ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: D is for Dolores

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Mornings Are Hardest

Dolores watched as the gray light of dawn began to filter through the bedroom curtain. Now – finally – she could give herself permission to rise from her sleepless bed.

Glancing over at Dave’s side, Dolores’ heart began to beat an anxious tattoo. Business had taken him out of town. She never slept well when Dave wasn’t home. She needed him. His presence kept the sadness and confusion at bay. It made her feel she could cope.

Struggling to sit up, she swung her once-trim legs over the side of the bed.

Dave used to tell their friends it was her legs that had grabbed his attention those many years ago. First time he’d noticed her, she’d been standing in front of the old Majestic movie house, surrounded by a group of giggling girlfriends. Years later, he couldn’t remember the name of the movie, but he still recalled her short white skirt and the long legs that were tanned and slender. “All it took to steal my heart,” he used to say, “was one look at the laughing girl with the gorgeous legs.”

She’d always loved that story. She liked the way his eyes softened when he told it.

She’d maintained those legs so loved by Dave well into her fourth decade thanks to a stringent running program. Staring at the pockets of fat that now surrounded her knees she wondered what had become of the woman who used to run half-marathons.

Now the only running she did was from memories.

The extra layer of flesh around her middle reminded her that a woman’s metabolism slowed as she aged. But Dolores knew she couldn’t blame the extra pounds on the 50th birthday that had come and gone. It went deeper than that.

She just ate too damned much.

In their last session, Dr. Hammond suggested she used food as a crutch, a way to fill the emptiness in her heart. Clever man, Dr. Hammond, the way he tried to set a trap for her. Sensing pride in her once good looks, he used it against her.

“Why don’t you and Dave start taking a nightly walk on the street in front of your house? Think of it as small steps,” he said, grinning.

Small steps back to who she once was…

This is what things have come to, she thought, trying to force myself to take a walk down the street.

Once Dolores’ calendar had been proof of a busy life: luncheon engagements, shopping dates with friends, theater matinees. There had been high school sporting events, church on Sundays. And, of course, holidays.

Lovely summer holidays spent by the ocean, watching Teddy and Sarah splash in the surf while Dave lay by her side, snoozing in the sand. Sweet days followed by jolly nights in which the four of them strolled the boardwalk. Amidst the confusion of happy crowds, their laughter competed with the loud carnival music and spiel of concession stand barkers.

Closing her eyes, Dolores could once again feel the pressure of Teddy’s small hand, see again his eager little face aglow with excitement… feel him leading her toward the rides, begging for one more turn on the Ferris wheel.

Busy times back then. Always something to do, something to look forward to.

Sometimes Dolores dreamed she was again by the seashore, looking out toward the ocean, watching her boy frolicking in the waves. In those dreams, Teddy never turned to look her way, no matter how urgently she called his name. The crash of the surf drowned out her cries, and Teddy continued to play in the foamy waters, his face pointed toward some destination Dolores couldn’t see.

Then she’d awake, shaken, her face moist with tears, and head for the kitchen. Sitting in the dark, she’d hold a tub of ice cream, spooning its creamy sweetness into her mouth. She’d eat straight from the carton, silently, her tears drying stiffly on her face.

How much time does it take for a broken heart to mend? Unable to answer that question, Dolores continued to eat – and hide inside her house.

The only time she left it was for the sessions with Dr. Hammond, appointments that Dave insisted she keep. Except for those, she never ventured out. It was Dave who did the marketing, who accompanied Sarah when shopping for her prom dress. Dave did everything – and Dolores continued to hide, getting fatter, growing sadder.

It wasn’t fair to Dave. She knew it. She saw the unhappiness in his eyes. One night, while they lay close in the darkness, he whispered, “I feel like I’ve lost you both. Please, Dolores, come back…”

But Dolores had lost her way. She’d once been the laughing girl with the pretty legs; she didn’t recognize this new Dolores, a stranger who hadn’t the tools to navigate her way through the fog that surrounded her.

Dave didn’t understand. He needed the comfort of family and friends. This difference stood between them like a wall. She didn’t want the well-meaning advice or condolences of friends. She was relieved when people stopped calling; glad, even, to finally have some peace. It required too much of her, being cheerful all the time. It was exhausting to pretend she was still the woman who once shared amusing anecdotes about Sarah’s high school dates or Teddy’s genius with old cars.

