Part Thirty Five
Chapter Thirty Five
Natasha sank to the wet grass, and sat cross legged, uncaring that the dampness of the autumn ground was seeping through her jeans. She fingered the words on the headstone, the marble plaque that celebrated the four weeks that made up her daughter's life. Mia Ingram. She traced each letter, and the swell of emotion that each letter brought.
She hadn't been here since her birthday, she would have been twelve years old, starting high school. What a different life they'd have had as a team, her, her daughter and Nana H. But it wasn't to be. She had been born early with a heart condition that they'd only been suspicious of in utero. She'd had surgery, to repair a valve and seal up a hole, but she'd never recovered, infection had defeated her and she'd died in Natasha's arms, just a day before her mother's eighteenth birthday.
She hadn't spoken to her parents since, they didn't visit when she was born, or when they had to have a funeral for a tiny foot long coffin. She'd never forgive them, not after that. From the moment she'd announced to them she was pregnant, they'd tried to force her to have a termination. Something that was unfathomable to her. The pressure had been unrelenting, her mother was so vocal of the reasons why this was wrong, why 'it' was the wrong choice for her. But it wasn't an 'it' to her, it was a baby, and whilst a month earlier it had never been on her agenda, having a baby, as soon as she'd stared at the positive test in her hand, she'd been overwhelmed. Maybe it was the over-romanticised vision of a teenager, that her parents were so quick and frequent to point out. But with no father on the scene, she knew that it would be anything but romantic.. But she wanted to embrace that, the hard work, the time alone, it would all be worth it to have this little person growing inside her.
When she spotted an appointment at a clinic marked in her mother's diary that she'd left open on the kitchen counter, she knew they'd force this regardless of what she wanted. And at seventeen she had no idea if she could fight them.
So, she called Nana H, who immediately booked her a flight back home. Her Nana was at loggerheads with her mother over many things, but when Natasha explained, she'd acted immediately. They had talked on the way back from the airport, and her Nana had smiled at her, "you're emotionally more mature than your parents, this won't be easy, but we'll do it, together."
She'd lived with her since, all through her pregnancy, and her grief. She held her hand, hugged her, and supported her as no one else cared to. Then when she was ready, she'd helped her finance her college course, and the rest was history, the transformation of her Nana's wool shop to the cafe she now ran, was all due to the most amazing woman in her life.
But the pain of losing Mia never left her, not really, and she blamed Torrie and her parents in equal measure for it. Her parents for caring more about each other and their appearance in their academic society than her, than what she was going through. Torrie because he never even answered her messages, her calls, for never knowing that she had the most beautiful girl, then lost her.
All that left her terrified, scared of being alone for the rest of the life, but more scared of loving and losing, and breaking in two all over again.
"I'm going to go now, baby girl." She stroked the headstone gently, a sad smile on her face, she always talked to Mia, knowing she wasn't there and couldn't hear her, despite people suggesting the contrary. This was just her connecting, if she came here, then she could be a mother, be her mother for a moment, before going back to a world where she was just Natasha, cafe owner, baker and friend.
Standing, she blinked at the tears, "I miss you, sweetheart, every day, even if I don't tell you. Even if I pretend that I don't care. I do."
She stooped to kiss the cold marble, ridiculous really, but no one could tell her how to do this, how to manage the grief, the loss...this was what she needed.
Next to Mia, was Nana H's grave, and she paused there too.
"Thank you, Nana. Looking after me, now looking after her." She ran her hands affectionately over that stone too. "I'll bring tulips soon, I know how you love them."
She should be scared of a cemetery at night, but she wasn't. Nothing and no one could hurt her more than that tiny grave. She restricted her visits to a few times a year, because in the beginning she almost had an arse shaped imprint on the grass where she sat there daily, for hours. Crying. She knew it wasn't healthy, but she had lost everything along with that little girl, every sacrifice, every thing she loved.
She was better now, she'd never be over it, but she was able to compartmentalise, have a life outside of Mia. That was proved in all the relationships she had with people who knew nothing about her.
As she exited the graveyard gates, she froze.
Across the road, was a small heavily decorated car, with a large, hunky man leaning against it, arms folded across that broad chest, dark eyes on her.
Panic washed over her at the thought of him knowing about her baby. Not shame, not embarrassment, never that, but because she never wanted to have to voice words, talk about her. Because she was physically unable, it still hurt too much. She was happy to have almost two separate lives, and never the twain shall meet.
"The taxi wasn't going in your direction...so I was intrigued."
