Break Away

December 18, 2008
By Laura Whittet, Glendale, WI

Sharon Hutchins had just stepped out of the shower when her phone rang, this is why she missed the call and why, after she had dried her hair and dressed she was standing in her kitchen listening to her answering machine. The message started with a sigh and then a familiar voice. It was Sharon’s mother. Sharon sat on a stool in her kitchen as she tried to comprehend the words this woman had left for her. Sharon’s mother, Trudy, was in a rehab clinic for substance abuse and was starting on her third step in the clinic’s plan for recovery; reaching out to those who had been hurt during the time of use.

For what Sharon could remember the time of use for her mother had been since Sharon was twelve years old. Four years later Trudy and her boyfriend of the week had left for Mexico. Her mother had left before, sure, for long weekends, but after two weeks Sharon had realized that at sixteen she was alone. She had a father, of course, but he had been gone for years and Sharon had no idea how to make contact with him.

Avoiding the foster care system had been the hardest part, but it was amazing how little people actually pay attention to the lives of others. Due to nothing but hard work and an astute focus on being everything her mother had not been she finished high school and applied for every scholarship possible after getting in to the state university. She met her fiancé, Ben, and started a new life. A life no one would have connected to her past.

At the end of her message Trudy had asked that Sharon meet her at the facility in Texas where a therapist would talk them through what she hoped would be reconciliation. It was part of step three. This was something she said as if she were a friend asking Sharon to come for dinner. As if she had not raised her daughter between fixes. As if she had not abandoned her child when she was only sixteen.

Sharon got up now. She walked to a drawer and pulled out her Albuterol, taking two inhalations she leaned against the counter as her lungs began to loosen and she regained control of her breath. After a moment she was upstairs, suitcase in front of her.

“Did I miss something?” Ben had come home from work and was watching as his fiancĂ© picked out a pair of socks and put them into the bag.

“I have to go to Texas. I will be back in a couple of days. It’s not a big deal, so please don’t worry.”

“Well, is everything alright? I don’t understand. What’s in Texas?”

“Someone I used to know is in rehab. They asked that I go down to help them through the process. I just found out.”

“I’m sorry, babe. Do you want me to come with you? Do I know them?”

“No. It’s just something I need to do. A couple days, then I’ll be home.” And this was the truth that Sharon had decided on. A couple of days to make the drive and show her mother that she was a successful and well centered person despite her. A couple of days and she would be able to let her know that there would be no reconciliation. Her mother had left her with no one to rely on in the world but herself and now Sharon planned to let her mother know these things did not go away. Her mother deserved to live with the life she had created, the one that did not involve her own daughter.

Four hours into the drive, after listening to the same CD three times, Sharon began to question everything. Could she really just go see her mother after ten years? If she dismissed her mother and left her when she was alone didn’t that mean that she was following in her path, or was it different this time? She eased her car off the freeway and to the nearest gas station. As Sharon had settled into her role in her new life she had let go of her past, she had moved on and forgotten that teenage girl, left in a white trash neighborhood to fight the world. She thought she knew all of the answers to these questions. It was simple. She was not her mother; she was not responsible for the life of someone who had left her to rot. She was a successful suburban woman with a home and a man who loved her. This was the mantra she recited in her mind as she pulled back on to the freeway.

This time the phone rang she answered it. It was seven in the morning, or the clock on the hotel dresser said. “Hey, I’m really sorry to call you this early, but I wanted to check in before work. I know you’re going to go in to see your friend today and I just wanted to make sure you were alright with everything. I know this must be hard.” It was Ben, always the one looking out for Sharon.

“Thanks, that means a lot to me. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be home in two days and everything will fine.” Would it?

“Alright, well, call me if you need anything. I’ll be at the office all day.”

“I will.” It was something that had always seemed to come naturally to Ben; constantly making sure she was happy and safe. Sharon had worked on being able to let him care; being comfortable with the fact that for once in her life someone was there to stay. She was the most important person in his world, and in her new life this was something she had learned to care back.

Somehow the building wasn’t what Sharon expected, although she was not exactly sure she knew what that was. In her purse she reached for her inhaler. As she waited for that feeling of release she looked at the building. There was a man walking in with a bundle of flowers and she tried to imagine who he was bringing them to. Was it his wife? Maybe it was his mother. Now she attempted to gather her thoughts, trying to prepare what she was going to say to her mother. As if matching together the correct syllables could in fact represent ten years worth of emotion.

Then she knew. Maybe letting her mother cry on her should and hold her hand would be the moral thing to do. Probably telling Trudy all that she had put her through, what it was like to have your mother want to be anywhere but with you, would make her feel some compensation. But Sharon was neither a saint and now she realized revenge was not what she needed. There was, actually, not much that she wanted for in life. She had finished high school alone, studied at the U, and had a flourishing career. She was about to have a family that would truly be hers with Ben. None of this had been because of her mother, and this had been a choice her mother had made as was the choice to not make contact for ten years even as Sharon had made every attempt to make her self free to be found. And now, of her own free will, Sharon was ready to make a choice. A choice that would not change her life.

Sharon backed out of the parking lot and followed the road back toward the freeway. The life she lived was one which she had created. She was not the same little girl that her mother had left, alone, like trash to be discarded. This was something that was all her own. Her mother did not exist in this world it was not something she would let be maimed. As she drove towards home Sharon felt a balance come over her she had never experienced as she realized with this decision she had truly laid to peace the scared little girl she had once been.

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