Caroline stretched and yawned. Her two year old had kept her up all night again and was already crying to get out of her crib. It was enough to make Caroline want to cry with her. Downstairs she could hear sounds in the kitchen. Patrick must be getting his own breakfast again. She sighed and rolled over. Maybe this was all a nightmare, and when she woke up, they would be back to a normal family. Dean wouldn’t have left her and the kids, which would have given her a chance to really recover from her postpartum depression. Instead, she had had to move to this house that she rented for way too much money and find a job she could work from home. There was no money available for therapy or even doctor visits except for the kids. Everything went to them. Caroline had been in survival mode for so long, she couldn’t remember what happiness felt like.
After contemplating her life, Caroline got up to go get Alice up for the day. As she walked into the kids’ room, she glanced out the window. That old lady was staring at their house again. Her disapproval radiated off her body in waves, but she couldn’t disapprove of Caroline more than she did herself. “Join the club, lady,” she thought to herself. Caroline pulled herself together as she scooped her baby up into her arms. She held her close and breathed deep. Alice made a happy, gurgling sound before squirming to be put down. The two walked down the stairs together.
When Caroline saw her little man at the big table alone, her heart hurt for him. Since Dean had left, they had heard nothing from him. Seven long months. She realized quickly it was up to her to be both mother and father to these two, and she was not about to let them down.
Once everyone had been fed, Caroline told Patrick he could go outside and play in the yard. The boy seemed perpetually lonely, so she decided it would do them all good to go out and get some sunshine. Her own mother always told her the sun was healing.
Caroline walked outside a few moments after Patrick and could have sworn she heard a voice. She looked over at her neighbor, who was looking around too. Her name was Janet, (maybe?) The woman had never smiled at her or said anything to her. She just always frowned and looked away if Caroline caught her staring. No one ever seemed to come to Janet’s house, at least not that Caroline had seen. Maybe that is because she is so mean. Nothing seemed to make the woman happy!
The kids started playing, and Caroline did something impulsive. She didn’t let herself think but just started walking across the two yards. When she got to the older woman’s front steps, she looked up at Janet’s mouth hanging open.
“Hi, my name is Caroline. My kids and I moved in next door last year, and I haven’t gotten to know you. Would you come over for a cup of coffee? My house is a mess, but I would like some company. It’s been just us three, and talking to an adult sounds heavenly right about now.”
Janet realized her mouth was still hanging open and quickly shut it. It had been so long since someone had seen and acknowledged her, she didn’t know what to say. Tears filled her eyes as she said softly, “I would love that too. It has been three years since my Joe passed and my kids live far away. Now it is just me rattling around in this empty home. Let me go grab the muffins I made yesterday and I will come right over.”
Caroline could have been knocked over by a feather. Of course Janet was lonely. She couldn’t imagine being completely alone and forgotten. Caroline had been so swept up in her own sadness and her busy life that she hadn’t taken the time to even greet her neighbor. And who knows what she has been missing all these months? Maybe they will end up with a great friendship!