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by Melissa Martin
10/27/2011 / Short Stories
The hot steamy water that poured over her body felt like a soothing balm to her withered soul. Nicole slumped against the shower tiles until the water turned lukewarm then cold. Solace. The minute she stepped out of the bathroom door chaos would erupt. "Mom, where's my red and black shirt?" Kate bellowed with her usual demanding teenage attitude. "In the dryer," Nicole answered. "Honey, where are my car keys," Sam shouted. "On the kitchen table," Nicole yelled. "Mom, where's my books?" Seth hollered. "On the table by the front door."
Quiet at last. Tears streamed down Nicole's face. Feelings of unnamed anguish returned. A month of sleepless nights and strange dreams left her exhausted. Dark circles appeared under her eyes. Her prayers were short and to the point. The bed called her name. The alarm clock was set for five o'clock. Sandwiches again for dinner. Baking goodies and cooking meals for her family no longer brought satisfaction. A fitful sleep consumed her again.
"Did the doctor call?" Sam inquired. Nicole knew he was concerned about her. He is a good husband, she thought to herself. "My thyroid is fine and the blood work is fine. I don't have a virus or a foreign disease. I'm guess I'm just a lunatic." Tears, her constant companions, visited again. Guilt and shame danced in her essence. Unknown anger overflowed in her core. "I know you think I'm crazy!" she screamed uncontrollably. Sam tried to comfort her with a hug but it only intensified the pain. He walked away in silence with a mixture of hurt and confusion on his face.
"God are you listening to me?" Nicole cried out when she was alone. The Psalms kept her company. She understood King David's sorrows. "God, I feel as frozen as the ground under last night's snow." The winter seemed endless. As she walked to the mailbox the quiescent trees mocked her. The gray sky taunted her. The black hole that swallowed her would not spit her out. Despair. Emptiness. Aloneness.
"I'm not depressed! I have a healthy daughter and son, a good marriage, and a nice home! I go to church." Nicole hung her head in her hands. "Nicole, one out of five people suffer with depression. It's curable," Dr. Wellston consoled her. "Why depression?" Nicole muttered, "Why not a brain tumor or cancer? I could live with that." She sat motionless. The ladies at church would ostracize her. She remembered when the former pastor's wife, Becky, was diagnosed with depression and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Rumors ran rampant. The church board fired the pastor. Soon after Becky was released, Pastor Stewart moved his family to a bigger town. "Am I having a nervous breakdown, Dr. Wellston?" Nicole wondered if nerves could break. "You are experiencing depression and it will go away," he gently but firmly insisted.
Nicole swallowed the little blue antidepressant pills each morning and visited the counselor on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Pulling out haunting childhood memories produced excruciating pain. Spilling her secret was gut-wrenching. Sobtalkpraysob talkprayand so it went for six months. Every week a pale pink envelope would arrive in her mailbox. A verse was scribbled on a single sheet of paper. No signature or return address. The verses gave her hope. "Thank you for understanding how I feel," she gratefully whispered each week.
Confusion arrived with the holidays. Christmas was a blur. New Year's Eve was not a party. Valentine's Day was not sweet. March and April were indistinguishable. On Easter Sunday she sat in the church pew between Sam and Kate with a fake smile on her face. She clutched one of the letters from the pink envelopes for support.
As the May flowers begin to bloom so did Nicole's spirit. The gentle spring rains cleansed her soul. Smelling freshly baked loaves of bread triggered comforting memories. She planted her vegetable garden. Her prayers were heard. Attending family outings with Sam, Seth, and Kate rendered laughter.
As she briskly walked to the mailbox, she breathed in the fresh air and the fragrance of Lilac and Honeysuckle. The budding trees gave salutations and the clear sky winked at her. Nicole pulled out the final pink envelope. She read the contents: 'There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-a time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planteda time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dancea time to love and a time to hate' (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). She understood. The soul goes through different seasons just like the earth. Her soul had passed through a barren winter season but was now experiencing a springtime rebirth. Her pain was not wasted. She felt God's unconditional love for the first time. Nicole gazed up into the cloudless sky and exclaimed, "Thank you!" The card in the pink envelope was signed, Becky Stewart.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.
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