Me: . . . And if he leaves before I get back, I’m not sure when we’ll trade cars. I NEED the SUV back before tomorrow morning.
I was talking to myself. It also happens that my cousin’s daughter, our babysitter, was in the room as well.
She blinked at me.
Beth: I’m confused.
She didn’t know.
Me: The Husband and I are separated.
She was up from the table, arms around me.
Beth: Oh, Aunt Fae. I’m so sorry.
I hugged her back.
She pulled away to look at me.
Beth: If the boys ever need to talk to someone, they can talk to me. My parents divorced when I was five. Remember?
I did. I looked at her. My heart broke.
Beth: And they WILL think it is their fault.
A chill ran through my body. I wanted to grab The Husband and drag him home and hiss, “Look at her. See her eyes. They are too sad and too old for someone her age. Listen to her voice. It has depths of sorrow that shouldn’t be in a fifteen-year-old’s voice. Her parents did that to her. Her father did that to her. And we have to do everything we can not to do that to our boys. We must sacrifice all that we are to keep that from happening to our boys. It does not matter how we feel towards each other, the wounds we’ve inflicted, the bitterness that we hold. The boys are only what matter.”
Beth: And Aunt Fae, if you need to talk to someone, you can talk to me.
Me: Thank you, Beth. You know you can always talk to me about anything. You can trust me.
She smiled. In her world, grown-ups were not to be trusted. She hung her heart on her mother and her two good uncles. But those men had moved away. Here, with me, she whispered how much she hated her stepmom but her mother told her being the stepmom was hard. She confided that at sixteen in a few months she won’t have to see her father if she didn’t want to. She was excited about turning sixteen. She laughed when she told me her father failed to show up to court to get custody and that only by her mother’s grace did she have to go to her father’s house.
Each word was a barb to my heart.
When she left, after the babysitting gig was up, she hugged me.
Beth: Can I tell my mom? She probably has the name of the psychologist I went to. She was really good. And Aunt Fae, I can always watch the boys if you need to work. I’ll watch them for free.
Me: Thank you. We’ll see what will happen. And I would love the name of your therapist.
Then Beth called me by my family nickname, the one all my cousins call me, and told me something that froze my soul.
I hugged her again and thanked her for the warning.
I shut the door, remembering the first time I saw her, held her. I had snatched her from her mother. I sat down in the easy chair, staring into Beth’s eyes. They were light grey with a circle of dark grey around the iris. Those eyes were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen, and they were so different from any other newborn’s. Someone asked me to look up, and a picture was snapped as I beamed up at the camera. It was a picture I taped to my dorm room wall every year. I wondered where that picture was.