Balance

byoshaw©

Barbara Lovett could hardly fathom what was going on in her surroundings. It registered with her that her teenaged daughter, Linda was sitting by her at the kitchen table crying. Opposite from Barbara, at the table sat her husband, Richard; he was still talking, but, Barbara had stopped listening to him. Instead she continued to replay the words that had recently destroyed hers and her daughter's world.

It had started out so ordinary a day. Barbara was preparing breakfast as Linda came into the kitchen. Linda lazily plopped down in her chair and watched as her mom fried bacon, and then cooked eggs in the bacon grease. Warm cathead biscuits sat waiting in a basket to be buttered and spread with jelly. All that was missing was Richard.

As they waited for Richard to make an appearance, Barbara and Linda took the opportunity to talk; most of the conversation was centered on Linda's attraction to a boy that had finally noticed Linda. As Barbara amusedly listened to her daughter's scheme to have Henry finally ask her out on a date as she put the finishing touches to the breakfast.

Soon she would go upstairs to wake Richard to come down to eat. Things had gotten bumpy lately between her and Richard and despite all her efforts, she didn't seem able to get them on track. She had tried to entice him for weeks into making love to her. Some nights, he would be an avid participant; on others, he would beg off.

On those nights, she would try to cuddle with him and try to get him to tell her what was bothering him. Usually, he would claim stress from work and roll over to go to sleep. She didn't have any success talking to him after work, because he was working incredibly long hours. She was beginning to feel guilty for trying to demand his time, but, more and more; she was at a loss how to show her support to her husband.

She concentrated on making sure all was well in the household. Clothes were promptly laundered, his favorite meals prepared, house all spic and span. Yet he continued to be oblivious to all her efforts. Still, she resolved to do her best and weather this storm. That was the idea behind this Sunday's breakfast. Perhaps a family meal could kickstart things to the right direction.

She heard steps coming from the stairs and drew her breath, mentally preparing herself as her husband approached. The smile on her face froze as she noticed the grim look on his face. He sat down at the table and ignored the food in front of him. He asked Linda to leave the room and something in the way he said it made Linda refuse to obey his command. Once again, he ordered her from the room and Linda resisted until she asked Linda to leave. Linda retreated from sight and then Richard delivered the words, no couple wanted to hear, "We need to talk."

She sat down wondering what this conversation was going to be about. She didn't have long to find out.

"Barbara, there's no easy way to say this, but, I'm unhappy here and I've found someone who makes me happy. I want a divorce."

No sooner than he got these words out of his mouth, than Linda, who had been eavesdropping came screaming into the room. Barbara remained stunned from the words as she tried to process them. Linda continued to cry, asking her father why he was doing this. Richard was unsettled as he hadn't expected to be put on the defensive by his daughter.

He kept repeating that he had found someone he was in love with and wanted to spend his life with her. The answer did little to placate Linda as she demanded to know why he didn't love them anymore. Richard explained that he would always love Linda, but, sometimes people grew apart, and that was what happened to him and her mother.

Linda refused to accept the answer and asked it over a number of different ways. The answer was always the same. He wasn't in love with Barbara anymore. Finally, Linda ran out of the kitchen and went upstairs and slammed the door to her bedroom shut.

In the silence that overtook the kitchen, Richard quietly explained that he would be leaving that morning. Tomorrow, when she was at work, he would come by to collect his things. In a couple of days, she would be served with the divorce papers and then it would be in the hands of the lawyers. As he got up to leave and walk out of the kitchen, Barbara spoke.

"Richard, what did I do to deserve this?" she said to his back. He paused, and then continued to walk out of the kitchen and left in his car. Barbara remained sitting at the table as though she was in a catatonic state. Twice she heard the grandfather clock chime in a new hour and still she remained sitting.

Realizing, she hadn't seen or heard from Linda in a while, she got up and went to Linda's room. She lightly tapped on the door and opened it. Linda was lying on top of her bed, facing away from Barbara, still sobbing. Barbara got on the bed and held her and consoled her as Linda continued to cry.

"Why doesn't he love you anymore, Mommy?"

