This is a piece from a book I'm working on in honor of the Valentine's Blogfest.Thanks for putting this together, Jordan!!! Here is the link to her site:
Fifteen minutes later, while searching for the mop and carrying Carrie who was now soaked in milk and apple juice, my husband picked up the phone.
“Hey, Hon, it’s me.”
“Hey! What’s up?”
In the background I could hear men talking, it sounded like he was at a restaurant—or a meeting. But it seemed like while Russ was on business trips I always assumed he was eating at restaurants, having fun with the guys, or relaxing in some way. Somewhere in the logical part of my brain I knew this wasn’t the case, but it was hard to see reality when you have an eighteen month old crying in your ear, and a 3 year old asking constant questions.
“Is that my little cutie-Carrie I can hear, can I talk to her?”
I sighed and handed the phone over. She instantly perked up and said the only word she knew, “Daddy?”
Her crying ceased and she listened for about thirty seconds, then I pulled it gently away. The crying started all over again, but this time I set her down on the floor and locked myself in the laundry room.
“Russ, some of your chickens are dead. And the neighbor’s. She thinks Jenga did it.”
“No, Jenga wouldn’t do that. I know she wouldn’t. Must be a fox or a skunk.” I knew he would react this way. Sometimes I thought he loved that dog more than me.
“Well, I don’t know what it was, but what should I do about it? Your dog keeps getting out too.”
“Well, I know it’s not Jenga. Just tie her up better. Why don’t you set up a trap?” Now there was loud banging on the door. Carrie’s crying was getting louder and it sounded like Harris was laying down kicking the door.
“Stop that!” I yelled. “Russ, I can’t set up a trap. Even if I knew how to do that, which I don’t, I wouldn’t have the time to do it. Do you have any clue what I’m going through here?” I hadn’t meant to yell, but I was, mostly to hear myself talking over the banging.
He sighed. “Look I’ll be home in two days. Just hold on until then. Then maybe you can go get your hair done and I’ll watch the kids. Sound good? And don’t forget to clean up the chickens. You can’t leave the dead ones in there. Hey, I have to go.”
“What? Can’t hear you, the line’s breaking up,” I said as I made fake static sounds.
“Okay, bye, love you!” he yelled. And he was gone.
Great. Bye to you too. Have fun in the bright city lights while I clean up dead chickens, and completely lose it. Somehow going to get my hair done at the local salon didn’t sound as appealing as flying to Timbuktu for a year.
I opened the door, and was met with tears and more screaming. My daughter instantly clung to my leg so I had to pick her up again so I could get out of the room. Harris sat on my foot and latched himself onto my leg, which made me trip.
“Harris!” I yelled. “Go play with toys!”
I sat Carrie in her highchair again with Cheerios, which she smacked off one by one, screaming loudly, while I went outside to look for my mop. I finally located it next to the fence with an old blanket draped over it. The children had obviously been using it for some sort of game, but it was useless now to me.
I marched back inside and began washing the floor by hand. Carrie sat, now Cheerio-less and watched me as she sobbed. Harris grabbed another washcloth and helped me, getting more water on himself than the floor—but still at least it was a controlled mess.
When we were finished I was totally wiped out, and it was only 9:30 am. With Carrie in one arm, I used my spare to grab a chocolate cream cupcake from an upper cupboard. I began tearing at it with my teeth, and switched on PBS for the kids to watch.
Russ had probably never played a video game. He certainly hadn’t owned any, growing up the poor country kid he was. Instead, he was motivated. He knew exactly what he wanted out of life, and exactly whom he wanted to share it with. He wanted a family, the house in the country, to fill up a bench at church with all his offspring, and he wanted to live off the land. I had never met anyone like him before. Where I killed potted ferns, he could grow a fruit tree.
I met him at a country dance hall. A place I’d never been because it wasn’t me. A place he’d never been because he didn’t dance. He asked me to dance one slow song, probably to get away from the fake blond with the low cut dress he couldn’t seem to shake.
I looked like a sore thumb in my favorite black slacks, white collared shirt and high-heeled sandals among all the jeans, plaids and boots. Half my long dark hair was pulled back in a barrette, which was how I liked to wear it at work. While my roommate danced every song I clung to the back wall wishing for a magazine to hide behind.
There was something about him. I noticed right away how white his blond hair was, sneaking out from under his cowboy hat. He seemed to fit in with the whole country dance hall atmosphere. His boots were broken-in, however, not shiny and new like some of the others I’d seen. It made him seem more down to earth and natural. I also liked how his jeans were more relaxed and how his shirt flowed, rather than defining every curve of his body like some of the guys I’d seen. I tried not to look like I was watching him, but every once in a while he’d catch my eye and I’d quickly look away embarrassed.
