I considered myself to be normal. I did well in school but didn't much care for it, I had friends and I had a family. A small family but a family. When people pitied me for the fact that my family consisted only of my father, our dog and two cats, I told them it was all fine with me. And it was. I had never known her mother who had died when I was barely a month old and it didn't bother me that my father never spoke of my mother's death. My father was all I needed. He struggled hard to raise me well and I respected him for it. When my friends complained of their parents, going off about how stupid they were and how they didn't know anything, I shook my head. I had met each of the parents in question at one time or another and all had been intelligent and with it. None of my friends had had the wrong end of the stick. None of them were abused, none were neglected and even the ones whose parents were divorced had not had a rough time of it and yet I, the one least fortunate, as people put it, the one with no mother, the one whose family did not have money, the one who had to help her father make ends meet, was the only one truly thankful for what I had.
"Don't you ever get curious?" Ellen, daughter of a librarian and a social worker, receiver of gifts at birthdays and Christmases, and happy tenant of her parent's middle class suburban home, asked.
We were lying on her bed on a warm Saturday afternoon in April and she was again on the subject of my motherlessness.
"No. My father doesn't want me to know and that's that. I respect him and there must be a reason so I'm not going to dwell on it." I was vaguely annoyed. Of all my friends, Ellen is the one who pushed the subject the most. I think it had something to do with her mother being a social worker. She seemed to think she could solve my problems. I never had the heart to tell her that not having a mother was not one of my problems. Everyone seemed to think a mother was necessary, that without one, one was flawed and one's life would never be complete. Not so. I had never met her, so what did it matter? I did not yearn for her motherly wisdom and at no point did I think back and go, if only she had lived what would my life be like? Life was life and one dealt with it and learned not to mourn the past.
"Come on, you have to be curious. Don't you even want to know how she died?"
The unease in my stomach grew. It was not like even pushy Ellen to continue asking questions and I knew somewhere deep down that Ellen was setting up for something, that she had already done her research.
"You lived in Michelin when your mother died didn't you?"
She was excited now and I knew she had found something, something she wanted to share. I didn't want to know.
I rolled onto my side and studied her room. The yellow curtains stirred in the breeze from her open window and the bookcase to one side was full of melodramatic titles. Ellen loved a good story, something that fit with her Hollywood pictures of how the world should be. I wondered, for one brief moment, what she had found. It must have been something dramatic or she wouldn't be this bubbly. Maybe my mother was a spy and had died in combat. I sighed. Now I would have to ask.
"What did you find out?"
Ellen pouted. She was hurt that I would assume she had done research without me. But then she launched into her story and I knew I had been right. She had been doing her research.
"Well... I was looking around online, trying to find news stories, you know? When it came to me that the story wouldn't be on the internet as it was fifteen years ago, you know? So I looked up the Michelin library and found that they had archives. So I phoned them and picked a couple dates that would be right your birthday, you know? Like a month after, seeing as you were a month old when she died. And they checked for me. Sure enough there was a Lea Brewer, not only in the obituaries but in a news article! Front page too." Ellen paused and chewed on her lip. Finally, she blurted it out. "It was a house fire. She died from the smoke. Your dad was at work. But she... well I'll quote it. The article said, and these are the exact words, 'Lea Brewer died yesterday of burns and smoke inhalation. She did, however, manage to save her babies before passing away.'" Ellen paused again, letting it sink in. "You were a quintuplet! And all of you survived. All of you. What do you think... you know, what do you think happened? Like to the others?"