Cheryl sat in the living room mindlessly listening to the weatherman's weather report and sipping her morning coffee while watching the snow make snowcaps out of the cars parked outside. They should have cancelled school she thought, but this surprise snowstorm had fooled everyone. She could have used another hour's sleep instead of having had to drive the kids to school earlier. She dreaded picking up her children from school later, especially if they haven't had a chance to plow the roads. Now, she wished she had kept them home today.
"There's a slight chance of snow later today," he said startling her to react.
"Slight chance of snow? Look out the window, dumb ass. It's a freakin' blizzard." She stared with contempt at the television. "With all your advanced degrees, computers, and radar, you still can't give an accurate forecast," she said continuing her tirade at the weatherman's image. "It's time to open the Farmers' Almanac or to count the spots on the back of a beetle or to look to see how high the birds are building their nests. The animals know more about the weather than you do, moron."
She was angry, but not with him. She was angry with her personal situation and frustrated with her life. Instead of her time on the planet getting better, it was stuck in neutral and had been for the past few years. She thought things would be better when they bought this house and moved into this neighborhood and she was happier for a while. Only now, the additional expenses required that her husband work longer hours. She saw him more when they rented the small apartment on the other side of town.
She was happier before they bought the house...the house...the house. Their thoughts, their conversation, their energy, and their money were all pent up in the house. A house had suddenly defined their existence, given new purpose and meaning to their marriage, and had taken control of their lives. Emotions misplaced from the emptiness of their relationship suddenly manifested itself into an enclosed and claustrophobically confined structure of high walls, draped windows, and closed doors. With mortgage payments, insurance, repairs, and maintenance, the house was now an all consuming member of their family, a living, breathing entity of unrelenting burden, pressure, and expense.
She thought buying this dream house would make her happy. Now, she was miserable. She removed her kids from the school they loved and left all their and her friends behind to move here to a better neighborhood. Only, the people in this neighborhood all had more than they had and with their plastic smiles and cool demeanors were standoffish because of it. It's funny, she thought, how you don't know how happy you are until you lose what you had and it's too late to get it back.
You can never go back. Even if you tried, those who you left behind will never let you back in to experience the way that it was before. There is a price to pay when shedding your old skin and abandoning your life for a new one. You've changed and the dynamics have changed enough that you no longer belong there. That simple thought calmed her and she considered her present situation, now thinking that this may be her happy time compared to what the future may hold in store for her.
"Enjoy the moment," she said for no one to here. "You should have a problem. Everyone is healthy."
The florist van that entered her line of vision and stopped in front of her house reminded her that it was Valentine's Day. She put her coffee cup down on the coaster on the side table and jumped up. She looked in the mirror, fixed her hair, adjusted the tie tighter on her bathrobe, and looked out the window again before unlocking and opening the door.
It had been years since her husband had bought her flowers. She couldn't remember exactly when, but it was before they bought the house. Then, she remembered he bought her flowers the day after he stayed out late and came home drunk. It was a cheap bouquet that he picked up at a roadside flower stand and the flowers lasted not much longer than his passion did that night in bed. This was different. He never bought her flowers from a florist before. Something is up. Maybe, he got a promotion or a raise. Maybe, he's having an affair and this is a bouquet of guilt.
Quickly, she ran to the kitchen to grab her purse for a tip and ran back to the front door in time to see the deliveryman emerge from the back of the van holding a big vase with two dozen roses as white and as fresh as the falling snow.
"Oh, they are so beautiful. He remembered that white roses are my favorite," she said smiling widely with her hand perched on the doorknob while leaning to peer out the door's side window to watch for his arrival and to time her look of surprise. She hadn't had white roses since her wedding day.
Phil is so sweet, she thought. He shouldn't have, but I'm so glad he did. What a nice surprise. That's why he didn't give me the usual candy and card in the morning before he left for work, so as not to spoil this surprise of flowers. I'll reward him later with a blowjob tonight.
