What are the four words a married woman doesn’t want to hear?

This morning, while sitting on this bench with Roxy, I pondered a situation that is affecting someone I care about. This in turn, gave rise to this humble attempt at flash fiction. Enjoy! Honest critique most welcome!

She looked at the mountain of dishes sitting in the sink.
They seemed like a sorry bunch; sitting helpless; waiting for someone to take care of them.
A wry smile crossed her face as she realized how much she had in common with the dirty plates.
Her current situation had her feeling powerless, desperate, and confused.
Very confused.
What exactly had landed her in this predicament?
How had she come to be the protagonist of this sorry state of affairs?
Was it something she’d done? Hadn’t done? Should’ve done?
One minute she’d been the wife of an influential man, and the next, she’d heard the four words most married women hate to hear.
She nervously picked at her fingernails, as she struggled to make sense of what had happened.
She could still hear the finality of his words; four simple words that formed the equally simple sentence of, “I want a divorce.”
“A what?” she’d replied.
“Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming. I want a divorce.”
And then he’d gotten up, added his plate to the pile, and softly closed the door behind him.
No screaming. No dramatic exit. No cursing.
It was this attitude that clued her in to the metamorphosis her husband had undergone.
Who was this person, who until three days ago had said, “Lets make this work?”
She took her apron out of the kitchen drawer and tied it behind her back.
She felt hysterical laughter bubble up in her throat as she thought of the old adage, “Time to cut the apron strings.”
Only the strings weren’t her children.
The strings were her husband and their twenty-one years of marriage.
She carelessly removed the dishes from the sink; acting on automatic pilot.
The four words were beginning to sink in.
“I want a divorce.”
The bright red stream brought her back from her reverie.
She’d cut herself with the paring knife she’d meant to throw away yesterday.
There was rust on the bottom of the blade and she’d been afraid someone would cut themselves and require a tetanus shot.
Now she’d been the one to slice her finger.
She laughed out loud as she thought, better to lose a finger than your heart.
Her laughter turned into tears.
Large drops of salty tears fell in the sink, happily joining the soap suds resting on the remaining dirty dishes.
Had she not cleaned enough? Cooked enough? Screwed enough?
What had she done wrong?
Her yard was the envy of the neighborhood. Her children were bright, diligent, and well behaved. Her pets were well groomed and fully vaccinated. Her cars were washed and polished.
Again she felt hysterical laughter coming on.
She tried to stifle it; to squelch it; to stop it in its tracks.
She took a deep breath but found herself choking on her saliva.
So she stopped.
She stopped trying to control her laughter and instead, laughed.
A small chuckle at first, followed by a full-blown, robust belly laugh, a second later.
She laughed at the times she’d dutifully picked up his dirty socks.
She laughed at the three course meals she’d cooked for the past twenty-one years.
She laughed at her perfectly manicured, fully fertilized lawn, and the framing magnolia bushes which had taken her three days to plant.
She laughed at the times she’d believed him when he’d said he had to go out of town for this, that, and the other.
She laughed at the PTA meetings, dance recitals, and graduations she’d attended by herself.
It seemed like she’d been a single mother since forever, yet it wasn’t until now that she’d realized it.
She’d been the woman behind the man; the brains of the operation; the army of one.
Single handedly she’d raised her kids, her dogs, and anything else that needed raising.
She’d been alone even when she thought she was part of a set.
“I want a divorce.”
The words menacingly echoed in her ears.
She felt the corners of her mouth turn up at the realization that she had four words of her own.
“It’s about damn time.”

Sister, this one’s for you. You know who you are. Keep the faith. You’ve got this.

And now, a little Roxy love to get you through the week.



53 thoughts on “What are the four words a married woman doesn’t want to hear?

  1. Very poignantly written. Your friend is lucky to have someone who can put into words the complex emotions she’s facing.

    And thanks for the Roxy love at the end. We can all use a little of that.

    1. Ariana, thank you for your kind words. That’s what I tell her–that time will allow her to move on and look back at this as a bad experience that helped her learn and grow stronger!

