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I stare into my own eyes from the mirror hanging on the wall at the other side of the room. My limp hair droops to my shoulders like the skin of a malnourished child. I try twisting it into a knot, wanting to see my features clearly and wishing it was the same as five years back. Just who am I lying to? In the mirror, a face I can’t recognize stares back.
I see a long face, with eyes that used to be filled with life and boisterous energy. I see full lips that had never failed to catch the attention of the successful prospects. I thought I would be having a long enjoyable life of luxury, work life and a continual stepping up on my career ladder. Now, all I have are fallen dreams and my dusty high school degree; I couldn’t graduate from Mysteryvile University.
I let my hair fall back to its place, as twisting it wasn’t working. What am I thinking anyway? I am in a whole different world now and I don’t know if I should be excited or sad about it.
I walk to the kitchen, resuming my daily responsibility of being a great wife and an amazing mother. This morning, my husband, Bob, hums to himself as he goes through today’s paper. How I wish that was all. Without a care in the world, my two-year-old son, Timmy, is busy taking the straws out of the jar and tossing them to the floor. He looks so excited doing it like he has no idea how hard I work putting them all back in.
Well, he has no idea.
It is on these types of days I feel I made a mistake.
The whole house stinks. Every single time I try to make the smell go away, it comes right back like an enduring symbol, laughing in my face. It haunts me even in my sleep as I struggle to find the perfect spot where I would be free from both the stink and my husband’s snore.
My son suddenly gets off the chair, holding on to its legs to keep himself steady. He slowly walks over to me when he achieves that, staring at me with his big brown eyes. I pick him up, understanding he is bored and needs a source of entertainment. My husband would have helped, but it is a rule not to disturb him when he goes through the morning’s papers.
The hissing of the kettle almost submerged my husband’s hums and I put my son back on his seat in haste to prepare breakfast so my husband can go to work. Timmy’s wails overtake the kitchen, threatening to take the roof down. I cast a look at my husband, but he doesn’t even see it. He doesn’t see me struggling to make breakfast and be with Timmy at the same time. He doesn’t see me constantly checking the timer on the washer so that I can take the laundry out.
But he does sometimes notice when he is not busy hurrying off to work or back from the office and wanting nothing but rest. And this only happens once a week. How do I tell him that it isn’t enough?
Timmy’s wails get louder, and I turn off the cooker and go to him. He needs to keep it quiet so his father can read in silence. Just then, my 7-month-old baby wakes up from sleep, deciding to summon me in her high-pitched wails. I sighed, staring at my husband for a response and getting none as expected.
I walk to the bedroom fuming, angry at myself and all my decisions. I love my children and husband, but it could have been different. This could have been different. But now I am stuck here, all alone in my head. This isn’t what I had planned for myself.
My husband comes into the room with a bowl of cereal, Timmy at his heels.
“I guess you have your hands full already. I sorted out breakfast.” He grins in the way he knows I like, his dimple all on display. It reminds me of how quick and hard I fell in love, and I forgo scolding him for failing to remember that Timmy had cereal last night.
He grins again, then bends to give his daughter a noisy kiss on her forehead.
“I’m going to be late today. Our clients from Calitain are going to be present and it is mandatory that I stay back and sort out some things with them.”
“But I need help here, babe.”
“I know, Bella, but this is important. I promise to help you out during the weekend.” He picks up his briefcase and kisses me goodbye.
It was a good thing he always dropped off Timmy at school.
Now, who is going to make breakfast for me? Don’t I deserve that too?
I stare at my daughter, silently hoping that she will have the freedom to choose what life she wants for herself because I didn’t have that.
It was a situational decision. One I couldn’t shy away from. My husband walked into my life, all smiles, and dimples. There was no way I was going to be able to withstand that. We found out I was pregnant a few months before graduation and even though I wasn’t prepared to be a mother, abortion was out of the question. The bills started piling up and all my hopes of running a career alongside my home were nowhere to be found.
And now, we’re here, cleaning poop off the floor and in the process, smelling of poop too.
I dreamt of leaving Mysteryvile after my graduation, climbing the success ladder all the way through. I wanted a life without any form of restraints; one where I could fly like a bird. The same life that my friend, Nancy, now has.
I pick up my phone, dialing Nancy’s number. I suddenly need to hear her voice.