Her neighbor Gayle will be so jealous, she thought with a pang of one-upmanship. She decided to prominently display the flowers on her coffee table so that everyone who walked by the house would see them from her living room window. Even better, she thought about inviting her over for coffee so that she could see the beautiful bouquet up close.
"Oh, my flowers, yes, they are beautiful, aren't they," she imagined the conversation between Gayle and her. "Phil is such a romantic. He's always buying me flowers. I just love how they smell," she imagined herself leaning down to inhale their fragrance. "I imagine he's going to expect a little something naughty in bed tonight," she said with a wink and a sexy smile.
Her dream sequence burst as quickly as her blood pressure rose, as she watched the deliveryman walk across the street to her neighbor's house and ring her bell. Suddenly, her wide angled vision that encompassed the entire street of her neighborhood narrowed its focus and microscopically zoomed in on Gayle.
Gayle was always getting something, no correction, Gayle was always getting everything. She got diamond earrings to compliment the rock on her finger and a mink coat when she complained she was cold. She wears French perfume that lingers in the air long enough to reveal that it is very expensive and to let everyone know that Gayle had been there long after she had left the room. She got the patio furniture she wanted, the expensive set that was not even on sale. She got implants and liposuction last year and her husband, Glenn, tied a big, red bow on a shiny, new, black Lexus 400h SUV that he gave her for Christmas.
"Oh, Glenn! What a surprise!" Cheryl mouthed, mocking her neighbor's screams. The entire neighborhood was forced to listen to Gayle swoon loud enough to hear her over the movie they were all watching, "It's a Wonderful Life." It figures that she was relegated to watching "It's a Wonderful Life" while Gayle lived it.
For Glenn's birthday, Gayle bought him a giant screen, drive-in sized, HD-ABC-XYZ television that the whole neighborhood can see from their living room windows and the space shuttle can see the position of their flaps for landing, as it zooms by their house. In the summer with the windows open, they don't even have to turn on their television to enjoy the Wheel of Fortune in surround sound stereo, they can just watch Gayle and Glenn's super-sized set. More unbelievably, even with the size of that screen, Vanna White's tits pale in comparison to Gayle's.
The second marriage for both Glenn and Gayle, they had no children or even a pet to care for, and were always taking trips and romantic weekend getaways. A reminder of the striking differences in their lifestyles and relationships, she could see the toaster, the blender, the coffeemaker, the George Foreman grille, the juicer, and the microwave that Phil gave her last Christmas and this Christmas from where she was sitting in her living room. She laughed while hoping that he would buy her a hyperbaric chamber next Christmas where she could hide from him and the kids while decompressing from the stresses of her life. Mindlessly, she thought, while staring over at Gayle's snow covered, brand new Lexus, that she needed new tires on the faded blue, Ford Focus station wagon that hid in her cold, unheated garage.
The last trip that she and Phil took together was down to Home Depot to buy lawn and leaf bags and they argued the whole drive there and back. He hated raking and feigned allergies. He hated shoveling and feigned a bad back. She raked and bagged the lawn and yard, and shoveled and sanded the walkway and driveway.
Only now, watching giddy Gayle emerge from the house in a tiny towel that barely covered her surgically sculpted cleavage, she watched her show of surprise for the benefit of the deliveryman by the gift of flowers, two dozen snow white roses, on Valentine's Day.
"Oh, flowers! What a surprise! They are so beautiful!" Cheryl mouthed the words of her neighbor. She was glad the snow deadened the sound of her annoying high pitched voice from traveling across the street, through her walls, and into her ears to reverberate in her brain for the rest of the day. She ducked behind the drape when she saw Gayle look over to see if she was looking.
With her big boobs bouncing and practically spilling out of the towel wrapped around her body, it was then she wished she had supernatural talent much like that of the witches that Elizabeth Montgomery and Nicole Kidman played on Bewitched. If she was a witch, just a little wiggle of her nose would slam Gayle's front door closed before she could retrieve her caught towel. She imagined Gayle squatting down in the snow naked as the deliveryman ogled her stripper sized tits while fiddling with her locked front door.
