The pixelated, black words bled her escape across the screen, feeding her soul with the only substance that allowed her heart to soar. All was well. No matter how many times she read the line, she would never grow old of the way she felt upon taking the words in, time and time again. All was well; it was the main hope of her life. The thread she attempted to sew into her every, mundane, day. She desired to look around her world and, even for a moment, get the idea that all was well.
“Mommy!!” Her eldest daughters shrill voice pierced her ears, breaking her from her Kindle against her will. “He won’t quit watching me pee!”
Nineteen years later and all was well for her favorite literary characters. But, nineteen years and three kids later, all was not well for Sally Cudworth. The three beings that required her every second of every day made sure that nothing was close to well for more than five minutes at a time. Normalcy wasn’t in reach. Drama, on the other hand, Sally had in abundance.
“Seriously?” She sighed and tossed her e-reader onto the couch, wishing she could climb into the worlds it contained. “Could you guys, for once, just not—” she searched for the words to finish the sentence, but none came to mind. “Just not!” she settled, knowing she wanted far too much from the three small children that caused at least ninety percent of the issues in her life.
“But I can’t close the door, he’s standing in front of it!” Alice didn’t miss a beat, as usual.
“Toby, get out of the bathroom this instant!” Sally hated how many times she sounded like that mom. The one she swore she’d never be. The very one she’d become the moment she had real children.
“No!” His tiny voice responded with emphasis on the o.
“What can possibly be so interesting about your sister peeing?” Add that to the list of things Sally never imagined she’d need to say. It was a list that grew at least a few inches every day.
“I dunno,” his shoulders shrugged to drive his point home. Toby’s eyes gazed at her with curiosity behind them, his lips curling into a slight smile. In an instant, she was mush. He made no sense, nothing about the situation did, yet with one look he was too cute to stay mad at.
“Just go boy,” Sally surrendered. What choice did she have? “Where’s your sister?” She asked Alice as Toby ran off giggling.
“She’s hiding!” Alice hopped off the toilet and pulled her clothes up, chasing after her brother.
“Alice!” Sally called down the hall after her, “aren’t you forgetting something?”
The blonde-haired girl looked back at Sally, her blue eyes shining with curiosity. “What?” She asked innocently.
“Hands!” Sally responded, growing tired, once again, of saying the same things a million times each day.
“Oh yeah!” Alice laughed as she returned to wash her hands in the sink. Water and soap suds splashed on the countertop and Sally added cleaning it to her ever-growing to-do list. “Hey,” she whispered around the doorframe, “any idea where Luna is hiding?”
“In the closet.” Alice grinned, her missing tooth taking full view in the process.
“Which one?” Sally called as she walked down the robin’s egg colored hallway her husband despised. Something about the color seemed cheery, an emotion she didn’t often feel, yet wanted to invite into their home. An inaudible response trailed down after her, Sally assumed it wouldn’t give her much information even if she could understand it. Nevertheless, she continued towards Luna’s room on a hunch her middle child would’ve chosen her own closet as the only suitable hiding place.
Luna was overcome with giggles upon being found. It was the same reaction every time. The joy never lessened, no matter how many times they lived the exact same scenario. This was what always made Sally laugh along, no matter what the kids and life had put her through, even moments before. The innocent, pure, overwhelming joy they could take out of simple things. As Luna pounced out of the basket, Sally began tickling her sides. They both laughed, Luna louder than Sally. A few moments later, Toby ran into the room, wanting to join in on the fun. He jumped on Sally, begging for the same treatment his sister was getting.
Giggling children filled Sally with the happiness that only her children could spur within her. Joy coursed through her, an elation she rarely felt, yet welcomed constantly. She tickled the three bodies she created relentlessly, allowing the laughter to fill the tiny closet and her soul. With three small frames upon her, Lucy began to sit up and a pain in her back overtook the fun of the past several moments.
As every nerve in her body caught fire, the pain setting off a trail up her spine and into her neck, she tensed, and her body froze. Her children recognized the pain seizure and instantly toppled off her. Sally sat, inhaling deeply, as she prayed for the pain to pass. Some days it would last a few moments, others she would remain unable to be productive for the day at the very least, if not more. The few moments of ecstasy had come to a screeching halt, as she knew happened all too often.