Playing Against a Stacked Deck

I was feeding my son when my world fell apart. All it took was one text. A few words on a tiny screen that had the power to pull the earth from under my feet. I stared at the screen, unable to look away, the words blurring as the phone quivered in my suddenly sweaty hand. A shriek of laughter from my son jolted me out of my trance. Dropping the phone on the table, I helped him wipe off the bean juice stuck to his face. 

The emotions ripping through me left me breathless, the hand dishing up the ice cream quaking in time with the rest of me, the scoop almost missing the bowl.  I inhaled sharply, the sickly-sweet smell of vanilla filling my lungs.  How much can one person feel in one moment?  The maelstrom of rage, hurt and fear roared around me, almost suffocating, but deep inside was something else, a hint of…relief?  Putting the ice cream in front of my son, I smiled at him and kissed his nose, the sound of his giggle soothing me a little as I tried to understand what I was feeling.   

I deliberately slowed my breathing, attempting to calm the frantic beating of my heart, and concentrated on the sound of my breath whooshing in and out. I was furious, yes, and the sense of betrayal was making me feel sick. I was frightened, certainly. Bringing up a child and running a house was expensive, and with only my wages to rely on it would be difficult. 

That tiny piece of relief was the key. I had to grab hold of that and keep it close. There would be no more cruel comments, no more open derision of my dreams, no more arguments about the money he wasted. No more late nights, waiting to see if he came home, fearing his anger if he’d been drinking. I wasn’t the one who had made the decision to break the family, so my conscience was clear. I would be in control of my own life, free to make the decisions I wanted and follow the path I chose.  

Scooping up my son, I helped him wash and brush his teeth, the normal routine letting me almost ignore the black pit of grief and anger I could feel growing inside. I could deal with that later.  Right now was not the time to fall apart.  I had to be strong, to show my little one that we could deal with anything the world threw at us, and that I would keep him safe no matter what. 

We settled down to read a story. Holding him tight, I breathed in his smell and closed my eyes. His little hands patted my face and tears threatened, catching in my throat. Keep hold of the relief, I thought.  Remember you will be free.    


King of Hearts 
King = a man, deceit  
Hearts = relationships, friendships, emotions 

Nine of Clubs 
Nine = dreams, ambitions 
Clubs = work, study, aspirations 

Four of Diamonds

Four = Home stability 
Diamonds = money, material things, practicality 

Cathryn (she/her) lives in deepest Devon, England.  She has pieces published in voidspace zine, Alice Says Go Fuck Yourself and Friday Flash Fiction, and an upcoming piece in Seaside Gothic.  She can often be found writing when she should be working.