21st June 2009
‘Me?’ I wasn’t sure I’d heard right. ‘You must have got it wrong, there’s nothing special about me.’ I laughed nervously, turning away from Lewis and continuing to make the tea.
‘I can assure you there is,’ Lewis insisted as my brain struggled to catch up with what had just happened. ‘You see there’s this woman-‘
‘Stop messing with my head Lewis,’ I interrupted. ‘I don’t know why you’re playing this joke on me but it’s not funny.’
‘I’m not joking with you Evie-‘
‘Don’t call me that!’ I shouted at him. I shocked even myself; not understanding why I felt it was necessary to raise my voice. But it wasn’t until that moment when I noticed my hands were shaking. I put the mug I was holding down on the counter and lowered myself onto the step by the door, trying to calm myself down into a rational state.
Lewis was watching me intently as I moved, his eyes concerned and his mouth firmly shut. I'd been so sure I knew who he was, a relative of one of my neighbors, a friend. And now, when I should have felt betrayed by him, all I could see was how beautiful his eyes looked when the sunlight caught them.
‘I’m sorry for shouting,’ I said softly. ‘You didn’t deserve that.’ I didn’t receive a reply from Lewis but I knew he understood. ‘You just shocked me; I wasn’t expecting that. I braced myself, my hands held tightly together under the table and my legs jiggling up and down, both signs that I was feeling stressed. 'Tell me why you're here. The whole truth.'
'I was approached by a woman. Her name is Isabelle. Many years ago she lost her children when her husband decided she was unfit to look after them. She had suffered from severe bouts of depression since the birth of her second child. One night her husband packed the children up into the car and left. Isabelle has never seen her children since.’
I saw Lewis’ knees come into my field of vision as I stared firmly at the floor then felt his hand on my shoulder.
‘Evelyn. Isabelle sent me here to find you. You and Rupert are her children and she wants to make up for all the years she missed out on.’
‘My mother,’ I breathed. My head was buzzing; I couldn’t focus on one thought at once. My mother wanted to see me. ‘Why now?’ I demanded of Lewis. ‘Why not at any other time in the last fifteen years I’ve been missing?’
Uncontrollable anger was bubbling up inside of me, fueled by the pain of abandonment I was feeling.
‘I don’t know-‘
‘Why didn’t she try to find us after we left?’ I shouted, tears streaming down my face. ‘Did she not care about us enough to fight for us?’
Years of unanswered questions overwhelmed me. I had never known how much I had wanted to know my mother until this moment. When I’d thought she hadn’t wanted us I could not think about her, she was just a nameless woman with a blurry face I could only half remember.
But now she was coming crashing into my present, my real life, and I didn’t know if I wanted that.
‘I can’t tell you why she’s waited this long,’ Lewis said, trying to look me in the eye as he spoke. ‘All I know is that she’s pulled herself together and she wants to see you now. It’s up to you if you want to see her.’
‘No,’ I replied instantaneously. ‘We don’t need her in our lives; we’ve done very well so far without her. And don’t say a word to Rupert about this it will only worry him.’
‘Don’t you think he has a right to know?’ Lewis asked.
‘Sometimes it’s better to remain ignorant and without care than to know everything,’ I said forcefully. ‘Rupert couldn’t handle this.’
‘Who are you to say what he can and can’t handle?’ Lewis challenged. ‘What if Rupert wants to see his mother?’
‘I’ve been looking after my brother for years, I know him better than you so I would appreciate it if you didn’t question my judgment on this one. I don’t want to lose my family.’
‘But you’re not going to lose your family, you’ll gain a mother.’
‘A mother who could tear the family that I have apart.’ I looked up at Lewis with pleading eyes, desperate for him to understand. ‘Do you think my father will welcome her back into our lives with open arms? There must have been enough evidence to suggest that Isabelle really was an unfit mother or he wouldn’t have taken such drastic action. I know him. He would never do anything without thinking it through.’
‘What if this time he was wrong?’ Lewis asked calmly. ‘Many mothers suffer from postnatal depression but with the right treatment they can get through it. Isabelle was diagnosed with postnatal depression after her husband left with her children. She sorted herself out.’
‘But that didn’t take fifteen years did it?’ I buried my face in my hands. The whole thing felt so surreal and alien to me. I wasn’t sure where to turn for help. ‘Thank you very much for your time Mr Carter,’ I said stiffly.
‘Don’t be like that Evelyn,’ Lewis pleaded desperately. ‘I’m still the same person you met on the cliff. I still like you.’
‘I would appreciate it,’ I continued without stopping, ‘if you didn’t tell my brother or my father about anything that you have said to me today. If I decide to tell them it will be in my own time and on my own terms. Do you understand?’
‘Yes,’ Lewis said flatly.
‘Good. Then if you don’t mind could you please show yourself out.’
I watched Lewis intently as he picked up his jacket from the table and walked towards the stairs.
‘Can I come and see you again?’ He asked, turning as he reached the bottom of the stairs.
‘I would prefer it if you would stay away from me and my family,’ I said, not meaning to be so hard. ‘At least for the moment,’ I added when I saw the dejected look on Lewis’ face. ‘I have a lot of things to think about.’
Lewis nodded before turning and walking up the creaking stairs.
I pulled out a cigarette from my secret hiding place behind the kitchen counter and lit it clumsily, taking a long drag and leaning back against the door. What was I going to do now?