The cab ride to the airport was strained.
Many words unspoken. I don’t think Sadie believed me, she stifled a yawn as she stared out the window. I wondered if she was thinking, “Mom will yell JK, at the airport.”
Her hair tossed in a messy bun that I had always envied. What is this new hairstyle kids have come up with? A mix between 90’s grunge kids and the 60’s beehive? She didn’t even bother putting her arms through the sleeves of the delicate white cardigan that she dubbed ‘the cloud’. Larger than her oversize bean bag chair, there had been many days that I snuggled into it with her. She sat next to me in the backseat of the taxi, as if ready to crawl back into bed when we returned home.
Eyeing this new cloud sweater, I imagined it would fit me too. She thought it was funny when she had grown large enough to fit into my clothes, it wasn’t as funny when I began sporting her new threads.
I quit smoking two years ago and have since packed on some poundage but have done quite well working it into muscle. Keeping my physique lean, I am weak as hell and lose my breath quickly when put to task but I am happy enough with my shape. I flip flopped for so many years trying to quit, I wouldn’t even want to admit the number of attempts. The final attempt succeeded from what my son had said, “you can lose five pounds Mom, you can’t lose cancer.”
It was James that I could still picture poking my stomach roll, “ballooned a bit?” He would grin and wink at me as if he wanted to pretend he were playing. I would not eat the next day.
I have to admit, there are more than a few days I had been jealous of Sadie’s figure but then again I am sure I hear her vomit in the bathroom purposely.
The pressures of friends at school; you have to be tall, you have to be skinny, and you have to be sad and cut yourself. Watched my daughter spiral downward. Reassured myself I am doing this for her as well, reboot her mind. Rebuild her soul. Away from all the negativity.
The driver tried to talk and I felt guilty for not listening. Smiled, nodded and secretly screamed in my mind. Pictured James sitting next to me cursing that the driver was Indian. “Sand niggers,” he would say to me if the driver had tried to strike conversation, “go back where you came from, rag head.” He would whisper it to me, just a little too loud so they could hear. I would turn, embarrassed, from my husband but I never said anything to defend the driver.
It wasn’t my fault was it? Why did I feel it was my fault? Why did my face heat even now, when James wasn’t there to make those harsh comments too loud. My best friend is East Indian and he knows that. Now the heat in my face turns to anger and I instruct the driver to drive faster.
I am still in shock. My subconscious doubts my consciousness will complete the task. She laughs at her, you won’t buy a flight ticket. Yeah, bitch, I am. No, you’re not. You’re too scared. I’m not scared, I scream at my subconscious.
You’re scared of being alone. She wins, I am scared of being alone. She certainly sounds like James.
I’m scared of the ghost in the closet at night, I’m scared of the boogeyman in the dark hallway and I’m petrified of the witch cursing me to die by myself.
I began a french braid a few times, as the taxi weaved through traffic. His voice hardly making it into my head as I stewed. The braid loosened and I lost grip on it once more, an audible grumbled escaped my lips. The braid as a metaphor for my relationship, I just couldn’t seem to keep a grip on it. I let go and watched the strands undo themselves.
I pictured James when we first began dating. I could still him screaming his truck back into my driveway after saying goodbye only two hours prior.
“What’re you doing?” I had been sitting on the hood of my car in the driveway. Three friends standing around me as we drank beer.
“I’m fucking horny, let’s go,” and the first few times I had been so turned on by the sparkle of lust in his eyes. It took the third time to realize it wasn’t lust but jealousy. After the texts of, what doing tonight now that I’ve left? Thinking nothing of it, my response had been, having friends over for a drink. He couldn’t handle my being with anyone else, no matter friend or not.
I watched the big sky and farmer fields roll by as we turned onto the airport road. The yellow skiff of canola as the fields rolled from pansy color to green sprigs. Not a cloud in the sky, the air was fresh. Farm animals eating next to wildlife in such harmony. Hay bales in squares, rolls, piles and stacks. If you had ventured off the main road, onto a lease road which was not paved- you would find gas heads, oils rigs and worker trailers. The tranquility of nature cleared for men like James to conduct work.
