I have spent years of my life waiting for this moment. Years wondering how it would go. Wondering what we would say. Where we would meet and what I would wear. If she would be funny. If I would be funny. I have played out a million different scenarios in my head on a million different occasions.
You would think with all that waiting and wondering that I would be a little prepared. You would think that I would have figured out what to do and what to say, but no. There she is, sitting right across from me, and I can't remember what to do with my hands.
She is waiting for me to say something, that much is clear. Funny how even though she is the one who demanded this meeting, who seemed so sure that this is what she wanted, and yet now that it is happening she has conceded control to me. I guess she thinks I am the adult in this situation.
I fold my hands in my lap and say hi. That's a good start right? It must be a good start, she said hi back. I guess I should ask how she is now. I place my hands on the table and she tells me she is fine.
That's all I've got.
The silence is thick with all those questions burning in her eyes, and with the emptiness in mine.
Best to face this head on I suppose. Be brave Liz. Be honest.
"I can't imagine that you requested this meeting so that we could stare silently at each other, so why don't you start asking some of those questions rolling around inside you head."
Her face tightens as the words rush from my mouth. Was that rude? It didn't sound rude to me. She obviously didn't like it though.
"There is only one question actually," she spits back.
"Oh yeah? What question is that?"
"Why did you give me up?"
Oh god. Is that what they told her? They told her that I gave her up? Those bastards. How could they dump this on me?
"I don't know what to tell you Chloe."
All her attitude falls away. A carefully built wall crumbling to dust.
"Tell me something! Tell me anything! Tell me you were young, tell me you weren't ready, tell me you didn't have enough money," tears spring into her eyes as she begs me.
She wants me to tell her that I loved her, that I gave her up because I loved her. It's strange how she is looking for something to explain it, some way the she might be able to forgive me. I thought eighteen years of absence and disinterest would have made it pretty clear how beyond redemption I am. Still, it's sad.
Be honest Liz. You swore you would be honest.
"I didn't give you up Chloe," I whisper.
"What?" Her eyes are alive again and it's clear that conspiracy theories, baby snatchers and blackmail are wreaking havoc in her mind.
"I didn't give you up because you were never mine to give up"
Her stare is blank for a moment as that sinks in, but then she finds her voice again, "No, mum and told me that it was you, that you are my..."
"Don't say it!" God how those last two words make me feel like hurling. I shudder to even think the words "birth mother". Everything I have read warned me to expect that term. That it is only natural for a child to want to differentiate between the mother that gave them life and the mother that lived it with them.
"Chloe, I'm not entirely sure how to explain this without hurting you. In fact, I am sure that there is no way to explain this without hurting you. But I swore that I would be honest, so I will be honest and I will tell you everything. Is that what you want?"
Please say no. Please say no. Please say no.
She nods. Crap.
"Okay. Well I guess I should start at the beginning. You know how nans are always demanding grand kids? Like "When are you going to get married?" "When are you going to give me more grand babies?" All that stuff?" Her blank face made it pretty clear that her nan had never said those things. "Oh, well maybe you are still too young. My nan used to say it all the time. Over and over. Pressure and more pressure. Until one day I snapped and told her that I didn't want kids. That I never wanted kids and that she would have to make do with the three grand kids that my brother and his wife had already given her."
Oh crap. She is crying. I guess that wasn't nice to hear, me never wanting kids and all.
With a giant sniff she hisses, "I don't see how you being a bitch to you nan has anything to do with me."
Good Chloe, be angry.
"It has everything to do with you. If it weren't for her and the conversation that followed my outburst you would never have existed at all. You see she told me that it was selfish and unnatural and that I would regret it one day. As far as she was concerned there can be no happiness without offspring. I remained unmoved, after all I am the one who know what would give me happiness, and so she started to try and guilt me into it. She started telling me about this lovely couple she knew who had been trying to have a baby for years and how they had just found out that they never could because of some complication the woman had had. Anyway, long story short, over the next year or so she wore me down and eventually I decided that I would do a good deed and get my nan off my back in one single act. I approached the couple and they were desperate, practically in a frenzy. I made my offer, and frantic as they were, they only took a few weeks to think it over. At first they thought I was a con artist. They thought I was trying to get money out of it, which would have been stupid seeings as they had already spent every cent to their name on fertility stuff, but once they got to know me and they realised it was truly free they didn't think on it for long."
I pause to catch my breath and notice that her eyes are like saucers.
"Have you figured it out yet?" I ask, and she gives a tiny shake of her head.
"Well, obviously those two people were your mum and dad."
"No," she whispers, "No. No. No. No. No"
Better push on. Once she has a breakdown I won't be able to get through the ending.
"The offer I made was pretty simple. I would have their baby for them. No money, no strings, just nine months of waiting and then a baby. It all went surprisingly smoothly actually. Anyway, you see what I mean now? You were never mine to give up. You were never mine. I have never wanted kids. Of course you are made with half my DNA, but you were never mine. You were essentially a test tube baby, but where I was the living test tube."
At that she collapsed into her arms on the table.
"I'm sorry. I know that's not what you wanted to hear."
I reach out and rub small circles on her back. I expect her to jerk away but she stays. She stays and sobs and hiccups and snots all over the place.
Then, when her breathing has calmed and she wipes her face I feel her tense. Pulling my hands back quickly I lay them in my lap. Like it never happened.
She looks up at my slowly, her eyes practically spitting fire.
"How?" she quietly demands.
"How what? How could I do it? I already said, I was doing a good deed."
"No. How? How did it happen? You said they had already spent all their money on fertility stuff, and I can't see your 'good deed' extending to paying all the money for IVF. How did you get pregnant?"
I feel the blush creeping up my cheeks and I can't bare to meet those eyes anymore. My eyes in a strangers face.
"Don't make me say the words Chloe. Don't make me say it when your heart already knows."
"Say it," she spits.
"Your dad. We, um, spent the night together." I whisper.
With my eyes trained on the limp hands laying in my lap, I don't see her as she pushes back from the table and sprints out the door. The cold winter wind that whips in after her freezes the tears on my cheeks.
Even though her storming out of the room and hating me forever featured in most of the scenarios I used to play out in my mind, in none of them did I anticipate how much it would break my heart.
This is my piece for the song game that I proposed a little while ago.
Click here and play too.