Barbara hugged her daughter and told her, "Hush Baby, everything will be all right." Barbara wasn't sure she convinced Linda. She certainly hadn't convinced herself. They remained on the bed for a long time until finally Barbara felt the need to occupy her time. She went downstairs and mechanically began to clean the kitchen.

She dumped all the food she had prepared this morning and then hand washed all the pans and utensils she had used. Then she decided the kitchen floor needed mopping. She wound up spending the entire day mopping the house. When she finally quit, it was nighttime and Barbara crawled into bed fully clothed and cried herself to sleep.

Monday, she woke early and followed her usual routine of taking a shower and getting ready to go to school to teach her second grade class. This was the last week of class before the summer vacation began. She ate a couple of slices of toast to settle her stomach as Linda came into the kitchen and gave her a long hug. Linda left to catch a ride to school with her friend Beverly leaving Barbara all alone in the decrepit old mansion. Finally, she could put it off no longer and she left to go to work.

The cheerful, loving faces of her students were the only thing that got her through the day. During the lunch break, she broke her habit of being engaging and charming in the teacher's lounge and sat by herself staring out the window. Even though she was hypersensitive to any hint that the news of her marital breakup was circulating; she knew her behavior wasn't helping matters.

She left to go home as soon as the bell rang to end the day. True to his word, Richard had been in the house and all of his belongings were gone. Once again, she collapsed in her bed, refusing to move until Linda got home. She told Linda she didn't feel like cooking and for her to order them a pizza to be delivered. Linda went downstairs and an hour later came up to tell her the pizza had arrived. Barbara remained on the bed and told Linda to save her a couple of slices.

Another hour passed and Linda announced she was going over to see Beverly. Barbara didn't bother giving her the usual admonishments of when to be home and just told her, she would see her later.

At 3:00 a.m., she woke up and stumbled to Linda's room to assure herself that her child was at home, safe and sound. Safe and sound, that term had gained an ironic twist now as she made her way to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and eat her overdue supper of cold pizza.

At 6:00 a.m., she began her preparations to go to work. That was how the last week passed. By the end of the week she was sure that the news had gotten out as she caught a number of her fellow teachers staring at her or having whispered conversations outside her hearing range. Barbara was still too numb to be angry or offended. All she wanted to do was to end this hellish week.

Her daughter, Linda was becoming increasingly concerned for her mother's well being. But being 15-years-old she was at a loss on how to get her mother back. The weekend passed in an uneasy coexistence in the house. Linda kept out of the way of her mother so as to not add to her stress level. Barbara kept trying to find a way to reach her daughter and to comfort her, but, how could she convey a feeling she, herself did not feel.

Monday morning, Barbara noticed that they had ran out of Linda's cereal. She made a mental note to go to the supermarket. Since she had to go, she made a list to go ahead and shop to cover the entire week. As she approached the market, she noticed her low fuel light appear on her car's dashboard. She decided to fill up once she had gotten through with her shopping.

Barbara strolled through the market at her leisure as she comparison shopped and looked for the best bargains. When she reached the sales register, her cart was chock full of groceries. The total was close to $200 dollars. She handed the clerk her debit card and the clerk swiped the card and waited for the approval to appear.

After 30 seconds, the clerk frowned and punched in some numbers and reswiped the card. Again, nothing happened and the clerk tried a third time. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Lovett, but, the bank isn't letting this transaction go through.

A confused Barbara asked, "What do you mean it isn't accepting this transaction?"

"Ma'am, I tried running this all three times and this card isn't working. Would you like to try another card?" As Barbara fumbled open her purse, she heard the grumbles of the disgruntled shoppers waiting behind her. She gave the clerk her credit card and waited anxiously for the clerk to give her the sales receipt so she could leave the store.

"Ma'am, I'm afraid this card has been cancelled." the clerk announced.

"But, but, that isn't possible!" Barbara sputtered, "Please, try this one!" As she handed over the third card, the shoppers behind opened into rebellion and told her to hurry up.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Lovett, this card is showing it is cancelled as well."

