Every night before she went to sleep, April told herself stories in which her mother returned to find her. She would send an email or a postcard, or April would pick up the phone to hear an unfamiliar yet familiar voice. Sometimes, she would open the door after the bell rang to see her standing there: older than she remembered, and smaller, but always wearing that mustard yellow coat. Her lips were red and her eyes were wrinkled, even when she wasn’t smiling. Her mother was much smaller than her (because everyone told April she got her height from her dad), as she fought back happy tears and opened her arms out for a hug.
Sometimes, the story ended with April falling into her mother’s embrace and smelling the perfume on her neck, the shampoo and hairspray in her hair. They would head inside for tea, elbows linked. April would pull the Florentines down from the high shelf and they would chat, catching up on years of stories, long after the tea had been drained from their cups and the afternoon sun had faded into night.
Other times, April would step back. More than once, she simply shut the door in her mother’s face and waited so long on the other side that by the time she opened it, her mother was gone. Sometimes, she yelled. The most satisfying endings were when she told her mother, right there on the doorstep, with her own feet inside and her mother’s clearly outside, every word that she had spoken bitterly into the dark through hot-watered eyes over the last ten years.
How could you, she spat. How dare you.
In those stories, April never wanted to see her mother again. She missed her dad like crazy, every minute since she lost him just a few months ago. But she didn’t need a mother – or anyone – who was willing to walk out on her with no goodbye. Who could just disappear from her life with no sign of returning.
How could you.
But as her own belly started to balloon, and the life inside her took shape in the ultrasound pictures – a head, arms, legs, a heartbeat – the more April toyed with the happier ending to the story.
Maybe she wanted the baby to have a grandma. Maybe she was so scared she just wanted someone, anyone, around. Maybe she wanted to understand her mother, so she could pinpoint the ways she could be different, better, and not just because she would be there.
Or maybe. Maybe. Maybe she just wanted to understand so she could let the baby go and not feel like a criminal.
[Character exploration for one of multiple current WIPs]