Spoiler Alert: If you have not read the first part of this serial post, click here. The post below is #2 in a series.
The first part of this was posted on Thursday, August 9, 2012.
That was not the dinner she had wanted to have.
She would have preferred roast turkey, mashed potatoes smothered in gravy and cranberry sauce to give her a little sugar rush, but instead he had grilled some chicken breasts and steamed some broccoli. He had bought fresh fruit for dessert. Even on vacation he focused on their health.
Normally, she didn’t mind. She liked eating healthy as well. But tonight was different. Tonight she was celebrating. Tonight she knew there was a reason why life had led her to this beach, to this bungalow and to these neighbors.
Her daughter was next door.
But of course he didn’t know this because she had not said a word to him. He had barely noticed the little girl sitting on the beach when he had arrived from the supermarket to interrupt her conversation with Melanie. He was maneuvering four bags of groceries and a big jug of tomato juice as he made it up the steps, waiving and saying a few introductory words to Melanie and asking Sarah to open the door.
Immediately Sarah said her goodbyes and promised to catch up with Melanie later, inviting her over to ‘play cards or something’ after dinner. She truly had no intention of spending any time with this woman, but if she was going to get her daughter back, then befriending her was a necessary evil.
Melanie and her husband were there for only a week, so she would have to work fast.
When Sarah walked into the kitchen, she gave no indication whatsoever that she was unnerved over having possibly seen her daughter after so many years. She couldn’t just spring that on him, no matter how sure she was that the little girl next door was her Grace.
He was packing things away and she could tell he had already marinated the chicken breasts because they were sitting in a plastic bag on the counter. He was always so organized about everything. She loved that about him and it was one of the reasons why she had fallen in love with him.
They met at work, assigned to the same project for one of the larger clients of their firm. Immediately, they hit it off. She was, perpetually carefree and spontaneous; he was, unrelentingly regimented and consistent. It was a match made in a heaven where opposites attracted for all of the right reasons; it was the relationship of the cliché and it worked.
She needed to tell him, knowing that keeping something like this from him was wrong – but the time was not right. She would learn more, spend time with the neighbors, spend time with Grace (she had to remember they called her Chloe now) and when the time was right, only then would she bring him in on the news.
She remembered the day of Chloe’s birth, how she went into labor in the middle of the night, waking up to a moist bed, her water breaking in the throes of a nightmare where she was falling off of a cliff and landing in a rolling ocean. She recalled the painful contractions followed by a quick birth where she never got to see her child but for a brief glimpse as they took her away.
Memories of his face looking at her with tears in his eyes flooded her thoughts, as he said the one word that explained the silence that hovered over the labor room once the baby was out: stillborn.
Once he had said the word to her, the room had gone dark and all she could hear was the piercing cry coming from within her.
Tonight, looking out into the beach and seeing that little girl, the light had finally entered the room that so vividly had been ingrained in her mind. In this new version of the events, there was no darkness and she was holding her beautiful baby in her hands.
“Grace…Mommy’s here,” she thought to herself. “I’m right next door.” The word mommy still tugged at her heart in ways where desperation met angst, robbing her of the ability to breathe.
“You guys still up?” thoughts of the past immediately interrupted by the sound of Melanie’s voice.
Melanie, vacation neighbor and supposed mother of her child, was at the door.
“Yup, we’re in here,” Sarah answered, quickly erasing the look from her face that reflected how much she already hated Melanie. It was too soon to show this face. For now, she would hide all traces of suspicion behind her smile.
But was it truly hate or was it envy? How did Grace ever make it into Melanie’s life? What if Melanie was another victim in this too?
What if he had been lying to her all of these years?
Why would anyone have lied to her about the baby?
A very quiet feeling of fear was beginning to make its way very quickly into her psyche. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as again she wiped the doubt and fright from her look. By the time she opened the screened porch door and said, “Let’s sit here, it’s nice out. I’ll get the lights,” all traces of her worries had been erased from her face.
But that was short-lived as she let out a barely audible gasp.
When she turned on the porch lights, the first eyes looking back at her’s were Chloe’s.