The taxi-cab pulled into the airport during another missed comment by the driver, I think. His eyes are glaring at me through the rear view mirror. I could almost read his thoughts, racist over-privileged bitch, when even without my husband. When even I would never judge or be perceived as a racist, has my husband rubbed off too much on me now?
The airport is small, my elementary school had been larger. The plants out front in boxes are dead and have been transformed to ashtrays.
“Ten-twenty-five,” he glared at me. Placed judgement on me that was not fair, clearly anticipating my credit card for him to lose his cash tip, he pulls out the electronic machine. That was when I recalled I hadn’t brought any plastic other than my drivers license and I had only hundred dollar bills.
“Um,” I stuttered, knowing he would not have change for such a large bill. I opened my empty wallet, all my cash had been locked in the briefcase sitting on the floor.
My credit cards had all been thrown into the junk drawer at home. I am also positive they will all be maxed by the time I return. James does not do well paying bills, or cleaning, or adulting really.
He hardly knows what time dinner should be eaten if I am not home. It’s merely ten-thirty in the morning. I wonder if he will even be concerned of my absence before seven this evening. Would he even notice my broken phone? I usually texted him, good morning my husband, I love you, or something to that effect each morning. Some days I would receive no response at all, he would return home from work at hours past suppertime with no explanation. There would most certainly be co-workers messaging him and receiving responses immediately the rest of the night, but my message was surely still sitting in his phone, unread.
“Miss?” The cab driver raised his voice now, I hadn’t realized I spaced out for so long. I looked to him before I knew what to respond. Maybe I could get change in the airport?
“Oh, I’m sorry. I only…” I began but was instantly cut off with a flare of a temper I knew all too well. I had seen it many times in my own husband, one where the male in the conversation becomes infuriated seemingly just with the fact he was speaking to an inferior, female.
“Every time! Every time, these young punks, they do not care, murakhs!”
“No, oh no, no. That’s not…” the man’s chocolate colored face turned a fuchsia that was both frightening and entertaining. With hot words filling the car, I threw up my hands and pushed Sadie to get out. She looked to me with astonished fear in her eyes. She didn’t know how to react either, I nodded my head again for her to get out. I was no longer going to give this behavior my attention. Too many years, I had back pedaled and argued trying to prove my opinion. Well, forget it. If you don’t want to listen the first time- shame on you.
“You don’t fill your grocery cart then forget your money at a grocer!” His words echoed still in the parking lot as we entered the airport. I wasn’t concerned if he followed us in, I’d had ever intention to pay the man. It was his own fault for acting like a child, acting like my husband- jumping to conclusions. If he had enough sense to follow us in, I would be sure to break change for him.
“Where are we going?” Sadie asked as we stood in front of the flight board. Arrivals and departures shifted lines electronically. I flashback back to my teen years when I would sit in my bedroom in the wee-hours of the morning playing video games. Ones that were basic light flashes and memory games, nothing compared to the shooting first person games of today. Some days I wish Sadie would go off on a drug escapade like I had.
In some aspects it seemed better to raise a pothead that would sit around and laugh at nothing, eat food til they pass out and talk about nothing in particular. Compared to raising a suicidal ideation, cutting til you bleed, bulimic teenager in today’s society that is bullied from social media, gender neutral washrooms and text messages from no known sender. Where they dress for sex at 10 years old, move out at 16 and end on social security cheques by 20.
I hadn’t planned where to go, the board seemed to be written in Chinese to me. None of the cities were registering in my mind, I stood dead pan starting. I was surprised we had made it this far. I could still go back and say that looming response Sadie was waiting for, just kidding! It was the ghost of James’ voice which seemed to drive me closer to a plane. The pressure on my chest increased as now I had a real decision, “you’ll never leap,” James would say, “you’re too scared.”
