On the evening of her 47th birthday, Sarah stood at the large porcelain sink, absentmindedly washing her hands and staring at her reflection. Her eyes wandered to the tiled bathroom wall and she noticed the greenish grout forming in the joints of her beautiful Dutch tiles. She thought about how much time had passed since she'd chosen the tiles and how badly she'd wasted the best years of her life.
It had started so promisingly when they bought the farm 15 years ago. The large property with the big main house and the huge barn had been Paul's dream. He believed that organic farming and self-sufficiency were his mission in life.
She turned off the faucet and made a mental note to come back later to clean the bathroom thoroughly. She'd use the bleach from the laundry room to make sure everything was spotless.
To Sarah, it hadn’t matter where they lived as long as she could be with Paul. She couldn't believe that this charismatic, handsome man had chosen her.
When they met at that New Year's Eve party 17 years ago, Sarah was a shy young woman standing in the corner of a noisy room, awkwardly holding a drink she didn't want. She'd been dragged along by a colleague who didn't want to go alone but had abandoned her as soon as they arrived. Paul was a friend of a friend of the host. Sarah had no idea what he saw in her, but he was her prince in shining armor. He rescued her from the party and her uneventful life. Sweeping her away with his charm, his stories of a better world, his big ego and his big dreams.
Sarah was a programmer who could work from anywhere she liked. So she'd agreed to move with Paul, to the middle of nowhere, this remote place where she knew no one.
The taciturn locals they met while shopping in the small village eyed them suspiciously or avoided them. Even now, 10 years later, there was no one she'd call a friend.
Back then she hadn't minded. All that mattered was her life with Paul. She'd always wanted children. Her dream was to have her first a year or two after they moved. Sarah imagined them raising a large family in this rambling farmhouse, away from the polluted, crowded city. The family she'd longed for all her life.
In the warm, spacious kitchen, Sarah brewed herself a valerian tea. She carried the steaming cup into the garden through the messy mudroom where Paul's boots and trench coat still lay in a heap in the corner.
It was dark now, but the full moon had risen and was clearly visible behind the bony silhouettes of the trees in the woods behind the house.
She stood in the cool night air, warming herself with the chipped mug in her hand, listening to the rustling of the small nocturnal animals. A hedgehog scurried stealthily through the undergrowth. Its bustling activity was a stark contrast to the stillness she'd created.
Any minute now Millie would swoop out of the barn on her nightly hunt.
She'd named the owl Millie, after her childhood best friend. The only close friend she ever had, because her strict religious mother had disapproved of anyone she brought home. Millie was a quiet, serious little girl whose intense, dark eyes seemed to look into your soul. Millie the owl had the same eyes.
Sarah wondered what had become of Millie. She couldn't remember why they'd lost touch after she met Paul. All of a sudden she desperately missed Millie.
She watched the steam rise leisurely from her tea and thought back to when things started to go wrong. The beginning had seemed perfect. Her job was flexible, with a little support from Paul, she could've kept working after the kids.
She couldn’t stop working. Her money made Paul's dream possible. The generous income from her tech job had kept the farm afloat for the past 15 years. She'd never spent much of her salary. She had no hobbies and didn't enjoy travel. After they married, they used her savings as seed money to buy the farm and equipment.
Running an organic farm proved to be much more difficult and expensive than Paul had anticipated. Sarah soon realized he knew next to nothing about farming. It was brutally hard work. Not heroic and romantic as his stories had made it sound. Her money made ends meet when his crops failed to thrive and pests decimated the yields.
When success failed to materialize, Paul changed. He became dismissive and cruel. He made disparaging remarks about her and her work. In his eyes, it wasn't "real work" and "contributed nothing to humanity." She attributed this to the stress he was under and forgave him.
He refused to try for the baby she longed for. "The time isn't right," he said. "We need to become stable first." When Sarah pushed because she felt she was running out of time, Pauls told her she was being ridiculous. How could she even think about starting a family if the farm couldn't support it? Didn't she see how selfish her desire for children was when he needed to focus 100% on the farm? Sarah cried, but tried to be more patient.
The years passed and she grew older as she watched him trying to make the farm work. It didn't matter that she could've supported the family on her income. That wasn't Paul's "plan."
Then the insults began. Paul found fault with everything she did. The more he screamed the smaller she became. Once, when they were arguing, he told her a woman like her shouldn't have children. She'd be a horrible mother. It felt like he slapped her in the face.
At the time, Sarah had been devastated. Now all she felt was another wave of deep, unbridled rage.
