Stella stared at the ceiling, trying hard to keep her eyes from drifting toward the numbers glowing blue on the clock beside her bed. Just a few more hours, she’d told herself the last time she looked, and it will all be over.
She’d reminded herself countless times — by next week it would all be behind her. That was the promise that kept her going, along with a substantial amount of caffeine, through all the studying and worrying.
Exams were a thing of the past now, but her habit of wishing herself forward in time was an effective tool and she used it often. As life pushed and pulled at her she wished for weekends and counted down to vacation days. She longed for a solid eight hours of sleep when her son was first born, and she hung on during those early years of her marriage by telling herself things would be better when her husband’s promotion came through. Stella’s approach to the challenges that life presented was to endure, and she did it well.
Resisting the urge to look at the clock as she climbed from beneath the sheets, Stella quietly descended the stairs and stepped out onto the porch. It was a warm night and she walked through the garden, moonlight illuminating her path, the sweet scent of Angel’s Trumpet lingering in the night air. There was a hammock at the far corner of the yard and she lay there, looking up at the stars and wondering, briefly, if anyone or anything were up there looking back at her. Cradled there in the hammock, her mind wandered to images of her children and the many hours they spent playing there and imploring her to join them… it was almost painful now to admit she never had. All those hours spent toiling in the garden; she never once thought to step back and simply enjoy it.
Tears were not something Stella allowed herself to indulge in often, her stoic nature not inclined to crack, but tonight they welled within her eyes, blurring her vision and making the stars twinkle in beautiful patterns. She wanted it back…all that time she had wished away. Enduring her days was an effective distraction and yet now, at the end of her time, she wondered what else she had blocked out along with the pain and hardships of life. How many times had she asked, Is it Friday yet? Now she’d give anything for just one more Monday.
It isn’t as if she didn’t know death would come for her one day. But somehow, one day always seemed so very far away. Lying there, under the vast night sky, the irony of infinite time was not lost on her and her mind drifted, wondering what she might have done differently. A sleepless night with her newborn son might have been spent whispering quiet stories to him, marveling at his perfect smallness and inhaling the smell of him. Memory of a night like that would have brought her comfort on a night like this. If only she had known.
If only she had realized at the time that some of her happiest years were being spent in that cheap apartment in the city, before the promotion and the big house that her husband was almost never home to enjoy. If only she had stopped for just a moment yesterday to appreciate the creamy smoothness of her coffee, tasting the hint of vanilla in its perfect sweetness instead of drinking it down like medicine to get her through the morning. There was a gift in every day…she saw that now, and she wished desperately for all of them back, promising to cherish every minute if only she could have a second chance. Stella pleaded and sobbed under the night sky as the stars faded into dawn. Mere hours remained before she would lie open and vulnerable on the operating table, her chances slim, afraid that her lack of gratitude would be mistaken for apathy.
A young nurse, dressed in blue scrubs, was now telling her to relax and breathe deeply. Stella resisted the urge to wish it were over and instead found solace in the nurses’ kind smile as she drifted off, peaceful in the knowledge that, for once, she’d noticed.
©Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015
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