Her eyes open, a smile forms slowly and pleasant dreams fade. Consciousness slams into this reality and her laugh escapes into the ether. It worked! A quick nagging thought on the debt she's incurred darkens her mood. Then she shrugs her thin white shoulders, throws off the blue silk covers and says, "Time to play like there's no tomorrow!"
Snoring catches her attention, leaning over, she tenderly traces her husband's jawline. Gratitude fills her, for just a couple of hours ago she had awakened from an icy nightmare. She desperately needed the heat of the living. Grinning wickedly she replays all the touches and sounds. Her energy had surprised them both. Such a perfect connection, such a wonderful man.
Heading down the hallway to her children's room, the sounds of sleepy voices greet her. They argue over which Bakugan is the best. Before opening the door, she reads for the millionth time, "No Grlz Alowd!" But they had amended it when she protested that she had to be able to put their stuff away. And what about goodnight stories and kisses? So they added, "Mommez okay." Her eyes well up, rapidly blinking the melancholy away, she flings the door open with, "Good morning my loves! Are you ready for a brilliant day?"
"Mommy," their eyes wide, "You're up! You're out of bed!"
Internally, she sighs at the statement. She waits, she made a promise a while ago, they will remind her.
"Mommy remember! You promised a picnic at the lake. Then you said we could get ice cream and rent movies, as soon as..." Slightly high-pitched but sweet six-year-old voices clamor excitedly. They jump off the top bunk and run to the dresser to get their clothes on.
Nodding and saying, "Yes, I remember," her voice fades as a wave of dizziness flashes over her. James and Donald's eyes widen in alarm. Straightening and in a firm, reassuring voice, "I'm getting us ready, your job is to get the toys!"
Reassured, Donald and James, race to the closet and ransack it. She chuckles as toys go flying out. Leaving their room and heading to the kitchen, she mentally lists the food needed for a whole day's outing.
Humming, "Zip a dee do da...zip a dee day, wonderful feeling, wonderful day... " Strong arms slip around her tiny waist, turn her around. A gentle kiss on her lips. Charles lifts her to the counter and stares deep into her eyes. Concern written all over his face. A flash of annoyance pits in her stomach. His treating her like a delicate china doll again. Pushing him away and hopping down, her tone light, "Honey, you're going to be late to work."
"Babe, I love you. But you can't avoid the truth." His tone gruff with hurt.
"Charlie, not now! Today is a good day, a beautiful day. The boys and I are going to have a fun day. We will discuss that another day!" She tries not to have an angry tone, but the negativity is such a mood kill. "Honey, I love you, please..." Her tone softens with pleading. His tense shoulders drop, but are not at ease. He nods, kisses her again, lightly slaps her backside. She listens to the garage door open, the engine revs. The only sign of his frustration. Carbon smell triggers an unpleasant memory from the nightmare. Her heart thumps painfully against her ribcage. Eyes see black spots and her equilibrium is off, she slumps against the cabinets, grabbing for the counter, missing she falls.
Cheerful voices bring her back, "We're ready! Can we go now?" The voices call in unison, heading way too quickly into the kitchen. She pretends she looking for something in the bottom cupboards. "Mom?"
"Yes, boys!" She pulls her head out and waves water bottles at them. "As soon as I fill these!"
Watching the boys running in and out of the water, splashing, calling, "Mommy, watch...mommy, watch me!!!!" Her soul thrashes in agony in its shell. Why can't this moment last forever? Ignoring the despair and flashes from the nightmare, she gets up to join them. Focusing solely on their glowing, living energy. Their simple joy. Their ability to be just who they are. She tries to dismiss the setting sun and the words from last night, damning her to hell, "My dear, you have died this night, what would you give for one more day?"
"Anything!" she had whispered. "Anything!"
The boys sun-touched faces sleep peacefully and barely stir when she's come in for the tenth time to check on them, touch them and kiss them. It's 11:45. Charles isn't home yet. An emergency at work. The ticking of the grandfather clock is relentless. It time to keep her end of the bargain. She studies the photos in the hallway, runs back to the boys room. Her tears fall on their pillows. Resignation sounds in her steps as she heads back to her room. Laying down fully clothed and waiting for sleep to take her, she vaguely hears the midnight chimes announcing her departure into the frozen arms of limbo.
It's the morning after and sirens fill the air.