Geoffrey sneezes on my face as I bend to give him the kiss he’d pleaded for. My sassy four-year-old, my fourth child, has always been demanding of my affection, but this stage of still being unaware of anyone’s needs but his own is breaking me.
It has only been over the past year that I’ve been reclaiming me and who I want to be. Who I need to be.
I hand Geoffrey a tissue and he taps it to his nose before snorting the dripping vulgar mucus from his upper lip back into his nostrils. I gag but press the tissue to his face. “Blow,” I say.
He does lightly, the tissue fluttering from the air out of his mouth.
“Blow!” I say.
This time, I’m rewarded with a sopping tissue and a son without a clogged nose. “Good job,” I sigh.
Geoffrey wipes his nose on his sleeve then runs from the room. My wild children are always bringing home their school-cultivated viruses. Blech.
I roll my eyes as I toss the tissue into the kitchen garbage then go to the sink to wash my hands. I’m so stressed from being confined to my home over the last month. Pain. Degradation. Misery.
Two more months and I should be healed. That’s what the doctor said from the very beginning. The tummy tuck would be four weeks of hell followed by two months of restrictions.
But my doctor lies. She omits details, waiting to warn me until whatever horror would come is already here. First, about what came right after the surgery, then, at each follow-up appointment.
The worst were the two drains collecting my blood and other fluids from behind the incision for the first two weeks of recovery. Dr. Denali had mentioned them briefly at a pre-op appointment, but it wasn’t until the hour before the surgery that I was told exactly what was to happen. Two tubes stretched beneath my cut and sutured skin. From both of my hips dangled a tube that fed into a bulb─each needing to be strapped to one of my thighs by pinning them to the bottom hem of my full-body compression girdle.
In my oversized pajama pants post-surgery, I was at my least sexy with what looked like droopy testicles hanging between my legs. Hearing the muted sucking from them doing their job, knowing that they were filled with my fluids, I was furious and heartbroken at having to endure more humiliation and pain.
A heads up from Dr. Denali would have been appreciated. But the thing she did get right was the swelling. My skin had been tight and choking my entire body until a few days ago when it simply subsided. Now, I’m like my old self.
My new self.
I walk into the living room and ease myself onto the sofa. My belly is still sore, and after being on my feet for the last few hours─wrangling my children through homework, making dinner, and convincing them to stop killing off each other’s digital sheep in Minecraft─I need a break.
“Geoffrey?” asks Brian.
I nod. “He’s fine now.” Brian grunts, ignoring the television show across the room to flick a finger absentmindedly over his tablet. “Can you put the kids to bed in a half-hour?” I ask.
Brian grunts again. He lets out a deep sigh. “Sure.”
I roll my eyes and pick my phone from my pocket. A text from Seamus: How’s your night?
I smile and text back a censored version, noting how the villain sitting further down on the sofa is ignoring me and leaving out the snot fest that is my youngest.
After I drop the kids off at their two schools─because of course we live too close for the bus services─I make my daily phone call to my mother, my daily Russian roulette of either loving support or crushing judgment and unwanted advice. “Kristen, are you sure I can’t take the kids next weekend?” Mom asks.
Today, I am trying to recover from a bullet wound. “I’m sure, Mom,” I say through gritted teeth.
If I keep my cool, I can get her off the phone and get on with my day─my worthless day of trying to get a job somewhere in my small town where I’m nowhere near as connected to the local business owners as I need to be. I wasn’t born here and I’m no one’s cousin.
“But couldn’t you use the break?” Mom asks.
I pick up the socks from the living room floor. My teenager, Megan, had thrown them at me before telling me I was ruining her life because I wouldn’t allow her to leave the house dressed in denim shorts in the middle of February. Three feet of snow outside and ice on the roads, but I was the one being unreasonable.