There were no tickets purchased, no hotels booked, no friends contacted.
“Mom?” Sadie elbowed me then in a sudden outburst of public affection she hadn’t shown in years, threw her arms around me. “If you need this, I am with you.” Her eyes were sincere and I could see she understood now. Was it the outburst of the cab driver that made her recall all the fights James and I’d had? All the nights that he would sink my mood so low, I wouldn’t even turn to my daughter for reassurance? I would turn into myself and cry silent in the bathroom.
“Okay,” I said as I allowed my daughter’s confidence to seep into me, “let’s do this.”
Courage is not something to come by easily, it took courage to plan and get this far. If I backed down now, it would devastate anything I had left of self-confidence. I wanted to show my daughter how strong I was, how strong I had been before. How strong I was before James. Plus, I didn’t really want to buy a new phone.
“Where to?” Sadie has her eyes covered and is pointing with a single finger, in the typical teen fashion of spontaneous decision. She laughed hysterically as I rotated her arm in a blinded circle. The warmth of her skin under my palm caused the reality of what I was doing sink in. It made a shudder of guilt run through me. My daughter has inherited my intuition, her eyes shot open, “Mom?” Her eyes are wide with concern, I feel suddenly as though she is my infant child once more and requires my protection. I have not protected her and I am removing her now from everything that was remotely close to protection.
“What’s going on?” She insists, my beautiful daughter, so intuitive.
“Nothing,” I shrugged.
“Seriously Mom, what the hell is going on? Is James okay? Did you guys break up?” The gig is over, she dropped her handbag to the floor and crossed her arms. She is not swayed without any explanation, I know this. And if I try to go further without more information, she is going to call the police and have me locked up for lunacy.
“I quit my job.”
“What?!” The shock does not go unnoticed on her face, “why?”
I grabbed her hand to pull her into the cafeteria. We’d been standing at the entrance to the airport. It was too open to have a real conversation. My brain was melting from lack of food and overload of emotion. Plus, no one can not run on coffee alone. I don’t care who you think you are, gut rot hurts.
“And an extra-large coffee with two milk, no sugar,” my stomach rolled at the mention of coffee but I promised it food first as I grabbed a banana and yogurt from the buffet fridge.
“Pancakes, with scrambled eggs,” Sadie requested and I smiled to her. It overjoyed my heart when my too-skinny daughter ate a large meal. I sipped my strong unsweetened coffee. I no longer missed sugar in my coffee, I had learnt to appreciate the bean taste. If I got a coffee now with sugar, it tasted like syrup with caffeine. Gross.
“Tell me,” Sadie sat at the table across from me, it wobbled and irritated me instantly. I have an overwhelming urge to snap in the middle of the airport breakfast cafe. I have a sudden feeling everyone is watching me, aware that I had run out on my husband. I feel I can hear him arguing with the cook, without even being here. I imagine I can hear him insisting he could cook better pancakes at home and once more my face warms with invisible embarrassment.
I would have dropped my eyes to hide from his reaction. I would have asked him to just be happy with the meal, “it’s someone else’s best.” He would turn his bear growl to me then, “is it really that big of a deal?”
I hated that question, it undermines my being. My very soul, “yes!” I should scream.
“I’m not sure what to tell you Sadie,” I struggled to place thoughts to words. They scattered from me just as they do when James puts me on the spot. Why is it once I try to tell him- the words evade me? Once the feeling of what he says is gone, so are my angry words. Has my emotional brain compensated so much?
“Why’d you quit your job?” Sadie insists, which I am thankful for that she is not focusing on the problem with James. Yes, let’s put this on my job. That is easy to explain. Isn’t it?
“I’m sick of working nine to five, there should be more to life. I want my writing to take me somewhere. Any growth requires action,” happy with my response, I stuff half the banana into my mouth.
