Her life was perfect.
She had a great job that she loved, both of her parents were still alive and talked to her often, she had a husband and three beautiful children, and she was healthy. She should have wanted for nothing.
But there was something missing. Something that she couldn’t quite name.
It wasn’t another child. Her youngest, Emily, was not yet two years old and she couldn’t really afford to take another maternity leave, anyway. Their family were perfectly rounded; five people and a dog living in a nice neighborhood where her children had friends and were protected by a neighborhood watch.
Her marriage was a happy one, as well. Her husband was good to her; they went out often, made love even more, and he told her that he loved her every single day—even if they were fighting (which was rare).
Her mother never criticized her or put her down. She made sure that her daughter knew just how beautiful she was, how loved she was. Her father was proud of her and told her how often he thanked God for such a wonderful woman as his daughter. She grew up happy and fulfilled.
She worked in publishing and had helped her company find plenty of bestsellers, gaining acclaim for her keen eye, gaining enough wealth that her children would not have to worry about education or going hungry in their lives. Her eldest daughter idolized her and helped care for her younger sisters.
There was nothing missing from Hayley’s life. Yet she couldn’t shake off the feeling as she tucked her children in at night, pressed kisses to soft blonde curls, and whispered words of affection against fair skin. She couldn’t help her faraway thoughts as her husband wrapped his arms around her in bed and pressed kisses to the back of her neck, soothing her to sleep.
What was missing?
Hayley wondered this, each day, as she made her way to work. Stuck in traffic, she had plenty of time to think about her life, to catalogue everything that had once seemed to fulfill her.
A job, a husband, three children, a dog, a nice house in a good neighborhood, a working car, plenty of money in the bank…she had so much. So much. So much.
Maybe that was it. Maybe her life was just…too perfect. Something had to go wrong soon enough, right? Nobody lived such a perfect life without anything going wrong, right? Too perfect was boring. Too perfect was…not enough anymore.
This realization came one day as Hayley drove down the parkway, barely paying attention as she let muscle memory take over. She had come this way so many times before; had practically driven a rut in her usual path. Veer to the right and wait for exit 18N, then drive on the same road for three miles and take a left, then two rights, then another left. Park in the same spot she’s always parked in and walk around the corner for coffee. She would make it to the office with ten minutes to spare. She would talk to a few colleagues about everything and nothing and then sit at her desk until noon, reading proposals and making a few initial edits on the manuscripts that sat, for weeks, on her desks until they were sent to the editors downstairs. One hour for lunch and then back-to-back meetings until it was time to go home.
Every day, the same thing. Every day, a routine that she had become comfortable with. Every day, something missing from her life. Every day.
Hayley was so consumed with her thoughts that, before her shocked eyes, she watched as 18E passed by and the sign for 18W invaded her vision. She drove straight for another mile, not even turning on her indicator until the sign for 16N came up, next to a sign for “Masters Beach”.
It only took the phantom feeling of sand under her heel for Hayley to make the decision. She indicated ‘right’ and followed the road for six miles until she could see the sea beyond a near-empty parking lot. It cost ten dollars to park for the day and Hayley handed the man a twenty, refusing any change.
In mid-October, there was nobody to talk to out there. The waves lapped at her bare toes, the sand provided a soft seat, and a breeze fluttered through her hair, the sun warming her face.
Hayley took a deep breath, taking in the salty sea air and allowed herself to soak it all in. She would be in trouble for this later, she knew. She could already feel her cell phone vibrating in her pocket. She was late for work. There was a pile of manuscripts on her desk that she had to read through and send to editing. She had a lunch date with a co-worker that she had already rescheduled twice due to the ever-growing pile of paperwork and the stress from the press, who waited with baited breath for her to choose the next bestseller.
Her office would likely call her husband in an hour and then he would call her. When she didn’t answer, he would worry about her and probably call her parents to see if she had visited them instead of going to work, even though she had never done that before.
She never did this, either.
Her parents would become even more worried and they would call her. When she didn’t answer, they would call her office. Then her office would call her and she wouldn’t answer. Then everybody would call the cops and they would tell them that they had to wait for her to be gone at least 48 hours. They would call again and again and again. By the time Hayley returned—before the girls came home from school and daycare—her phone would be dead. They’d all be angry.
But she didn’t worry about that as she watched the clouds float out over the sea. She just took deep breaths and allowed herself to relax, soaking in everything that she had been missing. She would deal with the repercussion later.