A Different Blue Page 69

“We're going to name her Melody. It was Jack's mother's name, and I've always loved it.” Tiffa's eyes shifted to Jack, who urged her on with a tip of his head. “But we would like her middle name to be Blue if that is all right with you.”

Melody Blue. It was a beautiful name. I nodded, just the slightest movement, but I didn't trust myself to speak. Then I nodded again, a little harder and smiled the best I could. I was pulled back into Tiffa's arms and held fiercely as she whispered a promise in my ear.

“You have given me something I would never have asked of you, and I promise I will be the best mum I can be. I won't be perfect. But I will love her with all my heart, and I will be perfect in that. When she's old enough, I will tell her all about you. I will tell her how brave you were and how much you loved her.”

A moan tore from my throat, and I shuddered helplessly, no longer able to hold back the billowing sorrow that flooded my mouth, streamed from my eyes, and robbed me of speech. Jack's arms were back around us, and we stood that way for a very long time, propping each other up, as gratitude and sorrow met and merged and silent bonds were forged. I found myself offering up a prayer for the very first time. A prayer to the Great Spirit that Jimmy had believed in. A prayer to the God that had created life and let it grow in me. A prayer for the child who would never call me Mother, and for the woman whom she would. And I prayed He would take away my pain, and if He couldn't do that, then would He, please, take away my love? Because the pain and the love were so intertwined that I couldn't seem to have one without the other. Maybe if I didn't love, I wouldn't hurt so much. I felt Wilson's arms enclose me and bear my weight as Tiffa and Jack eventually released me and stepped back.

When I was discharged from the hospital, Wilson took me home, helped me into bed, and stayed with me through the night once more. Never once did he complain or offer empty words or platitudes. He was just there when I needed him most. And I leaned on him, probably more than I should have. I didn't let myself think about it or question it. I allowed myself to be taken care of and forbade myself introspection.

In the days that followed, Wilson gave me more and more space, and we fell back into a pattern that resembled the days and weeks leading up to Melody's birth. I went back to work at the cafe almost immediately and started carving again. In other ways, moving on was much more difficult. Immediately after Melody's birth, I bound my br**sts the way the nurses showed me, but they ached and leaked, and I would wake up soaked, my sheets wet with milk, my nightgown sticking to me. Washing myself was almost painful, my body felt like a stranger, and I couldn't bear to look in the mirror and see the swollen br**sts that were meant to nourish, the stomach that grew flatter every day, and the arms that longed to hold what was no longer mine. Every once in a while I would forget and reach down to caress my belly, only to remember that the swelling that remained was not a child, but an empty womb. I was young and active, though, and my body recovered quickly. Soon the only reminder that she had been part of me would be the faint stretch marks that marred my skin. These marks became beautiful to me. Precious.

Correspondingly, I found myself unwilling to sand away the imperfections on a piece of juniper I had been shaping and molding. The scars on the wood were like the marks on my skin, and I found myself continually tracing them, as if removing them would signify a willingness to forget. I ended up enlarging them, so the lines and divets became mawing canyons and shadowy recesses and the gracefully stretching branches became twisted and tortured, like the clenched fists of empty hands.

Wilson came to visit me in the basement one evening while I worked on the sculpture, sinking down on an overturned pail, observing without comment.

“What are you going to call this?” he asked after a long silence.

I shrugged. I hadn't gotten that far. I looked up at him for the first time. “What do you think I should call it?”

He gazed back at me then, and the sadness in his rain-grey eyes had me turning from him immediately, shrinking from the compassion I saw there.

“Loss,” he whispered. I pretended not to hear. He stayed for another hour, watching me work. I didn't even hear him leave.

Life returned to normal in painful increments, as normal as it ever had been. I worked, carved, ate, and slept. Tiffa called frequently to check on me and offered details about the baby only if I asked her first. She was careful and precise, but mercifully subdued in her descriptions. Each time I was able to hear a little more, although the first time I heard Melody's new-born wail through the receiver I had to end the call immediately. I spent the rest of the night in my room, convinced that my heart was officially broken and no amount of time and no amount of tears would ever ease the ache.

But time and tears proved to be better tonics than I would have thought. I had spent my whole life denying grief, holding it back like it was something to avoid at all cost. Jimmy had been so contained, and I had adopted his stoicism. Maybe it was the hormones, or a purely biological response, maybe it was the fact that I had pled with a God I knew very little about to take away the pain, but in the days that followed Melody's birth I discovered I had been given the ability to weep. And in weeping there was power. The power to heal, the power to release pain and let go, the power to endure love and to shoulder loss. And as the weeks became months, I cried less and smiled more. And peace became a more frequent companion.

But as peace and acceptance became my friend, Wilson began pulling away. At first I was almost grateful, simply because I was terrible company. But as I started to heal, I started to miss my friend, and he was mostly absent. I wondered if he felt his job was done. Maybe Melody had been delivered, and so had he.

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