“Mom, you seriously quit your job to write? You haven’t even published a book yet! Does James know, what did he say?” The pancakes are smothered with three types of syrup and the whip cream bowl emptied on top. The dollop slid to the left, threatened to topple off. Sadie caught it with her spoon and popped it into her mouth. I can’t help but laugh, happy with the distraction.
“That’s the hard part,” through a mouthful of banana, I wished it were the syrupy pancakes she was gulping back. “He doesn’t know. In a way, this is leaving him. We are not going back for a year. We may never be able to go back.” I watched as reality rolled over her like a cold blanket, I could see even the goosebumps of fear pop up on her arms. It made my heart sink to see her become upset.
“You’re getting a divorce?” Her mouth quivered, she was fighting back the same tears that I had swallowed. The waitress interrupted the emotional torment.
“More coffee?” She held the steaming pot but her face sunk too when she looked to Sadie. When she saw the apparently mouthful of pancake quiver to cry.
I was about to say, “no thank you,” when Sadie bumped the table with her knees as she jumped up and ran to washroom. The sobs between chews of pancake were loud. The waitress looked to me with concern in her brown eyes; middle aged and projected with the reply of, ‘teenagers.’ She smiled to reassure me, poured a second cup of coffee and left me to my own tears.
“She’s judging you,” I could hear James say, “you should have listened to me.”
I felt the sudden urge to approach the counter and defend myself, I could say something like, “we’re just going through family stuff.” When in reality, I am the one causing the family stuff.
When we moved to Fort St John, we gave up custody rights for Ethan and Sabrina. Sadie went from a middle child to an only child when Jax decided he didn’t like living in the north. Sadie came for a while on fishing trips, camping, hunting, buggy rides, camp fires, wood collecting but now that she’s getting older; its less. Her focus has turned more towards friends, and for the most part I think she basks in the fact she’s the only child.
We take her for dinner, out to movies, there’s no issue of a quick trip to the mall to buy her clothing. Before it was a problem of, ‘do we have enough money to buy everyone something equal?’ Sadie’s father lives on Vancouver Island with his new baby and my ex-friend. My parents live in the Okanagan and our family is literally, scattered around BC. Her step siblings don’t speak much to her, and her half brother is too busy with work to try.
James has always been good with Sadie, he treats her as his own, he hugs her. Tells her he loves her, that he’s proud of her, ruffles her feathers when it amuses them. They play, they fight, they bicker. Now they are breaking up too. I have stolen her from the last family she knows.
The fresh poured coffee scorches my throat, makes my mouth drool from pain but my heart still aches more.
I consider following her to the bathroom, I should offer her some emotional support but I have none to offer. Coming this far, I do not want to go back now. The ghost whispers of my husband’s voice is forcing me further into this decision.
The brown waitress smiles to me from behind the counter and with lack of a better move, I order a more substantial breakfast for myself. I also felt guilty to pay for one plate of pancakes and two coffees with a hundred dollar bill.
I am somewhat stuck in the chair I sit at; my daughter’s hand bag and suitcase are in front of me, my own suitcase, briefcase and purse to my side. I have no chance of carrying everything so I might as well settle myself in to read a newspaper that the waitress delivered with my breakfast. I found myself lost in the articles, I hadn’t realized the time passing.
It was the waitress coming back asking if I was done with Sadie’s pancakes, that stirred me. I glanced at the clock and saw Sadie had been gone for more than an hour. Amazed how I slipped away, maybe my psyche really needed that break. I confirm for the waitress to remove the cold plate and ask for a third coffee. I had no choice but to wait for her return, I was too burdened with bags.
By the time the clock hit noon, I grew anxious. She is a shy girl, a tall girl but slightly naive. I had also told her she to leave her cell phone at home. Maybe that was a mistake. Sadie could be made at me, I had never considered that. Taken a taxi home and called the police to say her mother lost her shit.
