...Things Are What They Are and Will Be What They Will Be
Catherine couldn't sleep; she kept having these nightmares. The dreams would start off pleasant enough, she would be slowly pottering around in the morning, waking up and getting ready. Then all of a sudden a faceless boy would burst into her kitchen and hurl abuse at her. Catherine was in no doubt at all that it was her son, especially when the dream figure started berating her about being a horrible mother and just abandoning him. Catherine would always try to run after the boy at this stage, trying to explain, crying out, "They didn't tell me about you, they told me you were dead, they took you away from me, I would have kept you if I had known." But the dream always ended with Catherine standing in the middle of some street, dressed only in her pyjamas. No matter how fast she ran in this recurring dream, the boy would be always one step ahead, never listening and never being caught.
With a jolt, Catherine woke up, shuddering. How could my parents have deceived me over such a thing?? How could they have been so ashamed at having a eighteen year old daughter pregnant that they were happy to make their daughter's life hell. She had spent the next 16 years thinking her son had died, and he in all probability thought his mother didn't love him.
Catherine thought that her torture was over, she had spent a fortnight in dread, after seeing Father Daniel, the priest who had overseen her son's adoption. She had thought about whether insinuating herself into her son's life was such a good idea, why stuff his life up? I probably wouldn't live up to his standards, he wouldn't understand, he would hate me, could I even be a mother this late in his life? All these thoughts had occurred to Catherine, then the thought that she had missed all his crucial moments; his first steps, his first day at school, hurt her so badly that she didn't want to miss out on a single moment more of her son's life.
So it was with part devastation and part relief that Catherine heard the news that her son's adoptive parents, had not informed him that he was adopted and didn't want to tell him, or want any form of contact with Catherine. They had kindly given Father Daniel some pictures of Maximilien to give to Catherine, an empty token gesture but gratefully accepted by Catherine.
Catherine slid over to the drawer where she had placed the pictures, she had purchased frames for them and intended to put them up on her shelves, but then she felt silly. It was almost akin to leaving the pictures that come with the frame, still in them when you put them up. They're pictures of people you don't know and are never likely to know. Catherine plonked herself back down on her bed and spread the photos out in front of her. A few baby pictures and some individual school photos. She picked up the latest photo of her son. Max....probably not the name I would have chosen, she mused. It was a school photo of him, in his smart private school blazer, -- something I would have never been able to afford --- accompanied by a long list of the extracurricular activities that adorned her son's school career -- something else I wouldn't have been able to give him.
With a sip of water, Catherine looked at the words ‘Prefect'. Prefect, her son was a prefect; is it possible to be proud of someone you have never met?? Catherine sighed and put her glass back on the nightstand. She slowly collected up the rest of the photos and put them back in their drawer. She curled up on the bed, and fell asleep looking into those cool blue eyes. Her eyes...
Catherine threw herself back into her work, she concentrated on her research of the Buxted family and began finally to be somewhat pleased with her work. It was like suddenly something inside of Catherine clicked. It was as if a part of her was dead, all those years, and now it was suddenly alive. Although she couldn't see Max, she knew he was alive and doing okay, in fact probably doing better than he would have done if her parents hadn't snatched him away at birth. Catherine felt the sensation of a load being lifted from her shoulder's, she felt less confined or scared. Though the idea of forgiving her mother was far from her mind, the wound was still too fresh. Catherine had spent all those years childishly blaming herself for the death of her son, and her mother had been the instigator of such remorse guilt and pain -- some things take a long time to forgive.
A feather duster fluttered around the array of photos that now adorned the shelf above her desk. Catherine sighed; life can go on, better than before even. For some time this was true, for Catherine the quest was over, she had found what she was looking for and she should feel satisfied, so she was or at least tried to be.
The fire crackled in the hearth. The curtains were drawn tightly across the windows as if to shut out the cold weather, Catherine was curled up in a chair reading poetry. Catherine had always had a pointed dislike of poetry at school when it was force-fed at unwilling students, but either her tastes had matured or the freedom to choose which poetry to read, had changed this. Catherine sighed as she read a sonnet by Thomas Gray; On the Death of Richard West. She read slowly, forming an opinion as she read. Perhaps not the best poetry she thought. Yet, the underlying sentiment was sorrowful and lamenting, the idea that the world keeps spinning even though someone you have loved with all your heart is gone. Catherine knew how true this was, and felt an affinity with the poem, feeling it had summed up her anguish for 16 years when she believed her son was dead.
I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
And weep the more because I weep in vain.
As Catherine mused over the last lines her eyes turned upwards towards the shelf above the desk, she bit her lip. While her son was dead she had wept in vain, but now her Max still couldn't hear her but...he could if she tried, any tears she had shed since Father Daniel's disclosure shouldn't be in vain. Catherine couldn't sleep as confusing and contrasting thoughts kept sailing through her head.
The next morning was an extremely cold one, normally Catherine would still be in her bedroom, with the electric blanket, the heater and several warm blankets, protecting her from the inclement weather. But today she was outside taking a walk, albeit she still had several layers between the air and her person.
Catherine exhaled a cloud of frosty air, as she watched a team, of what she considered foolhardy boys playing a game of soccer. Catherine's eyes moved over to the mothers, who were cheering their son's on. To be out in this weather is ridiculous, thought Catherine, but she realised they didn't care. So this is what I'm missing out on -- not much. But Catherine felt a pang that she didn't have somebody that she would willingly freeze to support.
