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The Redemption Baby

 






 

  

The Redemption Baby

 

“What are we going to do, Samantha?” The voice struggled out of her mother’s throat with a sound like tires crunching over gravel.

Samantha stared at the woman silhouetted against the window, housedress slipping off one shoulder, sitting in one of those wheelchairs that tilted back. Her head lolled to the left against the headrest, vacant eyes stared out the window that overlooked a receiving dock. An untidy shock of steel gray hair, matted and unwashed, blended into the dimly lit room so that her pallid face stood out like the moon in a darkening sky.

It didn’t seem possible that this physical shell of a human had spoken, but there was no one else in the room. With a shudder, Samantha ignored her and returned to straightening the closet. She’d come for her mom’s care conference like she did every six months when summoned, even though she had better things to do today. 

Samantha had no use for this woman, who twenty years ago had stood beside her, tearful and defeated while they watched his taillights disappear. Samantha had been just eighteen when he left them. Day after her high school graduation as a matter of fact. He’d told them that he had done all he could. Been loyal and provided for them but now he was done. Wanted to strike out on his own, be irresponsible for once. Not have a care in the world. That easily, he left behind wife and daughter.

Her mother had fallen to pieces. What are we doing to do, Samantha? She’d said. No more lipstick and mascara. Done was the volunteering, heading church committees, grabbing a bite with friends. It was as though he had been the glue holding all her pieces together and without him, they just laid in a heap waiting to be kicked around.

Disgusted with her mother’s weakness, Samantha had left her, too. Moved away to college. She was an empowered woman who called the shots and got what she wanted. She swore off everything her mother had taught her, everything that her mother had believed. No Rosaries or weekly Mass. No concern for social injustices or the plight of others. Samantha would take care of herself and be her own woman. Not an empty woman with shattered convictions and tattered hopes.

Samantha finished straightening the closet and reorganizing the framed pictures on the dresser. Old pictures of Samantha’s daughters when they were still in grade school and one of her and Matt on the cruise they’d gone on for their twentieth. The addled woman in the wheelchair didn’t know the difference anyway, so Samantha never bothered to bring newer ones.

It was time to go. She’d done everything she wanted to do and now she could walk away for another six months. Her mother still gazed lifelessly out the window, gravelly voice warbling in her throat. Samantha rolled her eyes and stomped out the door.

****

Samantha’s designer boot footsteps pounded rhythmically against the pavement making a loud, sharp thwack, thwack. Heads turned to stare at her. The desired outcome, of course. She knew she was striking, fitted jeans sculpted her hips and a light sweater hugged her figure just enough. A perfectly positioned ponytail of brown hair with honey highlights swished back and forth against her shoulders with each step. Right. Left. Right. Left. Today was the day her plan would come together.

Admittedly, she hadn’t wanted this at her age. Hadn’t wanted it ever again. She’d had two children just like everyone else in her circle. She wished one of them had been a boy but two was the magic number so that’s what she did. Sydney and Alexis were grown and out of the house now. But what Matt had said a few months ago made her desperate.

How could he have forgotten how lucky he’d been to land her? She could’ve had anyone. The gorgeous pre-med student in biology who gave her his notes and let her glance at his tests each time she stayed over. The average looking but very rich guy who took her and another girl on weekend trips. The stadium marketer who scored her tickets to the big shows if she let him film them together. But she settled on Matt. They looked good together and he was totally devoted to her.

Her mother had said they were too young to get married, urged her to reconsider. At least wait until they were out of college. Meet more people, see more of the world. But Samantha refused to listen to a shriveled and vacant forty-five-year-old who hadn’t had a haircut in over a year.

It had all been so much fun. Her sorority sisters gushed over her ring, planned parties and showers for her; she’d crushed many a dream when she made her final selection of eight bridesmaids.

And the wedding! The wedding had been huge, so many of their friends came. She’d looked amazing that night. The wedding dress hugged every curve, showed off the flatness of her stomach and the roundness of her hips. She knew that Matt wanted her; could see it in his eyes. So did all eight of his groomsmen. She made sure to flirt with each of them during pictures. It would make Matt crazy for her later on. The party had gone all night.

But after all that fun and being the center of attention, she was easily bored with real life. There was nothing to do when she didn’t have class. Matt worked two jobs and was trying to land a prestigious internship. It was no wonder that she went to the bars with her girlfriends and flirted with other men. Maybe things got too personal a few times, but she was still committed to Matt, she was just filling time with those other guys. And maybe she hadn’t been entirely diligent when it came to delaying the start of their family until after they graduated. So, she feigned surprise when she told Matt that she might be pregnant.

Being pregnant wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said it would be. Matt gave her glorious amounts of attention—cooked dinner every night, gave her back rubs, cut back on his hours at work. And of course, the baby shower. Pink and gray bedding, sweet baby girl clothes, soft smelling lotions and body washes. People brought her plates of food, commented on how great she looked, fussed over her comfort.

And motherhood was great. Matt’s mom watched Sydney all day while she attended classes and then overnight on the weekends so Samantha could hang out with her sorority sisters. She hardly had to do anything at all. His mom was so capable and loved taking care of the baby. Then Alexis was born so close to Sydney—Irish twins everyone called them. Naturally, her mother-in-law had stepped in.