    2. Ariana, you doll, thank you! I’m very familiar with Monica’s wor and I love her! She’s my soul sister! :) I read her piece a while ago and became a fan of her blog immediately. Now that woman can write! Thank you for being such a caring soul. I’m so grateful!

    3. Thank you, Ariana for checking out my new blog on the Huffington Post. And thank you, Bells, for being the sweet person you are and for telling this empowering story. It’s about damn time is right! Please tell your friend that my thoughts are with her. We know the struggle she’s going through, but we also know that time heals everything. This too will pass. Kiss-kiss for Roxy! (That second kiss is from Henry, who pines away for her…)

    4. Monica, too right, sister! I will relay your lovely thoughts to my friend as well as remind her that while she may not believe it now, time does help one heal. Roxy’s blushing at the thought that Henry pines for her! I’m going to start calling our debonair Henry, Roxy’s Mr. Darcy! hee hee! :)

  2. The reviewer reporting to duty… :)

    I like the story, my only objection is a small one – the salty tear. It’s about as unnecessary to say the tear was salty as it is to say that she was wearing a hat on her head; if the tear was something other than salty, or she wore the hat on some other part of her body, then it’s worth mentioning. :)

    Oh, and if a married woman has to do everything alone, it’s better for her to not be married – one less lazy bum to cook for and clean after.

    1. Ivana, thank you for your suggestion! I am grateful! I totally agree with you–a woman who’s used to doing everything singlehandedly doesn’t really need to be married, now does she? :)

  3. You did a nice job reflecting the pain that your friend is going through. It’s never easy. Where do you find a convenient place to put those years together? It has to be stored somewhere and taken out at times when you feel strong enough to face them. The good news is she has a friend like you. Love Roxy!

    1. Annie, your comment is much appreciated, friend! I’m with you–those memories should be taken out when the person is ready and not a moment sooner! Roxy is tickled pink you like her shots! :)

  4. Love the post, Bella, and LOVE that you concentrated the flash fiction around the dish setting. I don’t know how many damned hours I’ve spent on dirty dishes and pots and pans in my life. Hours that I’ve spent thinking, stressing, cursing while my hands were scrubbing off food. Or wishing I was someplace else. You capture the mind of a frustrated wife perfectly.

    1. Jennifer, your comment made me chuckle for I’ve found myself in the same situation many a time! Gosh I hate washing dishes! I always say that if I cook, I shouldn’t be expected to do dishes too! But you’re right–it is the place where we ponder frustrations, things that make us angry or sad. Perhaps we believe our angst will go down the drain like the dishwater! :) So happy you liked the piece!

  5. I hope your friend values herself as much as you do. That piece should be framed on her nightstand. Just beautiful – she’s a woman of power and complete of herself. And who doesn’t need a little Roxy love?! Thanks, Bella.

    1. Lori, you just make my heart sing, lady! Muchas gracias! I’m quite pleased with it but I value any feedback you lovely readers provide! I’m delighted you like it and that you enjoy Roxy’s photos! :)

  6. Enjoyed the story, Bella. What a chill to be told that, after being told the situation was workable. He’ll have many regrets later. Just wait and see.

    I have to say though, the laughter was a little manic to me, with those words being quite fresh. Maybe you’ll continue the story? :-)

    Beautiful pictures, by the way. You’re a great photographer. I’m doing okay if I can find the button to snap the photo.

    1. Totsy, I’m most grateful for your take on my story! Thank you so much! I’m with you one hundred percent–he shall know regret with time. I think I wove the laughter into the story for two reasons–one, to illustrate the hysteria that oftentimes takes over in times of crisis, and two, because I can’t foresee any way out of any circumstance if laughter isn’t involved one way or another. I’m flattered you’d like to see a continuation! :)

    1. Kim, merci, ma cherie! I’m tickled pink you like the ending! I gave Roxy a kiss from you and she curled up in my lap! hee hee! :)

  7. Bella, you’ve got the short story touch.
    You’ve captured so much in so few words – as the art of fiction requires.
    There’s a line here that is reminiscent of one I used in a story called “Marriage Counseling.” My line is, “People wonder how I got in this predicament.”
    The story flows with ease and transitions from one thought to the next smoothly. Apparently the protagonist finally agrees that divorce is a win-win in the end. “It’s about damn time” says it all.

