The Runner



My sister, Carmela, once told me that she wants to be a mom that runs. We were showered and freshly scrubbed with bubble soap, our toes still damp and bodies still warm from the bath water.


“Like Sofia’s mom who goes to spin classes… wait, Hannah, what’s spin?”


“It’s when you spin in circles, like with a hula hoop, I guess.” I replied.


“That sounds like fun. Yeah, I wanna do that when I grow up. Just like Sofia’s mom.”

★★★


I married Charles. A suave man almost a decade my senior. He smelled like sharp wood, and fresh linens. We moved into a three story home, six beds, five and a half baths, engulfed by shrubs and an iron gate fence. The living areas were adorned with French fabrics, silk curtains, and hidden spaces called “parlors” according to the previous owners. We held large dinner parties of over thirty guests, with platters of sliced beef, braised duck, sous vide lobster tails trailed in lemon and garlic-butter. We had babies. A boy, Patrick, and a little girl, Fiona, “fifi” for short. In between the events, playdates, and school pick-ups, I ran at least two miles every day.

★★★


It was always the week after Thanksgiving when we got our Christmas tree, a Grand fir, at Friska’s Flora Shop. While the workers tied the bristles to the top of the car and the boys waited idly by the side, Fifi and I went into the store to choose the wreath decorations. Anne, the bow lady, was there, so was Kathy the manager, and Margaret, my go-to wreath lady. The interior was clad with long, silky bows, tinsley-material, and shears for curling strings. Countless boughs of holly with plastic cranberries and spice scented pinecones drape the circumference of the intimate space. Margaret produced a wreath of golden bells, extra throngs of evergreen, and a large purple and silver bow with dangling ends. When we walked to the cash register to meet Charles, and Patrick, Charles was already there with squinted eyes and creased brows.


“What’s wrong?”


Before he could respond the sixteen year old working the register said,

“Your card was declined, again, sir.”


“Charles, this doesn’t seem right.”


Charles looked up and shook his head at me. He pulled me aside as the kids were playing with the stray pine needles on the register table.


“Is everything okay, what’s going on?”


He let out a deep sigh.


“Remember that bet I made on the fin-tech startup firm?”


“What about it?”


“I decided to put in most of our money, but something went wrong. We lost it all.”


“Charles, are you kidding? Why are you just telling me this?” My voice started to raise.


“I didn’t want to alarm you. I thought maybe we could get through the holiday season and then regroup.”


“Regroup? What are you even saying? I don’t have a job right now and since you decided to retire early, we have no income–”


“Besides our passive income in stocks and bonds…”


“Oh you can shut the hell up. What are you going to do, are you suggesting on selling your precious stocks so we can feed our two children? I think that would be a great idea, CHARLES.”


“I’m sorry but I’m not selling them.” He shrugged.


“How are we going to survive? What did you do with our savings… don’t tell me you used that too for that stupid yacht.”


“... I’m not selling the yacht either.”


“Because you can’t be a grown ass adult and take care of your family, I’m taking the kids and going to my sister's.”


Now I really was yelling. Anne looked behind her, mid-bite into a cold pizza slice in one hand and a bow in the other. I grabbed Fifi and Patrick’s hands and led them to the car, leaving Charles at the store.


★★★


When we got to Carmela’s house, the front light was on. I called her in the car to fill her in. She told me she would make up the futon in the family room and beds for Fifi and Patrick in their cousins’ room. She lived in a fairly quiet neighborhood right outside of the city. Sometimes you would hear a siren or two but nothing crazy. She lived in a two story home with an unfinished basement of cinder block. As soon as I walked in I hugged her tight. Despite being physically close to each other, we both had been caught up in our own lives that it had been a few years since we actually saw each other in person. We tried to talk on the phone at least every few months. Fifi and Patrick ran off to play with their cousins. Unbeknownst to them, they would be away from their queen beds and duck feather duvets for the foreseeable future.


“Thanks so much Carmela.”


“Anything for you, Han. Make yourself at home.” She poured me a glass of rosé. I glugged it down.


She went to her corner office to send some emails and then watch the kids. I snuck away to the cupboard to check for more loot. I drank the remains of a Jim Beam bottle, three shots of tequila, and a swig of vodka. I wandered into the family room.


I amused myself by sitting on the ground next to the futon and thinking about our childhood. I remembered Carmela and I around five or six years old, when our twin beds were next to each other. I spoke out loud, to an imaginary child Carmela.


“Spin, Carmela, spin. We have to go to spin class.” I slurred to no one.

I tried to mimic a hula hoop motion while sitting, legs sprawled on the carpet. I kept saying it until everything went dark. I woke up and found myself sleeping on the floor, until Carmela picked me up and tucked me into bed.