It was her duty to watch over.
Each night, after all the children had gone to bed, after her husband had retired to stare into the blue light for some sort of peace and recompense for his day’s labor, she stood in the light of the kitchen. It shone down upon her shoulders that were covered by a fading, knit gray sweater, and washed her hands, over and over, in dishwater soap as she slid a browning sponge over plates and forks and bowls and knives.
This was her duty, this was how she watched over her family.
As she cleaned each item and placed it into the drying rack with the careful uniformity similar to an infantry soldier racking his rifle, she found a sort of peace in the constancy of her fulfillment of her duty. This was what she raised to do and to be: a wife, a mother, a helper, and a caregiver. She was never derelict. She had never been absent without leave. Her spine may hurt and her ankles were swollen. Her feet were tired and the shooting pain down her left leg was only managed by her balancing most of her weight on her right leg.
But she had never abandoned her stations. Her fingerprints had faded due to the recurrent burns of hot pans and baking dishes. Her hands were resistant to the heat of boiling water and stirring pasta. But, she had never wavered, had never said: “Too much.” Had never uttered the words: “Enough.”
She was the faithful one, a soldier and a infantry-woman and a commander. She never questioned her orders. She never questioned her mission. She knew it was right, knew this was the way to be, that this was the path to salvation.
She had been saved through this duty, spared a life of questions and trials, spared the lack of roof or security, and spared the anxiety of choice and moral destitution. She had been spared and so it was also her duty to ensure that her children were spared from the things she was and that they would be saved, too.
She had to watch over them, to make sure of their safety and salvation, to make sure that they knew their duties as well as she knew hers and had lived hers.
It was the best way, wasn’t it? It had done her well.
The clock struck midnight as she finished the last dish and shut off the water. The steam rose from the sink and her skin was red and raw, but she was used to it by now. She continued to here the clashing voices from the box her husband had not once looked away from since she he had settled himself in his chair after dinner.
The children were still asleep.
She pulled her faded sweater closer around her shoulders and leaned, briefly, against the edge of the sink, eyes staring at the window, looking at herself.
This was her duty. This was the best way. This had done her well.
It had to have done so, right? Right?