He was tall, lean, and although smiled a lot, seemed somewhat reserved. I could tell he wasn’t that into the loud flirtatious blonde, her laughter seemed loud, even standing fifty feet away with the band blaring.
From his body language I decided he must be taken.
He finally found a way to escape the blonde by walking to the restrooms out in the hall. As he walked past me I heard his boots scraping against the wood. I pulled out my cell phone and pretended to be texting someone so he wouldn’t think I was pathetic.
Once he was gone, I put it away again. I didn’t really have text messaging—or know how to use it. I stared listlessly at the dancers, half wishing to join them, half wishing to leave. I caught my roommate swinging nearby and gave a slight wave. I saw her smile as her partner dipped her. She squealed with delight.
I sighed loudly, and looked at the clock on my phone. We’d only been there eleven minutes and already I couldn’t wait to go home. I’d give her fifteen more then start begging. The song ended and they clapped. She looked over at me again and waved, motioning for me to come dance. I shook my head shyly.
“Is that your friend?” a voice nearby said.
I nearly jumped.
Leaning against the wall, ten feet from me, there he stood.
“Yes,” I said.
We silently watched the dancers. Totally out of my element, I couldn’t think of anything to ask him, and wasn’t sure if that was a safe thing to do anyway.
The music started up again, and he closed the distance a few more feet. Over the noise he yelled, “I’m Russ!”
I looked at him again. “Hi, I’m Jessa!”
He walked a little closer to hear me better, and it was then I noticed his striking blue eyes for the first time. He stopped next to me and sort of stood there.
Finally he said, “Nice to meet you. Do you come here often?” He motioned towards the dancers, grinning perfect white teeth.
I smiled and shook my head. “You?”
“No, no I’m not from around here. I came with some coworkers,” he said glancing back towards the blonde. She was slowly making her way toward us. “Hey, would you like to dance?”
“Um, sure I could try to.”
I watched the blonde’s smile fade as he led me to the dance floor. Through that one dance I learned he went to school in Utah, was done with college, and worked for his family’s farm corporation in California.
We were from different worlds, the most unlikely pair in the room. We spent the rest of the night laughing, talking. I learned Chicago terrified him. Somehow, we found a safety zone in each other.
I think we were both surprised two hours later when the band stopped playing, and no one was left there but us. He walked me out to my car where there was a note left on it from my roommate, saying she’d left with the guy she’d been dancing with most the night, and would meet me at home later.
“Where are your friends?” I asked.
“Now, that’s a good question,” he said. “We all came in a taxi. I think I ticked off Diana pretty good, so I’m not surprised she left. But I thought Phil would at least wait.”
“That blonde girl. She works with you?”
He nodded and smiled.
“Well, I saw her leave with some guy in a Hawaiian shirt.”
“Yup, that would be Phil. Oh, well. That was kind of the idea anyway. They know I don’t drink.”
“Why did you come here tonight?” I asked laughing.
“To meet you,” he said.
The way he said it, all sincerity, melted my heart. He was so handsome, so strong. So intriguing, and I was so young. Needless to say, I gave him a ride to his apartment, and he found a reason to extend his business trip to Chicago. After a month I began to suspect it was more than just organic wheat he was after. I think it was about then he realized it too. Three months later we were married, and I joined him in California.
He had whisked me away to the place where dreams were supposed to come true. My heart had been full of hope. I couldn’t fail. I was too young and naïve to realize people did fail. Slowly, overtime I began to feel depleted, until I was an overworked housewife, pacing the floors in the night.
I was doing things like baking bread and bottling food from the garden. My wardrobe of high heels and dress suits were replaced with sweats and unfashionable jeans. My manicured nails were reduced to bitten jagged things. I learned the difference between roosters and hens, and drip pipe versus sprinklers.
My husband celebrated in what he saw as growth, congratulated my attempts, ate my food whether it was edible or not, and somehow made me love him more while hating the life he was making me live.
His love had always been deep, simple, and true, leaving no doubts.
At least it had been. Now I didn’t know who I was anymore. And I felt I was living a lie. I couldn’t love him with my full heart, and I couldn’t make myself. Everyday I felt more depressed. Every night it was harder to get to sleep, and every morning it was harder to wake up.
Russ and I were moving even further apart. I was at home all the time, while he worked hard. That was no surprise. It was what we had always planned, and who he was. I just felt I was being left in the wake of the huge wave he was riding, and I felt lost. My dreams were always full of the crowded streets of Chicago. Shopping in ….., the smell of hotdogs at baseball games, and sometimes I would be searching for someone. Sometimes I wondered if it was me.