    1. Debra, I am thrilled that you like my story! Thank you! Your words are like a balm to my writer’s soul! :) I think in the end, the protagonist forces herself out of the denial stage she’s in and realizes she’s better off without her deadbeat husband. And I for one can’t help but cheer her on! I would love to read your story! Is it published?

  8. You’re welcome Bella. When I read your story I thought of my own friend whose husband just asked for a divorce. And I thought about sending this to her :) Maybe. Don’t know if she’d find anything humorous at the moment though.

    No, I haven’t sent my story out. I may or I may not. It’s actually part of a novel I started some time ago, which I adapted for a short story, thinking I might submit it.

    1. Debra, you’re right. Sometimes people do need some time before they’re ready to let humor back into their lives. I, however, am not one of those people. I find humor alleviates most of my troubles and angsts. I think you must send out your story! Isn’t it time we took chances and blew caution to the wind, my friend? Come, on! Leap of faith, sister! Leap of faith! :)

  9. Good ending, and does what is should, reminder there is always hope and that it is never to late to for new chapters and reinvention. I don’t believe we are meant to live one life in the life we have, there is much a woman can do if she only take a leap of faith..

    1. Brenda, you took the words right out of my mouth! I totally agree! I believe we have the ability to bounce back from the deepest of tragedies if only we believe in our power to do so. Of course, this can mean taking time for ourselves, time to process things, and time to work things out. But eventually, we bounce back, girl, and when we do, watch out! :)

  10. Bella, I’ve been trying to read this post since yesterday but between the kids and work and yes, the dishes, I’ve just now been able to sit down and take it in. I just love your writing! This is the first chapter of a story I want to keep reading. Will you keep writing it, please?

    1. Heidi, you’re great! Thank you for your encouragement! I think I will seriously considering doing another installment! I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, thank you for your support! You rock! :)

  11. Wow, you can write. This post has really resonated with me, even though my life is miles apart from hers. I hope your friend does laugh hard, and long. Mia Bella, this was just an overall superb post.

    1. Georgia, my sweet friend, thank you! I’m so pleased you like it! I’m sure my friend will one day look back at all this and say, “What was I thinking?” It happens to the best of us and I’m just glad time heals.

  12. Excellent – which I’d had something like this way back when – even tho at the time I coudln’t see it, it was THE best gift he ever gave me – freedom!! Love the Roxy love!! Alpha Hubby’s 4 words are “Wanna mess around?” (Wanna being 2 words, ya know!)

    1. Nan, “Wanna mess around” sound like the best “four” words a married woman CAN hear! hee hee! And you’re right–freedom is the best gift some men can give a woman. Roxy Lee wags her tail to thank you! :)

    1. DC, hello! I’m with you, lady! It takes an even stronger man to be with a strong woman but sadly, that isn’t always the case for some of us ladies. I’m pleased you liked the story! :)

  13. Its about time the woman stops being the victim of these four words ..and even though its not going to be easy for your friend, to begin with , I am sure she’ll be a freer and happier woman in the end .. More power to her !

    1. Priya, absolutely! I too believe that in the end, she’ll thank the ungrateful lout! Enough victimization! Hear, hear! I knew I could count on you to add to the mix! :)

  14. Great piece. What strikes me most is the refrain – ‘I want a divorce’ – which reads like a chorus; the woman’s final 4 words – ‘it’s about damn time’, and the fact that for all intents and purposes she’s been *single all along* anyway, a masterly stroke!

  15. Cathy, your comment has me doing the happy dance! I’m delighted you approve and that you caught on that I meant the “I want a divorce” to read like a chorus! Thank you so much for your kind words! :)

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