A smile had become a long lost wish. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt the muscles in her cheeks working to produce what once, long ago, people called beautiful. She wasn’t old, but she felt in her very marrow that this life had quickly aged her.
You see, the children were growing hands.
They were everywhere and they always wanted.
The thought of being a stay at home mom repulsed her. Everything in her fought against it but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. A wife should stay home, he said, my wife will stay home. She was far from being happy, but she still loved him. She loved the children too, but it wasn’t what she had expected.
In the morning, she would see the hands in the air, waving at her. “Mama, mama, ma-ma.”
The children were growing hands, like octopi tentacles. With every hand they grew, she felt as if she were losing hers: always forced to clean the dishes, cook the bland dinner that he despised, pick them up, change diapers, wipe away tears, bathe them, feed them, clean up their vomit…
The children were growing hands, pulling her, shoving her, grabbing. Wanting. Always wanting.
And then a thought occurred.
Soon it was everyday that she wondered what it would be like to be free of the hands. She had to consider this for a while. She still wanted to be able to walk, feel the breeze on her face, but desperately needed an escape from the chaos of the house.
The hands began to haunt her in dreams.
When he walked in from work, the first thing he smelled was the blood and then an intense burnt sensation filled his nostrils. She hadn't been well, and he had seen and heard of the horror stories of mothers with untreated postpartum depression. He knew he shouldn’t have left her alone with the kids, but child care simply wasn’t affordable. It was why he needed her home.
When the stench hit his nose, he instinctively ran to the twins' room only to find that they were asleep in their cribs. He saw the motions of deep shallow breaths rising from their chests. They were sleeping peacefully with their thumbs in their mouths. Relief washed over him until he remembered the smell. He walked into the kitchen.
Before the blackness faded in, he saw what was left of her right arm placed strategically on the hotplate. He didn’t even have it in him to stop her as his head hit the linoleum floor. Her skin sizzled and the smell of burnt meat filled the tightly enclosed space as the cauterization took effect.
Once she was done, she bent down to kiss his cheek. The leftover nubs that had once been her arms began to throb. She was in immense pain, but she knew she would have to clean up the blood, take out the garbage, and pick up the fingers that she had carelessly let fall to the floor before the children got a hold of them.
Then she remembered there would be no more cleaning up to do.
Her face lit up in a smile, as she opened the door and walked out into the cool day’s breeze.