“I’m sure, Mom,” I say. I could use the break, but a break would mean being alone with Brian, and my plague monsters being underfoot has been the only thing keeping Brian’s libido at bay. It certainly wasn’t the scabbed incision running across my belly. Or the fact that I had rebuffed every flirtation he’d made in the last three months.
“It’s just that you and Brian need to find a way back to each other,” Mom says.
I close my eyes until the darkness bursts to stars. “Mom, I told you that I don’t want to find a way back to Brian. I want out. I’m done.”
“But you’ve been married so long. Twenty-two years is nothing to throw away.”
I inhale and hold my breath for a few seconds before saying, “I’ve tried. For twenty-two years, I’ve tried. I want out. I want someone who wants me to be more than his family’s personal assistant.”
“But it’s hard out there. And you’ve been in so long. Why end it now?”
I feel my heart pound as my honesty pours out to my mother. “Because I no longer hate who I am and I want better.” My eyes sting and my stomach tightens.
Mom has another bullet in the chamber. “Honey, you’ve been through so much over the last year. You lost all that weight, and now you’re starting that new hobby.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose, closing my eyes. “Mom. It’s not a hobby. Singing is my career.”
Mom sighs. “There are so many perfect voices in the world. And you’re so old. I know you think you can become a professional singer, but I don’t want you to be disappointed. Wouldn’t teaching at Megan’s school be better for you?”
I flex my jaw and stare at the ceiling. “The high school isn’t hiring for the Music Department. Besides, I told you that I don’t want to be a teacher. I want to be on stage and sing.”
“Sweetie, you need to be pragmatic.”
“Mom, I love you, but I need to get going,” I say.
“Okay. Love you, too. Have a great day.”
I disconnect the call before she can slip more round into the chamber. I stare at my phone’s screensaver─a picture of my kids at an apple orchard last fall. My tweens, Mason and Abigail, smile happily for the camera, but Megan scowls as her usual pissy self, and Geoffrey is turning away from the camera, trying to ditch the picture to resume climbing the trees. Brian hadn’t bothered coming because he claimed he needed more downtime after a long work week. An outing with the kids wasn’t downtime, he said.
I head to my text messages and tap on Seamus’s name. Seamus, my unexpected and unplanned reward for the new me. His picture appears and I smile. My lower belly clenches with excitement. I bite my lip as I quickly type up a dirty text. He’ll be at work and arousing him gives me a thrill I haven’t had since I was a teenager.
I hit Send, then head to my sofa and laptop to search for any job that will allow me to earn income while I satisfy my soul, singing.
“What’s for dinner?” whines Abigail.
“Food,” I say. I’m standing at the stove, stirring spaghetti noodles in a pot. The sauce jar is on the counter, as is a cheese grater and a mountain of shredded mozzarella. My ten-year-old is somehow oblivious to the food before her.
“Fine,” she huffs, leaving me to prepare the rest of our dinner.
A faint rumble of the garage door catches my ear. Brian’s home. At least he’s on time for dinner tonight. The door to the garage thumps, and, seconds later, he’s in the kitchen, dropping his keys and phone into a bowl on the counter.
“How was your day?” I say.
Brian grunts. My apathetic caveman says, “Dinner almost ready?”
“Yep,” I reply.
“Cool,” he says, then leaves me to my domesticity while he heads to our bedroom to change into his lazy man’s attire. No kiss. No hug. For the last few years, Brian’s only attention to me is to work out the logistics of our lives. And, on occasion, to tell me I’m sexy a few moments before he wants me to perform wifely duties.
Before, I lived for those comments. Now, my stomach roils at the idea of being touched by Brian. Even before Seamus, I was done with Brian. Twenty-two years of begging for scraps of affection from my partner and being rebuffed over and over again.
I strain the steaming noodles into the sink and hear my phone ding. I blush. It would be Seamus on the other end. His daily check-in.
As the noodles drain in the strainer, I check the text. Good day?
I smile and text back: Same old. Same old. No luck on the job hunt, but I’m hopeful. How was your day?
