Little Wife crawled into the super-sized, King-sized bed. Because the bed was pushed up snugly next to the wall, and the ceiling came down at an extremely sharp angle, she had to crawl into the bed from the foot of the bed. Big Man was already asleep in the large bed, sprawled out on his back, snoring and blocking any other entrance for her to climb into the bed. She reached for her soft downy pillow. She fluffed the pillow and set it down on the foot-end of the large bed. She usually slept backwards in the large bed.
The room was stifling hot, even with air conditioning and fans blowing; at least with her head near the window she could rest. The claustrophobia was awful after midnight — the walls and ceiling closing into the tiny little corner, the deadly pressure pushing all of the air out of her. Big Man was claustrophobic; he could never sleep next to the wall but always took the outside of the bed.
Letting her head float down to the pillow, her eyes closed sleepily; it had been such a long evening, and the kids had been so irritable with each other, so much bickering and fighting. Why are they so angry, she asked herself. Big Man had gone out to get some copies made for his client meeting tomorrow, and she had spent hours soothing hurt feelings and dishing out discipline and helping them with their homework. Big Man had been gone for a long time, and she laid down with the baby finally. Just to rest in the little girl’s room and help her fall asleep brought a measure of peace.
There was Big Man’s foot inches from her face, so square and wide. Sometimes he accidentally kicked her during her nights of backward sleeping; she quickly flipped over and faced the wall. Taking a deep final breath, she dozed off, but didn’t sleep soundly. Big Man was spread everywhere and she had only twelve inches of mattress and only partially covered by the sheet that he was laying on, how could she possibly get a good night’s sleep?
In the morning, Little Wife was sipping her tea and checking her computer for any messages that might have come in overnight. “Oh,” she said softly. “It’s September 5th. My wedding anniversary…..” She just left it at that in case anyone was listening. It was the anniversary of her first marriage. The first time that Little Wife was married, she was only twenty-two years old. Beautifully tall and carefree, full of herself and full of love for Albert Beevus Sebring the Third. She smiled a small smile when she thought of him. “What ever happened to ABS III,” she wondered quietly.
She remembered how young and handsome they looked on that day — she in her pure white lacy wedding gown with the demure high neckline and Albert in his dark suit with his dark eyes and hair. They had a small church wedding and the happy reception was back at the house. Mom had made so much food for all of the guests. They went somewhere for the night, came back to Mom’s house, opened presents and then loaded the car, her little Ford. Just like that she moved away from her family and her home and all that was familiar. She watched her hometown get smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror and then finally disappear altogether. Blissful, romantic, newly-wedded and off they went to Chicago. Little Wife and ABS III suddenly so grown up and responsible. It must have happened overnight, she mused wryly to herself.
ABS III had found them an apartment, and they talked about it all the way home: such a perfect location in a lovely old suburb, close to shopping and work for both of them. He had already found a job working for the local newspaper, and she would soon be working as well. He had painted the bedroom a lovely shade of sunset orange; they would be so happy for the rest of their lives. ABS III was so proud of the apartment he had found, wasn’t he? Little Wife couldn’t wait to see it and live there. They talked about it for nearly twelve hours while their new pets, the canaries, sang cheerfully in the cage in the back seat of the car.
The canaries never sang much when they got to the lovely old suburb; they didn’t see anything to be singing about after all. The honeymoon apartment was dirty and crowded, one apartment in an old bug-infested house across the street from the elevated train station. And soon, Little Wife stopped her singing too, and began to mix up pitchers of martinis for them to enjoy for their dinners when they returned home from work. And then ABS III started getting violent pretty regularly, so Little Wife packed up her things and left the scene of the crime. First honeymoon ….. Over.
The sunshine of the morning burned off the old bad memories, and Little Wife washed her morning dishes and wiped off the counter. “Time to get ready for my doctor appointment,” she said to no one in particular as she carefully dressed for the day. She was a little nervous about her check-up; at her age, you never know what the doctor might find. She wondered if Big Man would drive her, but then remembered that he had an important client meeting that afternoon and would need the morning to prepare for that. She gathered up her purse, phone and keys and headed out the door.
It was nearly thirty minutes to the doctor’s office, and traffic was unusually heavy, giving her extra time to think about the many doctor visits in the past twenty-five years — mostly with the kids, childhood sicknesses and troubles, but occasionally she would go just for herself. Freddie, her second husband, had very good health insurance and insisted that she take advantage of the small co-payments and keep her health a priority. “Freddie, Freddie,” Little Wife said to herself, “You were such a hypochondriac, such a fuss and bother worry wart about health things.”
Little Wife and Freddie had been married for so many years; if not for the birthdays of all their children, she would have lost track of the number of years they had been married. And it was mostly because of the kids that they had such a happy marriage for so many years. They were constantly distracted from each other in order to meet the needs of the babies and the teenagers and the tweens.
Only after the kids got older and didn’t need them quite so much did Little Wife realize that Freddie Schnickel no longer loved her enough. Well, maybe he never really loved her at all. Maybe she just came along and he had a crazy fling with her and then found himself trapped in their new life.
As she waited in the waiting room, she found herself thinking for the second time that day about her weddings. Freddie Schnickel was younger than Little Wife and easily sunburned and caught every cold that came along. But on their wedding day, he was fine. She was feeling a little queasy herself. Unlike her first wedding day, this time she was full of new life, and was hoping that the new life within her womb wouldn’t show too much. Her ivory silk suit was beautifully styled and quite clingy; she felt a little nervous. Would people be whispering about her as she walked down the aisle with Mom and Dad?
Afterwards when they looked at all the pictures, they decided that Freddie looked a lot sicker and more nervous than she did that morning. They laughed about it.
The children had grown and grown over the years and they had continued on with Dr. Balloo, a good family doctor who knew a little bit about everything. His relaxed smile and cheerful disposition was always a balm when Little Wife brought her sick ones to be diagnosed. He knew them all, and liked them a lot, as a good doctor should.
Yes, they had all grown so much. One by one the five older children had passed up Little Wife in stature until only Georgia looked up to see her mom, and Little Wife knew it wouldn’t be long until Georgia also would be looking down at her as well.
The nurse poked her head through the door and called her name. Little Wife climbed out of the large waiting room chair with difficulty, and walked with the nurse down the hallway. “Let’s weigh you and measure you first,” she said. Little Wife took off her shoes and her sweater, laying them on the chair with her big purse. The nurse looked at the scale as Little Wife stepped up, not batting an eye as the numbers went up and up, finally stopping just under 150 pounds. “I guess I put on a few pounds on my honeymoon,” offered Little Wife with an embarrassed smile. “That’s fine,” the nurse consoled her. “Now let’s just measure your height. Please turn around and put your back to the scale. Ok, there we go. Looks like you’re at fifty-one inches, Little Wife. Only an inch shorter than last year!”
Little Wife smiled and stepped down from the scale. She reached up and gave the nurse a high five.