When we got to her hospital room, I thought my legs were going to crumble beneath the unbearable weight of my shame and guilt. It seemed as if everything hit me like an uncontrollable wave crashing into the shore. I wasn’t sure if I should feel like this, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t simply that I felt sorry for Lydia, or that I was blaming myself for this; I had forgotten who she was to me all these years. She had always been my other half – I’d conveniently let my jealousy and selfishness overtake me; that was not the person I was or wanted to be. I was that girl who apologized for things that weren’t her fault. I was that girl who never said what she was truly thinking; I bit my tongue. I was that girl who could forgive and forget. Why was it, then, that I allowed myself to cause this mayhem? My mother most certainly wasn’t going to forgive me and I couldn’t, or wouldn’t expect any absolution from Lydia. But there was still this undeniable feeling in the pit of my stomach that made me wonder, why did I have to apologize for who I was or who I wanted to be? Would they ever be willing to do the same?
I looked up as we walked into the dimly lit room. Cooper was asleep on the horrible excuse for a couch. Lydia was lying down with her back propped up, talking softly to Stella, who was sitting in a chair at her side. When they heard us shuffle in the room, their eyes furiously shot over to Samuel and me.
“WHAT are you doing here?” Stella asked angrily as she shot up out of her chair.
Samuel’s expression was pleading, but his tense body screamed anger. He didn’t say a word, though.
“I… well,” I began, “I thought that we should come.”
“It’s a little late for sympathy or support, dontcha think Izabelle?” Stella continued. “I think you should just leave right now.”
“Stella,” I began, then looked over at my sister“… Lydia… I know you probably blame me for all this, but I think it’s more important that I apologize for my behavior,” Here I go again… apologizing for something I don’t really feel I should.
“AGAIN,” Stella interrupted, “a little late for that.”
Lydia, who had been staring down at her folded hands finally spoke, “Thanks for coming. I’m sure it was hard for you…” she paused and looked up at me, “but there’s really no reason for you to be here.”
It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and my knees finally did give out from right underneath me. Samuel quickly turned to brace me, too quickly in fact, because his elbow grazed the tray at the foot of the hospital bed and a cup went crashing to the floor. Cooper shot up from his slumber and came immediately to his feet when he saw us standing there.
“Sammy,” he half questioned, half stated.
Samuel nodded at him, but never let me go. Cooper looked over at Lydia who was silently crying, and Stella, who was still glaring at me. I wondered how a mother could ever look at her own daughter in that way. Samuel looked down at me and we exchanged a glance, allowing him the peace of mind that he could release me. Cooper’s gaze had returned to us and when he saw Samuel let me go, he took a small step toward him. Samuel slowly returned the gesture, but began lifting his arms in the form of a welcoming hug. At first, Cooper’s expression showed his overwhelming skepticism, but once he came to the realization that this was actually happening, he lunged into his older brother’s arms. They embraced for quite a while, and I could see that they missed each other greatly.
When they let go, I saw Stella grimace out of the corner of my eye. How can she be like this? I thought to myself. I am her daughter… Samuel is the love of my life and she can’t see any side but her own.
“Do you want to talk in the hall?” Cooper asked Samuel quietly.
Samuel glanced at me, worried to leave me in the pit of hell by myself. I gave a completely relieved smile and a strong nod, letting him know how proud I was that he decided to reconcile his differences with his best friend. They left quietly and I stood, feet planted, looking at my sister and mother. I knew this wasn’t going to be resolved at this moment, or maybe ever, but they had to at least listen to my side of everything; at least, I was going to try and explain.
“Look,” I began, “I know you both hate me for all I said to you and about you,” I nodded my head in Lydia’s direction in particular, “but I meant every word.”
Their eyes widened and Stella replied, “If you came here to place more fault on us, believe me, we’ve heard far too much of that al–”
“No…” I interrupted, “let me finish.” I waited a minute for them to exchange glances and to calm down a bit. “So all of it was valid… I’m tired of just ignoring things and pretending nothing ever happened. My entire life has been spent suppressing my true feelings about my childhood. I don’t want these feelings anymore.”
