Lauren was her world, and as she waited she thought of how she’d feel if, for some reason, that changed…
I am not normally an anxious mother. I’m not. But as the rain ran down the window pane I kept glancing out at the street. My hands were cold, my stomach in knots.
“Lauren,” I whispered.
My daughter has been gone for ages. Before she left she gave me a hug. I had wanted to give her some advice. But I had no experience of what she was about to encounter.
I looked at a spider’s web on the corner of the cornice.
“Incey Wincey spider climbed up the water spout…”
In her early years I had taken Lauren to every Bookstart session at the library. I knew all the nursery rhymes, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Row the Boat, If You’re Happy and You Know it…
That’s it. Think positively.
I walked round the house clapping my hands. Sad. But there you go.
Ever since Tom died two years ago, I have developed coping strategies. Like eating cream cakes.
There’s a thought. I went through to the kitchen. An éclair beckoned. There were two, one each for Lauren and me.
I was going to wait until Lauren came back but she hadn’t been hungry lately. She’d been too excited.
Although, bless her, she had tried to hide that from me.
Tom and I had always made clear to Lauren that we were there for her. We had weekly family meetings when we would sit round the kitchen table and thrash out any problems.
Our daughter had been a bright, happy child and there were few. She would toss her black curly hair which exploded around her head and give us a grin.
“I’m cool,” she would say giving us a high five.
But two meetings stood out when she wasn’t so cool.
“Why can’t I have a baby brother?”
“Your daddy and I can’t have our own children,” I’d said.
“Is that why you got me?”
“We got you,” Tom had said, “because, as soon as we saw you, we knew you were a very special little girl and we loved you.”
“Do you love me this much?” she said, stretching out her arms, mirroring her favourite picture book.
“We don’t have arms long enough to show how much we love you,” I’d said.
Lauren always loved to hear that but on that occasion she seemed to take on the meaning of adoption more fully.
Then there was the time she had been bullied. That had been hard.
Lauren had put her arm against mine. The contrast between my pale arm and her darker one was self-evident and one which had almost scuppered the adoption process.
“Why does it matter what colour your skin is?” she’d pleaded.
She had just gone up to high school. And although we had been prepared for this eventually, it had still hit us hard.
“It only matters to those who don’t know any better. They don’t see the person inside and who they really are…”
We’d gone to the school of course, made a fuss. But in the end, it was Lauren who resolved the issue by standing up to them. She had even earned their respect.
Lauren could be one tough cookie when she wanted to be. But she was also vulnerable.
I looked out the window again. Lauren was meeting her real mother for the first time.
I don’t want her to get hurt. Or me for that matter.
There, I’ve said it. I’m being selfish.
I was thinking of my selfishness when I saw her car.
My hands were cold. My stomach in knots.
“Mum! Mum!” She breezed into the kitchen, all smiles. “You’ll never guess. I have a little brother! Zee-Zee says that he’s five years younger than me…”
Zee-Zee, not mother. I made the tea as she prattled on. Then she stopped and looked at the table.
“Where’s your éclair?”
“I’ve eaten it.”
“I knew you would!” she said, before holding aloft a bakery bag. “Taa-daa!”
I’m touched at her thoughtfulness at a such an emotional time.
“Is this going to be one of our family meetings?”
“If you want it to be.”
“I do – and I want to start by saying I love you Mum and that you will always be my mum, no matter what…”
Our My Weekly Favourites series of lovely short fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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