I wait for another reply, but when one isn’t forthcoming, I brush it off. I assume he’s busy with a life thing, and I go back to prepping dinner.
It had been Brian’s idea that I take vocal lessons. Megan had been giving me a hard time for not going after my dreams, and, for once, Brian suggested something that was about me and for me.
As I’d attended the weekly sessions with Marjorie, I found myself liking myself more and more.
Then the pounds started falling off. I was no longer feeling the vacancy in my life’s purpose. The emotional, lonesome snacking was replaced by hours of studying music theory and working my diaphragm for the right pitch in a ballad. My self-image morphed into a fierce warrior who walked into a room carrying a big stick with a wall of fire behind her.
I was feeling amazing until I’d lost around seventy pounds. That’s when things changed. The slack skin was a particular brand of hell. I had developed a stomach apron that I had to lift to wash, and my bottom became a laundry line of skin sheets that folded and pinched when I sat. I watched as my warrior became a shrunken old woman identifying more with Sophia Petrillo than Wonder Woman.
My kids remind me of this with their own aging. Megan is my fifteen-year-old teenager and my mini-me in every way except her mouth. Her smile is Brian’s. Next year, she and I will be searching for colleges because I’m about to become a mother to an adult. I am old and I missed out on my life.
Trying to ignore my wrinkles and self-disgust, I refocused on my singing career. My research on becoming a professional singer required me to create an account on Instagram. Pictures and videos needed to be uploaded for my skills to catch someone’s eye. I needed to be visible and have a following in order for anyone outside of my hometown to give me a chance. For my profile pic, I chose one that Megan had taken of me that actually reflected the momentary goddess I had been, and I opened my account.
Enter Seamus. A songwriter I mutually followed.
I had posted a video of me singing The Streets of Laredo, and he’d sent me a direct message telling me how impressed he was with my rendition. After spending two hours cooking dinner, then convincing Geoffrey that the broccoli wouldn’t make him barf, followed by getting soaked as I washed the massive dish pile, I sat on the sofa to watch television with Brian. But he’d turned on Firefly several episodes past where we’d left off. When I asked him if he’d been watching ahead, Brian told me he figured I wouldn’t mind. The only thing we do together is watch a series, and he’d left me out.
So I got lost in my DMs with Seamus. For the next few weeks, we messaged daily. He lived in Ohio while I was in Vermont. Single, but divorced for six years. One child in college. Mid-forties and passionate about classic rock while enjoying diversity in genre from spirituals to punk to K-pop music.
Our DMs drifted from casual life and professional discussions into flirtations. One day, I became his “Kit.” He texted that I was an amazing woman while I carefully walked the line between flirting and remaining a faithful wife, but the messages that man sent about how gorgeous I was in my pictures and videos made me feel seen in ways that I’d long thought were impossible.
After a few app glitches, we decided to exchange phone numbers and became regular texting buddies. He knew I was married, but I let him in on a secret.
I’m going to divorce Brian. I have plans and they are in motion.
Seamus didn’t ask about Brian after that. Instead, he sent me a sext that I reciprocated. Our deliciously naughty words fell right into place. Sure, we continued texting about music and books we loved and the travels we wanted in life. Ninety percent of our conversations were about mutual interests, but that other ten percent was hot, dirty, and made me feel sexy as hell, despite the collapsing skin shell over my improved body.
Once the sexting began, platonic conversations between our digital dates were satisfying. The sort of discussions between friends where you both share so much of the same ideals, but the differences are easily discussed. He didn’t want a serious relationship or romance, wasn’t even looking. I was still shackled in matrimony. Everything about us clicked.
Our sexting trysts were initially impromptu, but after a few dates, we started scheduling with one another. On his end, it was when he was home. On my end, it was when the kids were all distracted and Brian was out with his buddies doing who-knows-what-and-I-no-longer-cared.
The highlights of my day can be broken down into five moments: morning hello text from Seamus; singing practice; my kids coming home from school, eager to tell me about their day; evening check-in from Seamus; and Brian going to bed before me.
