If you missed the first, second, third, fourth and fifth segments, you may find them here:
A few moments had passed since I'd backed my blue '59 Thunderbird out of the driveway. My wheel veered slightly from the path, crushing several of Beth's newly sprung crocuses. It's doubtful that Beth would believe me, but I didn't do it on purpose. At least I don't think I did; my therapist may think otherwise. Now I was on the parkway, zipping around turtle-paced Sunday drivers, as if I had somewhere important to go. A warm breeze poured through my opened windows, whipping my hair into a tangled mess, making me feel liberated. And the further I got from Seabrook, the freer I felt.
I kept my left hand on the steering wheel while stretching and rummaging around the glove compartment with my right for a cassette. Once I found one, I shoved it in the player sight unseen, hoping for something hard and rocking. Instead, Debussy floated around me from my cranked-up speakers. From the time it took to take my eyes from the road to press eject there were red tail lights in all three lanes suddenly brightening. I slammed on the brakes, my prize-and-joy Thunderbird screeching within inches from the bumper in front of me. I let out a grateful sigh for the near miss, but to be stuck in traffic on a weekend was inexcusable; weekdays were simply tolerated. Then, as though my reasoning made sense to the commuter gods, the long line of cars picked back up to a steady pace. It was then I spied radar tucked in a covey of trees, as if someone always needed to watch what I was doing.
Moments later, the soothing call of seagulls and ocean's whispers drew me to Jones Beach. My shoes swinging in my hand, I stepped off the boardwalk and plunged barefoot in the sand. The surface was deceptively warm, but once my feet sank deeper, the cold squished between my toes and made me flinch. Even though it was early in the season, there were dozens of resilient sunbathers sprawled on their blankets that I had to lope around before reaching the water's edge.
I stared out at the wide expanse of ocean that seemed to get lost in the horizon while the misty air salted my skin. I sat down on the damp sand and watched as the torpid waves strolled up within inches of me before coiling back out to sea. They had the magic to lull me, to help me sort out the last couple of weeks.
During Dad's wake and funeral it made sense to stay on Long Island rather than travel back and forth to the city. But now that it's over, every exhausting detail, I wanted to move forward with my plan. With both Mom and Dad gone, her with her severe expectations and he with his detached nonchalance, it leaves only what I consider opportunity. A new beginning. A baby. I hugged myself with the thought.
Babies grow up to be people, my therapist had said during our last session.
There's still a chance you'll meet someone and fall in love.
I don't think so.
Know what I think? I think you are trying to understand what a mother's love is supposed to feel like and the only way to do so is for you to become a mother.
I said okay.
As if waves were memories, Beth's confounding accusations beckoned me back to the aching months when Mother was dying. Skin sagging from her brittle bones and cheeks and eyes sunk in a gray face, she'd looked to already be on the other side.
"If only I could see a change in you before..." She'd leave the thought suspended between us while I wordlessly swabbed her watery blue eyes.
"Proverbs promises if I train up a child in the way they should go, they will not depart from it. Let me see that promise, Laura, before..."
That's when I'd say I had to go before traffic builds up, glancing at my watch to feign a look of shock.
"Don't let the devil have his way, Laura."
"I have to finish this article I'm working on," I'd reply.
"Why must you cause me so much aggravation?"
"The wages of sin is death, Laura---"
I have to go find a fucking wall to pound.
Eventually, I would escape, but guilt would always bring me back. One Saturday afternoon, when the guilt was again victorious, I walked in while some deacons were laying hands on my mother's supine body. Beth was kneeling at the foot of the bed, her swaying arms thrust toward the heavens while a hum of pleading filled the room. I turned and went downstairs to the kitchen. Dad was sitting at the table, staring into his cup of filmy coffee. I poured myself a cup and sat down with him. I reached out and rested my hand on his. Neither of us spoke.
Once I heard the deacons thump down the stairs and out the door, I went back up to the bedroom.
"A miracle has happened," my mother said, extending a long, bony arm toward me.
I saw no miraculous afterglow and felt no energy in the room, but forced a smile, taking the few steps to her bedside. Beth was sitting on the edge, tears streaming down her cheeks, while she caressed mother's wan face.
All I could manage to say was, "That's good, Mom. Really good."
She closed her eyes and, barely above a whisper, said, "Soon, I'll be able to get on my knees again to pray for your soul."
I turned and walked out.
A few weeks later when Dad came home from work, he found Mom in bed, an opened Bible next to her lifeless body.
A foamy wave crawled up, tickled my toes, then scurried back out to sea. I let it take the memory. Drown it.
I tried to summon better thoughts, remembering how I felt when I'd announced that I was going to have a baby. It was such an optimistic statement, but to think that I was hoping to succeed where Eric and Jenny failed. At thirty years old, my biological clock was clanging. Not to mention that I didn't yet have a volunteer to help me. Volunteer was how I referenced the man who would agree to all my stipulations, as if he existed.
The ocean air began to chill me and I looked around to see that many of the sunbathers had vanished. I stood and brushed the sand from my backside and headed toward the parking lot.
Dear Readers, Please let me know if you're interested in knowing more about the Sumner family from Of Little Faith, a novel that asks the following questions:
- How does one reconcile their passions with what they've been told is wrong?
- Does God punish those who follow their heart?
- Who is warranted to be God's spokesperson?
- Can God be manipulated by one's prayers?