She was sitting in the half-light of the dining area, being grateful for the extra-large windows on 2 sides of the room, and the bright, if grey-toned, British sunlight. She was also, as it turned out, trying to write… somehow, it wasn’t as much fun, when you had to do it to actually support yourself.
She sighed. And not just yourself, she thought glumly… for now, her daughter was asleep, in a second-hand playpen that was nearly too small for her, covered by half a dozen newborn-sized sheets and summer-weight blankets, and wearing thermal pyjamas. Her daughter had been born in June, and it was currently February; and since her husband had left her in early August, and all the useful gifts and pleasant company and offers of help from his extended family had dried up when she refused to take him back, she and her daughter were making do.
Which was why they were sitting with the lights off, and the heating on the lowest possible setting, on a day that was several degrees below freezing. The gas and electric bills had come to £250 the month before—that was roughly $400, she figured, and it was unlikely to ease up much until April or even May—and as her husband was still refusing to sign the divorce papers, much less contribute financially to the house’s upkeep, she had to hope that sitting in the dark and freezing her ass off would save enough money to let them buy some useful items, say, groceries.
She was disgusted with herself for being pleased to have lost nearly 20 lbs. since Christmas.
With a wry smirk, she pulled the now-too-big-coat she was wearing tighter around herself, and started again. Brow furrowed, she eventually settled on a reply for a magazine reader who claimed to have fallen in love while on holiday abroad.
“Dear Lovesick in Cyprus,
I have no doubt that the gentleman you describe is charming, affectionate, and seems ready to commit to you, at the moment. You’re on holiday, at your most relaxed and buoyant, and he’s probably made your time with him into a mini-holiday as well. But people are NOT themselves under those circumstances; take it from me, you could be in for some very nasty shocks ahead, if you decide to uproot your entire life to be with this handsome Adonis! Why not exchange contact details, stay in touch over the next few months, and, if he’s still interested then, invite him to visit YOU in YOUR country… and then (slowly!) take it from there. You don’t want to wind up trapped in a foreign country, with all kinds of unforeseen responsibilities, and no one to depend on other than him, and his family.”
She managed to leave out anything about having children who were not of your own nationality, and therefore impossible to just smuggle home; but as she signed her reply with, "Been There, in Britain” she couldn’t help but stare, not entirely benevolently, at her sleeping daughter’s face; and she wished, for the thousandth time, that her ex had something potentially fatal, like cirrhosis of the liver or a peanut allergy; and as an afterthought, she put a PS on her reply. “Remember, home may be where your heart is, but I guarantee, your heart is also comprised of your family, your friends, and your career!”
Worried that the suddenly louder key-taps would disturb her daughter, she leapt up to check on her. Touching the tot’s freezing hands, she sighed, and pulled off her stylish-last-year wool coat. Laying it over the thin pile of cotton blankets, she smoothed back a chocolate-brown lock of hair from her daughter’s forehead; then, mouth set in a grim line, she went to the kitchen to grab the half-empty bottle of cooking sherry that had been keeping her warm every day for the past week.
When the half-empty bottle turned out to be all-the-way-empty, she shrugged her shoulders, and, leaving her coat over her still-sleeping daughter, she walked out the front door, down the street, and into the nearby corner shop. She bought a loaf of bread, some tinned fruit and soup, and the largest bottle of the cheapest vodka she could find; and then, she walked back home, taking small sips from the bottle, and wondering if her daughter would prefer country vegetable, or split pea and ham soup. Ah. She’d make a bowl of each, and let her daughter try them both.
Dinner sorted, extremities no longer numb, she entered the house with a newly light heart, and a spring in her step that was in no way dampened by her unsteady balance. Sending off her agony aunt email to the local paper, she said a little prayer for the £250 that would be hers, if the magazine printed her advice; and, putting the vodka into the fridge for later, she headed to the kitchen, to make her daughter some lunch.
Actually. Actually. She headed back into the living room for just a minute. Odd that she was still sleeping, actually. And odd that when she leaned into the cot, the girl’s hands were still cold, under all the sheets and the heavy coat… heading into the kitchen, the woman yanked the bottle of vodka from the fridge, and downed another 3 or 4 swallows. Then, resolute, she turned to the stove, and began heating a tin of split pea and ham soup. Her daughter would love it, she decided, bottle in hand, and for some reason, tears dripping down her face. She was such a good girl. She always ate what mummy prepared. She’d love some soup, especially on such a cold day.