The soft sound of light rain filled up the room. She sat, curled up on the couch, and looked out the window. All the colors were muted thanks to the cloudy sky. Her thoughts felt muted as well, and that was just fine. She’d felt enough for a lifetime over the last few weeks, and this rainy afternoon respite was just what she needed. She took a deep breath in and, after a moment, let her exhale linger. She didn’t want to leave the comfort and safety of the couch. If she’d had it her way she might never leave the couch again. A small smile grew at that thought – the idea of it was so wholly impossible and, at the same time, so incredibly tempting. She shook her head slightly as if she could erase the desire the way one would clear an etch-a-sketch. The couch would, hopefully, be here for her when she got back.
She unfolded her arms and legs and pressed herself up and off the couch, standing still for a moment as her muscles adapted to the abrupt change in station. She’d been sitting there for longer than she thought, and it took her a moment to be able to marshal her limbs into following her commands. Getting off the couch was only the first step. There were clothes to change into, little chores to finish, and a conversation to be had before she could be on her way. As she walked stiffly up to her room to change she heard signs that her child was awake and moving in their room. She mentally crossed “wake John” off her to do list and continued on her way. Getting dressed was first, and she welcomed all the steps between these stiff ones to her room and the conversation they had to have today. All the little steps would be easy, the conversation would be what it would be.
She stared at her closet, feeling the overwhelm that came with making herself presentable. She found so much comfort in her normal clothing that dressing up was simply stressful. She grabbed the first thing she could put her hands on – a black skirt – and built the rest of the outfit from there. No one would really be looking at her today, not in any way that they’d remember, so it didn’t matter all that much what she chose. The black skirt, a deep blue shirt, and a silver belt would do just fine. She crossed another item off her internal to do list as she headed back downstairs. The chores barely provided a distraction – her mind was already focused on what she had to say and where she had to go.
Her heart was pounding just a bit faster than was comfortable when she knocked on his door.
“John, may I come in and talk with you for a moment before I leave?”, she asked out of politeness.
She opened the door and found her son sitting cross-legged on his bed, facing the door. He was waiting for her.
“Thanks. So, I’m about to go and we need – “
“I know. I’m ready.”
She paused. “I wish you didn’t have to be ready. I wish this didn’t have to happen.”
He looked down at his knees and mumbled, “It’s not YOUR fault.”
“Oh, John, it’s not YOUR fault, either.” She crossed the room and sat herself next to him on the bed. He picked up his head to look at her and she was saddened to see that he was crying. She reached out to touch his cheek before continuing. “We are going to be fine, and today is just a formality. I want you to know what’s going to happen so you don’t have to worry while I’m gone.”
He nodded, with his bottom lip between his teeth.
“Ok. So today is when I go to our final court date. I will go before the judge and he will ask me if we’ve had any contact from him. We haven’t, and I’ll say that. Then the judge will ask the courtroom at large if there are any comments or objections, which there won’t be, before he’ll award me sole custody of you. Then we’re done.”
John looked back at his knees again, and she understood.
“Honey, the lack of contact has nothing to do with you. He doesn’t have it in him – that’s on him, not on us. We need to take care of ourselves and each other, and that’s what today is all about.”
John nodded, still staring at his knees, and then a big sob escaped him. She wrapped him up in her arms so fast it was almost like she’d turned back time to get there before he broke. He clung to her and let his tears flow, and there were a lot of them. She kept her breathing slow and held him tightly until he quieted down and started to pull away. She followed his lead and slid back from him enough for him to sit up fully.
“What comes after today?”, he asked with the sound of resolve in his voice.
“Once we’re done in court we can switch gears and focus on moving. We can move on to packing and getting this place ready to sell. We can choose our next location and get busy making plans. After today we’re free.”
John nodded again and stood up. “I want to come with you. I want to be there when we get our freedom.”
She nodded slowly, standing up. “Ok. Put yourself together – we need to leave in 5 minutes.”
As she closed the door behind her, she smiled. Their son – no, HER son was a strong young man, and it was clear to her in that moment that everything really would be ok. Today would be good and hard and pivotal, and they’d be there together.
**All 30-minute musing posts are fiction**