Drama Fiction

Henrietta had once dreamed of working as a veterinarian. Throughout college, her husband had fully supported her plan by encouraging her dream. They married soon after graduation and agreed to have children years later. Jack became cemented into his new finance job, leaving her ample time to search for the right graduate program while working part time in an animal adoption center. Henrietta was excited about her future.

Jack was home between work and “meetings” that usually consisted of time at the bar with coworkers. Henrietta became pregnant with their first child just before her twenty second birthday. Jack had made efforts to get her drunk when they celebrated her special day with friends. He purposely left the condom off when they were in bed that night. When she realized what happened the next morning, he explained that the condom probably broke when she tore it out of the plastic. Several weeks later the pregnancy tests confirmed her anxiety.

Henrietta felt as though most days were monotonous after the birth of Michael. Wake, feeding, diaper change, nap, feeding, diaper change, bed. Jack hadn’t done as much to help as he had offered when she was shaking with her first positive test. Being the sole parent left her with little energy to enjoy her own endeavors. Henrietta resented the ways that pregnancy ravaged her once cute figure. The mirror caused her to hate what her body had become. She blamed herself for being so careless with the condom that night. Exhaustion forced her to reject most of Jack’s advances. Henrietta felt bad about not having the physical energy for intimacy. She felt bogged down in the fear of another unplanned baby. Henrietta felt little emotional space for herself let alone her husband who was hardly a help.

Four months after birthing, she lay asleep in bed, worn out from the day’s responsibilities. Jack arrived home from another late night smelling like he had been dragged through of field of rum. He slipped off his clothes and slid up against her. Jack began softly kissing her neck and shoulder. She responded as if in a dream. He took this as a signal to continue and set about into foreplay. Her body engaged with him in the moment. One part of her self felt the need to end their sex drought, the other wanting to sleep. She consented to his touch. Their bodies engaged in passion and came together. They each rolled over into sleep. She awoke the next morning half naked, realizing that he hadn’t worn a condom the night before. Henrietta railed on him for being so careless, especially at her most fertile time.

Three weeks passed. She was late once again. Henrietta sat numb on the toilet holding another positive stick as Michael screamed in the background. Henrietta feared that she would end up breeding him more and more children if she remained in the relationship. Her first entrenched thoughts of leaving took root in her overwhelmed mind. Henrietta felt as though any chance for achieving her own goals floated in the water she was about to flush. Jack had become more distant since their last blowup. They were cordial to one another as if sharing a space with no connection.

Her body began to expand to her dismay. When Jack came home, he buried himself in “computer work” that she suspected was either pornography or online poker. He offered vague reassurances that he would be more available with the second child. Henrietta bluntly reminded him that he could be helpful right now. Jack occasionally went through the motions of care-taking while commenting how she needed to be grateful since some of his buddies helped less than him. She fantasized about how she would leave her family more every day, filled with thoughts about pushing their children into his arms while storming out.

Her body felt even more unrecognizable through her pregnancy of Sue Ellen, sinking her esteem. Jack was nowhere to be found most of the time, especially when she told him that she needed support. He would justify his absences with convenient work meetings. Henrietta knew something had to give. She worked hard to get a plan to leave in place. Henrietta began mailing small portions of her clothes to her sister. She arranged an evening so that Jack would be home by hinting that she wanted sex that night. Jack was home immediately after work. They sat on the couch together as the kids explored their toys on the carpet. She shook with anticipation. Henrietta readied herself to let her feelings spill out. As she opened her mouth, his phone rang forcing her to pause. Jack answered the call from his boss. The call lasted nearly an hour causing Henrietta’s courage to plummet. She forced herself to address the issue as Jack became lost in television once more after hanging up. Henrietta was convinced that her husband was patiently biding his time until they could be intimate. She looked at him with fragile determination. Sue Ellen began to fuss on the carpet. Henrietta rose to attend to her. Several minutes later she sat down, breast feeding her daughter. Jack looked at her.

“Babe, when are you going to make dinner?”

She couldn’t figure out how he could ask for a meal with their daughter literally attached to her. Henrietta felt the want to scream rise within her.

“Feel free to make us whatever meal you like,” she responded.

“C’mon babe, I’ve been working hard. You’re the one that’s been hanging out all day.”

She looked at him in absolute disbelief. Their daughter continued to feed.

“I have been looking after your children all day, not to mention, taking care of the house. If you wanted me more available, maybe filling my uterus with children wasn’t the smartest idea.”

