It felt like I'd been sleeping for a year. I stretched and moaned a little at the comfort of my bed. Then I looked at the clock. Uh oh, seven already, if I didn't hurry I was going to be late.
I'd only meant to take a short nap. Just a pick me up so I'd be fresh and alert for the evening's entertainment. But I'd ended up sleeping for two hours. I wondered if Max was home yet? I listened but the house seemed quiet, empty. Still, I thought, he's probably here, staring at that damn computer. He knew better than to be late tonight. I'd made it very clear how important this was to me.
It wasn't just that it was my birthday. Yes, I was born on October 31st, Halloween, kind of nice don't you think? Well I've always thought so anyway. When I was a kid I used to think that all the candy the neighbors gave out was in my honor, and I used to feel sorry for all my friends because nobody did the same thing for them. Even later, I loved it because the day was always so much fun for everyone. And who else but a Halloween baby gets to dress up and pretend they're anything they want to be to celebrate the day they were born?
And speaking of, I'd better get a move on. I went over to the closet and looked in. Funny, I didn't see this year's costume. I'd planned it, as usual, for months. I'd finally decided on an "I dream of Jeannie" kind of number, sheer and sexy. Hey, my body was good enough for it, and I'd worked hard at keeping that way, especially since Caitlin had been born. No way did I want to end up like half the other mothers at the day care with 30 extra pounds and the frumpiness that came with the added weight. I may be a mommy, but I was a darn good looking one. The look in Max's eyes when he watched me when he thought I wasn't paying attention was proof of that. So tonight's costume was as much a present for him as it was an opportunity for me to show off. But where in the heck was it?
I looked down and gasped. God, I was already wearing it! Sheesh, Marty, I told myself, you're losing it big time if you can't even remember getting dressed. But even as I thought that, the memory came back, slipping the sheer soft pants over my freshly shaven and creamed legs and the struggle I'd had with the stiff beaded bra. It almost didn't fit and my breasts threatened to spill over the top. I went over to check myself out in the mirror. Yes, very nice, very sexy. I pirouetted and then winced as the tight top grabbed at my skin. How had I managed to sleep in this thing? I wondered.
But there was no time to think about that. I looked closer in the mirror and was glad to see that the exotic make up I'd decided to use had survived my nap. Even my ponytail, an exact replica of Jeannie's, had managed to make it through without any damage. I wondered again if I should have gone the whole way and dyed my hair blonde like Barbara Eden's had been in the TV show. No, I liked my dark auburn tresses, so did Max. One night of accuracy wasn't worth the aggravation of growing it back. And besides, my hairdresser had told me it's a pain to dye naturally red hair, and even more difficult to restore, once you started to fool with it.
I went over to the bed and slipped on the little beaded flats that were lying where I'd kicked them off. They fit so well, like they'd been made for me. I'd found them in a little antique shop about three months ago and it had been love at first sight. In fact they were the entire reason for the costume. They'd been expensive little suckers and I'd had to justify their cost somehow. So after thinking about it for a while, and discarding a couple of other ideas like a Chinese wedding outfit, I'd decided on Jeannie.
I still hadn't heard anything in the house to tell me I wasn't alone. It was time to find out if Max was there. If he wasn't, I didn't know what I was going to do. I bit my lip. I loved my husband, but even an optimist like me couldn't pretend that things between weren't all that good right now. It was his job. I wanted him to be a success, make money, earn the respect of his peers, I really did, but it was like he was obsessed lately. Most nights he didn't make it home for dinner, or even in time to say goodnight to Caitlin, and when he was here, he was tired and preoccupied. I knew he still loved me, but I also knew he was drifting away, caught up in real estate and development deals - searching for the big break.
His picture was on my dresser and I went to it and picked it up. Dear, sweet, funny Max, I stroked his handsome face. When had you decided that the only way you could show your love for me and our daughter was by making a fortune before you were thirty? So maybe he'd be able to buy us a palace. What good would that be, if we had to live in it without his company? I didn't want a palace; I wanted a husband I could curl up next to on the couch, and father who was there for our daughter. Tonight, I promised, myself, I was going to tell him that.
