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Kate pictured her husband in his hospital room, he had emailed her a photo of his face with all the tubes attached, the IV in his arm, his pale face grim and anxiety ridden. He honestly thought she would like to see a picture of him the night before his procedure all wired up before he went to sleep. Little did he know how much she hated that picture that was now forever burned in her brain.
He had died after the surgery, the hospital called her at four a.m. to tell her the news. People should know that there is no such thing as good news at four a.m. Ever. Her parents were over so they stayed with the children while she raced to the hospital in her faded pink bathrobe and running shoes, sobbing hysterically. “She needed to identify the body,” the hospital said.
It had only been three months since he died. She buried her head into her freezing hands and wept, she was alone in their old house tonight. Her sobs wracked her body until she curled up on the old, soft, green couch and lay in the fetal position. She never thought she would be alone so early in her life; she was now a widow at the age of 46. Her children, Alec, 10 and Zoe, 8 were fatherless. ‘How could she handle this’ she thought? ‘How would they get by?’ She honestly had no idea; she knew she had to ‘make an effort for the children,’ that’s what everyone said but she didn’t know how to do that.’
Their cat, Sam, jumped up to the couch and lay beside her. David had been the one in the family who had wanted a cat, maybe the cat was mourning too; he almost never came to Kate. With another night of sleep eluding her Kate tried imaging the years that she and David had dated, how they danced under moonlit stars in their fancy outfits from company parties. She remembered her auburn hair done up in a chignon, and wearing fabulous silver high heels, David, in a tuxedo looking dapper. They traveled all over the world together before they had kids, Istanbul, Rome, Ireland, Amsterdam. They would walk together in a foreign city at all hours of the morning, dancing in deserted streets, streaks of brilliant color from ever-changing skies, holding hands. They would laugh loudly after drinking flutes of champagne. Their lives revolved around each other, having fun, eating at elegant restaurants and living in a romantic dream world.
They married in a small, elegant wedding a year after they returned home and two years later, they celebrated birth of their son Alec. Two years after that they welcomed with love, their daughter Zoe into their family. They moved from an apartment in Manhattan to a small house in Connecticut on a tree-lined street with gardens and small patios. They went from the “ideal couple” to the “perfect family” that’s what people said.
‘What about now?’ Kate cried into the dark night. She didn’t know what to do. She grabbed a bottle of whiskey hidden under the sink and poured herself a generous glass. She tried to drink it all down at once but it made her cough and sputter so she stopped and tried again a few moments later. Everyone expected her to be perfect, to be strong and able and to magically utter those famous words “life goes on.” She couldn’t do it. She tried to tell people but they insisted ‘she could.’ She did not want to be in this world alone without David anymore. That she knew without a single doubt. Yes, she loved her children dearly but she could not function without her husband, the other half of herself.
Kate knew it was just a bad night, a really bad night. She decided to take a hot bath and a few sleeping pills and relax. While drawing her bath she sipped at her second drink and calmed down. She would make it through; she had no choice. No, it was not easy but leaving her children without a parent was unconscionable. In a sudden burst of energy she threw away all the alcohol she had in the house and all the pills. Betraying her children would be like betraying her husband David and she couldn’t do it. She was ashamed of herself that she even had thought about it. After her bath she was very tired and slept for a long time. She dreamed about their past, dancing in the streets, walking up on the beaches to spectacular sunrises, making love in secret.
She awoke to terrible banging at the front door, her head throbbing with pain. With her hand covering her head, she lurched to the door to open it and was greeted by her two children, hugging and kissing her. ‘This is why she was alive’ she thought. ‘This was her purpose’. She would try hard not to look back but try to stay in the present for these two miraculous children, the result of their love and all they had been, together.