Barbara Lovett stood transfixed and mortified as someone yelled, "Jesus Christ!" behind her. The clerk was on the intercom requesting the manager to come to the sales counter. Behind her, the shoppers dispersed to other lines. She heard one person call her a stupid bitch. Finally, the manager arrived and the clerk explained what had happened. The manager looked to Barbara for an explanation.

"Look, I've been shopping here for over five years. I don't know what is going on, but, if you let me pay for this with my personal check, I'll make sure there will be no further problems with my cards!"

The manager looked at her sadly and said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Lovett, but when we have an indication, that a customer lacks funds it is the policy of the store to refuse to accept a check. I'm afraid, we will have to restock all this." he said to the clerk.

She walked out in utter humiliation and as she got in her car, she reached for her cell phone which had been charging to call Richard and find out what was going on. She hit the speed dial and a foreign animated voice came on and announced that service to this number had been cancelled.

She started her car and the low fuel light reminded her of the perilous state of her vehicle. All the way home she prayed she would have enough gas to make it home. She gave a sigh of relief as she stopped the vehicle in the driveway. An unhappy Linda was waiting outside sitting on the front porch.

"Momma" she cried, "the utilities truck came by and turned off the power, gas, and water to the house! I tried to call you, but my phone has been turned off!"

The final confirmation of Richard's malice sunk through to Barbara as she stood completely overwhelmed on how she and her daughter were going to survive. She saw a deputy sheriff's car pull up to the house and a man in uniform began walking to her. Perhaps she could persuade him to convince Richard to stop this torment.

"Mrs. Barbara Lovett, you have been served."

He placed some paperwork in her hand and walked back to his car. Listless, Barbara walked into her house, as so as she got in the hallway she dropped all the divorce paperwork to the floor and it scattered throughout the hallway.

Her thought process was shutting down from the overload of stress and emotional hammer blows she had suffered. Unknowingly, she was desperate to find someway to cope as she went into her bedroom. For some reason, she found herself sorting through her closet, until she found her old pair of running shoes.

Barbara began to remember the pleasure she had when she was running. Of course, that was in college, before she met Richard. So many things had happened; her marriage, giving birth to Linda, her mother passing away, moving back to her hometown of Warrenton. It seemed there was always something that was preventing her from running, but, now at this point, absolutely nothing was stopping her.

She dug out some old shorts and sweat pants and forced her body into the garb. She had put on a few pounds since the last time she had worn them. There was no way she had a sports bra big enough to contain her 38 DD's, so she would have to make do with her regular bra, as she struggled to put on a sweatshirt.

She found one last pair of thin athletic socks and she bent over to put on the shrunken, brittle leather shoes that immediately bit into her feet. She ignored the discomfort; she was so intense on trying to recapture a good memory.

Without warming up or stretching, she slowly began jogging down the street. She had a vague goal of running to Lake Warrenton, a distance of ten miles from her house. When she was young, in high school, she could run the distance with little effort. In her youth, nothing could stop her as the miles flew away beneath her feet.

As she reached the end of the block, she was breathing heavily. Still she continued to struggle onward as she limped through the old town area. Storm clouds began brewing up in the far horizon and Barbara continued onward. By the time she reached the end of the city limits, she was wheezing as the vehicles roared by her on the highway. Every fourth or fifth vehicle would be an 18-wheeler that would buff her progress as the windlash hit her.

She still stumbled on as the raindrops began to fall. At first, the rain was welcomed as it cooled off her overheated body. But then totally drenched, she shivered as the deluge from the storm continued. Then car would hit potholes, splashing her with muddy water.

Barbara's pace lessened as every portion of her body ached. The shoes were torturing her feet as she tried to gingerly take steps. Her unused muscles ached and cramped, screaming at her brain to stop. Her lungs were burning from oxygen deprivation as her tits painfully slapped into the side of her torso. The rain turned into a mixture of hailstones and she felt the painful welts as they pelted her body. Then the sole of her left shoe gave way and separated from the shoe. Barbara stumbled as she tried to continue to run with the flopping of the sole against her rain soaked foot. Her motions began to work against her as she finally hit a large pothole that tripped her into falling into the gravel shoulder of the highway.

