I wrote this a LONG time ago. It was loosely based on reality, on a reality greatly exaggerated for writing purposes. I do still believe in the core premise, though.
She cleans up the kitchen, one dish at a time, trying to make the task last until he leaves for his workshop, trying to keep her hands busy so that her mind will not overtake her emotions until he is gone. She clears his plate from the table, thinking how excited she was when he called to announce he’d be home early, before the children went to bed. She rinses his cup, reviewing in her mind the thrill his presence had caused for the children. He had thrown the two eldest in the air and taken the time to look at each child’s artwork and creations from the day. He’d even taken the time to play with the youngest for a few minutes, making funny noises so that she would giggle.
He hadn’t said a single word to her, except “I guess you didn’t have time to get the stove wiped off before supper.” He had found time to grope at her for a moment, but even that didn’t require words.
She remembered that her mother had told her that women were stronger than men, and that she had laughed and said, “Of course we are. We give birth.” She had never realized that her mother had meant that she would have to be emotionally strong. After all, what did she know then? She had thought that people got married because they loved each other and wanted to share their lives together. She knew differently now. Men got married because they wanted someone to pick up after them, and women got married because they didn’t know any better.
She carefully placed the leftovers in a divided dish for him to take next week to work–if he remembered. She would need to remember to throw out last week’s leftovers tonight. A question played in her mind: Did it ever occur to him to wonder if she was happy? Perhaps he thought she was. He certainly seemed to be happy with the way things were working out for him. He was succeeding at work, next in line for a big promotion, and he had the children, all three so beautiful and loving, and of course he had her. She would faithfully stand in the background and take care of the details, shopping for the perfect Christmas present for each family member and writing “With love, from Adam and Annie” on the tags, hoping he would remember what “they” had given to his mother when she called to exclaim over the gift.
Perhaps he did think that her life goal was to make him happy, and that if he was happy, she most certainly was, too. Perhaps he thought she found it fulfilling to pick up his messes, tend the house, school the children (because he found the public schools “doltish” and the private school “pretentious”), and model the loving wife for all to see.
The dishwater warmed her hands, and her mind moved on to worry about the children. They were starting to display those same traits which so troubled her when seen in her husband–voicing imperious demands instead of respectful questions, neglecting to care for their pets and their responsibilities. How could she teach them any differently when the one person they so idolized and wanted to please modeled such things? It seemed hopeless.
She hung the dish towels neatly on the oven handle and contemplated the oven for a moment. No, it would never work. The oven was electric, and besides, she would probably have to come back from the grave to clean up whatever mess she caused. Anyway, she had no time for such thoughts. The children needed to be bathed and put to bed, then the remainder of the house tidied, and then she must be ready to accept his advances, because he would surely value her presence in bed.
Women must be stronger than men, she thought. They have to be, or they would never survive.