I want out of my marriage. I want to feel alive. Singing started that feeling in me. But being seen again was taking my vitality to a whole other level.
“How’re we doing today, Kristen?” Dr. Denali says. I’m sitting naked apart from the full-body girdle and a cotton waffle-weave robe on the patient’s table before her.
“Fine,” I say. “When will I be ready for the next surgery?”
Dr. Denali smiles in that way I do when Mason asks if he can have an ice cream sandwich for breakfast because it is technically a sandwich. “Let’s see how you’re recovering from the tummy tuck before we get to the lower lift. Can you lower the girdle?”
I nod with my heart in my throat. I can’t leave Brian until I get through the second surgery and I land a job. I need this surgery. Vanity be damned. My soul is in pain.
I stand from the table and slip the robe back from my shoulders. My breasts are on display and I unhook the over-the-shoulder straps. I unzip each side of the girdle, then unhook each of the dozen eye hooks. I lower the girdle I’ve worn all day, every day, since my surgery to reveal my perfectly flat stomach. My first win in regaining my life.
“Looks good,” Dr. Denali says as she eyes my abs, oblivious to my nudity. She looks at my reconstructed belly button, the original having been tossed into a medical waste receptacle during the tummy tuck. Most of the scabs have fallen off, but there is still a little bit left within the superficial indentation which is otherwise a beautiful shade of rose.
Then, Dr. Denali lowers her gaze to my incision. She cocks her head to one side, then to the other, taking in the angled line. Still more scabs on my right side, which had the drain in longer, but the left side of the incision has been fading from red to a muted pink. My stretch marks run perpendicular to my scar. The tattoos of motherhood crossing paths with the scar of the New Me.
“You’re free from all restrictions unless your belly hurts. Then stop. And no more girdle except when you do something strenuous. Your muscles will want that support, at least initially. But, I think we can schedule the second surgery for eight weeks from now,” says Dr. Denali. My chest swells as I inhale a deep breath of excitement. “Go ahead and get dressed. Cleo will check you out at the front desk and schedule your next appointment in four weeks as well as your lower lift surgery.”
I squeal, “Thank you.” The good doctor leaves the room and I re-dress. My mind swirls at taking the next step toward freedom. I slip on my winter jacket and weave through the hallway until I reach the front desk.
“Kristen Yonce. I need to schedule two appointments.”
Cleo taps her keyboard, then pauses to look up at me with a smile. “Ah, the Mommy Surgeries,” she says.
My face flushes. I hate her. Her friendly demeanor and that horrific label. A tummy tuck and a lower lift. Common surgeries for any woman who has borne children. A breast lift would be the trifecta.
My abs tense and I feel the tight skin across my navel. Since my tummy tuck, I’ve worn a belt of pained-turned-desensitized skin. This is my championship belt for losing weight. For finding myself.
It’s not about my kids or motherhood. It’s my achievement.
“Yes,” I say through gritted teeth. “I need to schedule my follow-up and then the lower lift.” For the next five minutes, I ignore all impulse to tell off Cleo who is only doing her job.
When I leave the doctor’s office with my faux-fur hood pulled tightly around my face, I hear my inner mantra: Fight for me. Fight for me.
Home over the next two weeks is almost unbearable. Brian works late and texts with Seamus have been falling to the wayside. His wayside. I’m still keeping up with reaching out.
He claims he’s busy and that he hopes I’ll understand, but I miss him, and it hurts that the person who once saw me now seems to be dismissing me.
It’s not helping that the winter snow and ice keeps generating travel warnings and making any outings nearly impossible. I want to escape anywhere, even if that means driving forty-five minutes to the nearest Target with no interest in buying anything. Instead, my confinement at home continues.
Then, the kids’ extracurricular activities are canceled. One by one, my children are stuck at home with me and they’re bored. So bored that they fight over who sat on the spinney chair last until one of them is flung off said chair and is crying. Or they come up with disgusting games like who can spit in the sink with the most mucus.
