by Alison Ogilvie-Holme
Knee-deep in domestic standoff, place tearful Eden on top of mattress and slowly back away from crib with fingers crossed. Tiptoe across bedroom floor, careful to avoid landmines — heaping laundry basket and rotund Mr. Whiskers. Anticipate further protest then sigh with relief when silence prevails. Close door in victory. One battle won.
Half an hour until school bus arrives. Weigh options on mental checklist: brush teeth, take shower, wash dishes, mop floors? Cave to 3:00 PM slump and curl up on sofa instead; hygiene and housework be damned. Listen to sound of ocean waves playing on Lullaby Lamb and dream of tropical paradise — sandy footfalls as hair blows in gentle island breeze.
Jolt awake at sudden noise. Door slamming, followed by loud voices and plaintive wail from upstairs.
Wake up, Mommy!
Sit up and spring into action. Rescue Eden and promptly deposit in exersaucer to prepare afterschool snack. Hugs and kisses: How was your day? Hide moistening eyes when Olivia sobs. No birthday invitation from Adele Sinclair. Break into smile when Devon beams. First place ribbon in track and field! Divide attention three ways and dole out food in equal portions. Try to intervene as sister and brother start to argue, taking shots back and forth in steady escalation of force.
Lose shit when Devon screams bloody murder and topples backwards after being punched in gut. Grab Olivia by arm in vice-like grip and exile to bedroom. Proceed to ignore sounds of tantrum threatening to bust open ceiling. Wield self-affirmations like suit of armour. Stay strong. Do not give in. Apply ice to growing bump on Devon’s forehead, rocking exersaucer with foot. Check incoming text from vibrating phone. Tom will be home late. Again. Curse under breath. Please God, not tonight!
Begin countdown to bedtime. Fly through evening routine as if powered by invisible motor. Dinner then bath then pyjamas then teeth then stories then bed then sleep. Sleep. Please sleep. Time for sleep! GOODNIGHT!
Afterwards, drink glass of wine in bed watching news on CBC. Attempt to shake bad mom hangover. Slowly drift away from rational thought. Make unexpected return to island of dreams, landscape now mired in raging storm. Shiver compulsively. Wake-up for 2:00 AM feeding to discover pyjamas soaked in spilled wine, Tom snoring at maximum volume. Crawl back into bed later donning nightgown that vanishes within seconds; foreplay no longer implicit in dark of night or tenth year of marriage. Disengage from post-coital embrace as Tom’s snoring resumes unabated.
Mummify body in tattered but well loved housecoat. Ruminate. Walk down hallway to examine reflection in lengthwise mirror. Frown at strange woman characterized by fresh worry lines and creped pouches under eyes. Imagine stepping through glass into parallel universe where time can be bought and sold; second chances available on every street corner. Linger for spell in fantasy world. When did everyday life become so complicated? Allow tears to drown cheeks in overflowing river of regret. Breathe. Face yourself head-on. You will do better tomorrow.
Alison Ogilvie-Holme began writing in earnest over the past year, publishing on Friday Flash Fiction, 121 Words, 101 Words, and a recent issue of Detritus. She is drawn to exploring characters who are perfectly flawed (much like herself). Alison is the mother of identical twin daughters and lives in Canada with her family.