This story is by Charlotte and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
July 8, 2021.
My beloved son, my dear Romeo, you are thirteen years old today. What a glorious age! I imagine that soon you will fall into sullen silences and give me looks that mean “My mom is so boring”. You will leave childhood to walk on this tiny bridge that separates children from teenagers. Your body will start growing into its final version and the man you will become will show in the uneven way growing teenage bodies do. You’ll talk in that cracking voice and maybe I’ll hear the baritone wanting to express itself, just like your father’s. Did I ever tell you about the first time I met him?
Our first contact was over the phone. I think I fell in love with his voice first. I was looking for a job and a mutual friend had connected us. When I answered the phone and he started talking, I actually thought it was a prank from the local radio station. He never needed to shout because when he opened his mouth people would just shut up to listen to him.
I loved your father so much in those first years, to the point of forgetting who I was. He was larger than life. So generous and encompassing. Always ready to help, go out with friends or organize a surprise party. I was caught in the whirlwind of his endless energy and I enjoyed being at the center of his attention. For a while, I felt like a princess in a fairy tale, swept up by her prince into a magical kingdom.
The honeymoon lasted about six years. You hadn’t arrived in our lives yet, so we travelled, partied, slept late and worked at odd hours. Our lives revolved around ourselves, our friends and family.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that broke the reverie. Was it when I left my job to start a singing career? Was it when he lost his wedding ring while dancing at a rave party? Was it when I lost my wedding ring a few months after in a market in India? Probably not. Those were just outward signs of our problems, like the first cracks in a house’s foundation. Losing our rings should have awakened us to look deeper. It’s easy in retrospect to analyze what went wrong. But mostly it’s pointless. Life is lived in the present and you can only take decisions based on what you know in the now.
The year 2007 was filled with shows, new songs, meeting people in the music industry for me. As for your dad, he was frequently travelling for his job, so our time alone was rare. When we were together, our friends usually joined us. We were growing apart and the cracks were widening, but I think that each of us was so wrapped up in his own world that we were oblivious to it.
Superficially, we were still happy and in love. But sometimes, in the middle of the night, I would wake up feeling restless and uneasy. I knew something was brewing but I couldn’t say what. Then life, in its beautiful perfection, threw me my first curveball. One beautiful June day, I was walking on the street and I bumped into this man I knew casually. A talk on the corner of the street led to a drink, which was followed by a quiet supper on his terrace. I knew I was in trouble after that night. Being a master of denial, I pulled all my years of practice into ignoring what I was feeling.
Slowly but surely, the water of discord infiltrated our foundations. Some more travels for him, secret meetings for me, nightmarish vacations and frequent heated discussions on all matter of topics. I was trying to express my inner discomfort to your dad but words kept failing me. He had been so good at reading me over the years that I took for granted that he would understand my feelings. I was wrong. Nobody can read your deepest thoughts, my son. You first have to learn to be really honest with yourself and then with a lot of humility talk about what goes on inside your head and your heart.
The last curveball life threw me, was you. A ray of light in my darkest hour. A friend told me once that a soul decides to actualize itself as a baby, to bring clarity to the future mother. Boy, did that work! It took me a while to realize you were there. I had always been so irregular that skipping a period was normal for me. Looking back, I was only in the biggest denial ever! A few days after my thirty-first birthday, I had this dream about being pregnant. At first, I dismissed it but the feeling kept lingering and weighing me. As I was coming back from a car appointment, I decided to face reality and bought a pregnancy test.
I think the pink bars appeared so quickly that my brain didn’t even have time to register what was going on. There, pink on white, was the proof of your existence. So small but yet, so impactful. How could a tiny little seed growing inside me could change my life forever? Almost impossible to grasp, but it did.
I cried in panic while I phoned my older sister. I was frantic, almost hysterical. Then I called your dad at work. When he heard my voice, he knew that something serious was going on. He asked me if it was urgent. I said yes. Was it some bad news? I said: “I don’t know.”
He must have left work very quickly because he arrived promptly. We sat across from each other. Me, crying. Him, totally flabbergasted. I don’t remember what he said but I remember clearly the first question he asked: “Is it mine?” You see, he could still read me and he felt that I had been more distant in the past few months. “Of course, it’s yours!” I screamed, a bit too strongly. And then, he asked the second question: “do you want to keep it?” The second I had seen the pink line; I had started to think about that choice. Even though I felt like the soil was crumbling beneath me, I knew I had to be a hundred percent honest with myself. The answer crossed my lips and my life was never the same.
Your father and I divorced a few months after. I moved out, found a job in advertising, got heartbroken over another man. And on July 8th, I went into a church, lit a candle and wrote you my first fictional letter. “Dear son, today would have been your birthday. I imagine you with black hair and beautiful brown eyes. Had I made another choice, I would be able to know you and see you grow. Even though that’s not going to happen, know that I am deeply grateful for all the light you have brought into my life. Thank you for helping me be honest with myself and guiding me towards a more authentic path. Our time together was short but you will always be in my thoughts and my heart. I love you. Mom.”