''She's my mother Andrew, I can't help but forgive her.''
Andrew turned so quickly, he feared getting whiplash from the move. He stared at his lovely wife, not understanding what was going on in her mind. She forgave her? The woman who abandoned her? The woman who wasn't strong enough to leave? How the hell could she forgive her after everything she had been through. For once, he could not understand his wife. He had no family, so he couldn't comprehend what she was feeling towards her. Gwen was his entire world.
He paced the room, as Gwen sat down on the bed, holding her head between her hands. She was fighting a losing battle with a headache and she just wanted the fight to end. She knew that no matter how she explained it, Andrew could not understand her. She had forgiven her mother long ago, deciding it was better for her mental health to do so. She didn't want to end up like her.
''Do you forgive your father?''
This time it was her that turned her head so sharply, she cried out in pain. She felt like she had ignited a fire in the head, like her brain was being fried alive. She leapt at him, grabbing for his throat. He stepped back, so she collided with his chest and fell to the floor. She clawed at him and threw herself back towards him, trying to grab onto his shoulders. Her cries sounded like a wild animal, something he had never heard before. He decided to stand his ground and try to wrap his arms around her.
''Don't you dare mention him and forgiveness in the same phrase ever again!''
She let out the most gut wrenching sob, falling to the floor as she let out all the pain. Andrew got down beside her and held her in his arms. She stayed stiff, not wanting to let him know that his arms were the only comfort she needed. He stroked her hair and waited for what seemed like an hour until she stopped sobbing. She relaxed, pulled away from him and flicked the tears from her face violently.
They both said it at the same time. He pulled her close and she let him, finally settling into his strong embrace. They had just survived their very first fight.
Unnamed baby let out a loud cry, letting her father know that she needed to be changed. He picked up the car seat and placed it and his daughter on a nearby table. He felt Deirdre staring at them, still not moving away from the exit doors. He looked down at the tiny creation wiggling before him. Could he forgive her, just as his dearly departed wife had? Could he let her be in their daughters life? He cursed under his breath when the putrid odor hit his nostrils, he gasped for air. He set the dirty diaper aside and went on to clean her as best he could with the wipes.
''Try to clean from front to back. Girls are more prone to infection.''
He turned to see that Deirdre had taken a few steps their way. He looked down at the tiny human and went back to cleaning up the huge mess. Once he was finished and she was secured back in her seat, they walked towards the now liberated doors. He passed by Deirdre, not bothering to glance her way.
He could see the sadness in her eyes when he had looked at her before, he didn't need to be reminded of it. Try as he might, he only felt the same sadness towards her. She had lost her daughter after all. He decided in that moment what he needed to do. When he arrived at the doors, he stopped and called behind his shoulder,
''Are you coming or not?''
Andrew had given Deirdre the cottage as residence, he didn't want her in the main house just yet. She had been thankful for the place, not knowing it was because he wanted to keep her at arms length. They had agreed that she could visit during the day, but she had to knock and be invited in first, like a stranger. She wanted to help as much as she could with the baby, but he didn't take her up on her offer just yet. He told her that she could see her grand daughter any time she came over, but she wouldn't be left alone with her. In that particular discussion, Deirdre had looked at him straight in the eyes and said,
''I have hope that you will come to forgive me, just as Gwen did.''
As Andrew drilled yet another hole in the wall, he thought about that one phrase the most. Hope. Her name is Hope. He said it out loud to see how it sounded on his lips and he felt a sudden pinch on his left arm. The drill fell to the ground, hitting him on the foot. He yelled out, hit the wall to lessen the pain and looked around him. What the fuck? He thought his mind was playing tricks on him. He touched the spot where he had felt the pinch and smiled. I guess Gwen is letting me know she likes the name too. He picked up the fallen drill and went back to his work, feeling overjoyed. I must be going crazy, thinking Gwen is answering me.
''Care for some apple pie? Fresh out of the oven.''
Andrew put Hope down in her playpen and walked over to the table. He nodded and asked if he could do anything to help. He wasn't used to having his mother in law around yet, but he was trying as hard as possible to be nice. For Gwen and for Hope. She had come over after he had finished installing the curtains, asking if she could cook a bit for herself since the cottage didn't have the best stove. He agreed, leaving her to her own devices, only to have the delicious aromas hitting his nostrils while he tried to worked.
He didn't want to be reminded of how good it smelled in the house. He didn't want to picture Gwen dancing around the kitchen, making food that he salivated just thinking about. She loved baking above all however, and her favorite pie was good old fashioned apple pie. He sat down at the table when Deirdre asked him to and waited for a plate. She placed two generously portioned plates on the table and sat down across from him.
''Oh, I forgot something to drink.''
She started standing but he gestured for her to remain in her chair. He walked towards the counter and turned to her.
''What would you like?''
''Some milk, please Andrew.''
He got her what she asked for, something for himself and sat down to hopefully enjoy his massive slice. She thanked him for the milk and dug into the pie with abandon. He carefully picked up a piece and brought it to his mouth. He felt like he was cheating on Gwen by eating someone else's cooking. I'm crazy.
He pushed his thoughts away and pushed the food into his mouth. Oh my God. The pie tasted identical to the one his late wife made. How could it taste exactly the same? He set his fork down and looked at the older woman sitting next to him.
''Did Gwen learn how to make this from you?''
She nodded and smiled, a peaceful look taking over her face.
''It's a family recipe, I had it written down in one of my books. She found it when she was little and wanted to keep it. She said she would someday learn how to make her granny's apple pie.''
Deirdre's eyes glossed over with the memory and a few tears escaped her eyes when she returned to reality. Andrew went back to eating his heavenly dessert, not wanting her to see what he had witnessed. He didn't know who she was, what she felt, what she thought. He wanted to get to know her because that is what Gwen would have wanted.
''How did you know Gwen had passed?''
She wiped away the last tears and looked even sadder when she finally spoke.
''She kept in touch once a month, when I didn't receive the latest letter, I got worried.''
His wife had been writing her letters? He had never seen her do such a thing. She had never let on to the fact that she spoke to her. After the fight they had had, he thought that she had given up on trying to get to know her. Instead, she had just decided to go behind his back and talk with her anyways. He didn't know if he should be mad that she defied him or happy that she had acted as he knew she would. It didn't surprise him one bit that she had secretly been corresponding with her. He laughed and thought of how she probably had to hide from him to get it done. Ah Gwen, my lovely wife, you were a rare woman indeed.