The Day She Stopped Waiting

The woman is sitting on the beach, watching the sun dip low into the sea. He did not return this month, as he promised he would. That is alright. Sailors live a life of waivering uncertainty. Surely there was a storm when he did not expect one, or a damage to some part of the ship that called for lengthy repair. An extra week in an extravagant city, perhaps, so his men could sleep off their drunken mists—so they could return to work clear-headed and bright.

She thinks: he can be another month late. And then I will start to worry.

She brushes the sand off her knees and walks up the grassy hill with great effort toward the dewy sea-stained stone cottage that is surrounded with overgrown weeds.

Her youngest, Ryn, is asleep upstairs, and her oldest, Evie, is playing with two dolls that once belonged to her.

Her brother-in-law, Finn, is tending to the fire underneath a thick gurgling pot. If his hands were free, he would twiddle with them. His glasses fog with worry. She does not know, he thinks—I cannot bear to tell her.

She asks him a question, something about the weather, but he can’t distinguish her voice from that of his brother’s, clouding his thoughts, demanding cogently: you must not tell her. If our brotherhood means anything to you, you must not tell her.

His shaky hands prod at the fire for something that is long gone.

Another month without her husband, and worry seeps in like the sea mist does their home. The fog floats over the sea like an ancient ghost. It hangs on the windows as the mother peers through them, warm tea in hand.

Ryn has asked to go outside for the fifth time. She leans her wild-curled head against the counter her mother is resting her elbows on. The little frizzies tickle the woman’s arm as she shakes her head no.

There’s something about the grayness today—the evilness in the air plucks a cord at the center of her motherly instincts, ringing outward and reverberating in her bones, keening *danger, danger*.

Rain falls lightly, and in the distance the grey waves swell threatingly and roll into the dark sharp rocks with crashes of white. The woman watches them with intensity. Perhaps if she stares long enough, his ship will conceive into existence.

She lifts the cup of hot tea to her lips. She swallows. An all too familiar feeling is creeping into her body, like an unstoppable vine, curling around her ear, slithering into her lungs. *What if*.

“Mama, when is Daddy coming back?” peeps Ryn. Her soft clammy hand touches the woman’s shaking leg. Her eyes are bright and young and too innocent.

“Soon.” she says. Her gaze has not left the ocean.

Maybe it is only the hot tea. That is why her face feels hot, why her body feels as though one strong gust of wind could snap her body in half like a wishbone.


On good days, the woman takes her girls down to the ocean. There they wade and splash and pretend to be mermaids. There the woman’s gaze stays on the horizon, watching for the tip of the ship to poke out through the waves like a lance. She waits everyday until sunset. Her girls say they are hungry. Ryn asks again, more impatient this time, “When is Daddy coming home?”

“Soon.” the woman replies. She prays for strength as she climbs up the hill to the cottage. The hill seems to grow steeper by the day.

On bad days, she cannot leave her bed. She talks Evie through the steps of making tea and gulps it down. Her face is hot and damp, her body racks with chills. In times like these, it seems that there are not enough blankets in the world. Finn sets the large rug over her and wipes his sweaty hands and hurries off to a doctor, though he already knows the answer.

It is on these days she wonders how long she can last. How many more breaths will she breathe? She tells herself to hold out till tomorrow. Just one more breath. Just one more spoonful of soup. What if he arrives? Would you allow him to return only to find you lifeless and he himself a widow?

It is him that keeps her waiting. During her time when she can not find the power to stand, she lays and thinks of death and her father and her sisters and the stories her mother used to spin. She hums and old tune she has long forgotten the lyrics to. She holds her daughters’ hands and prays that her death will be peaceful and that she will be able to control her emotions for their sake.

She thinks of death so often it is like she longs for it. And in the end she tells herself that the minute he comes home—she will confess every thought she’s ever thought and say the things she meant to say and kiss him and then finally she can sink to the floor and die.


It has been a year since his promised return. It’s a miracle she’s held on this long. Though the doctor tries, she can see him shake his head and mumble soft words to Finn—she can see the way his face falls.

She can no longer find the strength to walk with her girls to the beach. She cannot see the horizon, so she imagines it. Her ocean is ten times bluer, the gulls are always flying, the sky is always clear, and her husband’s ship always sails into view.

Evie brings soup to her mother’s lips. Ryn rests her small chin on the woman’s arm, she inhales the scent of motherly love and warmth. Her wild, white curls stick up in all different directions as if she had been electrified.

She asks softly, “Mama, when is Daddy coming home?”

Evie lowers the soup. Several stray drops leak down the woman’s chin. She has no power to wipe them away.

Tears threaten to trickle out. She parts her mouth slowly, as if to keep her pain at bay.

“I don’t think so.”

This was the day she stopped waiting.

Congrats if you read it this far :))). It’s a backstory for one of my characters so it’s probably a lot more interesting of a story to me but I hope it at least gave you something to think about!

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