Gerry answered the door. Standing there on the icy path of her ground floor flat was a woman in a long black coat which was peppered with snow. She wore dark sunglasses which Gerry thought odd for the time of year; the sun hadn’t been out all morning. With a thick woollen scarf almost covering her mouth and a Trapper hat, Gerry could barely see the lady’s face. In fact, she only assumed it was a female standing before her because of the patient pointy heeled boots and long straggly pink hair that looked like it was escaping from her hat. The woman was silent. Awkwardly so. Gerry believed the correct etiquette dictated that the visitor should talk first. Eventually Gerry took the situation into her own hands,
“Can I help you?” The lady adjusted her scarf to remove it from her chin before she answered.
“Erm yes, are you Jennifer Franklin?” The lady queried, almost stammering. She was clearly nervous.
“No.” Gerry was blunt. She started to step backwards from the doorstep.
“Oh, does she live here then? Or do you know her, please?” The lady continued as she started to rummage around in her handbag. Gerry stepped back further into her warm flat,
“No lady, she doesn’t and I don’t,” Gerry started to close the door, “you have the wrong house. Goodbye.” The Chubb lock clicked into place. Gerry shrugged her shoulders, dusted off some of the snowflakes that had blown onto her top and then grabbed her cardigan which hung on the coat rack and threw it on as she made her way along the hallway. Standing at the door for just those few moments had left her a cold. Before she had gotten past the stairs, she heard her knocker tap on the door again. It stopped her in her tracks and she looked down at her feet and sighed. She knew it would be the same person again. As she spun around on her heels she noticed that the picture on the wall next to her was not level. It was one of her favourite pictures of herself as a toddler, cuddling her most treasured purple hedgehog. As she adjusted the frame, the fleeting warm emotions she felt faded and she begrudgingly made her way back to the front door. Gerry swung the door open in renewed frustration,
“Yes?” She demanded.
The woman was taken aback by the sudden appearance of Gerry at the door and the disdain in her voice.
“Sorry to disturb you again.” She paused waiting for validation, but Gerry was staunch. “I’ve got this document,” she declared, waving a crumpled piece of paper in front of Gerry’s face,“Are your parents Leonard and Sharon Franklin?”.
Gerry looked confused and snatched the paper out of the lady’s hand,
“Maybe, and who wants to know?” Gerry was defensive, “and what’s this you have?” Gerry scanned her eyes over the document. It was an adoption certificate. It had her mum and dad’s name on it along with someone called Jennifer Stanton. Gerry didn’t recognise the name. Before the lady could attempt to answer Gerry’s questions, Gerry offered the lady the document back, “I don’t know what this is, but it has nothing to do with me.”
“I think it actually has everything to do with you, maybe we could talk?” the woman requested gently while removing her sunglasses.
“No, I don’t know you, and I’m not interested in anything you have to say. Goodbye.” Gerry started to close the door but the lady boldly stepped forward and put her right foot over the threshold. Gerry stopped short of crushing the woman’s foot. She looked the woman in the eyes, “could you please remove your foot and leave my property?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t, I really think you need to hear what I have to say.” The woman looked up at the snow that had started to come down more heavily and then back at Gerry. “Please, could I just come in?”
Gerry was shocked at this strangers request,
“No! Like I said, I have no idea who you are, so why on earth would I let you into my flat?” Gerry attempted to close the door again and watched as the woman finally relented by removing her foot. Before the door shut completely, Gerry heard the woman’s now muffled voice answer,
“Because I’m your birth mother.”
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Gerry swung the door open again. The lady had already started to leave but stopped in her tracks and turned her head back to look at Gerry.
“I have strong evidence to suggest I’m your birth mother. ”
“Don’t be ridiculous, my birth mother was Sharon Franklin,” Gerry responded confidently.
The lady approached the doorstep once more. Gerry watched as she took her hand in both of hers and surprised herself by not flinching as she usually would. However, she kept hold of the door with her other hand for security.
“If you are who I think, I believe that you were adopted by Leonard and Sharon, and I am your biological mother.” Gerry took back her hand as she felt uncomfortable but continued to listen further, “ My name is Mary Connor, my maiden name was Stanton. On 17th February 2000, I gave birth to a baby girl at Lewisham Hospital, I named her Jennifer after my grandmother. I was only fifteen at the time.” Mary let out her breath as if a great weight had been lifted from her. She looked down at her snow covered boots and then back up to Gerry. Mary waited for a reaction. Gerry rubbed her arms to encourage some warmth and then put out her hand to take back the adoption certificate from Mary. She looked confused as her eyes scanned over it for a second time.
“But my name is Gerry Franklin not Jennifer. I don’t understand,” Gerry protested in a somewhat a bewildered voice.
“Your adoptive parents must have changed your name at some point.” Mary offered. Gerry looked up from the document and saw that Mary was now quite wet with the consistent fall of snow. Part of her wanted to let her into the warmth of her flat, but the other part, the part that prevented her from feeling the cold seep into her own bones held her feet steadfast at the doorstep. Letting Mary in would mean her life was a lie. Gerry couldn’t have that.
“Maybe I could explain more over a cup of tea?” Mary suggested, “It’s getting colder out here and you’re not even wearing a coat.” Gerry looked down at herself and then back to Mary,
“I don’t feel the cold and I don’t have any tea.”
“Coffee then?” Mary tried.
“I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable letting you into my flat. What you are claiming is all a bit much if I’m honest and I’m not sure why you would want to come and disrupt my life in this way.” By now, Gerry didn’t know if she was angry, frustrated or upset. “I would like you to go now. Please,” Gerry offered Mary the certificate back, but Mary wouldn’t take it.
“I can see you’re both angry and upset and I’m sorry. If we could just have a proper conversation? I’m happy to answer any questions you have,” Mary pushed.
“To be fair to you, Mary, Mary is it?” Mary nodded and Gerry continued, “To be fair to you Mary, at this point, I don’t think it’s you that needs to be satisfying any questions that I may have right now. My mum and dad, it’s them I need to talk to about this. Like I’ve said, I don’t know you, so I won’t let you into my personal space, my home. Even if you were to be my birth mother,” Gerry air quoted, “I still DON’T know you and just because I might have come out of your-your-your,” Gerry repeated, trying to find the right word, “your womb, it doesn’t mean we will have any sort of relationship.” Gerry threw the adoption certificate at Mary and slammed the door shut. Her breathing was quick with the adrenaline of her mixed emotions. She rested her head on the door for a few moments, she could feel the cold wood against her hot forehead. As her breathing returned to a steady pace she heard the letterbox open below her, and a single photograph dropped onto the doormat by her feet. Gerry tried to make out what it was without moving, but it was upside down and looked faded. She knelt down and picked it up. There in the picture was a young girl who looked a little like Mary. The girl was sitting on a hospital bed cradling a baby swaddled in pink. Tucked under the baby’s arm was a purple plush hedgehog.