“Whoa, whoa. You know that you broke the condom with Michael and Sue Ellen was from the night you wanted sex more than I did.”

Sue Ellen finished. Henrietta softly burped her. She took her daughter into the other room for a rest. Jack was busy watching television as she came back.

“Jack, there’s something I have been wanting to tell you for some -”

Michael whimpered on the floor.

“Really, babe. He’s fussing and I’m trying to watch my program.”

She reached down to pick their son up. The reality of his diaper forced her to shelve her thoughts. Henrietta stared daggers at Jack as she took their son to his room for changing. Jack took the hint and followed her up the stairs.

“Listen, babe, maybe if I came up with a more efficient system for you, then taking care of a couple kids wouldn’t be such a burden.”

Henrietta disposed of the dirty diaper. She cleaned their son as Jack continued.

“I mean, you do a decent job, but I can’t always be around like I am now when I get a promotion.”

The rage piled up inside her. The resolve to leave the nightmare solidified.

“Jack, I think I need to -”

The doorbell rang.

“One second, babe.”

He left the room to go downstairs as she finished with the new diaper. A bunch of voices came from below.

“- it’s ok, Henrietta will make us something to eat. Let me get her, she’s probably lollygagging upstairs.” Jack yelled up to her. “Hey, babe, Tom and Linda are here. They haven’t eaten as well. Maybe when you’re done playing with Michael, you could make dinner.”

Henrietta fumed. She felt way too frazzled to make the two of them dinner, let alone his uninvited friends. Henrietta stood frozen at the table as Michael squirmed. She didn’t know how to make any of this work. Henrietta placed her son in his bed for the time being, putting on the overhead mobile. Henrietta went into the upstairs bathroom. She looked back at herself in the mirror. Deep bags under her eyes, mild acne that she hadn’t the energy to resolve and hair that was days in need of cleaning. She stood in a stained t-shirt and sweatpants that were late for the hamper. She appeared in the mirror looking like the day’s train wreck that she felt inside. Henrietta could hear the three adults catch up as the minutes passed by.

“What’s the hold up, babe? We’re starving down here.”

She lost the ability to care about what others might think about her. Henrietta arrived in front of their guests exactly as she looked moments ago. They all stared at her in disbelief. Linda looked her up and down in sheer disbelief. Jack sat in his chair confused about his disheveled wife’s appearance.

“Hi. I’m sorry that I look like I do. I wasn’t expecting company. I’ll see what I can do for dinner.”

She turned to leave into the kitchen.

“Um, let me see if she needs a hand.” Jack stood up feeling a swelling embarrassment. He made his way into the kitchen.

“Babe, did you even hear that our friends are over? I mean, you could have done something to look more presentable.”

Henrietta ignored his observation. “Do you know where the marinara sauce is? I put it in the cabinet earlier this week.”

“Babe, are you listening to me?”

“What… do… you… want, Jack? I am trying to make your friends dinner when I, myself, have barely eaten since breakfast. I have no energy and no help in this house.”

“C’mon babe, you’re at home all day, you could’ve eaten whenever you wanted.”

“I will get dinner started. I will clean myself up. I will be sociable until they leave and then you and I need to talk.”

Jack looked at the anger across her face. “Babe, don’t be like this. You are better than being a bitch right now.”

Henrietta slammed the jar of sauce on the counter.

“Go back to your friends and let… me… be.”

He stood there for a minute, then decided that being out her way was in his best interest. She listened to them talk in the living room.

“Yeah, sorry, I don’t know what her deal is. She’s probably just on her period. I try to help around here but she wants to control everything.”

Henrietta dove deep into herself not to enter the living room with a carving knife directed at Jack’s face. It took several deep breaths while staring at the noodles soaking in water to get her off the ledge. I have to leave. I have to leave. I have to leave. She worked her best to calm down for the sake of having company over. Henrietta excused herself to go upstairs as the noodles softened. She checked on her little ones. Both were fast asleep. She washed her face and put on makeup for effort. A brush went through her hair to make it look presentable. She changed out her t-shirt and sweats for a bra, blouse and the cleanest pair of black tights laying on the ground. Her steps went straight from the stairs into the kitchen to check on the noodles. Henrietta sat down with her husband in the living room. The conversation held no interest for her as her eyes ricocheted between errant toys, fighting the growing urge to clean. She rose from time to time to checking on the food and set the table with the last available clean dishes. The group was summoned to the table as Henrietta served their simple meal of pasta.