The screaming and crying, followed by the banshee wails for Mom, are piercing into my spine. The dreadful secret I’ve held onto over the last year floods my brain as I break up Mason and Abigail from trying to bind Geoffrey to one of the kitchen chairs. They use Megan’s belts, which means all four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in my kitchen and screaming.
I wish I’d only had one child. I wouldn’t trade any of my four for a specific one of them. I don’t regret the people who are smaller versions of Brian and me. I resent the responsibility of raising plague monsters into adulthood─never-ending and exhausting. These are the people I chose to create when I wanted more people in my life to love me, but the moments of stress, constant worry, absolute grossness, and prioritizing all of them before myself are breaking me.
As I have discovered who I am, I realize that I was never meant to be the mother of four. Instead of my children fulfilling me, I have no one to build me up. All I want is to be saved. Even if it’s for a moment. Someone to care enough to take the burdens off my back. The most loving act, and I have no one.
With another shriek in the air, I’m fighting tears. This regret is my greatest shame.
The next Wednesday, school is canceled due to an ice day. Megan screams at Abigail for stealing her makeup without permission and using it to paint her whole face as a gothic fairy when my phone dings and I have a plausible reason to ignore the chaos around me. I open the email to see that I’ve been accepted to perform with The Vermont Chorale in the upcoming summer season.
My first singing win. And the ensemble practices are due to start five weeks after my next surgery. It pays almost nothing, but it’s a professional credit and I can make the schedule work. Another step forward in my plan to leave Brian.
“Kids,” I say. The mob ignores me. “Kids!” I try louder. They all turn, equally indifferent.
“Mom’s got her first singing job.”
Geoffrey says, “Does this mean you will be on YouTube?”
“What? No,” I say.
“Pfft,” says my baby.
“Congrats, Mom,” Mason and Abigail say flatly in unison.
“Megan, don’t you have anything to say?”
My beautiful eldest rolls her eyes and sasses, “Congrats.”
I shake my head to turn back to my phone while my children resume their fight for dominance over one another. I text Brian: I got the Chorale gig!
Then I text the same to Seamus. I want more rush from my acceptance, so I reread the email. And reread it. And reread it.
My phone dings. Brian: Congrats!
I shrug. Not the respondent I wanted, but at least someone congratulated me.
The day passes, and it’s not until I’m cooking dinner that I hear from Seamus. Nice. You up for a date later tonight?
My chest tightens. My big win and that’s all I get? But Seamus has been busy. Tone and context are hard in text. I exhale and text back: Sure.
Closing my eyes, I focus on my mantra: Fight for me. Fight for me.
March has rolled into April. I’m two weeks away from the lower lift. My NOT-Mommy Surgery surgery. Over the last month, I’ve lost myself in prep work for the upcoming performances. I spend my days rehearsing and doing yoga to work my lung capacity. My evenings, I wrangle children while an exhausted Brian ignores the family chaos from the sofa. Always with the television blaring and his focus on his tablet.
After Brian leaves the house without saying good-bye and I’m left to contend with Mason who now requires and doesn’t want pinkeye medication, I desperately need something to cheer me up. Brian had pointed out all the hours I was putting in for my low-paying gig last night. Now, looking at the sheet music infuriates me. Brian has tainted my small win.
Instead of rehearsing, I reread the last texts between Seamus and me. My expectations for a pick-me-up fizzle as I see them with fresh eyes. My texts are full sentences, usually two or three. His responses are less than three words. He has stopped initiating the contact.
And I am no longer “Kit.” I have no name.
My throat clenches. He’s bored with me. I’ve annoyed him. What happened for him to lose interest in me?
I scroll through our texts. My heart races as the words lay out the story before me. I’m there for him with support about his songwriting. He never asks me about my singing. I ask about his day and follow up with questions. He asks about my day without anything more than a one-word comment.
