I really needed to get away. I’ve felt claustrophobic in the house for the past couple of weeks. I’m finally eating too much and sleeping even more. After months of running on nervous energy, my body obviously needs to recharge. But my mind isn’t reaping any benefit from all this idle time. Compulsive cleaning and cooking kept my demons at bay for a while, but now the house is sparkling and the freezer is full and my demons are cracking their whips.
“What would you like?” Vicky lifted her head from her journal, pausing her pen over the page, in response to the waitress’s query.
“A slice of carrot cake and a pot of Earl Grey tea please.” And a double dose of sanity to go with them, Vicky added in her thoughts.
“What’s that you’ve got there? You writing a book or something?” The waitress looked Vicky in the eye…she either wasn’t that interested or was too polite to try to read the page.
“No, not a book. Just thoughts. Nothing that anyone else would be interested in.” Vicky self-consciously closed her diary and then felt guilty when the young woman looked stung by the action.
“I was just wondering, because there are a lot of artists around here and we even have a poet.” The waitress glanced down the street as if a parade of creative locals were coming towards her then she turned and walked back behind the counter with Vicky’s order.
This town was well known as a retreat for artists. It was far enough from the city to provide tranquillity and fresh air…Vicky supposed those were important for some artistic types. But it was also close enough to the city to provide an activity-fix if you needed to escape from all the emptiness. It hadn’t been a specific goal of Vicky’s when she got in the car right after Carl left for work. Rather, she’d just driven away from the city, drawn by a need for a change, a break from what would have been another day like all the others.
Last night I went to bed at 9:00. I used to make the kids go to bed at 9 until they were 16, then I let them stay up as late as they wanted. I can stay up as late as I want, I just don’t want to stay up late. I don’t want to do anything. My motivation is shot.
I think I need to start another job. But doing what? I don’t feel ready to face the world yet. What could I offer any employer? I can just see the ad, “Wanted, aging woman, miserable outlook on life, willing to make coffee and pick up mail from the post office.”
There was a time when I was considered the optimist amongst all my friends and family. I used to love to meet new people and try new things. And whenever anything needed organising, I was the one you’d call.
Vicky sighed, closed the journal and stared at the tree-choked hills. When green clustered that densely, she noticed, it looked less deeply coloured than a single leaf lying alone on a footpath. What she didn’t notice was when strong smells persisted, whether the exhaust fumes of the city or the fecundity of the country, the human nose stopped registering them. Vicky’s senses were inadequate to appreciate the lushness of her surroundings. Or maybe her mind was too tired to take it all in.
The carrot cake was gone without making an impact on Vicky’s appetite and only leaving a whisper of sweet on her tongue. She signalled the waitress.
“Do you have any more of that carrot cake?”
“Sure do. Would you like another piece?” The cheery waitress wasn’t holding a grudge against the woman who shut the book in her face…she had already forgotten the incident.
“Yes please, it’s wonderful,” said Vicky. She was being overly nice to make up for insulting the waitress by closing her diary so rudely. “I bake a lot but never do carrot cake. I think I’m going to have to try it when I get home.”
“I can give you the recipe, if you’d like. Mum is happy to share it with people. But I warn you, nothing tastes as good when you have to make it yourself. And nothing tastes as good in your kitchen as it does in the hills.”
“I suppose you’re right…maybe I won’t take the recipe after all. Tell your mum she’s just won over a regular customer.”
The waitress is the daughter of the baker—probably the owner of this place. Imagine the look on Mary’s face if I asked her to work for me in my new restaurant. It’s tempting to find a little hidey hole like this and to just run away from it all. I wonder if the owner wants a hand. I suppose fuelling the two hour drive would eat up any wages I’d earn.
There must be a more sensible change I can make. The problem is, I can’t trust myself to find it. If I let my mind wander, even slightly, the change I long for is to return to D.
A car just slowed as it drove past. It was the same colour as D’s. But a totally different make. When will I see a car that shade without my heart rate increasing? If that had been him behind the wheel, what would my heart be doing now. It wouldn’t just beat faster; it would lift me off this chair and send me hurtling down the street after him, that’s what.
Closing the diary on that unsettling thought, Vicky slipped it into her oversized handbag. She caught the waitress’s eye. “Can I get two pieces of carrot cake to take home, please? I’ll treat my husband to a nice dessert tonight.”
Vicky carefully set the carrot cake on the floor in the back of the car. She wanted it to be intact when she got home. Carl, who hates carrots, never ate carrot cake. That was the real reason Vicky never baked it at home. A fact she’d momentarily forgotten.