I looked at the clock again, 7:15. God, we had to be there at 8:00! I hurried out of the room and then stopped as I passed Caitlin's room. I knew she wasn't there, my sister had picked her up right after lunch, but it was habit to check the room and I did it without thinking.
It looked perfect, almost pristine, like a busy 3 year old didn't live there at all. I shivered. Someone is walking over my grave, I thought then changed my mind. No, you just miss her. God, Marty, you are such a sap. I remembered as a teenager making fun of all those moms who cooed over their precious darlings and thought I would never be that way. Then I'd met Max in college and we'd fallen in love, married and two years later I was lying in a hospital bed, and for the first time, I was holding my daughter. Then I knew what all those mothers had been feeling.
Enough of this, I shook my head. Lord, I was in a strange mood tonight. I almost felt like I was still dreaming. Shake it off, I told myself as I bounced down the stairs.
It was easier said then done. Even the house felt different to me, almost foreign, the way it does when you've been gone on a two week vacation, like you didn't fit in it somehow, like you were taking up different space.
The light was on over the front door. It was already dark outside. I peeked through the curtain as a Pikachu, a Spiderman and a princess ran giggling up and dipped into the big plastic pumpkin half full of candy. I watched as each of them carefully took a small handful and dumped it into their baskets. Nice kids, I thought, not greedy. I followed them with my eyes as they ran back to shelter of their protective parents who waited on the sidewalk.
I hope Caitlin is enjoying herself, I thought, then stopped myself before I could get maudlin about missing this time with her. She was fine, I knew that, and she was probably having more fun being dragged around by her bigger boy cousins than she would have had with me. Still...
I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind as I walked into Max's cubbyhole we laughingly called the den. It was so small the only furniture that fit in it was a love seat and his computer desk and chair and even then you had to kind of slide into the room. I figured if he was anywhere in the house though this was the place. Seemed it was the only space in the house that he spent anytime in, sometimes even sleeping on that little sofa because he knew I'd give him hell for working at home if he crawled into bed at 3AM. So now, I expected to find him once again at his desk and I was fully prepared to have to drag him away from some scheme he was working on.
But he wasn't at his desk. Like me, he must have decided to take a nap because he was curled up on the love seat, his 6'2" frame making a joke of that piece of furniture. How he ever managed to fit all of himself on it was anybody's guess. I was just about to shake him awake when I got a good look at his face.
God he looked tired! And sad, and discouraged. I bit my lip in an effort to hold back the tears that flooded my eyes. The need to hold him, to comfort him was almost overwhelming. Tonight, the word came into my head again and I was suddenly fierce in my determination, tonight I'm going to fix this. I wasn't sure how exactly, but I knew that the time had arrived, and if I didn't do something now we'd never have the chance again.
Max opened his eyes, blinked, then opened them again. "Am I dreaming?" He whispered.
I forced myself to laugh, to be the happy girl he'd loved again. "Nope," I knelt before him. "Tonight, I'm your Jeannie, and I'm here to make all your wishes come true."
He looked at me as if he'd never seen me before. "Then you've already accomplished your mission."
I leaned over and kissed him and he looked startled. Had it been that long? I thought sadly. Had so much time passed since we'd really just been nice with each other?
"Ah, but I'm sure we can still think of something," I winked. "Something you really want, that you don't have."
Tentatively he reached out and stroked my arm. His fingers felt warm and alive and a little thrill ran up my spine at his touch.
"Is this really you?" He asked softly.
The remark stung me. I mean I knew we'd been having our problems, but I hadn't turned into a complete bitch. At least, I didn't think I had.
He saw the look on my face. "I'm sorry. I should just accept this, shouldn't I? Be Happy and enjoy the moment."
I nodded. "This moment," I leaned down and kissed his lips lightly. "And the next." Another kiss. "And the next, for as long as we can make this last."
"I wish that could be forever," he said almost sadly.
.... There is more of this story ...