Even our last few dates were all about him. Focused on his desires.
Choking on my breath, I head to my bathroom and lean over the sink. I rip off my shirt to view myself in my bra. I strip until I’m standing in only my socks before my mirror. I can only see my body from my hips up. My battle scar and motherhood tattoos glare at me. My belly is flat and the marks are soft silver.
I twist to check out my backside. The sagging horrifies me.
All of this work. All of this pain, and I’m a middle class mother of four who no one ever sees as anything but a mother of four. Even when I’m seen, I can’t hold anyone’s attention.
I re-dress and fling myself onto my bed to sob. I have three hours until I have to pick up Geoffrey. I cry for the next two, mourning my wasted life. My faltering dreams. My destroyed body. My worthless value.
“But if you leave him, how are you going to make ends meet?” Mom’s a pro at Russian roulette.
“Mom, Brian doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t notice me. Don’t I deserve better?” I say quietly from the kitchen. Abigail is in my bedroom, home with strep throat and watching a YouTube Fortnite video.
“How will you afford to live without his money?” Mom’s go-to worry. “You have four kids, Kristen. You chose to have them. It’s irresponsible if you leave.”
Steadying my voice, I say, “I’m leaving for them.”
“Mom, my kids can’t keep watching their mother be weak because it’s easier than fighting for herself. Myself.” I’ve said this repeatedly to my mom for the past few months, but my explanations fall on deaf ears.
“Kristen, you think this will be better, but it’s going to be so hard.”
I sigh. “I know, Mom. But how can my kids ever think they’re worth anything if I don’t show them that I’m worth something?”
“It’s all my fault,” Mom says.
Tears choke my throat. “Not at all. This is about me. I’ve made mistakes in my life, and I need to fix them. I’d rather be alone than with a partner who never notices me. That’s it.”
“Mommy,” whines Abigail.
“Mom, I gotta go. Abigail needs me,” I say.
“Alright, sweetie. Give my angel a kiss and tell her Grandma wants her to feel better.”
“I will.” We hang up, and I compose myself before I enter my bedroom. My poor sick darling sits propped up against a pillow throne. “What do you need, baby?”
“Mom, can you snuggle me?” she says. Her pale face pleads with me.
I climb across my bed to wrap my arms around my fevered child. “Of course, baby.”
She nestles herself into the crook of my arm. “You’re my favorite mom ever.”
The words of my own mother in my mind are replaced by my mantra: Fight for me. Fight for me. Fight for them.
“Welcome, Kristen,” Cleo says with her bubbly smile. “Doctor’s running on time. It should only be a few minutes. Have a seat and we’ll come get you shortly.”
I curtly nod then sit in the waiting room, avoiding eye contact with the other patients. I open my phone and scroll through my Instagram notifications. Seamus has been liking my recent posts. I smile.
I go into the main feed. He’s been liking a lot of other singers’ posts. All female.
Then, his responses populate. Kissy emojis. “That’s hot,” and “You’re incredible!” are his comments.
My mouth drops as a purple scrubs-clad nurse calls, “Kristen Yonce?”
I rise from my seat and slip my phone into my winter coat pocket. I follow the nurse as he leads me through the hallway, my mind in a haze. He ushers me into a patient’s room. “Go ahead and take your coat off.”
It’s my pre-surgery appointment, so he has me fill out several pages of medical history on a tablet. While I tap away, the nurse runs through the usual vitals check─temperature, blood pressure, and one blood draw for my hemoglobin levels. I barely notice the questions on the screen. When I hand it back to the nurse, I wonder if I marked that I have an infectious disease.
Turning to leave the room, leaving me alone with my thoughts, the nurse says, “Doctor will be in soon.” He flashes me a smile and adds, “You’re just a week away from your second Mommy Surgery.”
And the hits keep coming.
That evening, I plate the kids’ meals while I try to ignore my phone. I don’t want to see something that I can’t unsee, and I’m tired of checking for new messages that aren’t there.
