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THE DOOR opened effortlessly at her touch. She stepped into the dim interior, letting the door close softly behind her, shutting out all sounds of the City. Silence welcomed her like an old friend. She did not hesitate but continued straight through the house towards the garden. She could see it from the entrance, framed by the back window, beckoning her. A row of green foliage divided the backyard in two. On her left, a lush green lawn with a tall and full maple tree. Its branches arching above, almost touching the house and hanging over the back fence, filtering the light so it created lacey patterns on the grass. The grass was edged with overflowing plant beds. A riot of colour with no discernible pattern. Vines and cedars obscured the wooden fence beyond, so barely a plank was visible. This lush green border continued around the property, containing both the lawn and the pool to her right. The pool was bordered on three sides by dense green plants that came right to its edge. The plants reflected in the surface of the water, giving it a green cast, so it felt more like a pond in the jungle than a swimming pool. The natural stone boulders were placed to form steps into the pool. A flagstone patio stretched between the stone edge of the pool and the house. The stone continued into the sitting room, where the stone floor rose up to form a fireplace and its hearth.
She swung open the large glass doors of the sitting room, to welcome the faint breeze off the pool. The second floor created an overhang over the doors, so waves of light patterned the ceiling. The entire room seemed to breathe and sway with the foliage outside. The house was the only visible building. The City could not be seen or heard. The silence wrapped around her like a comforting blanket. She sat on the edge of the pool, feet in the water, her face turned up to the sun.
“Mommy, get up, it’s 8:30am.”
She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting the pull as the garden faded around her.
“It’s Saturday,” she mumbled.
“I need you.”
She opened her eyes to see a mirror of her own in the soft curve of her son’s face. With a sigh, she stretched. Her son’s face broke into a grin and with a bounce of joy, he jumped off the bed and headed back to his room to play, his mission complete.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed. She could still feel the sun on her skin, the peace of the garden. It had been so real. The smell of the wind and the lush shades of green seemed more real than the room she woke in. Was this reality? Her eyes landed on the overflowing laundry basket. This must be real, as no one would dream of this. The monotony of the day loomed before her. The never ending piles of laundry and grocery lists. So much time spent doing thankless tasks; not enough time outside, smelling the roses. She glanced out the window at the grey cold day. It’s the weather that’s bringing me down, she thought. She longed for the sunny cold days of her childhood in northern Canada. She could still recall the sound of her boots breaking through the crust of the snow as she ran, the pain in her nose as she breathed in the frigid air and making snowmen in snow so bright it hurt to look at. She never liked the cold temperatures but this dirty slush was worse. It seemed to absorb all the beauty around her, diluting the world in its cool grey filth. There was not even enough for her son to play in. It had been over a month since she last saw the blue sky.
She turned her eyes back to the laundry. It was not going to go away. Funny how there are so many stories about magical closets, doors, keys, so many items, but never a magical laundry hamper. She could feel it growing before her. Wrapping around her, so she could not move. Suffocating her. Growing higher and higher so she could not see beyond the pile.
“Mommy, what are you doing?”
Her thoughts were broken by her son’s voice. She found she was standing in the laundry bin with clothes wrapped around her legs. “Just packing down the laundry so it will fit,” she said weakly.
“Look, it’s sunny!” Her son cried suddenly. “I want to go outside and play.”
She looked out the window in surprise. She stepped calmly out of the laundry basket and picked it up. “Yes, let’s do that,” she responded.
He bounded down the stairs and started madly pulling on his coat. With a squeal, he was outside running around the tree in the backyard. She watched his joy and energy with envy. If we could harness that energy he could power a city, she thought. She tilted her head up to the sun. Looking through the branches at the blue sky she was for a moment back in her dream. There was no pool, no tropical foliage, no leaves at all but the sun was heaven. If she looked straight up, she couldn’t see her neighbours, just the pattern of the branches cutting up the blue sky.
“What are you doing?” her husband’s voice broke through her thoughts.
She looked down at her hands that were red with cold. The laundry basket, placed on the snow covered table, was full of carefully folded clothes. “Folding laundry” she said with a wave of her hands.
“It’s minus ten degrees Celsius.”
“Yes, it is,” she said and turned her face back up to the sun.