An over head announcement claimed the boarding for flight 3213 to Vancouver was about to begin. I still hadn’t thought of where to go next; the easiest route would be to end up at my parent’s house. But I want something different, something new.
My third coffee tasted sweeter, I wonder if she has secretly added sugar to my coffee. Did I appear so sour she felt the need to sweeten me? Probably. And even though I possibly did not need anymore food, she brought me a cherry Danish as a desert.
“To cure your family woes.”
“Oh, thank you,” I smiled, such kindness was rare these days.
I examine the treat, yes okay, maybe I am watching my sugar intake. I mean who isn’t? Extremists say cancer feeds on sugar. At my work, three out of the four people were on a diet. The fourth was a man. We are all overly sensitive about how we look, even me now being married, I still watch my waste line. I make sure my fair is fixed, my clothes are clean. For what? For him to pull on pajama pants and scratch on the couch?
He never comments how nice I look, how good dinner tastes. Never asks how my day was. So, I live in my own world, on my chair writing, with my hair spot on and my jeans freshly washed with no sugar in my coffee to keep it all that way. Just for no one to notice since everyone is too caught up in themselves to look around.
The Danish was gone in two bites, so delicious. I watch the line of people trickle and disappear from the security gates. A nice bonus about small airports was less stress, you can show up half hour before the plane and walk straight on. I sighed and lugged all the bags with me, now I need to find Sadie. My worry has grown and my food is all gone.
I don’t travel far, she was around the corner from me on the pay phone. As I approach, my chest lightens to see she is smiling. Dropped all the bags and sat myself in the hard plastic chair next to her.
“Yeah, I know.”
“I don’t know, I guess no more school,” her smile widens.
“I’ll tell Mom, okay.”
“Okay, love you too. Bye.”
“Your Dad?” I inquire.
She put the phone down and her smile faded when she looked to me. I have brought reality with me.
“I’m not happy about this. I don’t want to leave my friends again; my Dad says you need to talk to him about me not being in school.” She stepped closer and wrapped her arms around me. “I’m sorry,” she nuzzled her head on my shoulder as when she were a child, she can be so old yet need so much affection.
“Hug-a-buga,” I embrace my daughter as requested.
“I should’ve asked you, it’s not okay to pull you away from everything. I just, I wanted to show you there’s more,” I trip on my words. Her hair smells clean this morning and it brings a jerk to my eye. I truly wanted to show her how to be happy but all I had done was shatter her. “I want you to see what life can really be about.”
“I know Mom,” she kissed my cheek, “let’s do this!”
I step back and laugh, she amazes me, how easy going and carefree she can be.
“Now, the big question; where do you want to go?”
“I wanna see Dad,” she looked embarrassed by the request. I half expected the response, I should have planned it with Matt, Sadie’s dad. It would have felt more natural, to fly to Vancouver Island for Sadie to see him. It would have saved our mid-airport fight.
“Well, Vancouver is boarding now,” the bags were already being lifted and piled on my arms. I motioned toward the front desk. Her eyes went large. She only got to see him twice a year, it’s not easy feat. Needless to say, Sadie moved fast then. In the line, requested the tickets and through security was smooth.
Until my bag was x-rayed, then I was pulled aside and questioned about the large amount of cash stored in my briefcase. It was not big stretch to say we were running away from my husband and the real question was never vocalized. The tear that formed in my eye as security nodded and let me pass with thousands of packed dollars was real too.
As the flight took off, I couldn’t help but wonder how many hours I had spent denying that what I was experiencing truly was abuse.
Whether it’s physical, sexual, verbal, mental, financial or cultural; it is all abuse that leaves deep scars on our souls.
After all the trauma we had in our relationship
A babe born of another, strapped to a young couple
The fighting produced by another, brought to a young couple
PI’s and Police, brought to our door
Disowned by a Father
Death of a Father
Loss of a Brother
Breakdown of a family
Four children shift to one
One couple shift to none