Angela was not sure what made it more difficult for her to see, the warm tears flowing down her cheeks, or the rain dancing across her windshield. As she sat at the stop sign thinking that her two girls and loving husband would be better off without her, there was the sound of a horn blaring that interrupted her thoughts. She quickly wiped her face and made a left turn onto the street that would take her to the highway. Angela felt like she was driving on auto pilot. She did not have to think about where she was going. She had driven to the airport many times before to pick up Phillip from his many business trips.
As her thoughts turned to her husband of ten years, she began to replay in her mind the first time that they met. He was tall, dark, handsome, and walked with a self confidence that you couldn’t help but notice. Every woman in the room wanted him, but Angela was the one he’d chosen. She was stunning in every sense of the word. Her mocha colored complexion, doe like brown eyes, and flawless skin were enough to take any man’s breath away. She remembered inhaling the scent of his cologne as he introduced himself to her, and in that moment she knew she would belong to him, and all he had to do was ask.
They’d met at a a happy hour one evening after work, and six months into the relationship, Phillip proposed. Angela knew she had a good man, and without hesitation she said yes. She was thirty at the time and up for junior partner at her mid size law firm and Phillip, who was thirty three, was a rising star at his architectural firm. The two became the perfect power couple.
After being married for three glorious years, Angela decided that it was time to give her husband what he’d been waiting so patiently for, a family. She’d never really seen herself as the mothering type; probably because her mother had told her she wasn’t and she’d bought into it after hearing it her whole life. Or maybe it was because Angela’s mother hadn’t been much of a mother herself. Angela’s conception had been an accident, and her mother constantly reminded her of the fact that she was never wanted.
None of that seemed to matter any more because she had Phillip now. His love for her made all things seem possible. It had even been her idea to put her career on hold and stay at home for a few years with the baby. She’d longed to see herself the way he did. The tears seemed to be coming harder and faster now as she thought about the first time she’d told him that she was pregnant.
“Baby, are you sure,” Phillip asked for the hundredth time as he swept Angela up into his arms once again.
“Yes, sweetie,” she replied laughing harder now. “I had my doctor’s appointment today and she confirmed it.”
Phillip lowered her to the ground and began to shower her face with kisses. “I’m taking you off for a very special weekend to celebrate.”
Despite the fact she had a major case coming up in court next month and had planned on working on it all weekend, she could not refuse the man she loved with all her heart. They spent the whole weekend cuddled up in front of the fireplace in their room, only leaving the warmth of their new found haven to eat. She’d never imagined that she could have ever been as happy as she was at that moment.
When Anne Marie was born, she became the second greatest love of Angela’s life. She had no idea how the human heart was capable of holding so much love and joy for more than one person. Having his child made her fall deeper in love with Phillip, strengthening their marriage even more. He cherished their daughter, and spent as much time at home with her and Angela as possible. Raising a child was a full time job, so Phillip tried to be as supportive and helpful as his schedule allowed him too. He didn’t want Angela to feel overwhelmed while staying at home with the baby. He’d even begun encouraging her to think about returning to work when Anne Marie turned three, but Angela had decided they should have another child. She knew how hard it was for her growing up without any siblings to share things with, and didn’t want her daughter to experience that as well.
It wasn’t until they had Samantha that things changed for them. Once they returned home from the hospital, Angela’s overwhelming joy had been suddenly replaced with what felt like an endless pit of despair. She felt anxious about everything, and although Phillip had taken time off from work, his being there didn’t bring her any comfort.
Concerned and not knowing what else to do, Phillip suggested that Angela see someone about her mental state, and so she did. The doctor diagnosed her as having post partum depression, and told her that many new mothers experience it, and that it was nothing to be concerned about because there were drugs that could help her feel like her old safe self again. But because Angela wanted to breast feed Samantha, she turned down the option of taking medication. Samantha was now two years old, and the depression had only seemed to have worsened over the years.
The bad days outweighed the good days, and sometimes the days ran together and it was hard to discern which was which. No matter how much Phillip tried to help, it was never enough, and it was slowly killing their marriage. The strong vivacious woman he’d fallen in love with was disappearing more and more each day, and he felt helpless. Angela knew it was breaking his heart, which is why she felt all the more reason to leave him. It had taken them almost ten years to build the wonderful life they had together and she was going to destroy it in just one day. She knew it was selfish, but she didn’t know what else to do. She’d lost herself so long ago, and she didn’t know how to get back to the woman she used to be.
All of a sudden there was a beeping noise inside of the car, alerting her that her fuel was low, and that brought her out of the daze she’d been in. Angela was only a few miles away from the airport, but she figured that the least she could do was put gas in her tank so Phillip wouldn’t have too when he came to pick up the car. She exited the highway, and pulled into the first gas station she saw.
Angela slowly flipped down the visor and looked herself over in the mirror, hoping her eyes weren’t too puffy from all the crying she’d been doing. She wiped her face, and ran her fingers through her short hair, trying to gather her composure before exiting the car. When she opened her wallet to retrieve her debit card, her eyes fell upon the picture they’d taken last year during Christmastime. She smiled as she thought about some of the things that had taken place that day.