A wave of pain threatened to engulf her, and she rose awkwardly from the bed. Pulling on an old, faded robe, she headed down the hallway and into the kitchen and began to make coffee. How many times had she stood in this room, performing just this task? Every morning for as long as she could remember.

Even that morning the black car had pulled into their driveway…

Dolores froze for a moment, disturbed by the memory. Taking a deep breath, she pushed it back.

She suddenly found her attention fixed on a piece of cracked tile in front of the sink and frowned. How many times have I asked Dave to replace this tile? But just as quickly as it surfaced, Dolores’ annoyance faded. It wasn’t Dave’s procrastination that bothered her. It was her fear that she was like that tile – damaged, perhaps irreparably.

Reaching into the cupboard, her hand fastened on a small bottle with miniscule print on its label. As water streamed from the faucet into her glass, she looked out the kitchen window. There were still patches of snow on the ground and the skies were a leaden gray.

Winter.

It was in winter they’d gotten word about Teddy.

Grabbing the pill bottle, she stumbled clumsily onto a kitchen chair, trying to push back the dark tide of feeling.

Dave! Please come home now, she thought, I can’t be here by myself!

But Dave wasn’t there and this time the memory held, and Dolores felt the room begin to spin.

That winter, a man in uniform had emerged from the black car and knocked gently on their front door. He’d removed his hat and sat down at the kitchen table and said the words that forever changed their lives.

“…Ted was out on patrol, a skirmish occurred… stress, confusion… he went down… I’m afraid the shot was from one of our own… friendly fire…”

Dolores had barely heard the kindly captain, his voice low, regretful. She just registered two words: friendly fire. Such a gentle term for something so cruel.

And now her boy was gone, dying in some village whose name she couldn’t even pronounce.

Her Teddy, whose eager young eyes had once looked expectantly into hers…

With shaking hands, Dolores jerked the bottle open, accidentally spilling its contents onto the table’s surface. How many of these would it take to end the pain?

Woodenly, she gathered up the pills, dropping all but one back into the bottle.

Not yet… She could make it through one more day. And the one after that. She knew she could.

Swallowing the pill, she waited for it to do its job. Mornings were always hardest – before the medication kicked in.

Moments later, Dolores walked over to the refrigerator and took out the tub of ice cream.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton, Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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Photo credit: ‘Depression’ by Swiniaki, Deviant Art

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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42 Responses to ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: D is for Dolores

  1. Stephen Thom says:

    Good work, Kate, found this very absorbing 🙂 I think there were touches throughout… that helped amplify the feelings/ inward spiral without being direct – ‘How many times had she stood in this room, performing just this task?’ – and pulled me into this claustrophobic environment really effectively. Shout out also to the phrase ‘heart began to beat an anxious tattoo’, and effective little moments of conversational observance (eg. ‘First time he’d noticed her-‘ as opposed to ‘the first time-‘) that ramp up the realism and, in turn, my immersion and internal response. Hope you’re well, great work! 🙂

  2. Adan Ramie says:

    Poor Dolores. I hope I never know what it feels like to lose a child, but I imagine it must be something akin to losing a limb. That part of you is gone forever, and yet it’s still there, that twinge, always reminding you that something once was there. Heartbreaking.

  3. Glynis Jolly says:

    I like this idea of the Alphabet Soup Stories. 😉

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Glynis, I’m glad you like the idea. I have another story to post either Sunday or Monday. I need to look at it again with ‘fresh’ eyes before posting.
      I’m just getting back into blogging after my break, and need to catch up with your blog. I hope you had a nice summer, dear.

  4. WK Tucker says:

    So happy to see you back, Kate. I hope your break gave you a much-needed rest and recharged your batteries.
    As always, a wonderful story. Moving, sad, and well-told.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi pal! Thanks for the welcome back. I do feel my batteries have been re-charged after a vacation. I’m enthusiastic about getting back into the alphabet soup stories.
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading the latest in the series. I’ve had this story on tap for over a year, and after some revisions decided it was time to finally post it.
      I look forward to catching up to what you’ve been up to over the past several weeks!

  5. Dalo 2013 says:

    Beautifully written ~ so sad and heartbreaking, yet your words are like music stirring the soul.