"Sorry, Ma'am, your front door locked closed. I'd give you my jacket but it's company policy that I must always remain in uniform. Here's my handkerchief to cover your nakedness." She imagined him leering at her tits. "Those tits are the biggest tits that I've ever seen, much bigger than Vanna White's tits on the Wheel of Fortune. Are they real?"
"Wait, where are you going?"
"I'm just gonna get my camera out of my truck to snap some photos of you for, uhm, liability and insurance purposes. The guys won't believe this, I mean, it's company policy."
Her imagined scenario burst when Gayle disappeared in her house with her tits, her towel, and her Valentine bouquet of white roses.
She wished that Phil had given her a shotgun for Christmas so that she could shoot out the headlights of the Lexus parked conspicuously in the driveway across from her line of vision or shoot out the silicon that was prominently displayed for all to see. She looked down at her barely B cup, sagging breasts from nursing two babies.
"Perk up girls, there's another baby on the way."
Alone with her bad self with the kids off to school and her husband gone to work, she missed her daily work routine. At least her job kept her mind occupied with work and the office hobnob with co-workers gave her a vicarious diversion of polite interest and retrospection of the lives of others spiced with the occasional juicy gossip. She loved her role as mother and wife, but working as an administrative assistant in an office gave her more of a purpose. Now, she was alone and lonely.
Yet, after deducting childcare expenses and transportation costs to and from work, she barely brought any money home from working a 40 hour week. Her time now better spent with her children was more rewarding and beneficial to their growth and her sanity. Nonetheless, the job she gave up to stay home with the kids had made her feel important, had given her a sense of self, and afforded her own money to buy the things she needed without having to ask her husband. She sometimes felt she needed his permission to buy makeup, hair care products or even a pair of shoes.
Somehow, he always had money. He gave her the money that she needed, but not without that look that made her feel small, unimportant, unappreciated, and unloved. She felt as she did when she was a child asking her father for money to buy candy. She hated that look, the look that men give women, that look they give when they think they are smarter, better, and when they think they are humoring them.
She was pregnant again for the third time. It was a mistake. A moment of passion that consumed her when she saw a flicker of Phil the way that he was in the past, slim, vibrant, loving, caring, attentive, and happy only to watch him fade away and disappear from her memory and reappear in his present form, heavier, balding, detached, distant, unresponsive, and angry.
His job gets the better of him and she gets what's left. He comes home tired and cranky. Mindlessly staring at the television drinking beer while she cooks, cleans, tends to the kids, and pays the mortgage, car payments, and credit cards, he zones out to a place where she can't reach him. She wished she had a special place to go where he couldn't find her. She thought about the hyperbaric chamber again and laughed.
"Daddy, where's Mommy?"
Suddenly, she saw the hyperbaric chamber door open from its vacuumed seal as she stepped out from the chamber and out from a cloud of fog that emerged around her looking so much like an alien alighting from a spacecraft.
They don't go anywhere. They don't do anything. The distance between them is too far to bridge with this house and with their children. They thought they could fix their problems by buying this house and by having another baby. Now divorce, once a possibility, was just as impossible as the thought for a blissful marriage. The encumbrances and entanglements of their debt insured that they remain together until death do they part, something they both sometimes looked forward to experiencing for a change and for a chance at restful peace. Nonetheless, they were content to be complacent. It wasn't so bad. Was it?
Except for the Sports Channel and the big screen, high definition television that he bought without consulting her, there's never enough money for any other personal entertainment activities. They cut that out of their budget long ago to afford this house, a 4 bedroom, 2 ½ baths, and two car garage home on a quiet street and in a better neighborhood.
She couldn't remember when she had her hair done last. Except for taking the girls to Disney World four years ago, before they bought the house...the house...the house...they haven't had a family vacation or a couple's weekend getaway since.
It's the same boring routine every day, every night, and every weekend. It was not her dream to go from a blushing bride to a pregnant mother to a bored housewife. She wanted more out of life than to discuss a manicure, massage or makeover. She felt trapped on suburbia drive and hidden among all the other women who looked like her, talked like her, and acted like her. Now one of "them" to those who viewed her turning down or turning out of her street and/or pulling in and pulling out of her driveway, she felt invisible, ordinary, and stuck.
