came, just months before David was to come home she proudly turned away the RM’s who wanted to steal her away. She had no intention of Dear Johning or Bye Georging David. He was the one.
Looking back she wondered how her eighteen year old self could know. She was barely out of high school when he came back, she had never voted, though was eager to have a voice, and had plans to attend BYU in the fall and make something great of herself. Perhaps she would become a music therapist, or a teacher, or psychologist. Those plans would be foiled by Felicity. Felicity was their honeymoon baby, begotten on the final night. David prayed for an hour with her before anything happened, before he was even capable of performing. In the first thirty-seven seconds of their lovemaking Cara wondered at the beauty of it, of the two souls melting into one, but by the thirty-eighth second it was over, and thirty eight weeks later Felicity was born. She marveled at couples who tried and tried to conceive, for her it had been so easy. Too easy. She wished that they could have tried, practiced, over and over until the nights became days, that his impotence would turn to ravishment and she would feel fulfilled, instead of feeling like the nanny and housekeeper to the holy, perfect man that everyone saw.
He apologized of course, said he just had too much on his mind. But that wasn’t what she wanted to hear, that night or any night. He apologized every time. It was like a ritual, passion, disappointment, apology. The same song and dance of four years.
“I’m going to read the scriptures and go to bed,” he said, nonchalantly after she was cleaned and clothed, up and about. “Will you say a prayer with me?”
She silently crossed her arms and pretended to pray with him, but instead begged God for some release from this pit. She wanted something, anything. She would have been satisfied with the crumbs of God dropped from His heavenly table to her place on earth. But maybe that was Felicity, maybe she was her crumb.
The amen finally came and Cara left, stalked out of the room and waltzed into Felicity’s. She was an angel, pillowed in the pink silk sheets she had insisted on. She was convinced that she was going to be a penguin when she grew up, and had begged for them so she could practice her slide. Felicity reached down to catch a strand of hair and to tuck it back but stopped herself, instead she settled onto the floor next to the tiny heart shaped table that was littered with construction paper and art supplies.
She picked up a salmon crayon and drew. Felicity was almost four and they littered the floor like insects, swarming, taking over. She captured herself on the page, light brown hair with a slight wave, hazel eyes wrapped in dark lashes that everyone always assumed were coated in mascara, but had never touched a drop. She sketched her thin body, breasts that never recovered their B cup from breast feeding and were solidly a C, small waste juxtaposed against the soft fold of skin that no amount of abs and toning would unfold, the cost of her beautiful daughter, non-existent butt and bird legs. She carefully used the white crayon to color in the garments, and then a simple skirt and top that blended awkwardly with the white. She remembered high school art class and how she wanted, above anything to sit on a balcony and just sketch and paint, to capture the world in a page. Instead she herself was captured, trapped by the world and the life she had accidently chosen.
Around herself she drew a box. She imagined herself in that box, breathing up each last breath until there wasn’t any left. She made a tiny peephole in the box, small enough for a tendril of air to seep through. She wasn’t even twenty-two yet and she was a mother. She wasn’t even twenty-two yet and she felt trapped in an unhappy marriage. She wasn’t even twenty-two yet and she was the wife of a bishop. She tried to gather the pieces of her mind and figure out where things went wrong, but after a few minutes she realized she couldn’t think of a time when things went right, except for maybe Felicity. Felicity had her walk, her strange patterns of speech. She had her tree brown hair and dimple on the left cheek. She mispronounced aminal and pasgetti and disonaur in the same beautiful ways Cara did until she was twelve and someone had the heart to correct her. She preferred strawberries to chocolate and sunshine to rain. Felicity was all hers, the only thing that came from David was his baby blue eyes, though Cara convinced herself that they would fade to hazel or brown the way kitten eyes do. The more time she spent with and away from her husband the more she was certain that an eternity would be far too long.
And she was angry. She was angry at herself for jumping into a marriage with someone she hardly knew, she was angry at her parents for not knowing better and stopping her, she was angry at her friends who smiled empty smiles and tell her how wonderful they were together, she was angry at their so called marriage counselor who told them over and over again the more involved with church they were the happier they would be. This was just wonderful news for David. He took to the bishopric with style and grace and everyone loved him. Everyone, that is, except his wife.
She couldn’t be angry at David, not quite. She tried, every day. But being angry at him was like being angry at Felicity, the minute those innocent blue eyes flashed there was nothing more to say, no stubbornness or pride or sensibility. God, she wanted to be angry at him. Wanted to hit him, to scream, to beg for her life back. She could divorce him, take Felicity away. But divorce was a four letter word in the church, and no one would understand. She could hear the condescending voices of relief society asking what happened, and she would have nothing to say. She wouldn’t want the attention, wouldn’t want them to whisper behind her back. As it was now she was still the golden girl, wife of the bishop, mother of this beautiful child, maker of the best cherry pies in the stake. Forgiveness wouldn’t come easy, or at all. She would be shunned from her playgroups and penniless, as she had little more than a high school education and a love for watercolors. It wasn’t feasible, but neither was staying here, in this house, in this place, in this life.
On the box she drew a weight. She could feel it bending the feeble lines that protecting her from being crushed, from being completely destroyed. She had never wanted anything more, anything more than an ending such as this. Suffocation wasn’t enough. She needed to relish in the beauty of her own destruction, though she couldn’t tell if there was anything left to destroy. She imagined a world with no air, a world made of water. She could feel herself swimming down, down, down to the depths to her own end and for a moment she felt happiness as the weight of the water liquefied her insides until she was water, until she was part of everything around her. She was free.
Little voice, like a bird’s.
“Why are you crying?”
“Because I’m so happy.”
“Why are you so happy?”
Why, she wondered.
“Because we’re going on an adventure.” She made a quick inventory of things she might need, for any and all situation. “We’re going on a secret adventure; we have to be very quiet.”
Felicity stretched and slid out of bed. “Is Daddy coming with us?”
“No baby, it’s just me and you.”
“Cool!” Felicity ran to the shelf next to her dresser. “Can I bring Mr. Sprinkles?”
Cara smiled. She nodded, “Yes, but remember, we have to be very quiet.”
“Okay Mommy,” Felicity whispered, and tiptoed to her dresser, pulling out different things to bring. Cara went downstairs and grabbed a roll of trash bags; systematically filling them with everything she could thing of needing. Shoes, dresses, toothbrushes, clean underwear, the easiest things for road eating out of their food storage and put each bag, one by one into the bag of their CRV. When she was satisfied, she tucked Felicity into her car seat and went into the house one last time.
She breathed in the air. She could feel it tickle her lungs for the first time, like it was the first time she had ever really breathed. She took the same piece of construction paper, box, weight and all and crayoned “Goodbye” in blue. She laid it on the kitchen table, but then thought better of it and folded up the paper and put it in her pocket. Goodbyes require hellos, just like ends require beginnings. With David, there was none of that, thus deserved none of that.
She smiled, and stepped outside. The crisp Utah air tasted like wonderful, like mint leaves in spring. She made a quick inventory of places to go, of people to see. She could think of a million miles that would be a place better traveled, a home better lived. She would go to school, get a job, and give Felicity the life she deserved, give herself the life she deserved. A life of love, a life of happiness, a life of air.