  6. It’s fantastic to see you back blogging, my dear friend! ❤ 3 ❤

    I am thrilled that you've posted this wonderful and heart-wrenching story that I had the pleasure of having a sneak peek at early in its inception. I found it thought-provoking and profound when I read one of the early drafts and I think you've done an excellent job with this piece.

    Depression is often misunderstood by those who have never suffered from the condition. Society tends to view people with depression with a sense of ignorance, often looking no further than the outward appearance and behaviours of a person.

    No one chooses to be willingly depressed. It's not as if a person can suddenly snap out of it and become 'happy' again. Depression is so much more than an emotional state, it affects a person physically as much as it does emotionally.

    Delores is proof that grief and depression can hit a person at any point in their life and that the scars that a person carries are not always physical. I really felt for Delores and her continued struggle to get through each day. There is no 'happy ending' to this story, but there is a sense of hope in the fact that Delores could have chosen the 'easy way out' but chooses to meet each morning head on and continue to live (granted, not as she did before) – Delores may see herself as weak (using food as a crutch, feeling helpless without Dave by her side) yet she continues to fight each day. Delores has more strength than she realises and this gives me, as a reader, hope that Delores will, eventually, find some sort of peace with the passing of Teddy.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Heather, thank you for the thoughtful comments; they were spot on and very perceptive.
      I think the symptoms of depression manifest themselves in a variety of ways. In Dolores’ case, she let a body (once trim and fit) go to fat; she hides in her house, eating mindlessly, trying to avoid confronting her pain.
      Even so, the story is not entirely without hope as you rightly pointed out. Dolores is still fighting, even if she doesn’t realize it. Confronted with memories while alone (without her crutch – Dave), she thinks of suicide, but doesn’t do it. Instead, she decides she can get by for another day – and, even more significantly, another day after that. She’s taking things, painful as they are, one day at a time.
      Sometimes that’s all a person can do.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the story; it means a lot to me. ❤

  7. Deb says:

    Nice. I could feel dolores’ pain and anguish and wanted to console her,

  8. Nice piece, Kate. It’s great to see you back at it! I’m sure your break was wonderful.

  9. noelleg44 says:

    You’ve captured the essence of profound depression, Kate, over something a mother never should have to experience. As an Army Mom, I live with this possibility every day. Another great piece of writing!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Noelle; I’m glad the story managed to capture the feelings someone depressed might feel.
      I’ve always felt great sympathy for mothers and fathers who lost children due to friendly fire. Death in war is terrible enough; by friendly fire, it seems worse. The term has always struck me as quite awful: friendly and fire. There’s no such thing… there are just horrible accidents.
      Thanks for the encouraging words about my writing!

  10. macksmom55 says:

    Yes it was sad, but you made us care about Dolores, or want to reach out to her, or scream at her, or smack her… but you elicited a response from your audience, and that is talent.

  11. Well, that was depressing. 😉 The broken tile is a nice touch. Grief, misery. Depression. Like R.E.M ‘s line “Not everyone is able to carry the weight of the world”. The scars we all carry. Completely understanding why people commit suicide.

  12. sknicholls says:

    Well done, indeed! You are going to have to publish a book soon. Glad to see you back online. I know how tough it is to get going again when you’ve been away for a while.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Susan! I am looking forward to catching up with you and seeing how ‘Naked Alliances’ is coming along.
      Thanks for reading my story and for your encouraging words! I have a rough draft ready for the next story in the Alphabet Soup series – I am in the editing and ‘cutting down’ phase of the process. 😀

  13. You have been missed! I read this story waiting for Dolores’ “conversion”, the happy ending. But reality kicked in. Tears for Dolores. Wonderful!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Well, thank you, Bruce! It’s nice to hear I’ve been missed. 🙂
      I’m glad you enjoyed (um… is that the right word? :D) reading my story about poor Dolores. Not a happy ending, but perhaps there is still hope for Dolores. She’s not taking a bottle of pills; she’s taking things one day at a time.
      I need to catch up with your stories now that I’m back!

  14. A beautifully and sensitively written description of such common issues. Well done, Kate. It is good to see a return to this series.

  15. jan says:

    Oh boy, poor Dolores. Such a sad, sad tale – well done!

  16. Hildegard | Chez Hildegard says:

    Heartbreaking story, but well-written!

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