“I’m sorry. She is having a day. Next time there will be a better dinner,” Jack said as he looked at his friends with a forced smile.

Henrietta used the reserves of her patience to stay in the moment. Her disinterest was interpreted as rudeness. The other couple stopped asking questions that were responded with one word answers. Good. Fine. Busy. Ok. She spent the dinner practicing what to say to Jack the moment they left.

“This one is usually a chatterbox most of the time. ‘Jack, do this. Jack, help me with that.’ She actually used to be fun in college.”

“Excuse me.” Henrietta got up from her dinner, leaving half of her meal sitting in place. “Jack, when your friends are done, we need to talk.”

Henrietta sat alone upstairs nestled in a numb fog. Hours passed before the couple exited out the door. Jack bounced up the staircase, intoxication dripping from his breath.

“What did you want to talk about?” He asked in a cautious tone.

“Jack, something needs to change. Something drastic.”

“What the hell are you talking about? Nothing’s wrong, except you being rude to our friends.”

“I need something more than -”

Jack’s phone dinged.

“More than what we -”

The phone dinged again.

Henrietta waited in silence. Jack looked trapped.

“Hold on, babe, I have to check my phone.”

He read through the messages.

Jack looked at his wife. “Um, Terry and Jim are on their way to pick me up for some work thing.”

“On a Friday night? At 9 o’clock?”

“Um, yeah.”

She grabbed the phone out of his palm and checked the messages. Dude, it’s time to hit The Beaver Station over on Fifth. We’ll be there in 5. She snatched his phone, walked over to the window and threw it onto the concrete sidewalk below. He stood in front of her with restrained anger. She threw her finger into his face until he retreated back against the bed, finding a seat on the comforter.

“Sit down and listen to me. You aren’t going anywhere. We are going to talk, now. I am done with you. I am done with your selfish ways and poor fathering and poor husbanding. I am done! We are done.”

“Shh, babe. You’ll wake the babies. You know how much you hate dealing with them at this hour.”

Henrietta closed in on him. “You need to grow the fuck up real quick. I can’t do this by myself. Embarrassing me like that was the last straw.”

She stood in front of him taking a full breath readying herself for the final words. He looked at her with a building panic.

“Jack, I am leav-”

Knock, knock, knock. The front door registered the arrival of his friends. The newborn began to cry at the intrusion. Jack saw this as his way out.

“Um, I’m sure you just need to calm down, babe. Maybe you need some space tonight.”

He got up and immediately moved to the bedroom door.

“Hey, you might want to deal with the kid before the other one wakes up too. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

Henrietta stood in shock as he bounced downstairs. The baby crying barely registered into her brain. She listened as the door closed behind him. The crying, the nightmare dinner, her oblivious husband and the fact that he left all seemed to be miles away from her. She stared at the place on the bed where he had been sitting only a couple minutes ago. The only evidence of him ever being there was the imprint on the comforter. Henrietta moved into the baby’s room to sooth her back to sleep. She took off her clothes and swaddled herself in bed. She looked at the wall as exhaustion took her into slumber.

The evening passed into morning. Henrietta woke up to her children stirring in the other room. Henrietta dressed in a sweater and tights from the previous night. She attended to the children and kept them in their beds. She made her way down the stairs. Jack was passed out on the couch in his underwear. She grabbed her purse. Henrietta floated into the kitchen as Jack snored within his blackout drunk sleep.

She looked at him one last time. Her arms outstretched with each hand holding a large, metal pot lid. Henrietta brought the lids together over his head. The crash was deafening. Jack jumped up from the couch, grabbing at his ears, the morning light blinding his sensitive senses. Both babies began crying from upstairs. He looked at her through his hangover. Henrietta threw the lids against the wall, causing more noise.

“I. Am. Leaving.”

She looked at him with the most satisfying smile. He tried to make sense of the situation.

“What the hell, babe?” Jack glared at her in disbelief.

Henrietta gave him the middle finger on both hands. She crossed the living room, yanked off her wedding ring and exited out the front door, slamming it for good measure. The long drive to her sister was the solo adventure she felt she needed. The untouched emotion of leaving her children simmered in the back of her clouded thoughts. Tears of joy crossed her cheeks as she began the journey to set up a new life.

April 16, 2021 12:55

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