Today's Reading

"What's the matter?" I lean forward, arms crossed on my knees. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Just tired." She stands and pulls her clothes from the locker then threads her feet into sweatpants.

"Aren't you going to take off that wet suit?"

Izzy shakes her head. At that moment, the towel slips from her grip and cascades to the wet floor. Izzy lunges for her sweatshirt.

Cold, like ice water, washes through my veins and sends a chill down my arms that leaves my fingers numb. I look away. I can't help it. Maybe it was the angle, or maybe...I can't even finish the thought.

No.

I must be wrong.

The change, so slight only a mother would notice.

Izzy can't be pregnant.

***

The Crock-Pot insert slips from my soapy hands, the first realization that I've forgotten to put on the purple latex gloves I always wear when washing dishes. It thunks into the side of the porcelain sink then settles to the bottom, and a faint break of glass is muffled by water.

Moments tick by as I procrastinate, rolling my head back and forth against the death grip my neck muscles hold on my spine. So much like what I'm doing with my daughter who picked at her dinner and now hides behind the barricade of her bedroom door. Maybe it would be better not to know what's shattered below the surface.

Zachary brushes past me and swings the refrigerator door open. "What are you searching for?"

He doesn't look up. "I'm starved. What do we have to eat?"

Crumbs decorate the dining room table, evidence of a task I haven't yet checked off my post-dinner list. "We just ate."

He straightens, one hand on the open door, and shrugs. "I'm hungry." "Here." I break a banana from its bunch and place it in his hand.

Lines furrow his forehead. He's disappointed in his bounty.

He complains that he's shorter than his friends, but I can see the growth spurt has begun. Soon he'll be tall and broad like his father. Too soon. Already Zachary's boyish face is transforming with the sharper features of a man.

A cold shiver freezes my blood and stops my breathing. What have I done to my children? Are they about to come face-to-face with the consequence of my sin? Why had I ever pretended I could outrun my past?

"What?" He's caught me staring.

"Have you finished your homework?"

The corner of his lip lifts into a snarl. "Math is killing my creative spirit." He sighs with a depth that reminds me of a Shakespearean play, then walks away toward the family room.

I nod and turn back to the sink. It's time to face whatever is fractured under the cloud of bubbles.

Sliding my hand through the water, I pull the plug and the soapy surface slides down the sink wall, revealing the shattered edge of my favorite teacup. I don't even remember putting this prized possession into the suds.

A tear slips down my cheek, and I swallow back sobs. An overreaction, but emotion knows no rationale. I pile the broken shards on my palm. Their ragged edges mirror the condition of my heart.

Behind me, her breathing gives her away. It's the kind of slow, purposeful breaths that tell me she doesn't want me to know she's there. As if traveling a moment behind her, the coconut scent of her shampoo floats over me, but I still don't turn. Now isn't the time to face my daughter. Not with the tears cascading over my cheeks and the brokenness of my past so raw and in the open.

Her soft steps round the corner and the door to her room swishes over the carpet.

I breathe again.

Taking one last look at the hand-painted rose and gold-lined rim, I tip my palm and let the pieces drop away like dreams into the trash.

The last connection to my mother is gone. The only beautiful reminder of life before our ugly ending, destroyed. If I had it to do over again, what would I change?

Probably nothing.

***
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