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A Ball of Beige Wool

Diane Bator

“This is the craziest idea you’ve ever had,” David said when his wife had announced her plan the night before their daughter’s eighteenth birthday. “What on earth possessed you to even think about this?”

“It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.” Bree’s smile faded and her eyes hardened. “This is what we’re doing.”

David watched the DE Havilland Twin Otter take off down the tarmac and wondered when his opinions ceased to matter? His wife stepped onto that plane as though he wasn’t even there. She left without a backward glance over her shoulder. If she died, that would be their last conversation.

“I can’t believe she’s doing this.” He shook his head.

They’d met in high school and been married for twenty-three years. David often referred to her as a ball of beige wool. Bree kept the house clean. She took the kids to music and hockey practices, arranged play dates and birthday parties, and always had dinner on the table no matter when he came home. Everyone said she was the perfect wife and he was proud of her.

Now she’d abandoned him and he’d never even told her that he loved her.

He glanced around the airfield. His gaze landed on Drew. His sixteen-year-old son with the long dark hair blowing into his face held the video camera up to watch the plane soar through the sky. It would take mere minutes to reach full altitude. He tapped his long fingers against his thigh in silent rhythm to a song on his iPod without a care in the world.

As David focused his attention back on the plane, his stomach churned.

Drew didn’t seem aware he’d lost his mother to some odd psychosis. Bree had no idea what she was going to their family. Perhaps she was going through a mid-life crisis and he should call the doctor once they got home.

When their daughter Hope was born, he was happy with their family, but Bree wanted two kids. She got pregnant with Drew the same time David underwent his vasectomy. Now that she was facing menopause, the beige ball of wool that’d he’d grown to love was beginning to unravel and the true colors that composed the tight ball inside began to show. He hoped it was only hormones making her do such odd things and she’d be back to normal soon. He missed her pot roast.

It had all started with little things. She repainted Hope’s bedroom teal and added white curtains. The room was always pale yellow with heavy blue drapes. 

Then she’d repainted the master bedroom a peaceful green. What was so wrong with the Desert Camel it was since they moved in?

While the kids were at school, Bree painted on canvases her grandmother left her. David was secretly glad they kept her from painting more walls colors like Wild Strawberry or Magnificent Moss.

“They’re circling back,” Drew called out.

David shook his head. “Who in their right mind would want to jump out of an airplane?”

Bree would that was who. His wife. The ball of wool seemed to unravel quicker these days. The beige quickly replaced by magenta, scarlet, and ultramarine blue—colors he never knew existed before she’d lost her mind.

“Wouldn’t you?” Drew asked.

“Never, it’s stupid.”

“My buddy Rick said it’s like being free,” his son said. “No cares. No worries.”

“Except for your parachute opening.”

Freedom, David thought as his skin rippled with goosebumps. Was that what his wife wanted? Did Bree suddenly want the freedom to learn new things and make new friends after years of taking care of he and the kids. He wasn’t thrilled for her to have a life he wasn’t a part of. They’d always done everything together. As a family. That was how it should be.

“The door opened,” Drew said. “Mom’s going first.”

A shiver crept up David’s arms. He grabbed the binoculars to watched Bree in horror as she and her instructor hopped into empty space. David’s heart fell with them.

“There’s Hope,” his son yelled. “I can’t believe she’s gonna do it. She’s such a chicken.”

David watched his baby girl fill the plane’s doorway with a huge grin. Tandem jump or not, his stomach sank as she leaped. They would have a sixty-second freefall, then a four-minute “canopy ride.” According to Bree, the view and the ride would be breathtaking.

He began to have an anxiety attack. He wasn’t even the one soaring through the sky using nothing but thin nylon fabric and a prayer.

Then the large white parachutes popped open and they bounded back into the clear blue sky as if they’d hit an invisible trampoline. As the puffy white parachutes drifted their cargo to earth, David swallowed hard and prayed no one broke a leg on impact. Bree, Hope and their instructors touched the ground a heartbeat before their parachutes billowed on the ground then lay motionless.

Drew whooped and raced across the field.

David stood in awe as he watched his son wrap his arms around both women.

“What did you think?” his wife asked as she hugged their son. The jumpsuit made her look twenty pounds heavier yet more beautiful than ever. Her face glowed as she threw her arms around David’s neck and kissed him.

“It was...,” he started but didn’t know what to say.

Hope’s green eyes were the brightest he’d ever seen them. “Daddy, you have to try it,”

“Can we?” Drew asked.

“Don’t you have to be eighteen?” David asked.

He winced then listened to the excited chatter from his family. Maybe beige wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He envied the red of their faces and the sparkling greens and blues of their eyes. They were happy and animated.

Alive and in brilliant, living color.

David’s fears were unfounded as usual.

His son grinned. “You do know I’ll be eighteen in two more years.”

“I’ll take you then,” Bree said then wagged a finger. “But not until then.”

“No, that’s okay.” David took a leap of faith as he met his wife’s gaze. “I’ll take him.”

Everyone stared at him with mouths open and eyes wide as the wind whipped around them. His kids exchanged glances then narrowed their eyes.

“You will?” Bree raised her eyebrows.

“Sure. Why not?” David smiled although his heart raced. “After all, I’ve got two more years to talk myself into it.”

The End

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