It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Our hero knew that much.
Sitting there in an empty parking lot outside of the stadium in the near darkness she felt, finally, for the first time in her life, completely alone.
Yes, the children were running around and crawling upon her and asking questions and making childish comments and whining. They were her feral cats. They would always be hers. She was keenly aware that they were truly a part of her from the day she herself were born.
But still… Children are children and tonight as she sat on the curb she was alone.
The day started as she had expected. Motherhood had taught her that they would not leave on time. Chaos hovered constantly among her best laid plans and while it took some time, she learned to embrace it.
“Hello, chaos,” she would say to herself when one child would hurl its little body onto the floor of the grocery store.
“Ah, yes… My chaos…” she muttered when a rash would erupt moments before family photos or a sudden storm would attempt to wash away the birthday party she had arranged months in advance.
But it dawned on her now that she had loaded the car herself. She had fastened the seatbelts. She packed the cooler. She checked to make sure the route was clear of construction. She arranged to have the dog fed. She blew out the candle her daughter insisted on lighting. She read the ingredients to make sure no one would have an allergic reaction.
All of this was done, essentially, alone.
On the ride to the town where she met him, she chatted with the kids. She thumbed the radio from one song to the next. She stared out the window. She wondered if this time would be different.
But she could hear him on the phone and she knew too well that the King of all Chaos was ignoring what she asked and what he promised and how it went last time. She remembered how all of that felt. He, clearly, either had forgotten or didn’t remember. She wasn’t sure which sin was worse… the omission or the commission. Did it matter? Not really. It still stung and the bitter pills starting to build up inside of her were leaving a permanent taste in her mouth.
There was beer.
There was the sickening smell of burning weed.
She embraced both in that parking lot before the game.
She needed something, anything really, to mask that bitter taste in the back of her throat.
Of course a flask was to be hidden in her purse.
Of course he wandered off.
Of course she would look for him.
But she was honestly surprised when she did not find him. All of these years she was always able to find him if she looked long enough. Not tonight. It appeared her shepherding skills had finally failed her.
So she sat on a concrete curb.
The feral cats were settling down and joined her, one on each side.
“Is he coming back?” one asked.
“No,” she said.
And the ease with which the single, honest word escaped her mouth shocked her.
Slow tears rolled down her soft face. She felt them rest on the corner of her lips. She used to smile a lot more, you know?
“Fuck it,” she thought to herself. “It’s a crooked smile anyway.”
She wiped away her tears.
She stood up.
Now, standing and no long simply waiting and hoping, our hero could now see a hotel sign glowing in the distance. It was far. No one would ever try to walk that far with two little kids. It was impossible.
But honestly, she knew she was not like anyone else. She did not cower in front of the impossible.
“We place one foot in front of the other and this is how we go we forward,” she said aloud.
He children were puzzled, but she pitched it as an adventure and because they were mostly her, they believed her and embraced her challenge to walk alone in the darkness with their mother to an unfamiliar hotel.
In the days, weeks, months and years that followed she looked back on that night and realized that it was truly the end. There had been a thousand little cuts before and after. But that one ran deep.
But what our hero did not know, because the best things in life are beautiful mysteries, is that as she started off on her trek in the night, there was boy like her two hundred miles away who had also found the end.
And for them, “the end” was not really an end at all…
You see, just as you are at the beginning of this story, they too were both at their beginning of their story, a sacred story that they eventually shared together in a way that sweet little girls and big hearted boys dream of forging as their own.
You’ll like this story.
I know this.
And I’m very happy to be sharing it with you.
All good stories should be shared.