"Do you want to share some Indian food? I'm ordering from the place across the street."
She doesn't know if she likes Indian food but since she's starving, she says to her co-worker, "Sure, I'm not picky." Then she remembers that when she first started working here, a group of folks shared several piles of Indian food and she liked it a lot.
She offers to pick it up when it's ready. Her boss is on vacation and the other Executive Assistant, who is just a sweetheart, is also on vacation this week, so she hasn't gotten outside much. It's really quiet there in the office.
Proper grey suit. Minute houndstooth fabric. Macy's.
She bought several lovely business suits as she prepared for her new well-paying job in a venture capital firm.
There are many in these parts. Venture capital firms, that is.
Well, suits, too.
Beautiful V-necked floral print blouse in muted purples, greens, oranges, greys - a gift from a special man. Chunky jewerly - necklace and matching earrings.
Black pumps, off-black stockings. Pumps from Dressbarn.
(She loves that store but a bad experience with a nasty assistant manager who insulted her - in front of her daughters - sealed the fate of her $1,000 credit card limit. She cut up that card and mailed it back to "Customer Service" when they sent the "Gee, we're sorry for your bad experience. Here's a 30% off coupon" letter. Clearly, they missed the part of the conversation where she said she was not buying a single thing from them again. Ever.)
(Bummer. Nice clothes, there at Dressbarn.)
She was given directions ("Go across the street") by the co-worker, a nice and very humorous principal at the firm, and waited for the elevator that would take her to the lobby and out to the sunny street.
Crossing the street, a van slams on its brakes and there is skidding.
All is well. No one is hit. But she remembers the time a few weeks ago when someone wasn't paying attention (luckily, she was), and a car almost hit her in the crosswalk. Everyone's in a hurry. Sheesh.
She walks down the sidewalk just a bit. The Indian place isn't far. Pretty much...across the street.
She's already been feeling emotional about it all.
But she sees them...and her heart aches.
The moms with their little ones. Sharing a summer day. Dressed in shorts. Sneakers. Sunglasses.
And she aches. Misses her girls.
But she had made a decision.
She was keeping them in the only home they'd ever known.
And in their little pink room.
She's been paying the mortgage by herself for almost a year now.
No child support.
(Yes, it's all legal. Thanks, State of California.)
Every single bill. Heat, wtaer, gas, property taxes, phone, etc., etc. All her.
She got a good-paying job for a reason.
Their little pink room.
They didn't ask for this instability. They don't deserve it. She won't make it worse on them by moving them out of that house. She's trying to keep life as normal as possible.
Her eldest, aged 11 years, said just last night as she flopped down on the bed: "I love this house." Mom said, "And the house loves you."
So, she cries as she goes back up in the elevator, the scent of warm Indian food rising up to her, and she doesn't feel very hungry anymore.
She doesn't regret her decision, but aches for those summers of sleeping in, days at the beach, giggles at the park, picnics anywhere. Kisses and hugs everywhere.
She has found love. The real kind. The kind that sustains her, humbles her. Allows her to be a better person than she believed she had the power to be.
She has never been loved and safe before now. She knows that this is rare. And she cherishes this love. Her last love.
And she is, finally, legally divorced from a marriage that ended for her one devastating night some nine years ago. An abusive marriage that made her feel as though she were living outside herself.
So all in all, she has had the most beautiful and the most painful year of her life.
She misses those blue eyes. And those brown eyes. And those little hands to hold in the sunshine. And all that should be hers, but now someone else gets every day, while she works. So many hours a day... Someone else gets to play with them. Grandma, neighbor, aunt. She's jealous and yet she's always told her daughters "Jealousy is an ugly emotion." She can't help it.
But she has kept the house.
Their Little Pink Room.
Because she loves them.