~ I Can't Do This Alone ~
The waiting room was the usual mix of anxiety and boredom. A cramped alcove of the hospital, it was separated from the Emergency ward by a series of stone pillars. A vacant-eyed blond was sitting rigidly in the corner, vaguely registering her surroundings. At some level the sounds were echoing in the hollows of her mind.
There were the constant dull murmuring voices, broken only by the occasional outbreak of laughter at the nurse's station. The soft trilling of the phones in the distance. Linen smocks rasping against linen pants. Rubber heels against tile floors. The punctuation of a cough... Occasionally she looked up at the framed Monet prints on the industrial-green walls as if searching in them for something she'd lost.
Slowly her eyes were drawn to a young doctor searching about the room. She waited with clenched stomach muscles until he sighted her, and then made his way towards her, his face set into a professional mask. After stepping around an old man with a walker and a glucose drip, he slid into the chair beside her.
Dry-eyed, she appeared to be listening intently as he ran through the list of injuries, ending with his professional spiel on the attempts to resuscitate.
"We did everything we could, but she was already gone. If it's any comfort at all, I'm sure it was over in an instant."
That penetrated. That she heard. An eternity of an instant, she thought. She had been working in her office at the University when she had been seized by that instant; seen and felt everything that had transpired. She had watched with almost fatalistic curiosity as the cracks in the windshield had begun to emerge just above the dashboard. With infinite slowness they had blossomed into a complex cross thatching of spider webs across the whole of the windscreen. Which exploded soundlessly, transforming the glass into airborne squares that reminded her of tiny icecubes. Then there were the waves of anger, and loss, the almost overwhelming regret as Morag had reached out to her. Sudden pain, agonizing pain. Then...Nothing.
Which was where she still was.
"Do you understand, Miss?"
Yes. She understood. She gave a slight nod.
"I'm sorry about your friend."
That one word nearly broke her. My Friend.
Focus. She had to focus.
Rudely dismissing him and the news she had grasped hours before, she pulled out her lap top and booted it.
"Excuse me, but I have to? to work on my schedule for next week."
5/6 10:00AM Monthly Exam
She arrived on time and walked through the door to the examination room, attempting to focus her diffused concentration on the Doctor's professional chatter.
"You're looking very tired. That's not good for either of you," he advised cheerily.
She tried to find a response that answered the unspoken question, without explaining anything. "I haven't been able to sleep. There are some problems with our house." 'Problems like, I'm not living there anymore. Because the locks have been changed because Morag's family have seized all of our assets.'
The spoken answer was ignored as she had expected it would be. The patter continued. "Well. I hope you sort it out soon. Now can you get on the scale?
There was a quick glance at the patient file. "So where is Morag? She's been arriving before you, usually! You're still my only gay couple, you know." The weights were slid over into position. "Stand still, please... o-kay!" The figures were noted and marked. "...I still can't get over how you gals got permission for insemination in THIS State of the Union. Must be nice to have a lawyer in the house, huh?"
Lawyer. Like Morag's father, and her brother. All Lawyers. But no more warrior to defend little Cathy anymore. Again, the anger rose up for a moment, as it had when she had seen the seizure notice on the door of their home. The door with the changed locks. A stark declaration that she was alone and that they had all the power. That Morag's will could be ignored, would not be upheld in this state. She had no rights, no home, no choice. But that anger had not come from within her. It seemed to come directly from her lost soul mate. 'Fight them' she heard. But then it was gone. Fight them? With what? There was no money, no lawyer, no family of her own... no motive.
"Have you had any spotting? No? And how have you been eating? Good." Another notation was made. "Now, if you can just undress and get up on the table...."
The doctor looked up from his notes. "Cathy? You have to take that shirt off."
"Why? Is there a problem? It's just the regular exam, we've done this before."
"I can't take it off. It's... it's all I... Please."
"It's just a shirt, Cathy. It doesn't even fit you." the doctor reached over to touch the hem, thinking to help her.
"NO!" The woman was shaking.
The obstetrician counted to ten. Pregnant women. Who could understand them?
"Fine. We can work around it if it's important."
