Writing Prompt: Breathe In…Breathe Out

Get up, get up, get up!

I stare at the ceiling and will my husband to show even a hint that he’s waking.

It’s 8:30 a.m., already a full hour after we were supposed to be on our run. But really, what did I expect? Justin went out last night for his typical Friday with the guys. And if he went out you could bet it would be a late night.

Still, we are supposed to be training for this race together.

I glance at his inert form on the other side of the bed and snort. Get real, Stacy. If you always waited for him to go with you, you’d never run.

Well, that’s true. 

Might as well get going. Sunlight has been stretching across the ceiling for some time now. Too much longer and it’ll be too hot to run.

I tiptoe from the room. The moment the door’s closed, though, it’s on. Hop, hop, hop toward the kitchen, I tug on my running clothes. Hair up, shoes on, and I’m out the door.

I pause at the bottom of our apartment stairs to stretch. The line that divides the building shadows from the sun-kissed sidewalk is like a doorway to another realm. I step past it and I’m off. Down the street, around the corner, and into the residential neighborhood beside us.

Down that tree-lined street, my heart dances, reveling in the shade fashioned from the branches overhead. The neighborhood is alive with activity. Children play outside, flowers are tended, and yards raked and mowed.

This is exactly what a neighborhood should be. One day, I’m going to live in a place like this. Justin and I will have our own home, with a backyard oasis, and all the space our future kids will need. 

Smiling to myself, I inhale deeply, focusing on the rhythm of my footsteps.

Breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…breathe in, breathe in? Breathe in, breathe in, breathe in!

Air explodes from my lungs in a choking cough. I stumble to a stop. Hands on knees, bent over, gasping for air. Deep, horrible, nauseating GRIEF fills my stomach, rising up through my chest and bursting inside me. Tears gush down my cheeks. 

What the hell? I don’t feel sad. I glance around me. That kid up ahead, playing with his dog – watching him makes me happy. And the house across the street with the beautiful garden – it’s so picturesque. I love it!

So WHAT THE HELL?

My brain swarms with pleasant images, but my body is wracked by the physical sensation of grief and sadness.

Come on, Stacy, calm down.

Eventually my breathing slows, the feeling passes, and my eyes dry. Then slowly, cautiously, I walk again. The brilliance of the neighborhood is still there but I can’t focus on it.

Seriously, what was that? 

Guess it’s time to head home.

Back inside the apartment, the sound of the shower tells me that Justin is finally awake.

Of course.

I drop onto the couch and sip from my water bottle thoughtfully. My cell phone rests on the coffee table. Seeing it takes me back to last night and all the times I’d woken to check it.

1 a.m. and Justin still wasn’t home. Around 2 a.m. I had wondered if he was lying in a ditch somewhere. It was sometime after 3 when I had finally heard the sheets whisper as he climbed into bed. 

It’s not that unusual for him to stay out that late, but still…. 

I’m on my feet and moving toward the bedroom before I even realize it, stopping only once I reach the doorway and spot his phone sitting on the nightstand.

I’ve never been one to give in to suspicion or go snooping through other people’s things. But right now his phone might as well be attached to a neon sign begging me to open it.

The shower’s still running. There’s plenty of time.

I jump across the room, slide open the phone, and find his texts within a few seconds. Immediately, my insides wither and shrink.

Sarah: It was nice seeing u last night. I wish u didn’t have 2 go.

Justin: Me 2. I’ll miss u. Sleep tight until I can hold u again.

  1. There are more, but I don’t bother to read them. Goosebumps cover every inch of my body. Of course he’s cheating! How could I be so stupid?

I set the phone down and sit up straight as the shower dies. A million thoughts shuffle through my brain. Do I stay to confront him? Cram the phone down his throat? Ask for counseling? Ask for a divorce?

Crying seems like an obvious reaction but I’ve already done that. 

Breathe in…breathe out…

Before the bathroom door opens, I’m back in the living room, grabbing my car keys. 

Where I’m driving, I don’t know. What I do know is that the curve of the road, the sun arching up over the horizon, and the solitude of the car bring me peace. 

Breathe in…breathe out….

I turn up the radio, roll down the windows, and I just keep driving.

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