The Magnolia Inn
I had chosen that particular bed and breakfast on purpose. One day I built up the courage to go and my requirements were very specific.
The inn had to be quaint, charming and near the water. And by charming, I meant no skyscrapers, traffic jams or excessively crowded places. It had to be slow, the more remote the better. A place where locally owned eateries lined the downtown streets, with an old-fashioned ice cream shop or even a pharmacy. Familiar. Something like the country town I grew up in.
When the congested roads gave way to wide open green, I knew I was getting closer. The constant stimulus of the city had completely drained me and I was seeking a reprieve from the noise and confusion. The countryside calmed my senses like no stiff drink could. Anxiety had taken a vacation and I wrapped myself tightly in those blissful, present-minded moments.
A cobblestone trail led up to the Magnolia Inn, with its bright white sign swinging in the wind. It was a two-story, muted yellow home with oversized windows that allowed the sun to pour in from every direction. The walkway was lined with various stones which turned into wooden steps. I opened the screen door and walked in with my small piece of luggage. There was an older lady reading behind a makeshift desk. She had thick brown locks of curls that sat on her shoulders.
I could tell she was exceptionally pretty in her time. Luckily, age hadn’t touched her youthful tendrils. She pushed them back with a thin gold headband. Before speaking, I smiled. She looked a little confused by my presence, but I didn’t have the energy to fight for my brown skin on this particular day. I continued smiling and said “My name is Ann Caldwell and I have a reservation.” She replied “Oh yes, Mrs. Caldwell. Will it be just you staying with us?” Her eyes shot down to my ring finger, which was occupied. “Yes, it’s just me,” I said, speaking in a low and reassuring tone. “Well here’s your key, please keep the noise to a minimum,” she said in a concerned tone. “Ok, thank you.” I took the key and dismissed her snark almost immediately.
Opening the door invited gentle notes of vanilla and fresh linen to encompass my senses. I placed my things on the floor and melted into the fluffy white down comforter. A few deep breaths and I was completely relaxed. Today I wasn’t wife, mother, sister or daughter. The tingly last moments of consciousness warmly swept over my body and I willingly surrendered to a glorious, deep sleep.
I woke up at 7am feeling mostly refreshed. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a full night of undisturbed rest. Waking up about 2am had become the norm for me and I took small naps during the day. I decided that I would venture out from the inn and see what types of boutiques and restaurants were around, but not before I sat in the claw foot porcelain tub. I scattered drops of lavender oil in the warm water before submerging my body. I relished every second.
The sun was high in the sky by 10am and the small town of Ocean Cove was buzzing with life. The farmers market was especially busy. Bundles of grapes, ripe watermelons and fresh oranges scented the air. There was subtle laughter as familiar friends engaged in friendly banter and I felt apart of it all. I stuck out like a sore thumb though as several older ladies smiled and asked “where’s your family, dear” to which I said “they’re at home.” I found it odd that complete strangers would ask that, as if my whole identity was wrapped up in being a mother or wife. No way could I have a life outside of them. I honestly didn’t think they meant anything by it, but I was quietly offended as I found my way to a bistro for brunch. I craved sweet but savory won out as I ordered a medium steak, scrambled eggs and a mimosa. I grew tired of people watching after an hour or so, paid my check and headed back to the inn. I grabbed my phone from my purse, which displayed several missed calls, all from my husband. When I got back to my room, I called him back. He picked up the phone quickly, “hey baby, having fun?” I smiled and said yes. I was a little giddy from the mimosa. “It’s beautiful out here, the inn overlooks the ocean and there’s boats sailing by all day long. Gorgeous. How are you and the kids?” “We’re managing but I can’t say that we don’t miss you,” he replied. “I’ll be back in a few days. I miss you too.” After a little more small talk, I hung up the phone without extending an invitation for my family to come and join me. I needed time to be by myself and I wondered if that was somehow wrong.
I woke up at about 3:00am Wednesday morning thinking about all the things that had driven me to where I was in life. I wondered if I had stayed too long because of the children. I wondered if the woman my husband was seeing at his office was funnier than me or prettier. I wondered what qualities made her stand out in his mind. I thought about the huge fight we had and all those things that he held inside all those years. It was like I was married to someone else. At the same time, I blamed myself because my gut told me that he was never telling me the whole story. He held back and accused me of being paranoid, which undermined my self esteem and made me question myself. We had children together. Two beautiful and intelligent children that were full of that bright energy that encompasses you before life happens. I wanted them to have a father because I barely knew mine. I felt it was important for my children to know and love their father. I had been questioning God lately, wondering if He was keeping track of what was going on. Hadn’t my childhood been enough? Hadn’t practically raising myself been enough? Just when I thought I had escaped the big bad wolf, he had managed to track me down. I was hurt. But not the type of hurt where you don’t get out of bed, it was more like a disbelief that these things were actually happening to me. I was here at the Magnolia Inn doing something that I hadn’t done in 15 years of marriage…….make time for myself. I had forgotten what it was to be me. From a bird’s eye view, I watched as my light became dimmer and dimmer. I gave and gave, maybe because I didn’t believe I was worthy of the money and lifestyle that I now enjoyed.
I prayed and asked God to forgive me for my sins and to help me forgive the sins committed against me. These few days were mine and I considered them world’s within themselves because I finally had chosen myself.