Catherine kept walking, she traipsed through a park, noting the screaming children with bright pink noses, on the park equipment and several mothers nearby with thermos' and picnic rugs. The thermos' reminded Catherine that she hadn't had her caffeine fix for the day. The café she found was opposite a cinema and as she tried to drink her coffee before it froze, she watched groups of children arrive. The younger were dropped off by parents and teenagers arrived in groups laughing their way from buses or the nearby train station, generally being the bane of society. Catherine almost laughed out loud as she saw one teenage boy trying desperately to detach himself from a family outing, obviously to some ridiculous children's movie that he felt was beneath him.
Sighing, Catherine put her coffee cup down. Then a realisation struck her, she wanted her life to go back to normal, but she didn't want it be without her son. Catherine snorted at this thought, it sounded like that movie; "Not without my daughter." But no matter how cliché the nature of the thought, she knew she couldn't have a normal life knowing that her son was out there in the world and didn't know that he had a mother who loved him with all her heart. The only problem was how to find him? She knew the rough dates and area that the adopted family lived in, but what if they had moved? Father Daniel she knew was a dead end, ultimately he had fairly willingly aided and abetted her mother, the idea of a single mother with a child conceived out of wedlock hadn't appealed to him and although he had been helpful with locating her son, she had seen the relief on his face when he had told her the family wanted nothing to do with her.
Catherine, wasn't for nothing a researcher, she methodically searched through all the clues for an indication of the whereabouts of Max. The pictures seemed the most likely to help her, it took her an exhausting week of trying to ease information out of all of her relatives and friends with children. She hadn't wanted to say right out, "What school has a uniform like this?" and brandish the photo about, so it had taken some ingenuity to bring it up in the conversation. She managed to narrow it down to two schools, and did some ringing around. She should have known that It would lead to nothing, the school policy, of course, was not to give out details surrounding children. Catherine severely doubted telling them she was his mother would help, and most probably going down to the schools would only resort in being either escorted from the premises or being arrested. Probably not the best first impression of your mother reflected Catherine.
She knew all official channels were blocked, from when she was trying to locate her son before. Catherine was on the verge of going back to Father Daniel and begging him to help, or worse still asking her mother if she knew who had adopted Max; something she swore she would never do. Catherine sorted through her papers for the Buxted book, and suddenly a realisation jolted her. George! Her publisher! He was the reason this whole quest began! Catherine pulled out her mobile and punched in his number.
"Do you remember about --say 5 months ago, you rang me telling me you saw a boy on the train who was the spitting image of me?"
"Yeah - Yeah, that's right...private school uniform?"
" Uh- Never mind how I know...what train was it on? And the station??"
"Uh - huh, Yeah, yeah...thanks...of course the book is almost finished....Bub-bye" Catherine scribbled on a pad as she hung up, she bit her lip and again looked towards the shelf above her desk.
The next morning saw Catherine, laptop in hand with the most recent picture in her bag, boarding the morning train, which was full of school children. She hoped George was right about the stations, he had been somewhat vague. She looked desperately among the green, blue, and purple uniforms trying to find a face...her face. It was an unmitigated disaster. The train was so tightly packed and late running that she had been pressed into a corner so that there was no possibility of her seeing any body who resembled Max. The worse thing of the business was that she was forced to listen, for several stations, to the ramblings of a teenage girl trying to decide between a pink or a blue corsage for her upcoming formal. Catherine was slowly thanking God, or whomever, that she had a son, when a group of boys, pants slung low, squeezed on the train. They swore and tried to act ‘cool' as they began a longwinded ‘War and Peace' style discussion on whether scooters were the way to go. Catherine almost fell asleep with boredom and was wondering whether what she was doing was worth it, when her attention was arrested by a mother trying to put her pram on the train being helped by her other child. It was worth it after all.
The entire week was a disaster making Catherine start to despise the train system. Catherine bitterly wallowed pessimistic thoughts and vented, to anyone stupid enough to try and engage her in conversation, that the loud levels that groups of school children could emit really should be monitored by the EPA. It was a fool's errand, it was a fool's errand for the next week, and the week after that. Catherine managed to find time between her train searching junkets, to finish up her history of the Buxted family and started to use the train time to write a book. It was a biting satirical look at her life, her family, indeed everything and anything that in some way had touched her in her life. Hey, she thought, got to write something to cover the costs of the trains.
Catherine weakly opened her eyes and gasped, the time! She threw on her clothes and only had time to make it to the nearest train station, instead of to the one halfway up the line she normally caught the train from. She flew down the steps with several other commuters; she just made the train. Out of the corner of her eye she saw another passenger jumping the last steps, she held the door open for the boy as he leapt onto the train. He turned towards her with a cheeky half smile and eyes that she would know anywhere and said.
"Thanks a lot!"
With that he was down the stairs and joined a group of friends. Catherine felt a wave of shock pulse through her and she grasped the pole for support. To think being late...if she hadn't have been late...the idea was too much for her. Catherine sunk down into a seat, not noticing the worried eyes of the other occupants of the train upon her.
Catherine now had a destination, a assignation, a purpose. Every morning she caught that train, although he hardly even saw her, she was to him just another one of those regular train catchers who he shouldn't annoy lest they report him to his school. But these caught moments, where she overheard his conversation, watched him interact with friends and others, were to Catherine the most precious of moments. She slowly through research and joining groups was learning how she could actually contact her son properly, negating the stalking approach that she felt she was lowering herself to, by catching the train every morning.
But yet she sat there every morning, laptop in her lap typing away while surreptitiously snatching glances at her own flesh and blood. The book was to be a best seller; "To Max on his 18th Birthday."
© 2000 Copyright held by the author.
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