"It is." Her breathing returned to normal. The flat expression returned to her face.
"Okay. Feet in the stirrups, and slide down..."
5/6 2:00PM Memorial Service.
"Why am I here?" She asked herself for the thousandth time. 'Here' was the heart of the Bruce family traditions. The massive Presbyterian Church with its stone archways was filled from the nave to the rear with people she didn't know. A 'memorial' service because the cremation and burial had been closed to 'family' only. The organist was playing Ode to Joy while the friends and colleagues of Morag's parents settled into their pews. Alone at the back, Cathy was invisible. Possibly just another secretary from the firm. No one would notice. No one would stare.
From the rear came the agonized wails of the Piper inflating the bagpipes, and as he marched down the centre aisle, the family entered single file. Only members of the blood. No sons or daughters in laws, and certainly no Longtime Companions. She watched as Morag's brother and sister followed their parents, trailed by the rest of the uncles and cousins, taking their place in the far away front pews. As they rose for the opening Hymn, she lost sight of Suzanna and Ian's backs. Had it only been last week both of them had been celebrating the news of their new potential niece or nephew?
"You're a member of the family, Cathy. And your child will be too."
The prayers concluded, the congregation joined in to sing Amazing Grace.
I once was lost, but now am found...
In death, they welcomed the lost sheep back into the fold.
'You saved me', Morag had told her one night
Flustered, Cathy had denied it. "I did not.. You were already pulling yourself out. You were attending meetings..."
"No. I would never have made it without you. At the right moment, the right time. I never would have survived, could never be anything, do anything..."
The minister took over the lectern and began the Eulogy. Confusion settled on her. Who was he talking about? She recognized the many references to Morag's father and mother, but the woman they were describing, this saint like woman who had momentarily fallen but returned, she wasn't anyone she had known. Where was Morag? Where was the sometimes angry, sometimes playful, but always passionate woman she had loved? Weren't they satisfied with cremating her body and entombing her ashes? They had to put her memories in another box as well?
There was a jump, a gap and she found herself in the church parking lot; how, she couldn't remember. Her control was slipping. The schedule. She seized on that again. The schedule. Was there anything else? Lost in her thoughts, she jumped when a small boy tapped her shoulder.
"Ma'am? Is this your car?"
Cathy mechanically nodded.
The boy smiled happily. "Then I win! They got us a bunch of us looking all over for this car, there's something they have for you..."
But Cathy was already bolting, opening the car door. Too late, because before she closed it, the legal envelope had been tossed into the car. She tried to reach for it while turning the starter, but there was someone standing in front, and she had use both hands to shift to reverse to pull away. The damning envelope was still with her. That couldn't have counted as being properly served, could it? she wondered. Immediately, the thought came to mind of whom she would normally ask for advice, but that was forced down with ruthless efficiency. As she drove to the cemetery, she had to restrain herself from simply flooring the engine and aiming it at each passing concrete wall. First things first.
5/6 3:00PM Cemetery
She parked beside the Bruce Mausoleum, knowing that she would not enter it. Afraid of the voices inside, afraid they would scream and mock her. 'Cast her out!' just as their descendants had done. She took a breath and closed her eyes. Was she here? Would she listen?
There was a moment of stillness, before she began. No birds, no breeze.
"Morag?" she whispered. "Are you here? Because I want to say I'm sorry. But I can't. I just can't. I can't be a mother, I can't be anything without you. So, please... wait for me. I know after all the trouble we went through for a donor, this is...but I can't. Not without you. So, please, you have to forgive me. We marched on all those protests so people could have a right to choose, and in a way, that's all I'm doing. I'm choosing. I can't stay here alone. I wouldn't be any good raising... not like this. And if we really are soulmates, we'll have another chance, won't we?"
"Could you have an abortion?" Morag had asked her. "I've never known anyone with more respect for life. Don't you think it's a bit of a conflict to work so hard for freedom of choice?"
She'd replied so confidently. "Because not to, would be MY choice. And maybe some day I might be in a position where I might feel differently. But we support our friends who decide to have a child, and we support those that don't. Nobody should have to make that decision, but they do every day. And no one should make it for them. Not the government, and certainly not me."
