Fiction logo

Courage to Be

Alive But Not Living: Part II

By Caroline-StoryGirlCAPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 7 min read

He set his keys on the kitchen countertop without dropping his intense gaze into her eyes.

“Really.” He said, “About what?” He stood directly in front of her, arms folded, waiting for his wife to speak.

Catherine felt the edge of the countertop pressing into her back. She knew the minute she looked into his eyes it was over. She would crumble. She always did. His intensity almost overpowered her again but she told herself no. Not this time.

“Paul, I’ve worked in the family business for many years and I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me. Something isn’t right. My stress level is out of control. I can’t sleep at night. I don’t have any time to do things I like to do. There’s something missing in my life. There is something missing in me.”

“What do you mean something’s missing?” His voice became angry. “You have everything. A nice house, a car. You never need money, what’s the problem? And stress? That’s life Catherine. Work is life. We don’t work, we don’t live and we don’t eat. Simple as that.” He laughed. “I hope you’re not having some kind of a breakdown.” Before she could speak, he started to walk away, then thought better of it.

“Look, if you want to sit on the couch all day, go ahead. I’ll work.” Paul took off his coat, threw it on a kitchen chair, and started for the living room. Catherine grabbed his arm.

“Paul, please don’t be angry. Try to understand. You’re not the only one who has dreams.” This time it was Catherine who gazed intently into his eyes. The anger and hurt she saw wouldn't persuade her into feeling guilty for wanting to live her life. Not this time.

Paul wrestled his arm from her touch. “That’s fine Catherine. Do whatever you want. Is dinner ready yet?” He flopped into his favorite chair in front of the television.

The dim light from the television inside the dark room highlighted his profile. His strong jawline was the same the day they met but his dark hair began to show signs of gray. He held his head in his hands. She knew he was tired. Those familiar feelings of guilt started to slither up her spine but she decided long before they had this conversation, she wouldn’t let them in.

Everyone makes choices in their life. Paul, a workaholic, hungry for money chose to work long hours 24/7. She knew he did it for the family and for her. She loved him for wanting to provide everything they could ever need. Catherine knew she gave most of her life to Paul, his dreams, and the business. Now she wanted something of her own. Was it selfish? Some people might see it like that but the emptiness she felt inside affected every area of her life. She wasn’t happy. She sighed leaving Paul alone while she finished cooking dinner.

They barely spoke during the evening meal. Paul talked about work. As usual, Catherine listened. When she told Paul about her day, he acted aloof. He answered her occasionally but without any real interest in the conversation.

After dinner, Catherine stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. She looked out into the night from the bay window in front of the sink. Her reflection stood out against the kitchen light shining above it onto the glass.

Still holding a soapy plate, she rested her hand on the side of the sink and looked at herself. Her blond hair fell just below her shoulders. Her face and body were slender. The green dress she wore matched her eyes. Catherine gazed at the person in the window and realized she didn’t know the woman in the reflection. She didn’t know herself.

Catherine dropped the plate into the soapy water, dried her hands with a dishtowel, and tossed it over her shoulder as she left the kitchen. She had to find happiness again with or without Paul. She knew he would never change but she could. She walked down the hallway of their upscale San Diego home and into their bedroom straight to her closet where she hid her secret box.

The box contained reminders of her dreams long forgotten when she began her life with Paul. Carefully, she reached up to the top shelf and rummaged under her neatly folded sweaters. Her hands felt around every inch of the shelf until they touched the corner of the box. Elated, she pulled the box out from underneath the sweaters.

In her hands, she held a pink shoebox with white and purple hand-painted flowers. On top of the box in white lettering, it said, “Never Give Up”. Catherine sat down on the floor of the spacious closet with the box in front of her. Carefully, she opened the lid.

Inside she found reminders of the many times she tried to start a project on her own but was unable to do so because Paul didn’t approve. Her project wasn’t a moneymaker. Hobbies didn’t make money. Or it got in the way of her work schedule. Excuses she thought to herself. Catherine knew she gave up on everything because of Paul’s disapproval. Worse yet, she allowed another person's opinion to shatter what brought her joy.

She remembered many nights she cried herself to sleep after one of his tirades. He often told her how foolish to invest her time in things that didn’t make money. On one occasion, Catherine yelled back. She told him she didn’t care about making a ton of money. She just wanted to be happy.

Catherine picked up a pamphlet she put away years ago. It lay folded at the bottom of the shoe box. Tears ran down her cheek. The pamphlet was for nursing school. Someone gave it to her at the hospital where she volunteered. She thought of her dad, a doctor, and her mom, a nurse.

She remembered Paul's obnoxious laughter when she told him about the program and how she planned to juggle her work schedule with school.

“I know I can do it, Paul. It will take some time but I want to apply.”

“You? We have a business to run and I need you here.” The sarcasm in his voice smashed her again.

The memory faded but it made her realize her fear of raised voices and anger stemmed from childhood. The puzzle of her life began to come together. The coping strategy she used with her alcoholic parent weaved itself into her adult life with Paul. Ironically, no matter how hard she tried, it never worked. Something always came up. Catherine felt exhausted from years of pleasing others, especially Paul. What about her?

She thought of Paul. She didn’t love him in a romantic way. Maybe there are different kinds of love. She loved herself enough to recognize she had time to turn things around. Her dream of becoming a nurse hummed in her heart once again. Tears flowed down her cheeks as years of emotional stress and tension melted away.

Catherine returned the box to its place but held the pamphlet tightly in her hand. A quick click of the light switch on her way out sent her sailing down the hallway where she stopped in front of Paul, blocking his view of the television. He looked up at her in surprise.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

“Paul I’m not moving until you listen to me.” This time Catherine raised her voice, not Paul.

“Tomorrow I’m going to apply to this nursing program at the college.” She threw the pamphlet at him. “We have the money. And about work, find a secretary or do it yourself. I’m done. Do you understand?”

He slowly put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair. Catherine tensed waiting for a fight to start but strangely, she thought she saw a hint of understanding in his eyes but quickly disappeared.

“I’ll do it myself. Hand me the remote I’m missing my show.”

She almost reached for the remote. “No. Get it yourself.”

Catherine turned and walked away. The sound of the television drummed in her ears. This time she told him her plan instead of Paul dictating their every move. A huge smile spread across her face. She stood in front of the kitchen window again. Her reflection greeted her under the light.

Instead of her green dress, the woman reflected in the window wore scrubs. Clearly written on the name tag attached to the nylon cord around her neck were the words, Catherine Moore R.N.


About the Creator


Hi there! I’m a fiction writer. Written all my life. Want to inspire if I can. Living on a guest horse ranch in Baja California, Mexico. Married to a Mexican Cowboy!


Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.