She stood on carpet that had once felt plush and soft. Fibers which were supposed to be a safe haven for tiny fingers and toes just learning to move for themselves had instead become matted down with the weight of grief and pain and silence which became so thick and heavy that her own feet were now crushed and smothered. There were still four square indentations from where the crib used to stand. The same crib she slept in. She hadn’t realized her mom kept it in the attic all those years to give to her to pass along. They had sanded it down and painted it white together. It took a week to resurrect the creaky old thing because it was so musty and cracked from sitting in the attic for decades of freezing winters and sweltering summers. After two days Noah wanted to throw it out and just buy a new one they could assemble themselves, he even went to BuyBuyBaby and picked up the “Westwood Designs Harper Cottage Crib with Detailed End Panels in White” to surprise her, but she cried when she saw the box sitting in the hallway and locked herself in the nursery for the rest of the evening and kept sanding the old one. Both cribs had sat there in the room together, one still in its box and one looking like a health and safety hazard and neither of them were ever used. Instead they had spent four days at the hospital. Her baby had come a month early and never even opened her eyes. Noah didn’t sleep at all for those four days. They didn’t say much in the hospital and that sort of just continued as they drove home and shut the door to the nursery. The next time she checked both cribs were gone. They didn’t say much for months. And the longer they went without saying anything the harder it got for either to break the silence.
She looked up at the tiny butterflies which still caressed the nursery walls with their pale purple wings, floating all the way up to the ceiling. Maybe they were trying to escape too. The real estate agent told her that they should paint all the rooms a neutral shade of beige if they wanted to appeal to the largest market, but she couldn’t bring herself to cover up those butterflies. It felt wrong to paint over them. To her they deserved new life. She knew that someone would probably buy the house and immediately rip up the carpet and paint all the walls and maybe even knock a few of them down, but that was fine. They could do it, but she wouldn’t. As she turned from that little yellow room with the purple butterflies she passed the fireplace, still housing three pristine logs, untouched by flame–the only things still left in the now bare and empty house. The walls of the living room had been stripped of beloved paintings found in old flea markets and wedding photos. The old matching green plaid chairs were gone, now sitting in a dump somewhere. The air felt dense, like she might have to swim rather than walk. She wasn’t used to being there with all of the windows shut up and it became hard for her to breathe in this place. Standing there in the front room it felt like she was in the middle of someone else’s life, like it wasn’t actually her that ever lived here but some stranger and for some reason she was the one closing it up and locking the door for them. She leaned against the wall and pressed her hand to her chest to remind herself that her body was real and she was still inside of it. She wasn’t so sure about that lately. As she stepped out of the doorway and onto the porch it wasn’t even sadness that she felt. Her chest ached and her eyelids felt heavy, but it wasn’t sadness. As she shut the door her body felt the full weight of her exhaustion which came not just from days without sleep but months without rest. She collapsed on the lawn and felt the hot sun seeping through her t-shirt and burning into her skin. Only her face was shaded by the fresh ‘For Sale’ sign, and she laid there letting the cool overgrown grass embrace her. Fists she didn’t even know she was clenching slowly loosened and her breaths came out big and heavy like her lungs were desperate, tasting oxygen for the first time.