She stared, blank faced, at the sky "See, Morag? I knew someday there'd be a situation I couldn't imagine. It's happened. I'm making my choice. Because I have to be with you. Wait for me."
She put the car in neutral and gunned the engine, watching the rev indicator. Then she shifted into gear and turned towards the highway.
Music? She turned on the radio and began searching for a song, something she could sing at the top of her lungs. Music to die by, she almost giggled. She saw the construction signs in the distance and continued to increase her speed.
It was only at the last moment when she saw a flash of something green moving behind the pile of concrete pillars that she was aiming for, that she hit the brakes, and the car began to spin. There was a shriek as the wheels locked and a sickening sensation as the car began to roll, then it settled with a whomp! and skidded to a halt on all four wheels.
With her heart pounding, wondering at still being alive, sitting there hyper-ventilating with the car diagonally across the road, she saw the pair of curious eyes staring over the barriers towards her. The child couldn't have been more than five. 'I almost killed someone' she thought, and the irony choked her. She was reaching for the keys to restart the engine, when the van struck her broadside.
One moment she had been in the driver's seat, and then her world exploded into darkness. Suddenly she was aware of someone in the void with her.
Yes, Love., I've got you.
I'm sorry. I couldn't wait...
You're not dead, Love. We only have a little time, and we need to talk.
No! Don't say it! You can't ask me to stay. I can't. I can't live half a life. I can't live without you!
You can. And when it's your time, I'll be here.
Why would you make me do this? What is there? I can't do this alone...Please...
Are you saying I'm a hard act to follow? I'm only telling you what you already know, but you're hurting too much to think about it. There are things that that are worth staying for.
What? You want me to move on? Remarry? No! There's only one soul mate per lifetime, there's only you.
How selfish do you think I am? I'm supposed to let you give up, when I know there's still laughter and joy ahead in your life? I want to watch you live your life. I want to watch your face when you show another student what they are capable of. I want to see you do the things only you can do. Cath. I can't ignore all the people that are going to need you.
Please don't ask me to do this. Please...?
I'll be here for you. Whenever you need to talk. If you hadn't have put up all those walls these last few days, you would have known that.
You can. I'll be here. I never left you. I'm inside you, and around you, and I will be for the rest of your life. And forever after. We'll always have that waiting for us. I promise.
Forever. And Cath...?
You don't have to go to the cemetery. That place is soooo depressing...
Cathy came to consciousness, a broken smile belying her tears. She could see the driver of the van talking on a cell phone, and she did a quick evaluation of her condition.
Nothing seemed broken except she could tell her neck was going to be sore. Her door and the passenger seat were crushed so she wasn't going anywhere for a while. With almost no movement possible, she saw that the damned folder had somehow ended up right in her lap. Her hands trembled as she opened it.
On the top was a note from Morag's brother, Ian.
Cathy, I'm so sorry.
Why Morag didn't make sure that her will couldn't be broken, I don't know. But I've been working on the adoption papers that Morag drew up and we had them notarized. In this state your child will inherit all of her estate, and we've named you the executrix of the trust. Mom and Dad will never fight this if there's even a chance of any publicity, so don't worry about them. They're our problem, okay?
The new keys to your house are in the envelope, and if you don't want to live there, you have the money to go wherever you want. Your joint accounts are still frozen until probate, but there's a chequing account opened in your name. The cheques are included.
Mor'g would never let me sleep if Suz and I didn't do this, so no thanks are necessary.
I know she'll be looking after you.
It's only money, but no matter what happens, we'll be there as well.
She could barely read the familiar handwriting through the tears, but she made out the first lines:
I, Morag Alexandra Bruce, declare freely and with love, that the child being carried by Catherine Anne Conner is my child as much as it is hers...
There was a rapping on the window. She looked up to see the worried face of the van's driver.
"Miss? Are you all right? Are you hurt badly?"
The tears continued to flow as something broke inside of her, but she managed a smile.
"Yes.... But I'm going to try to get better. I'm going to try so hard...."