catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 13 :: 2011.07.08 — 2011.07.21


New life

She woke up to the buzzing alarm clock. Rolling over, she remembered that he wasn’t there. He left for work hours before. The life of a doctor’s wife. Always alone. Always waiting.

Shower, hair, make-up, clothes. She had to look her best. No discount store for her. Only the best, most expensive, designer labels hung in her closet. The problem was never in having nothing to wear, but picking which combination of colors and fabrics to don.

She settled on an outfit. Black. For the slimming factor. And with a few layers around the tummy. She was starting to bump out a little. No one knew yet. Not even her husband. She still wasn’t ready to accept it.           

I need to make an appointment with a doctor, she thought. Hopefully I can find one Rick doesn’t know.

The too-big-for-two house was so quiet. She walked down the steps, barely noticing the huge living room, marbled foyer, the expensive furniture and rugs and window coverings. She went to the kitchen and made herself a latte.  

She’d insisted that the kitchen be fit for a gourmet chef. Not once had she cooked in the six months they had lived there. But it was one thing she had to have when they built the house. They’d had to have all the extras.

“We really are paying a lot for this,” she’d said. “We might as well be comfortable.”

It didn’t hurt that they had the priciest and most beautiful house among their friends. They were the couple that the others envied — Ricky and Carley and their expansive and well-decorated home. Ricky and Carley the doctor and lawyer. It didn’t get more comfortable than that.

But the comfort was suffocating them. It was killing their three-year-old marriage.

She loaded her SUV with briefcase, laptop, purse. Climbing up and into the driver’s seat she slipped the key in the ignition. She turned it. The engine started. She thought about leaving the garage door closed and letting the fumes ease her to sleep. She was so tired from the breakneck pace, the struggle to keep up the comfortable feeling of their lives. Carley didn’t have it in her to pretend that her life was easy. It was more than she could take.

Her phone chimed, jostling her out of the sleepy daze. She pressed the “open” button for the garage door. It slid up.

The headset slipped into her ear.

“Hello,” she said.

She put the SUV in reverse.

“Hey, are you on your way to work?” It was Ricky.

“Yeah. Just leaving now.”

“Oh, good. I was a little worried you’d sleep through your alarm.”

“Nope. I didn’t. What do you need?”

“Oh. I just wanted to know if you could meet up for lunch. I’ve got a break from 1-2.”

She drove away from her street. Other houses lined the street. To say they were impressive would be an understatement.

“I don’t think I can make that work. I can try, but I’ll have to double check with my assistant.”

“Right.” He was disappointed. “I know how it goes.”

“Well, you want me to make partner, right? I can’t just take lunches off whenever I want.”

“You’re right. You are.” He was quiet. “But I really miss you, honey.”

Carley waved to the security guard positioned at the entrance to her neighborhood. He flipped the switch to open the gate. That gate did so little to make her feel secure. But it did so much to make her feel isolated.

“Alright. I’ll make it work.” She sighed. “It’s going to take a little shifting. So you’d better feel special.”

“I do. Thanks, Babe. It’ll be great. Kind of a little surprise.”

“Great,” she said. “Where are we meeting?”

“I’ll pick you up. You’re going to love it.”

“Alright. Pick me up right at 1:15. Don’t be late or I’m not going.”

“Sounds perfect. I love you.”

She hung up.

What in the world is going on with him? she thought. He’d better not be having another affair.

She climbed into his speedy little red car. There was a “For Sale” sign in one of the windows.

“You’re selling it?” she asked.

“I was thinking about it. I don’t need it anymore.”

“Okay, I guess.” She buckled her belt. “Where are you taking me?”

“I’m not telling you. You’ll just have to see when we get there.”

“Whatever. You know I hate surprises.”

“You might just like this one.”

They drove a few streets down from the law office. The neighborhood went from nice to bad very quickly. People watched them drive by. The buildings were worn down. Empty. Ricky didn’t seem to notice any of it.

“Hey, did you take the wrong road? I don’t have time for you to get lost in this kind of neighborhood.” She tried to cover her nervousness with an edge of contempt.

“Don’t worry, I know where I’m going.”

Eventually Ricky found a parking spot. He got out and fed coins to the meter. Carley eased herself out of the car. “I don’t see a restaurant.”

“When did I say we were going to a restaurant?”

“I just assumed.”

“Come on.”

He grabbed her arm and led her to a building at the end of the block. People sat around the door. Inside they were gathered around tables, eating.

“I’m confused,” Carley said.

“Don’t worry. We’re just getting to the good part. You hungry?” She looked at the line for food. Soup and sandwiches. A wilted salad.

“I’m good.”

“Okay. They make really good food.”

“Are we really going to hang out here right now?”

“No. Don’t be silly. Come on. There’s something I need to show you.”

They walked to the back of the kitchen and took a hallway to another part of the building. He opened a door and turned on the lights. It was a medium-sized room. Chairs lined the walls by the door, like a waiting room. Curtains formed separated spaces in the back.

“What is this? A doctor’s office?”

“Kind of.” He was nearly hopping with excitement. “It’s going to be a medical clinic for people who can’t afford to pay.”

“That’s cool.” Carley tried not to imagine the place full of coughing and bleeding people. “How much are we donating?”

“Carley, I need to talk to you about something.”

“Do I need to sit down? I get the feeling that it’s going to be bad.”

“They asked me to run the clinic. You know. Be the doctor here.”

“Who? Who is ‘they’?”

“The ministers that run the food kitchen downstairs.”

“Great. So you’ll do both things.”

“No. I was going to leave the hospital and just do this.”

“You know they aren’t going to be able to pay you.”

“I know.” Ricky sat. “We can make it on your salary.”

“This is crazy. Is something wrong with you?”

“We could sell the house. Sell a few things.”

“Where would we live?”

“There’s an apartment upstairs. They said we could live there for free.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

Carley pulled a stick of gum from her purse. She was feeling sick from not eating.

“Rick, why would you ever want to do something insane like this?”

“Because I want to help. You know, I’m sick of working so hard just for myself.”

“What about me? Do you really think I’d be comfortable here?”

“Are you happy now? The way our lives are now?”

Carley sat next to her husband. “I’m pregnant.”

“I know. I found the test in the trash. I wasn’t being snoopy. I just dropped something and had to dig in for it. The test fell out.”

“So, how would we make this work with a baby?”

“The same way everybody else does it.” Ricky grabbed her hand. “I haven’t been the best husband to you. And I am so sorry about that. We both got lost trying to have the best of this world.”

Carley swiped a tear from her cheek before he could see it.

“But I think that I’m learning something.” He looked around the room. “I couldn’t care less about the junk of this world anymore. It’s not about all that. This life is about doing all you can to serve others. And to serve God. I’d lost track of that. And I almost lost my soul.”

“I’m just afraid that I won’t be comfortable. You know. Living in this neighborhood. Doesn’t God want us to be comfortable?”

“I don’t think so, Babe. I think there’s a big difference between the comfortable life we’ve lived and the way He’s planning to comfort us while we work for Him. Does that make any sense?”

Yes, she wanted to say. Perfect sense.

He walked around the room, explaining what each space would become. Reception, dental, optical, exam rooms. They would need a big safe for the medications. Tables for the patients to lie on. Several magazine subscriptions.

Every word he spoke reminded her of how much she loved him at the beginning. Before everything went wrong. Before he found his comfort from another woman. Before they had money and things and cars.

It was the time when he was studying to be a doctor so he could change the world. That Ricky was back.

“Can I see the apartment?” she asked, standing. “I need to know what I’m about to jump into with you.”

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