I couldn’t immediately find it. But, after wandering through the maze of graves I finally located the one I was looking for. A small, lonely headstone with the inscribed name Sarah Jane Carmichael.
The drizzle thickened. I sat down and leaned against my mother’s gravestone.
I’d been thirteen years old when my mother died. By then, we’d lived apart off and on for almost three years.
“Hi, Mama.” It’s what I’d always called her. It sounded old fashioned now, but that’s what I’d called her when I was very young and it had somehow just stuck. “It’s me. I just wanted to come by and tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. I know how much you loved my daddy. I’m sorry he left you. I know it was because of me. It was me he didn’t want, not you. He loved you. He just didn’t want to be tied down with a baby. He wanted to be free.” The drizzle was stinging my face like tiny little fresh-water needles. “I really did try to make you happy. I’m sorry I never could. I’m sorry I was never enough.”
I was crying again but these tears felt cleansing. They felt like they needed to pour themselves out, to wet the dirt and the stone of her grave. Maybe she’d feel their salt, somehow. Maybe, wherever she was, she’d know.
That’s why I’d left him, of course. Sure, we could have talked it through. Made arrangements. I knew he loved me. And I knew he didn’t love Shawna. He’d told me that, and it wasn’t difficult to see. The look on his face when she’d stormed through that crowd had said it all. She was trapping him.
It wasn’t Shawna I was thinking of when I left Alexander. It wasn’t Alexander I was thinking about, either. Or even myself. It was that baby.
I knew what it was like to be abandoned, unwanted. My father had never wanted to be a father. He’d hated the thought of me. He must have, otherwise he never would have left us the week before I’d been born. He didn’t even bother to stick around long enough to see me. If only he’d been there for us, none of the tragedies of my life would have happened. My mother would have been happy. She’d loved him so much. He took some of me with him, she’d once said to me. The best part. I never knew her happy. I only got to see the despair. And the willingness to let any man into our house in an attempt to fill a small piece of that void. The wrong men. The wrong man. The one who had broken me and my life, in so many ways.
I just couldn’t do that to someone else. I didn’t want Alexander to abandon his child because of me. I knew he was nothing like my father. Most likely, he’d step up and do the right thing, but it would always be a burden to him. A reminder of a past he never wanted. Without me in the picture, maybe he could give that child more of what it would need. Him.