She doesn’t get up. The sun hasn’t broken the horizon, and the children are still sleeping soundly next to her.
Her mind goes in a thousand different directions. She wonders what they’ll call her because she knows they will be there, she’s driven past and seen them standing like guerrilla soldiers, clinging to words and falsehoods as tightly as they cling to their rosaries. They’ll hiss and spit at her, offer her hope and promises but they don’t know what it’s like to decide. They don’t know what’s at stake.
The sun will come up and the day will start, but she doesn’t let her mind think of the hours that are fast approaching. She doesn’t think about what she will tell her children after school when they get in the beaten car but don’t come home. She doesn’t think of the excuse she’ll have to give mama when they pull up to her apartment that night because they missed the rent and the landlord said they can stay for another week, but only if she comes to him at night.
She thinks about a day a million years ago when the world had been a brighter place when the possibilities seemed endless. She thinks about before when her hair had been long and dark, not salted with gray and cut short. Her hands had been soft, her skin smooth. Now her knuckles are calloused, and her knees are ashy.
She doesn’t get up because the children will be hungry. But there is no food to prepare for breakfast, not now and maybe not for a little while. They are small for their ages as she was if not smaller. She hopes the school will feed them just this once. Maybe a teacher will blame the forgetful nature of a single parent holding down three jobs. But this idea is shameful, and she can feel the tears coming at the thought of accepting a handout.
She thinks about the lump of cash stored in the side pocket of her handbag and considers pulling out a few bills. There’s enough money for rent and food for today but not tomorrow. It’s too risky to be even a dollar short today. She hates herself a bit more now but knows it will be worth it tomorrow.
She thinks about tomorrow and the promise of a fresh start. Today will be a memory that she can file away under lessons learned. The voices will fade with time, the pain will be temporary, the hissing and spitting faces will vanish, and she will be lighter. Though she would never speak the words aloud, she knows she will be happier.
She watches the sun break through the hole in the sheet they use for a curtain and kisses the children. She rests a hand across her flat stomach, her fingers tracing the C-section scar and reminds herself that the sun will rise again tomorrow. She focuses her mind, counts the time between now and then and stands up.
Lacie A. Carmody is a full time writer who lives in Texas with her husband and their two cats. She attended Arizona State University where she earned bachelor’s degrees in both English and Women and Gender Studies. Her works has previously been published on the cyberpunk website “Neon Dystopia,” and in the short story anthology “9 Tales from Elsewhere.”