She skidded to a stop against the rough gravel, bleeding and crying, and utterly defeated. As she laid prone on the shoulder, she lifted her hand to signal to the oncoming traffic to stop and give her assistance.

But, no one stopped. Vehicle after vehicle passed her as she begged them to stop. Still the heartless traffic moved away from her on toward their destinations. She was weakening and she didn't know how long she would remain conscious. She used the last of her strength to roll over to sit up. Her dirty torn garb hung heavy, wet, and cold on her body. Still she tried to flag down a Good Samaritan.

Several times, she could sense cars slowing down which raised her hopes needlessly as they would speed up past her. She had no idea how long she had been out there, when finally, a car slowed and stopped by her on the shoulder. She lifted her muddy face and recognized Richard's car. She reached out a beseeching arm toward the vehicle, when her attention was diverted to his passenger. An attractive brunette stared at her with a triumphant smile on her face as the car rolled away and picked up speed to merge into the traffic.

She sobbed as she lost sight of the vehicle and hung her head down. She stopped trying to flag someone down and she continued to sit and traffic sped by. She vaguely heard the sound of a motor close to her and then she felt someone lifting her and carefully putting her into the seat of a truck. Her unknown benefactor produced a warm woolen blanket and draped it around her. Then as the truck began to move, a blast of warm air came through the vent to warm up her chilled body.

She had no idea where she was, who she was with, or where she was being taken as she surrendered to the warmth and drifted off to sleep. When she woke, she was in her bed, her body cleaned and her injuries bandaged. She noticed Linda staring at her. Linda put a dinner tray on the bed and began to feed her some tasty homemade chicken noodle soup.

"Linda, what happened?"

"Hush Momma, you just get some more soup in you, right now." Linda ordered as she fed another spoonful to her mother. Barbara savored the hot soup nourishing her and soon the entire bowl was finished. Satisfied, she shifted her body which caused pain from every pore on her body. "Be careful, Momma, we don't need you bleeding again!" Linda cautioned.

Barbara groaned from the effort. She looked up at the ceiling and noticed the light was on. "Linda, how did the lights get turned back on?"

"Momma, it's all taken care of, you just relax and get better." Linda replied. As Barbara laid down in the plush bed, she heard the clatter of someone downstairs. Tomorrow, if she felt better, she would ask Linda what was going on as she drifted off to sleep.

When she woke, it was late Tuesday afternoon and she was alone in the room. On her dresser, her cellphone was blinking that she had a text message. She opened the message and read the short message from Linda. Linda said that she was with Beverly and she would be back within an hour.

At least, she had phone service. She wondered what had changed Richard's mind. Could it have been that seeing how pathetic she was yesterday triggered some guilt feeling on his part? Who was that woman that was with him? Was she the woman Richard was replacing her with?

Before she could figure out any of the answers to her questions, she heard the sounds of power tools starting up from downstairs. She frowned, Linda was capable of doing anything, but, she doubted that would include power tools. She attempted to get up, but, the pain from her injuries quickly convinced her to lie still on the mattress.

Then she noticed the strange object attached to her wall. A large flat screen TV was bracketed on the wall. Then she noticed the TV remote on her end table. This had to be an apology gift from Richard! Maybe, he had reconsidered and came back home! She turned on the TV and noticed that she had access to every station on the cable. Richard had even thought to upgrade their service, as she settled back to watch TV and fall back asleep.

When she woke up Linda was sitting watching TV on the new set. "Hey, Mom, are you hungry?" Before Barbara could answer Linda jumped up and ran down stairs. She came back carrying a heavy laden food tray. She set the tray up for Barbara to eat.

Pork chop, mashed potatoes, green bean, corn, and homemade biscuits were piled on the plate. An ice cold glass of sweet tea completed the meal. Linda said, "It's been staying warm in the oven. When you get through, there's peach cobbler waiting for you."

Barbara sampled her first bite and quickly dug in to the rest of the meal. As soon as she was finished, Linda went downstairs and then came up with a bowl of homemade peach cobbler topped with ice cream. The dessert melted in her mouth and she made noises of satisfaction all the way through devouring the tasty treat.

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byoshaw© 125 comments/ 126324 views/ 77 favorites

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