Intermittent Signals

The sun lit up her bedroom as its rays shone through the thin white curtains covering the windows, but all Elizabeth’s mother could feel was an unrelenting chill in the air. The heater was on, she was wrapped in a thick blanket, the room was bright; yet it felt impossible to disentangle herself from the sheets.

She stretched her arm out and felt a patch of cold–her husband had left for work ages ago, taking his warmth with him. Feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and bitterness seemed to cloud her thoughts all at once, feelings that had felt too familiar recently. Most mornings were filled with the promise of a meaningful day ahead. Most afternoons flew by without her realizing the hours were passing. And most nights were spent with a smile on her face in good company. But days like today existed too; they came in waves. The mornings were cold, the afternoons spent counting every hour, the nights quiet and devoid of interaction.

Her throat constricted more and more as she allowed herself to sink into her misery. Tears leaked from the corner of her eyes, the first tears she had shed in months, and she wasn’t even entirely sure why they had decided to make an appearance. They flowed out slowly at first, until all of a sudden she found herself sobbing into her pillow, leaving streaks of eyeliner from the night before across its white cover. She laid there covering her face for what felt like hours, her body exhausted from crying so hard. It wasn’t until she felt the vibration of her phone coming from under her pillow until she quickly sat up, wiped away the tear tracks still on her cheeks, and hastily answered the call.

“Hello?” She could barely recognize her own voice. It was an huskier than usual. It sounded unnatural, forced.

“Hey mom. Just thought I’d call to see what you’ve been up to,” Elizabeth spoke into the phone. For the first time, talking to her daughter seemed to only make her feel worse. It was a reminder of how far away she was, and of how much everything had changed since she left. She felt more than ever that the people around her were moving on to the next chapters of their lives, and she was still trying to figure out what page she was on.

“I’m great! It’s been a busy morning,” she heard herself say dishonestly. “I can’t wait for you to come home.” She added this last bit and meant every word. Things would be better with Elizabeth home. Things would feel normal again.

The conversation didn’t last long. She couldn’t bring herself to admit to Elizabeth that she really wasn’t okay today, and she couldn’t bring herself to keep up any lie that indicated otherwise. She hung up the phone exasperated with herself. She needed to snap out of it–but for now, she threw herself back onto the bed and squeezed her eyes shut, already counting down the hours until the end of the day.

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