As I sit at the table, my phone dings across the room. I shift in my chair, conditioned to get up to check the message, but it’s dinner time. With my kids surrounding me and babbling about their day, I don’t want to think about anything else.
Even Brian’s presence is far less grating. He’s actually jabbering on with Megan about something from her sociology course. Watching their animated faces, my heart winces. He’s a good dad, even if he is a terrible husband.
We finish eating and I clear the table. Setting the dishes on the counter near the dishwasher, I finally check the message I’ve obsessed over for the last twenty-five minutes. It’s a DM on Instagram.
I apprehensively open it. Then I read it, twice. Then a third time.
It’s an offer for a voice-acting gig! And it will pay me $500. With a possibility to add more gigs.
Sure, I’d be a singing rabbit in a commercial, not on stage, but it’s paying work for my voice.
I rush to Brian in the living room, his feet on the sofa and his finger swiping up and down the tablet. I tell him the offer and show him the email.
Brian stands from the sofa and hugs me. Then he places a chaste kiss on my lips and says, “Congratulations. I’ll take care of the dishes. You enjoy your win.”
I shake my head at his version of a supportive response and text the one person who I know will understand what an accomplishment this is. Moments later, my phone dings: Congrats.
That’s it? I text Seamus again. It’s big, don’t you think?!?
Several moments pass before he answers.
It is. Congrats.
My weighted sadness bubbles until it rages into my fingers. I type. I emotionally vomit everything into one massive text that I had previously held back while hoping we’d get back to what we had been. His distance. His indifference. His public flirtations with other women. His apathy.
I hit Send.
I stare at the screen and heartbreak floods my veins. I skim through what I’d written. Autocorrect and my fury had transformed several sentences into gibberish. But the rest, very clear. Very angry.
My eyes still fixed on the screen, Seamus’s response pops up: I’ve been meaning to bring this up for some time. I think we both know this isn’t working and we should just stop. This is too much drama. You took all the fun out of this for me. Congrats on the gig.
I swallow hard. I meant what I’d said, but Seamus viewed my pain as an attack from a madwoman. Except that I’m no madwoman. I’m a madwoman. A hurt woman.
I want to hide, but there’s nowhere to go. I resign myself to the living room. Brian’s not there for once, so I plop myself onto the sofa. Megan sits on one end, posing for selfies, having taken Brian’s usual seat. Geoffrey lies on his back on the floor, his feet in the air and his hands holding a Kindle above his face as he twists it around.
Mason and Abigail run in screaming. “Mom! Blabigail won’t let me play on the PS4!” Mason wails.
“Don’t call me that!” Both of my middle children push each other as they stand in front of me, waiting for my ruling on which child is in the right and dooming the other to shame.
“Hey, kids,” I say softly. “Mom has some happy news.” I hear the sadness in my voice, but I need to tell them. “Mom got a job today. I’m going to be the voice of a cartoon bunny in a commercial.”
“That’s so cool,” Mason shouts simultaneously to Abigail’s, “You’ll be famous!”
Geoffrey climbs off the floor and onto my lap. “You’re turning into a bunny?”
I smile and chuckle with tears ready to fall. “No baby. I’m going to sing for a cartoon bunny.”
“Okay,” he says and presses his back against my chest to resume play on his tablet.
“That’s really cool, Mom,” Megan says.
I turn to look at my daughter, shocked at the lack of sarcasm. I hear the click of her phone. “Had to take a pic. It’s a big moment,” she says. “Gonna post this.” Her attention leaves the room for the digital world.
Mason leans over his brother and hugs me. “Proud of you, Mom.”
Abigail overlaps her brother’s embrace. “I’m prouder.”
Next week, I will resume a state of pain from another surgery. As soon as I recover, I will tell Brian that I don’t want to be his wife. First the physical pain. Then the emotional.
But today, it’s a battle won for me and my plague monsters.
Fight for me. Fight for them.