This story is by Lori A Paradis and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
One minute, I’m Janet, an aspiring actress, and model. Then I became wife to George, the husband every woman wanted. Mr. Tall, dark, and if not handsome, broody. The next thing I know, I am at home all the time. And there is this little pink bundle depending on me. Then another, a boy this time, and a few years later, surprise! A second girl.
I’m not sure when it started happening exactly. I am telling George about my day, all my appointments, and the cleaning I would do. I am pretty sure he is zoning me out, but he is so good at responding correctly in a vague sort of way. It annoys me. Anyway, I am getting coffee when I stumble on a toy spilling the coffee all over my slippers. And that’s when I see it. Or don’t see it.
I’m astonished as I say, “Why George, I believe my foot is missing!” It was true! My left foot. Completely gone.
I laugh nervously as George responds, “Well, that’s new.” Not looking up from his phone. I frown at him, then look back at my foot. My foot feels normal and supports my weight just fine when I stand. It’s so troublesome to have one’s foot disappear this early in the morning.
“Moooooooom!” My eldest enters. “I need cupcakes for the bake sale.”
“Sit and eat. When is the bake sale?”
“You can’t be serious. And anyway, I really can’t. I’ll need to run to the doctor this afternoon.”
That grabs George’s attention. “You’re going to be gone this afternoon?”
“Bentley has piano lessons at one o’clock, and the girls have a pick-up time of three-thirty. So you’ll have to get them.”
“The whole afternoon? For a foot? Today is my only day off until Saturday.”
“It’s Friday, George.”
“Can’t you go to the doctor next week?”
“My foot is missing!”
“Does it hurt, though? I don’t see any blood. Not sure why you can’t postpone. I’ve had this golf outing planned for weeks.”
We argue back and forth for a time before I concede. After all, George is right. I wasn’t dying and could get by without a foot for a time. My afternoon is pretty standard for me. I make 200 cupcakes, get the boy to piano lessons, pick up the girls, clean the bathrooms, water the garden, and walk the dog. After a few attempts, I manage to slip my foot into a sock and try to forget about the issue.
I make a lovely dinner of meatloaf, baked carrots, and green beans. George comes in, grabs his plate, grunts in response to me asking how his day went and heads into the den. I hear the tv pop on with some game. I guess that’s time-sensitive I think. The kids are evasive as I engage them at the dinner table. Next, I go to wash the dishes, but as I reach for the soap with my right hand, I realize that it also has gone missing.
Outraged, I look about the room for someone to grumble at, but no one is there. I huff and puff as I grab the dishes from the table and wash them. It takes longer than usual because holding things with an invisible hand is more challenging than I expected, but I get it done. Angry but proud, I head to bed.
However, my other foot and most of my left leg are gone the following day. My left eye is gone, and my right eyebrow, and with them, some of my dignity. I’m laughing now at how ridiculous I am, and I think the others will join me when they see me, but as I enter the kitchen, I hear crickets. I pull myself together and see George and the children sitting at the kitchen table. They look serious.
My eye fills with tears now as I realize how concerned they are for me. I try to grab my youngest’s hand, but holding someone’s hand when you can’t see it scares her, so I settle for giving them a reassuring smile as long as my mouth is still, in fact, present. I should have looked in the mirror again before coming down.
George starts, “The kids are concerned, and I am too about your recent behavior.” Confused and intrigued, I sit down, all business now. It feels like an intervention, and I want to ensure they know I am listening.
George continues, “This whole disappearing act you’re doing. It’s gotten a bit out of hand. But, to be honest, Janet, honey. It feels desperate.” He pinches his face at me as he utters the last sentence.
“You think I’m doing this on purpose?” I don’t want to make them feel invalidated, but I am shocked. A laugh bursts from my throat.
“Why haven’t you gone to the doctor?”
“You needed me! You insisted I put it off.”
He pushes himself away from the table, “I don’t like playing this blame game in front of the kids. It feels a little immature.”
My eldest now, “Mom. It’s just so embarrassing! And you like—wear clothes that show it off. You’re not even trying to hide it.”
“I’m disappearing; how on Earth am I not hiding it.”
The boy pipes up, “You could wear long sleeves.”
The eldest, “And gloves.”
“Maybe a hat?”
“Or one of those head socks bandits wear.”
“Oh, yes! Do that!” The boy shouts with glee.
My youngest, only five, comes up to me. “Don’t listen, mama. I like it! I won’t see you at all soon!”
The exchange makes me feel even worse somehow. I can feel myself disappearing even more, or maybe I only wish I could, “Ok, I hear you.” I gulp at the lump in my throat, trying to smile, “I’ll figure this all out.”
I make an appointment with the doctor tomorrow afternoon, but I’m disappearing fast; only my torso is visible. Enough to still make me self-conscious about the weight I carry at my love handles. Figures.
George and the kids have decided that the best way to rid me of my outrageous behavior is to pretend nothing unusual is happening. I feel more invisible than when I first started disappearing. By the time my doctor’s appointment comes around, there isn’t anything left of me. He thinks an elaborate prank is being pulled on him. When I cry, he pulls back and tries to reassure me. “It might just be a symptom of the coming change. I suggest you take it easy. Relax as much as possible and take these antidepressants.”
I admit the antidepressants help but do nothing for my real problem. I wear the clothes for a time—then I think, why am I even bothering? So I walk around naked. George and the kids are no longer pretending to ignore my ‘issue’; they have simply forgotten I’m there. I’m not needed in any other capacity as long as the food is on the table and clothes are cleaned and put away.
I love my husband and kids but feel like a ghost in my home. I realize that’s incorrect because a ghost would get more notice.
Then one morning, I snap. I’m getting eggs out of the fridge, and George bumps into me on his way to the table. He doesn’t bother to say a word and sits down with that dumb look on his face.
I pick the egg up in my hand. I’m shaking now as I stare at the egg, which appears to levitate in mid-air. Then I throw the egg with surprising accuracy at George’s discernible visage. SPLAT!
The look on his face! He can’t even seem to process what’s happening because he hasn’t thought about me in so long! I can’t stop laughing. I’m unhinged now as I toss another! George is yelling now. The kids come stumbling into the room, and I throw eggs at them, too, albeit in a softer way. I toss and toss until the egg carton is empty. It’s not enough to satisfy, so I go full poltergeist on them and start opening and shutting all the cabinets and screaming at the top of my lungs. George and the kids are so angry at this point, except my youngest, who is delighted with the mayhem. I stomp around the house, grabbing and flinging clothes from drawers, messing up the bedspreads. Finally, I come upon the stock of toilet paper and shriek with delight as I toss it all about the house. I dance around George with it and make a mummy of him.
I look about my work and decide I don’t want to live in this mess, so I grab the car keys, drive to the airport, and stow away on the first flight to Fiji. A month or two on the beach should set them straight. If not, I will plague them until they finally see me.