Only here, she wasn't even one of them. Her husband didn't make enough money for her to fit in with this bunch of self-centered shrews. She felt isolated and ostracized in her own neighborhood. She felt as detached to their affiliated acceptance as she felt trying to find a common ground for communication with her husband. She had no one to talk to and no one to help her through this difficult period of her life.
"Help!" she screamed for no one to hear. "Help!" she screamed for no one to care. "Help! Help! Help!"
Knowing that she'd have to shovel the snow before it iced over, she looked out across the street as the lawn care truck pulled up to Gayle's house to plow out her driveway and snow blow her walkway. The sound of their snow blowing machines shattered her sanity in the way that a prolonged electrical shock would in the guise of electrical shock therapy. She watched as Gayle's housekeeper pulled in the freshly plowed driveway wondering what got so dirty in a house without children and without pets that she needed the services of a housekeeper three times a week. She wanted Gayle's life, but with kids.
Maybe, it's a boy this time she thought allowing her hand to slowly circle her stomach as her mind imagined a tall, handsome son helping her with food shopping and household chores, such as raking leaves and shoveling snow. Having a boy this time would make her husband happy. A son would make him stop pressuring the girls to learn football plays and to go out for a long one, while he pretended that he was the quarterback of the New England Patriots. She laughed with the thought of her new born son barely walking and wearing a Patriots shirt and an oversized football helmet, while learning to throw and catch a football.
"49! 28! 37! Hut! Hut! Hut!"
Phil already made it known that he would name his son Brady, after Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots and she reluctantly agreed. She was glad that Phil had already named their Black Lab Touchdown, otherwise that name may have been considered by him as a potential name for their son. Once he had decided on a name, he was just as opposed to entertaining other selections as he was to having her mother come for an extended visit to help out with the new baby once it was born. She was relieved that he had left her to name the girls, Allison and Melissa, otherwise he may have named them Bella and Chick, after Coach Belichick of the New England Patriots.
Her argument that the kids at school would taunt and tease a boy named Brady Grady fell on deaf ears. He thought that Brady Grady was a great name, a man's name, and a name when famous would be remembered to the Football Hall of Fame. He hated his name, Phil, especially after she teasingly reminded him that he shared his first name with Phil Simms, the great quarterback of the New York Giants. He hated the Giants as much as he hated his name. She was glad that they were not English citizens because if knighted, her son's wife would be Lady Brady Grady.
Phil was never home on weekends and even when he was home physically, he wasn't there for her mentally. Floating away down Budweiser River, his mind was lost in the blaze of blurring plays, quick timeout runs to the refrigerator, and surround sound whistle blows of high school, college, and professional football games.
In the way that he sat on the edge of his seat with bulging eyes, cheering yells, and red-faced jeers, she wondered if he gambled on the games. She didn't know. How could she know? He kept close tabs on the money. She didn't even know how much money he made every week. He kept that from her, too. She didn't want to know. Knowing how much he made and how much he spent on himself would be cause for just another fruitless argument.
She wondered had he not blown out his knee in college, where'd they be now. Maybe, she'd get the diamonds, the mink, the roses, and be driving the Lexus or maybe Phil would be married to Gayle and she'd still be sitting here watching the world pass her by from her living room window while watching the Wheel of Fortune on Phil's super-sized television screen from across the street with Glenn.
It was then that she realized that he was just as unhappy as she was. He wasn't living his dream life. He never wanted to be a traveling salesman. He wanted to play football. Once he could no longer play with his bad knee, they revoked his college scholarship a year before graduation. It was then that she realized that he was as depressed and angry, as was she.
She didn't know how to fix what was broken or to find what was missing. How could she? She didn't know what was broken or what was missing, nor did he. She had an inkling of those things that were wrong. She had a feeling of how things could be better, especially living in the shadow of Gayle's rainbow. It was all such a mess and all so overwhelming.