She stood in front of him, looking up into his eyes, "so you followed me?"
He had the good grace to look embarrassed, then shrugged, "only because I was concerned...", then he groaned, "and I was worried there might be someone else."
That made her step back, "another man?"
He shrugged, "easier to accept than not being good enough."
Taking his hands, she smiled, "you are more than good enough for any girl, I just can't do this, commit...it's me and my shit. I promise."
He didn't reply, just raised an eyebrow, "it's not you it's me. How cliché!" He dropped his head for a moment, then offered, "I'll drop you home."
Not a question, and as she nodded, he asked, "you want to talk about it..." He nodded towards the cemetery. And her heart shuddered in her chest, he could be so caring, so loving, and she knew he'd be understanding, not judgemental.
"I can't," was all she managed, sliding into the front seat.
Bo climbed in beside her and drove her home in silence.
At her house, he pulled her close, holding her against him tightly. Then dropping his hands he watched her leave before driving off.
Bo felt no better the next morning, after a sleepless night. The thought of a gruelling training session wasn't exactly inspiring. But he had to go, and once he was there, the camaraderie and the banter seemed to drag him out of his fog temporarily.
But once he hit the shower, the hot needles biting into his tired muscles, the previous night's events were back in his head. He'd been devastated when she walked off, literally left him high and dry in the street, all he'd done was try to protect her from the cold...he ignored the voice that told him that wasn't exactly true. Deep down, he'd wanted to pull her into his arms. But she'd shot away, like she was burned. And it had almost killed him.
He didn't want to follow the taxi, he wasn't a stalker, but his intrigue was peaked when he realised she wasn't going home.
The last thing he expected was a cemetery, in fact as he slowed watching her pay the driver he wondered who lived who lived opposite, but she didn't approach the row of houses, she ducked through the gate into a dark unlit graveyard. Suddenly his heart was in his mouth, partly for her safety, but also as he digested the fact that she was at a cemetery, that meant sadness, pain and loss. He though he knew her, but obviously he didn't. Not that well.
Then she'd sat in his car, not teasing him, not arguing like usual, just passive, sad. And he hated that. It was all so final. He'd thought her resistance to this relationship was her way of pushing for more commitment, that she was being a little stand offish because she wanted a sign from him, and cockily, he'd presumed that with some charm, some romance...that he could win her over. But seeing her so lost...he suddenly realised this was about more that him. That maybe he'd not done enough, and that he'd lost the little piece of her that he'd had.
The next day, when there'd been no contact from her, he sent her a text.
Hope you're OK. I realise now that you need some space, I'm here if you need me, but I won't pester you, I promise.
It was all he could offer.
He went home alone, with only his aching limbs for comfort.
Natasha had spent the day in quiet contemplation, she worked at her best when she was like this, as being busy meant she couldn't dwell on the past, on the worries that filled her mind. Not that they went away. It was so long since she'd been to the graves when there was no occasion...she went when it was right, birthdays, Christmas. But last night she went because she had to. She needed to. And that scared her. She thought she was over it, stronger. But last night, her anxieties, her fears had driven her back to a time when she was scared, weak, and struggling.
Early afternoon, the girls turned up, girls being Freya and Lizzie. They were full of enthusiasm as they were organising a charity auction after the game the following day. Freya had taken under her wing a charity for local school kids that came form disadvantaged families, kids she was passionate about helping to get normal exposure to educational and fun activities. It was a great charity, but Natasha was feeling anything but charitable.
Despite that, she smiled, enthused and agreed with all their discussions as they both, child free for a change, hung out at the counter.
"So we'll see you at the game? You'll bid on a signed shirt of something?"
She grimaced, she had hoped to disappear, curl up alone in pity on her sofa, but the two women were so happy, and had both been so good to her. What could she do but agree?
Gushing, they left, and she closed up the cafe a few hours earlier, aware that as soon as she stopped, as soon as she climbed the stairs, it was all coming back to her. Her decisions, her choices and the war in her mind.
She hadn't missed having time off the whole time she'd run the cafe, she'd had no reason to want time to herself, as other than Steph she rarely saw anyone bar some old college mates, and did very little socially. Instead she was happy to work hard, rest and play very occasionally. And tonight was one of the nights that she wished she either had more work to do, or somewhere else to go. But she had nothing but a reheated bowl of pasta and half a bottle of white wine.
Neither helped, one iota.
Sleep didn't come, and she knew that it wouldn't whilst she was in limbo like this. Bo was giving her what she wanted, time and space, so why did it all feel so wrong?