It was barely morning as Anna sat on her front porch in her tattered robe. She looked out at all the other houses on the block and imagined their alarm clocks going off, and their days beginning. Anna sipped her coffee, and stared out into the silence. When she was younger, she was full of so many dreams and the world seemed so full of possibility. It wasn’t that long ago, but it felt like an eternity to her. Anna uncrossed and recrossed her legs, pulled her robe tighter, took another sip of her coffee, and shut her eyes and felt the light breeze on her face.
Anna was a talented writer. In high school she earned praise from teachers, and peers alike. She sat in her bedroom for hours, writing stories, staring out the window, and imagining her life as a journalist. How exciting it must be to be on the cutting edge, the breaking spot of every crucial story, telling it in a way that readers can relate, and touching them in some small way.
At her English teacher, Mr. Bentley’s, prompting, she had entered a writing scholarship contest for college. And she actually had been a finalist. Anna remembered how proud she had been, how she could finally see her future opening up, and becoming a reality.
Soon all these memories were replaced by other happy times in her life.
Tom Gallagher had been the love of her life. Tall, handsome, beautiful hazel eyes that looked right into her. She had felt so safe in his arms, in his presence at all, and it seemed like such a natural path for the two of them to be together. Tom offered her the first feelings of stability she had ever known. It was a feeling Anna wasn’t willing to give up, not for anything. Though Tom had seemed supportive of her dreams, he was a small town boy, and he had no intentions of leaving or changing his life’s path in any way.
When Tom first asked Anna out, she was the envy of all of her friends. Tom was well liked by everyone in town, and girls had been vying for his attention since Anna could remember. They had been seniors, and had so much fun going to all of the parties, prom, and graduation celebrations together. Anna’s parents were fond of the Gallagher’s, too, which had made the two of them even more perfect for each other.
Now days spent staring out the window were spent doodling Tom’s name and Mrs. Thomas Gallagher.
“You had better not let that one go.”
“He’s a keeper.”
“Men like that don’t just come around everyday.”
Everyone’s comments had made Anna proud of her relationship with Tom, but also fearful that one day she would lose such praise.
Now as she took another sip of her coffee, she wondered why the praise directed towards her, her writing, her future, never seemed to make as much of an impact.
Though her family had been pleased by her writing accomplishments, they never felt it would bring her the kind of happiness that a husband and children would. This point had been made abundantly clear when as graduation crept near, the constant questions as to what her and Tom’s plans would be after graduation overwhelmed her, and her writing scholarship had simply turned into an immature part of growing up, nothing to take too seriously.
Anna started avoiding Mr. Bentley and his urgings, and focused more on making everyone else happy, especially Tom.
And then it came a reality. Anna had butterflies in her stomach when Tom nervously asked her to marry him. They would live right here in town, Tom would work for his father’s real estate firm, and Anna would raise their children. It seemed like a dream come true. Anna didn’t allow her mind to wander too much into what that would entail, what she would have to give up, and everyone else’s dream, became hers too.
In the first few years of marriage, Anna barely thought of what might have been. Having three children rarely gives you such a luxury of dreaming at all. Every once in a while, while singing the children to sleep, she might think of how her life turned out this way, but she always looked at her children, and knew that this had been meant to be.
In the past couple of years though, Anna had realized Tom wasn’t looking at her in a loving, husbandly way anymore. His grateful, awe gazed looks had been replaced by looks of sympathy, almost feeling sorry for her. Maybe her façade of being happy had vanished, and she looked just like she felt, like a woman who had lost her way, and felt held down by daily responsibilities of reality--a reality that she had bought into, even encouraged-- replacing putting herself out there, and having to succeed on her own.
Anna knew what Tom’s late nights at the office meant, and had heard the rumors around town. She knew that he no longer was attracted to her, and she didn’t blame him. How could he be attracted to a woman that had lived not for herself, not to make her own dreams come true, but to just be with him?
Anna heard the alarm clock go off inside the house, and knew it was time to put all of this away, and start the day, like she had done so many times before. She had always been able to push these thoughts to the back of her mind, and concentrate at the tasks at hand. First make sure the boys were up for school, start making breakfast, and get the boys’ lunches ready. The chaotic mornings generally didn’t last more than an hour or so, and then it would be off to her daily chores of cleaning, errands, and then starting dinner for the evening.
As the boys came down stairs for breakfast, Anna couldn’t get the thoughts out of her mind like she usually could. She was distant, and all her actions were on autopilot. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, the feelings of yearning for something more all of sudden turned into resentment. Anna knew it wasn’t right to blame anybody but herself for an unfulfilled life, but these thoughts wouldn’t be so easily dismissed.
As Tom walked down the stairs, Anna remembered how they used to smile when they looked at each other. Anna had been so interested in all of Tom’s thoughts, fears, and dreams. She had loved their talks, and he had loved the way she listened. Now as she looked at him, all she could think of was how she couldn’t wait for him to leave for the day. What used to seem like a path her life had taken, now seemed like an interruption, and she knew right then that her life had gone terribly off course.
Tom left the house with barely grunting a good-bye, and Anna saw to getting the boys off to school.
As Anna drove towards the school, and to the drop off area, her stomach felt full of anticipation. It wasn’t nervousness, it wasn’t hesitation, it was anticipation. She said good-bye to the boys, knowing it might be the last time, and they to her, too young to realize this difference in their mother.
Anna looked at the road ahead, and drove. She had no idea where she was going, what she was going to do, and for the first time realized she was still in her bathrobe. She wouldn’t let small negligible details stop this moment. She kept driving. Soon she was at the edge of town. She pulled the car over on the side of the road for a moment. She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. Then, she opened her eyes, and she drove.