Phillip had given her the Tiffany necklace she was wearing in the picture as an early Christmas present. She awoke that morning and to her surprise, there on his pillow was a box containing the necklace she’d admired almost three months ago. She slipped into her robe and went downstairs to find the kitchen a mess. Her first instinct was to be upset, but then she saw Anne Marie standing on a stool and leaning over the pancake griddle, and Samantha, covered in pancake flour and her husband trying frantically to clean her up, she couldn’t help but laugh a little.
“Mommy, we are making pancakes, your favorite,” Samantha exclaimed once she saw Angela standing at the bottom of the stairs. Samantha wiggled from her father’s grasp and ran to her mother, wrapping her tiny arms around her legs. Angela laughed, and picked up her daughter, and kissed her nose.
“Good morning my beautiful girls,” Angela said, as she walked over to Anne Marie, who was grinning from ear to ear. Angela kissed her on the top of her head as Anne Marie carefully flipped a pancake, making sure it was perfect. She took a seat beside Phillip and kissed him softly on the lips, thanking him for her necklace. The girls giggled and yelled for them to stop. “Okay, okay,” Angela said tickling Samantha. That had definitely been one of the good days.
She ran her fingers across the plastic cover that protected the picture, and wiped away the tears as they began to fall again. She felt a slight twinge of pain and remorse as she looked at the two girls in the picture and realized that she wouldn’t be there to help them get ready to go out on their first dates. She and Phillip had joked often about how he would attempt to scare off any suitors the two would inevitably have when they became young women. There would be no more dance recitals, choir practices, or school plays. She was leaving everything behind in hopes of finding a new life, a more fulfilling life, or so she hoped.
Phillip was her best friend, and she prayed that one day he would be able to forgive her for leaving him without saying goodbye. She tried to explain as much as possible in the letter she’d left him but a letter was not a good way to end things. She knew she should have never taken on the role of motherhood, but she wanted more than anything to give him what he wanted. She did love him and the girls, as much as she could, and in her own way. She hoped that once she got settled, wherever that might be, that he would allow them to come visit her. They were after all a part of her just as much as they were a part of him.
As Angela stood and pumped her gas, she’d become so distracted by her own circumstances that when she saw the young man walk into the gas station, she didn’t even wonder why he was wearing a jacket with a hood on in 90 degree weather. Besides, it had been raining and she was wearing a jacket herself. Shortly after he entered the store, shots rang out, and the hooded figure came running out at full speed with the owner of the gas station chasing behind him and shooting. It had all happened so fast, and Angela hadn’t had time to react appropriately. It didn’t seem real until she felt the pain, and her hand automatically clutched her side. It was a throbbing sensation she’d never felt before, and then she saw the blood and realized she had been shot.
In shock she fell to the ground. The young man jumped into the car that had been waiting for him, and they sped away leaving tire marks, broken glass, and bullets in their wake. Angela began to call out to the owner who hadn’t seen her. It started as a whisper then got louder. When he saw her he ran to her side.
“My wife is calling the police ma’am, just hang in there.” He placed his hand over her wound and applied pressure trying to stop the bleeding.
“My husband,” Angela began to say, salty tears running into her mouth. She tried to reach for her purse. “I need to call my husband.”
“What’s his name,” asked the man. But it was too late, Angela passed out before she was able to answer.
When she awoke, she thought she had been dreaming, until she saw and felt the tubes coming out of her nose and arms. Her throat was parched, but she managed to make a moaning noise, and then mumbles, which turned into words, and then names. “Phillip, Samantha, Anne Marie.”
“She’s awake,” Phillip called out to the nurses. He’d entered the room just in time to hear her call their names. He’d been down the hall in the chapel praying for her recovery. He rushed to his wife’s side and took her hand into his. He knelt down beside her bed and began kissing her hand. His tears felt warm and welcoming to her. “Don’t talk, sweetie,” he said once he saw her struggling to say more. “I thought I’d lost you forever. The letter, then the call about you being in some kind of accident, I didn’t know what to think or do.”
“Me either,” Angela responded, clearing her throat.
“I don’t know what I would have done without you.” He stood and kissed her on her forehead.
“I am so sorry for putting you through all of this,” she said tears free flowing once again.
“And I am sorry for allowing you to give up so much for me and the girls.”
“No, don’t be, that was my decision. You know, it’s true what they say about your life flashing before your eyes.” She paused before speaking again. “All I saw were you and the girls. Anne Marie’s first slumber party, and when you took her training wheels off her bike. Samantha playing dress up in my shoes and makeup all over her face, and the time they made a get well card for you when you had the flu. And most importantly, the day we got married.” She paused again, taking a sip of water. “But what I didn’t see,” she said as he wiped the tears from her face, “were my coworkers, or the clients I won cases for, or any of the partners of the firm. “Just you and this wonderful life you’ve given me. You three are my life, my heart, and my soul,” she managed to say in between sniffles. “I am just sorry I was too blind to see that. Take me home, Phillip,” Angela said, wiping his tears away.
“I thought you would never ask. We will work this out, together.” And he stood and kissed her softly on the lips.
Angela felt as though she had been sleepwalking the past three years of her life, but her near death experience awakened a passion in her she’d never felt before. Her eyes had been opened to all of the wonderful things she and Phillip shared together, and she vowed from that day forward to never take another moment with her loving husband, and two beautiful daughters, for granted, ever again.