It'll Be Okay

December 15, 2009
She nestled down deeper into the covers and yawned. “Read me another one, mommy.”

Normally, I would refuse, telling her it was too late, but the knowledge of what I had to do made me pick another book off the shelf and begin to read, blinking the tears back. Halfway through the story, she fell asleep in my arms.

“I love you, Lucy.” I whispered to her.

That was twelve years ago. It was the last time I saw my daughter. Now I was sitting in my car in front of that same house I had left so many years before. I was afraid: afraid that she wouldn’t even answer the door to me, even more afraid that she would. Sighing, I took a cigarette out of my pocket and lit it. I had been trying to quit, but if I was going to have to do this, I needed to have something to relieve the stress.

When I was done, I forced myself to walk up to the door. My hand shook as I reached up to ring the doorbell. When she answered, I forgot everything I was planning to say. Lucy’s eyes, the green eyes I had thought of so often in the last twelve years reflected back to me the same shock I was feeling. Her hair was long, and just as dark as mine, but curly like her father’s. She was tall and slim like him, too. Her eyes were red and swollen: she’d been crying.

Understandable, since her father had died. I had cried myself. Obviously, she had to be feeling worse than I did. Her one parent, the one she had always been able to count on, was gone. Even though I left without so much as a goodbye to him, I had still loved him. I know my reasoning didn’t make much sense, but I had left because I had loved them both too much to stay. Ever since I had heard, I had been wishing I had had the courage to come back while he was still alive.

“What are you doing here?” Lucy found her voice. It shook, but the anger was clear.

I had no answer for her. I honestly didn’t know what I was doing here. It’s not like she needed someone to take care of her: her eighteenth birthday had been a month ago. Just like every year, I had written her a letter. In it, I told her happy birthday, how much I loved her and the truth, but I never put them in the mailbox

“What? Did you think that since Daddy’s dead you’d just move back in like nothing had happened? Or are you here for money? Because he changed his will after you left. I get everything.”

I still didn’t know what to say. What do you say to someone you love more than anything in the world? What do you say when that person hates you? “I don’t know.” I told her truthfully. “I have absolutely no idea why I’m here. I guess I’m hoping to make those years up to you.”

“Twelve years is a long time to make up.” With that she turned and walked away. That stung. I knew I deserved every bit of her anger, though. I followed her into the house.

After three weeks, those few sentences in the doorway were still the only words she had spoken to me. I still couldn’t figure out how to talk to her. The only communication we had had, really, was when she glared at me for staring at her. I couldn’t help it; I hadn’t seen her for twelve years. I wanted to memorize every detail of her face.

One night I was sitting out on the porch, watching the sunset, trying to figure out how to talk to Lucy, when the door opened. I was surprised, since she usually tried to stay in the opposite side of the house from me.

Leaning against the house, she spoke. “Why did you leave?”

A million things passed through my head, but I knew that we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere at all unless I told her the whole truth. “I wasn’t good enough.”

“What do you mean, you weren’t good enough?”

“I couldn’t handle being a mom, and that was unfair to you and your dad. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was terrified of doing something wrong. I wasn’t giving you the childhood you deserved.” I was terrified then, and I was terrified again. I wasn’t explaining it right, and I didn’t want to mess up the first chance I had.

“And leaving me was what I deserved?” I could hear Lucy trying not to cry. That almost made me smile. She’d always hated crying. She moved to sit down on the steps next to me, but sat as far away as she could.

I sighed. “I thought so at the time. I thought leaving would make things easier for you and your dad. I thought…I don’t know what I thought. I was stupid. That was the worst decision I’ve ever made.” I was desperately trying to make her understand, and the words weren’t saying what I wanted them to.

“Dad still loved you, you know. Sometimes I would hear him talking to you. And every night he would pray that you were safe, wherever you were.” She said all this without looking at me, but I could tell she was crying. I was too.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I wish I’d had the nerve to come back before he died.”

“He would have forgiven you, too! He would have let you come back like nothing even happened. You just left us without a goodbye! You just left! How could you do that?” she was screaming now. “How could you do that to me? Do you know how hard it is growing up without a mother?” She looked away from me and wiped away the tears. “I thought that if you ever came back, it would be easy to just…ignore you, to act like I didn’t care. But I can’t.”

“I love you,” I told her. “I know I was stupid, and I made a bad decision, but I love you.” I wanted to hug her, but I didn’t think she would let me.

To my surprise, she hugged me. We sat like that, in the dark, tears dripping, for what seemed like an eternity, but wasn’t long enough. Even that couldn’t make up for twelve years of missed hugs.

When we broke apart, she hesitated for a moment, and then whispered, “I’m pregnant.”

I swallowed hard. I knew we still had a long way to go, and I couldn’t ruin this. “The father?” I asked.

She slowly shook her head. New tears appeared in her eyes. “Gone.”

I hugged her again. “We’ll get through it. It’ll be okay,” I whispered into her hair. I didn’t believe it, though.

“Thanks, Mom,” she whispered back.

Mom. I had waited twelve years to hear that. And then I knew that we really could get through it.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

xomcstrbxo said...
Jan. 10, 2010 at 12:59 pm
I absolutely love this story! It's is so incredibly moving! I look forward to reading more of your work.
emilypear replied...
Jan. 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm
Thank you so much. It means a lot to hear someone say that.
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