Years rolled on and she made sure the girls had as much time as they could with their grandmother. She wouldn’t live forever. They should have memories of being with her. Besides, Samantha needed her freedom. And, just as she’d hoped, they loved their grandmother. Cried like crazy when she died of breast cancer when they were in high school.

And Samantha was the perfect mom to them. Her girls wouldn’t have a frumpy mom who looked like she hadn’t seen a mirror in ages. She wouldn’t preach to them about God or recycling or human rights. She was the fun mom, the pretty mom, a mom to be proud of. No other mom looked as good as she did when the girls were in high school.

Funny thing was, now she hardly ever saw them and realized that she didn’t know much about them. When had Sydney’s obsession with Legos and STEM toys turned into becoming an engineer? And Alexis, messy, unpredictable, clumsy Alexis going to art school? The girls always called Matt when they needed something, or they would all go to dinner at that dumpy barbeque place they liked. She was left out of all of it. That wasn’t right. Weren’t mothers and daughters supposed to have a special bond? Shouldn’t they go to the spa together or shop at the mall?

But Sydney chewed her nails and Alexis liked to go thrifting. Double ugh.

She waited anxiously in the room surrounded by expectant couples. She’d come alone. Wanted to surprise Matt later. They all seemed so young, not as young as she and Matt had been, but still. Maybe she was too old for this. She remembered Sydney’s high school graduation, one boy had a gray-haired mother and a father who limped on a cane. She’d smirked at that. Such an old couple to have a high school grad.

Her friends would judge her, so she’d have to figure that out. She’d already raised a family why did she want to start again and lose out on all the fun life had to offer an empty nester? They wouldn’t understand that she had no choice, she’d had to do something to bring Matt and the girls back to her. To keep herself young.

The nurse called her back and Samantha went through the pee test and blood work. This would confirm what the missed cycles and general malaise had already told her. It would signify a new beginning, a hopeful future.

Maybe they could do an early ultrasound so she would have a printout of pictures to show Matt. That would be a fun way to tell him about the new baby. They would celebrate with a nice dinner and a bottle of wine. They would tell the girls and pretend to look sheepish about being pregnant when they had two grown daughters.

Matt would be devoted to her again. He would take back his suggestion that they have an open marriage. He would attend to her every need, shower her with attention, and stop visiting their newly divorced neighbor across the street. The tanned and toned one who liked to walk around outside in close fitting tennis outfits.

The girls would dote over her and help with their baby sibling. They’d take an interest in her, return her phone calls, bring her lunch so they could chat while the baby napped. Sure, Matt’s mother wasn’t around this time so she’d need them to babysit so she could still live her life.

The doctor came in and sat in the chair next to her. That was weird. Doctors were a lot more personable than they used to be.

“I’m sorry. But the tests were negative for pregnancy. It’s possible…your symptoms…some women…early menopause…further tests.”

****

Her boots scraped harshly against the sidewalk. She slumped onto a nearby bus stop bench. A dirty and disgusting place to land but her legs couldn’t carry her any farther. She looked around at the old deteriorating buildings, weeds showing through the cracks in the cement, ancient parking meters that still took change. She had no idea how long she’d been walking or what had brought her to the seedy part of town without so much as her phone. She must’ve left it behind in her rush to escape the doctor’s office. With some comfort, she felt the Apple Watch on her wrist, she wasn’t completely cut off from civilization.

Civilization. That’s right, she’d left her new car in the parking lot at the OB’s office. The one in the trendy part of town with expensive restaurants and her favorite boutique. Only two months ago, she’d purchased the sexy lingerie she’d worn the night she hoped to conceive the child that would return her to the center of Matt’s universe. She should’ve driven home and burned the damn thing in the neighbor’s driveway.

The bells of the Catholic church on the corner tolled the noon hour. She watched as a smattering of children exited the back of the building with assorted adults. Must be a half day pre-school. She couldn’t remember Sydney or Alexis’ preschool. Her mother-in-law must’ve handled that. A particularly bouncy child caught her attention for a minute. She was skipping and talking incessantly to a haggard looking older woman. Alexis used to be a ball of energy like that. But no one else had minded that except Samantha. She pressed her thumb and forefinger to the bridge of her nose. Somehow, nothing had turned out the way she’d envisioned.

A voice like tires crunching over gravel lamented dismally from somewhere in her brain. “What are we going to do, Samantha?” Frivolous years taunted from behind and empty years stretched before her. She sat, trapped in a lifeless form, staring out a window that overlooked a parking lot, seeing only the gray mist of wasted time. Her mother’s toothless, pallid face leered at her.

Samantha threw back her shoulders and tossed her head to feel the swish of her ponytail. So what if everyone in her life had let her down? She stood and faced the distant buildings of the trendy neighborhood. Samantha pulled off her wedding ring set and stuffed it in the front pocket of her jeans. She happened to know that the sexy neighbor’s ex-husband owned the development company of said neighborhood. Samantha had listened to her prattle on about it one evening.

She also knew that he took a cocktail and a late lunch at the martini bar every Friday. And a rich man with a few martinis in him on a Friday afternoon would be just the thing. The smart thump of her bootsteps sounded as she made her way to the glittering building in the distance.

Samantha always knew what to do.

  

Cathy Carroll-Moriarty


Cathy resides in the Midwest which serves as the setting for her stories. Her work has appeared in Ariel Chart and Adelaide Literary Magazine. 

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1 Comments

  1. Delightful to read with Cathy having given great attention to detail.

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