Short Fiction: Appointment with a Stranger

Christine Larsen

Christine Larsen

"Nervous love?" Mum's hand on my arm is warm, reassuring, as she looks deep into my eyes in that special way. Does she really know what's going on inside? Sure, it looks that way.

It's not always like this, you understand. No. Sometimes it's like we're from different planets...like we're setting up for World War III. But whenever I really need her, she's always there. Like now.

My mouth feels as if I've chewed blotting paper, though there’s plenty of moisture swimming round my throat, making me swallow every few minutes. My palms are the same... all hot and sweaty. I answer, "only a bit," and my voice comes out in a half squeak, kind of hoarse (like it keeps doing every now and then lately). I'm not fooling them... not Mum, nor Dad either, but we men must stick together and tough it out at times like this.How come another squeak deep inside cries, “I want my Mummy,”

Is today as rough on them as it is on me? I wonder, and then wonder some more.... actually, been doing a lot of that since her phone call. I can't imagine how they're feeling. Not even sure how I'm feeling... except sick. Really sick. Maybe call the whole thing off, and I go home to bed? Could be coming down with something terminal. Yeh, sure Daniel, something called cowardice, maybe?

Maybe she won't even show up. Now THAT would be the perfect solution! I think... Oh hell, I don't know. I wanted this so much; needed it; couldn't be a complete person without it. Now it's nearly happening, I wish I could run away; wish I was little again and could hide my face in Mum's skirt like I used to whenever the world felt too big. God, what a wimp, what a piker. It's only my other mother. Should be cool, but it's not. It's confusing and it's weird and I'm jumpy as...

Can't remember anything about her. Hell, I was four years old when she gave me up the second time. You'd reckon a guy would remember something. Sometimes I think I do, but it's really stuff Mum has told me. She's been good like that, my Mum... and it is queer that. Mum's not really my Mum at all. I mean, she didn't conceive or give birth to me, or even KNOW me for four years. The other mother did. And yet that other one is a stranger.

A stranger. Suddenly everything feels really threatening. To finally meet my real mother... Real? It’s not so hard to think of heaps of real moments I DO remember from the early days with Mum and Dad, so what IS really real? This one surely was... the time I was in the bath with my frog collection and Mum and I were laughing and playing with them, sitting them on my bath toys like sailors on boats. And I said, "Does my real mum like frogs, too?" God, how come I remember something like this?

Once again, I can see Mum's face really clearly. Just for a moment she looked sad, but then she laughed and said, "Oh yes, I'll bet she does. But what's this real mum stuff? If she's real, that must mean I'm unreal... that I'm not really here? And if I'm not really here, who's putting a frog on your shoulder?" We both laughed as the frog slid a ticklish path down my back, and decided then and there that we would call that first one my 'other’ mother. Me and Mum and Dad don't like the natural label either, as that must make them unnatural parents... Huh?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Danny?" Mum's voice sets my heart thumping hard again. "I think this is her car coming now. A red Mazda, she said. And look - yes - she's smiling and waving at us. Courage, lovey. Remember how much we love you. We're here if you need us."



Aftermath... by me, the second mother:

I wish I could tell you about a magical finale with two long-lost souls reunited and all of us ending this story in a loving share-fest of each other's lives. Certainly, that's what we hoped for, but it wasn't to be.

I did call this small tale 'Appointment with a Stranger' and here was one of our greatest learning curves, one we’d barely considered. Well, not deeply, anyway. How could we? The future was SO far away, back then.

Of course, on this day, it turned out they were strangers to each other after 14 years apart. To imagine resuming any kind of parent/child relationship was no longer possible now he was officially an adult of 18. The years had changed both of them; defined them too differently. Certainly, they both would have tried... given it all they had, but time had moved relentlessly onward. The little boy of yesteryear and the younger mother had moved on. A famous novel is named ‘The Tyranny of Distance’. In this particular reality, it was the ‘tyranny of time’ that had wrought its particular toll.

For a short while, our eldest son left our lives and tried to fit into hers, and at first all seemed wonderful to him. Freedom was his, to smoke and drink and 'do' drugs. All too soon he learned he couldn't trust her, sharing his observation with us, "You're not going to believe this, Mum and Dad. She's an even bigger liar than I am!"

He came into and out of our lives several times after this, finally coming to my 50th birthday and enjoying the happiest of days, ending in hugs and kisses... and we have had no communication ever since. We know where he is and we follow his progress on Facebook, but we're mindful of the saying,

If you love someone, set them free.

If they come back, they're yours;

if they don't they never were.

~ Richard Bach

As I said... one of our most difficult and painful learning curves ever.

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