“Neither do I, Tub,” Lydia responded, “but I didn’t blow things up and rub every mistake in yours and mom’s faces. I just let it go…”
“I CAN’T!” I cut in. “I’m different from you. I’m not okay with the way things went for us. I’ve never been able to say any of this before. You don’t like to listen to it…” I gestured with my hands toward Lydia, “and you pretend it didn’t happen,” I gestured toward Stella. “I can’t do that. Stella…” I paused, a long pause, “see, just that… not being able to call you mom, it kills me. Do you know what it was like to have kids ask me why I called you by your first name?” No emotion showed on her face at all. I have to get through to her, I thought. “Do you know what it was like to explain to teachers why my mother was an hour late picking me up more often than not, if you remembered to pick me up at all? Or why I wore the same clothes day after day for an entire week? I was ashamed and afraid to tell them that you sold all our stuff to buy drugs, I didn’t have anything else to wear. I couldn’t tell them you forgot about me every day because you were snorting cocaine and ‘entertaining men,’” I made air-quotes with my fingers trying to pretty-up the fact that she was a prostitute. “I couldn’t tell them you hated me and never wanted children in the first place, that calling you Mom or Mother would just be a constant reminder of something you didn’t want to be and were cursed with.”
I looked down at the floor and the tension in the air was creeping in, wrapping its ugly hands around my neck and strangling me.
“I didn’t come here for this,” I whispered. “I just wanted to be here for Lydia in her time of despair.” I was unsure if they even heard me.
“Izzie,” Lydia said, “I know things were very hard for you, but I went through it all too. I had to avoid those same lingering questions and…”
“Yea, Lydia, you did…” I paused before speaking the next words, “but I didn’t up and leave you,” I responded with scorn.
“You’re right,” she said softly, “but you did have me in the beginning. I had no one until you came along.” I couldn’t tell if she was speaking so quietly because she hated thinking about this as much as I did or if she was trying to spare Stella the sting of her truthful words.
“So… because I was seven years too late, you punished me by leaving me to fend for myself. You abandoned me like Stella had already done.”
Lydia had tears streaming down her face. I looked at Stella, who was sitting, staring at the wall. She seemed to be in a state of shock and I wondered if what we were saying was in vain; was she even hearing what was being said? This was for her.
“I love you Izzie… I really do, with all my heart,” Lydia took a deep breath, “but life isn’t all about you.” She paused for a moment. “Everyone suffers, we both got a huge, heaping serving of crap for our life, but you have to move on from this… I have. You weren’t the only one who experienced all that, it isn’t all about you,” she repeated even quieter than the first time.
“Oh…” I breathed out. I was a little put out by her words, especially since nothing was ever “all about me” as she’d said. But in her eyes, at least she was being honest with me, and I had to have some appreciation for that. I had tried for so long to push everything into the back of my mind, but with all that happened recently, it was hard to not let these issues rise to the surface. I was ready to settle this, even if not for my own benefit, but I still wondered if they were as willing.
“I’m sorry Izzie… Lydia…” Stella said suddenly, “I know I was… no am a horrible mother. There’s no excuse for how I treated you and made you feel.” She was almost breathing the words out, mumbling silently. “I was so stunned to know I had become pregnant. I didn’t know how to take care of a child. I was on my own, completely broke, felt sorry for myself, and tried my damndest to get rid of the pain I felt every day.”
“That’s a shit-ass justification, Stella,” I said, quite calmly. “You left your parents willingly when you found out about Lydia because you were too scared to tell them the truth. And yeah, it’s obvious that you were only thinking about yourself because you’ve never taken care of us a day in your life. And your pain you speak of… you’ve tried to rid yourself of it for over 20 years. Don’t you think it’s time for you to move on from all this self-pity?”
I heard the squeak of rubber on the over-waxed flooring of the hospital room. I turned my head to the left and saw Cooper and Samuel with smiles on their faces entering the room. Lydia immediately reached up and brushed the tears away from her face and Stella stood up and left the room without saying a word. She brushed between the brothers and knocked Samuel off balance, following it up with, “Stupid oaf… get out of the damn way.”