“What’s up, girl?” I am prepared to launch into a long conversation; anything to take my mind off the fact that there is still a ton of work to be done around the house.
“Hey, Bella! How’re the children?”
I know she means it in good faith, as Nancy has always been the caring one. But why must that be the first thing she asks? Shouldn’t she ask about how I’m faring and if I need something? Isn’t that what friendship is?
I shouldn’t take it all out on Nancy, but I can’t seem to help it. She has this perfect life going on for her while I’m stuck changing diapers.
“Don’t you think you should ask about me first? The kids aren’t running away.”
“Bella, here we go again. You’re not running away either, are you?” Nancy said
“Being a mother and a wife is hard.” I said
“Bella, you seem not to understand what you possess. You have a beautiful home, with a husband that adores you and cooing kids all around. Look around, Bella. You have people you can communicate and share a bond with. That is amazing. I’m here, stuck with stacks of papers and colleagues that do not care if I have had breakfast or not.”
My daughter’s common warning signs begin, and I know I need to get her all washed up if I want a peaceful morning.
“Give me a sec, Nancy.”
I connect my phone to my ear pods, walking into the bathroom with my demanding baby in my arms.
“How’s your mom?” I ask, trying to change the discussion. My complaints about my marriage aren’t a topic I want to enthusiastically talk to Nancy about. She makes it seem
I have a perfect life, but I get this nagging hunch each time she does it. It feels like she derives pleasure in making fun of me and my situation.
Well, I cannot blame her. I made a mistake.
“Mom is doing great. I flew her in today in the company’s private jet. She is currently taking a nap in my villa. We will meet up for dinner when I’m done here. Do you want me to Facetime you then so you could speak to her?”
My cheeks warm-up from embarrassment and I am happy she cannot see me right now. Why does she always have to tell me about her trips in jets, alongside all the benefits that come with working with Gevi group of companies. She knew, that was where I wanted to work, so why does she have to rub it in my face?
Why do I never tell her these things?
Maybe I am just too scared to face the truth.
I get up, done with the bath routine. A part of my skirt gets soaked with water and I try to squeeze it out before going back into the room.
“Why did your mom have to come to see you?” I ask, busying my hands with getting my kid dressed up. She fusses a lot, protesting when I try to make her lay on her back. She is one hell of a fighter.
“She had been calling me to come home to her, but my job just hadn’t permitted me.” I heard some shuffles in the background for a second and then it was gone. “There was this one time I managed to get permission to stay off work for a day. I was with Mum when I received a call to get on the next plane to take care of an emergency. Mum was angry”
“Hmmm.” I place my kid in her makeshift bed, going to stand in front of the mirror again. Imagining myself receiving a call to take the next flight to work, I roll my eyes in exhaustion, imagining that would have been my reaction. Puckering my lips, I flip my hair in a theatrical move, knowing a haughty walk-off will be incomplete without that move.
“So, what did you do?”
“I had no choice but to get on the plane. It was the most unplanned trip ever. I couldn’t even change out of the casual outfit I had on and had to spend the rest of the day in joggers and sweats.”
I smile to myself, intrigued that she even has the time to dress in sweats. Here, there is no way that is happening when it isn’t winter. After just an hour, it will be nicely decorated with biscuit crumbs, baby food, breast milk stains, or God forbid, poop. It happens.
I hear a shuffle in the background again, but this one last longer than the first. She quietly apologizes to someone. I can tell she’s on her feet as I hear the chair scrape against the ground. The next disruption is the sound of the photocopier.
I sigh, wondering if nature seeks to remind me of where I would have been constantly.
I wait a few minutes, deciding to speak when I don’t hear her anymore.
“Is there anything wrong, Nancy?”
“Oh... I’m sorry. I totally forgot we were talking.”
“As expected,” I mumble under my breath, annoyed that once again, in a million times, I have been forgotten.
“Can I call you back later, Bella? I have a business meeting now and I will be sanctioned if I do not get to it.”
I end the call without giving any reply. There isn’t any need to, as I can tell she is already halfway out of her office while informing me.
Clumsily, I go back to the bed, resting my head on the soft feather pillow. My hand hit the bedding, and I feel the pain from the impact. Everything seems to be capable of hurting me these days: the light from the bulbs, the water from my child’s bath and most upsetting, Nancy’s job. She has it all