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THERESA WOKE up suddenly. Her heart was racing. Her eyelids were heavy and moist. She had been dreaming but could no longer remember what it was about.

It was still very early and the sun was not yet in the sky. She rubbed her eyes and tried to adjust her sight to the darkness in the room. The ticking of the kitchen clock echoed through the house. She lay there, on her back, and considered what her day would bring. It would be the same day she had lived yesterday, the day before, and the day before that.

How long had she been here? How did she arrive at this moment in her life? These thoughts had been racing through her head almost every morning over the past few months. A shuffle beside her grabbed her attention. It was John and he was still sleeping. His breathing was even, in and out.

It was a lifetime ago that Theresa had married John. Why had she chosen him? He was not the most attractive man, but he was steady and predictable. She had felt comfortable with his family. Their upbringing was similar and slightly conservative. Nothing appeared to bother him, which was considerably different from her father — a loud and opinionated man who yelled at her mother and siblings on a regular basis. John was gentle and soft spoken and a breath of fresh air.

Theresa had enjoyed the quiet man she married and the silent house that came with their union. That was over 30 years ago. Now she was a slave to the silence she once loved.

She frowned, rubbed her slightly dry hands, and rolled on to her side. The sun was just beginning to rise, pushing light through the crack in their bedroom door, which was slightly ajar. Now that the kids were gone, the need for privacy was not as important. She and John were the only occupants in the house.

Theresa’s smiled as she thought of her two boys. They were born two years apart within the first five years of their marriage. That’s the way it was then. Putting off having children while you travelled or developed your career was simply unheard of. John had been working as a manager for the local hardware store. They had both decided that Theresa would stay home because it made sense financially.

And so, Theresa began her life as a mother, nurse, and teacher for her sons. She was tied to their naptimes for the first five years and then their nursery school programs. Then they were both in primary school and Theresa suddenly had more time on her hands. She filled the time with housework, and when that was completed she didn’t know what to do.

One day she cleaned out a cupboard and found her paints — her watercolours. She hadn’t touched them since college. The pucks were dry and cracked and the brushes were stiff and lifeless. They were junk, but she could buy new ones. She would. But it was already 3:15 and she had to get the boys from school. The truth was that she had been thinking about starting to paint again for over a year. Tomorrow, she would get new supplies. But tomorrow turned into another tomorrow, into a month, and then another until she eventually gave up on the idea. She tossed her old supplies into the trash and gave in to being a full time Mom.

While Theresa guided her sons, John was promoted and managed two stores. His income increased and that meant fewer struggles with money. The kids were clothed, food was cooked, laundry was cleaned and beds were made. It was a life of comfortable routine.

Family dinners were Theresa’s favourite time. Each night they all sat at the dinner table. Animated discussions about sports and homework were dished out with the meals. Stories about girls were shared over salad. Her boys had become young adults, with engaging conversation and their banter filled the house.

Now the boys were no longer at home. Empty rooms waited for them to visit. Waited for them to call. One was in college out of town, and the other worked and lived with his girlfriend. Theresa wondered what they might be talking about. She decided to call them today, just to hear their voices.

John stirred again. They had been in the house alone for two years now and the house was quiet again. John worked every day at the same job he’d had for over 20 years. Theresa maintained the house, did their laundry, and cooked dinner. She filled the spaces in between with a tea at the neighbour’s house, gardening when the weather was good, and intermittent card games with her friends. Routine.

She rolled on her back again and stared at the ceiling. When did that crack appear? She hadn’t noticed. She would be getting up soon. Today would be like every other day. John would give her a kiss goodbye, grab his coffee and head to work. When he came home he would eat dinner in silence and retire to the television. The silence that Theresa once adored was killing her slowly. It was chipping away at her soul. She listened to John breathing quietly beside her. He was quiet in every way.

The sunlight was coming through the door so brightly now that it appeared as though there was nothing beyond the silhouette of the door frame. Shielding her eyes, Theresa stared at the white light and imagined for a moment that it was a small crack in time. It could be an entrance to another universe — a place where she could be free to pursue her dreams and speak her personal truths. Beyond that door was that art class she always wanted to take, the career in travel she once dreamed of, and the lover who would be as passionate about her thoughts as he was about her body. All she had to do was reach out, grab the doorknob, open the door and walk out.

The alarm beeped loudly and Theresa came to her senses. She swung her legs over the bed and planted her feet on the floor as John stretched. Her body felt as heavy as a corpse. She went into the washroom, turned on the light and stared at the woman in the mirror. She touched her lip. When did that wrinkle arrive?

Tomorrow, she told herself. Tomorrow she would walk through that crack in the door and into the light beyond.

  1. Dang. Now I feel all deflated and sad….

  2. Beautifully written. I’m sure there are many of us who can relate to this story.

  3. Oh, the tedium of routine, the sense of loss at a life that has slipped through fingers like a child who has dropped an easy catch. Ennui and regret dog us all at times. “Silence” is a slice of life I am sure we have all experienced and look back on with a sigh.

    If I may make a suggestion, Linda, try tightening your prose by limiting the use of the verb ‘to be ‘, and the passive voice, avoid ‘suddenly ‘ and ‘very’ as if they are disease carriers, and regard the gerund as a toad you only want to kiss when the handsome prince next to you snores.

    “Theresa woke, her heart pounding, her eyelids heavy and moist. Her dream popped and fled to oblivion…” Just a suggestion. I hope you don’t take it the wrong way.


  4. As my dearly departed Irish Granny would no doubt have said about this piece through a cloud of cigarette smoke trying to keep warm in her public housing flat surrounded as she always was with kids and more kids…”This Missus needs a good kick up the arse.”

  5. A lot of lives not fully lived reverberates in this story. How easily humans can allow procrastination to wrap around them as a habit hard to break. Thanks for “the boot in me arse” to not fall into the trap of silence and soul stealing comfortableness — I will listen to my inner voice and pay more attention thanks to the plight of Theresa. A very poignant story!

  6. I think many people can identify with Theresa’s struggles. Thanks Linda for the great reminder not to put off dreams until tomorrow. It’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable existence.

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