Samuel glanced at the two of us still left in the room and instantly caught on to the emotion in the air; Cooper was a bit more clueless.
“Hey babe,” he said on his way to Lydia’s side. He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. She forced out a stiff smile and self-consciously brushed her hair behind her ear while turning her gaze back to her folded hands.
“So ole Sammy and I had a lot to talk about. I caught him up on the occurrences of the past few days.” He turned his gaze to me, “I’m sure he’ll relay the information, Iz.”
I shook my head to let him I know I understood and returned my attention to Lydia. She was now looking up at me and our eyes connected. I wanted to convey my compassion and apologies and utter heartbreak for her. Could a simple gaze do that? I knew that if I didn’t do something, right now, I might lose her forever. I couldn’t bear to lose her like I’d already lost my mother. Even if I did end up reconciling with Stella, I would never have the relationship with her that I truly wanted. Lydia was the first to look away, and I didn’t mind; I understood. Not only, by sitting in this hospital, was she being put on display for all to sympathize for and with, but she couldn’t run away and hide like Stella had already done. I glanced at Cooper, who was aimlessly fiddling with the stuff on her bedside table. I turned my head to Samuel who was staring intently at me, as if he knew what I was going to do before even I did. He gave me a wonderful smile, bringing up the corner of one side of his lip higher than the other. I returned the gesture and closed my eyes. After taking a deep breath, I looked back at Lydia who was crying even harder now, still without sound. I slowly began moving the muscles in my leg to step forward. I hesitated for a second, What if she doesn’t want to make amends with me? She has Cooper now, right? She has Stella, more than she ever has… certainly more than I ever will. Like she said, I’m being selfish. I can see she’s in pain, but she’ll move on from it like she always does. I hate to even think it, but could this ‘miscarriage’ be another attempt at gaining attention? Will she… all this, ever change? I felt a small tear trickle down my face and I wiped it away before anyone could notice. I rested my foot in place. I can’t do this, I thought. I turned to Samuel and his smile was gone. He mouthed to me, “Oh, Izzie,” and very slowly closed his eyes and shook his head. I think he understood that I wasn’t going to do anything, and I could definitely read the sadness on his face. My stomach turned and I felt like I was going to throw up if I didn’t leave the room. I turned my body completely toward the door.
“I’m sorry we… I caused so much trouble by coming here. I can see I’m not wanted.” With that, I turned and left the room. Once I hit the hallway, I began to run. I knew it was probably a bad idea, but I had to escape. I had to get out. The walls were coming in on me. Everything was continuing to fall underneath me, disappearing. I wasn’t sure if Samuel was following me, and I honestly didn’t care. I had to get out.
When I hit the exit, I realized that rain was pouring from the sky. I knew the second I stepped out from underneath the awning I was going to be drenched, but I didn’t care about that either. I kept running until I hit the sidewalk. I stopped and began heaving, taking in huge gasps of air. I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was anger or frustration or grief or aching… longing for that which I just let slip through my fingers. Without an ounce of hurry in my body, I tilted my head back to let the rain wash it all away. I closed my eyes and soaked everything in. I remained there, letting the water drop on my face and slide down my body. I didn’t care if everyone in the world was staring, I just wanted this feeling, this aching to go away.
I felt a soft touch on my shoulder and knew right away that it was Samuel.
“Izzie…” he whispered to me. He let his fingers linger on my shoulder for a moment. I gradually dropped my head back to its normal position and turned to face him. There we were, standing in the middle of a storm… just us two. I stared into his longing eyes, they were worried and I could tell my actions were affecting him deeply.
I tilted my head a bit and gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile. I reached up and softly stroked his cheek. He gave me a confused look and I knew he didn’t truly understand what was running through my mind. I wanted to feel nothing… I wanted the numbness to come on, but I knew it wouldn’t. I’d be aching for a while, if I didn’t find a way to fix all this. But how would I go about that? He couldn’t answer that for me, and I think he knew that.
“You ready?” I asked him softly with a surprisingly steady voice.
He just took my hand from his face and held it in his own, leading me to our car.