Millie flew over the herb garden on her way into the woods, snapping Sarah out of her thoughts. She listened to the sounds of the farm. From the stables she heard Hector, her rescue horse, snorting restlessly and pacing in his box. The frenzied squealing of the pigs had upset him.
The pigs had been starved. Sarah had seen to that. She made them wait an extra day before feeding them. It only took 15 minutes. The sounds were bone-chilling. Now that the noises had stopped, Hector slowly calmed down again.
She'd get rid of the pigs soon. She'd never liked having them around. She didn't believe in raising animals for food, especially pigs. Filthy animals with intelligent eyes that will eat whatever they find. Just like humans.
Sarah made another mental note to examine the pen thoroughly the next day to see if there were any traces left. If there were bones left, she'd dry them in the desiccator Paul had bought to make what he called fruit leather. Then she'd grind them up and use the bone meal to fertilize her roses.
When they moved in, she planted white Tranquility and pink Gentle Hermione roses along the farmhouse wall. Each spring they transformed the front of the house into a lush wall of beauty and fragrance. Making her feel that she'd brought a little bit of lasting beauty into this world.
She set the mug down on the windowsill and stretched. Her back always hurt nowadays. Sitting in front of the computer all day for years had taken its toll. Lugging around such a heavy load had worsened the pain.
She'd been aware of how her health deteriorated, how much weight she’d gained, and of the first signs of menopause changing her body. Paul made her feel even more flawed. Whenever he saw her naked, he'd make fun of her protruding belly, her sagging breasts and the varicose veins she'd developed from sitting. "You’ve really let yourself go," he’d sneer.
It was true she wasn't the woman she used to be. She'd sacrificed her best years and her health to make him happy.
Sarah had stayed by his side so he could achieve his dream because that's what women do. They support their husbands. That's what her mother had told her. She'd never questioned it.
And then it had finally paid off. After all the failures, things were looking up. For the first time, the farm made a profit.
Sarah thought they'd move forward at last. It wasn't too late. There was still time to make her dream come true.
But instead, Paul started talking about a new phase in his life. He said he needed to reevaluate what was working and what wasn't. He talked about shedding baggage. He didn't say it outright, but Sarah knew he was talking about her. He wanted to get rid of her.
She'd become unwanted ballast now Paul had his own money.
He was traveling to trade shows and fairs to promote his line of pickled vegetables, which were all the rage on the organic food scene. Paul was now a rising star.
Sarah knew he'd found another woman somewhere. She could smell her perfume on his clothes when he returned, she could see her in the bounce of his steps.
He was planning to replace her with a younger model. New and impressionable as she'd been 17 years ago. A woman who saw him as a winner. Who didn't know he was a selfish loudmouth who'd built his business on his wife's back.
As soon as he'd gotten rid of his fat, dowdy wife. Who was useless to him now he was making his own money.
Yesterday morning Paul told her he was off to another tour and wouldn't be back for three days. He didn't even mention her birthday. He'd obviously forgotten it.
The lovely silk Hermes scarf she'd seen hidden behind his clothes in the back of the closet wasn't meant for her after all.
The cast iron pan in which she was preparing his breakfast eggs produced a satisfying wet cracking sound as the metal met the bone. It's amazing how fragile the human body is.
Living in isolation, without visitors or close friends, has its advantages. No one ever comes by unexpectedly. She took her time to clean and prepare.
Sarah had put the overpriced mountain bike he bought for his "health" on the bed of the truck. Tomorrow she'd drive a few miles up the winding mountain road to dump it in one of the many steep ravines.
Then she'd visit the police station to report that her husband hadn't returned from a bike tour. Poor Paul. He must have had an accident out there in the wilderness. Riding downhill at breakneck speed, pedaling furiously to outrun his midlife crisis. Animals must've dragged his body away.
When the investigation was over she’d finally start working on her own dreams. It was her time at last. Now she no longer needed the money, she'd cut back on the hours she worked. She could turn the barn into a seminar center, organize retreats for women who needed time off and look into fostering.
She'd create her own family. She'd call Millie. Fill the house with people, laughter and noise. It would be different from the family Sarah had imagined when she was young, but it would be just as beautiful.
She took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh of relief. All the sounds had finally died away. Only in the distance, she could hear Millie hooting.
The night was peaceful.
About the Creator
Woman in IT, Natural Scientist, Life Coach, Speaker, Podcaster, Writer, Founder
Host of the “Women in Technology Spotlight” https://bit.ly/3rXvHvG
Creator of "The Queen Bee Hive" https://thequeenbeehive.net/en/