The letter came in the post on a Monday.
It added to the somewhat weighty feeling the start of a week can bring, walking in to see the handwriting sitting on my doormat. It had been thirteen years since I'd heard from her.
My initial thought was of how dramatic a letter was, so like her. She could easily have just sent me a DM or even emailed; my address was in my bio. But no, a letter, of course, even if the effort of finding my address took time out of her day, something she had never wanted to give before.
I tore back the think yellowish envelope flap, the thin line of shiny glue making it tricky to prize open. It's not a massively thick envelope but it's thick enough for me to want to at least take a quick look before I throw it out.
Joe walks through the door and drums his fingers on the table, an old habit, something I barely notice anymore. 'you alright babe?' I pull out the paper as I answer, 'yeah, you love? How was work?' he pulled out the peanut butter and a loaf of bread as he answered, telling me about a day that fell in deaf ears, my eyes focused on scanning the page in front of me. the familiar chunky handwriting brings back flash memories of apology notes, alarms, and social services workers. I shake off a light shiver and Joe walks over placing a hand on my shoulder. 'What you got there?'
‘Looks like she finally bothered to write.'
His brow furrows as he leans down to see the paper. It’s not a long letter, half a side of paper. I'm divided, part of me doesn’t even want to read it, the anger I harbored for years simmering just below the surface. But the other part, the child in me is begging to see what she's said, what little acknowledgement of my existence she’s given this time.
It’s the child that wins, as I knew she would. My eyes scan the page as Joes do, taking in her words which play through my head in her voice, something I heard most through the answering machine.
I know me leaving you has left you with a hatred for me that I can’t help but understand. I
know I broke your heart by doing what you begged me not to Cas and I need you to know, I am so deeply sorry. Nothing I can do anymore can give you back the childhood you deserve and I wish it could but If you will allow me, I still want to make amends. To try to, even just to talk. If you feel comfortable, please meet me Cas.’
Below was an address and she’d signed it ‘Mom’
Joe finishes reading at the same time as I did and let out a sigh. ‘How do you feel?’
I shrug and place the paper down. ‘I find it funny’ I reply ‘her audacity’
He nods picking up his freshly made toast. ‘i get that babe, of course I do. But if you feel up to it, don’t you feel it might help? To bring you some colure maybe, even stop the dreams?’
He’d been great with those. The dreams where I'd wake up in the middle of the night crying because six year old me was standing watching the car drive her mother away down the road again.
I hadn't considered that. I'd let the repressed simmering anger boil over finally and as usual, he’d brought me back to sense. Maybe I should?
‘Do you think I should?’
He looks up and shoots me his familiar comforting smile.
‘I think you should do whatever you feel you need to do Cas’
The nutty undertones of the coffee shop fill my nostrils as I push open the door, washing over me in a wave of warmth. I walk in, making my way to a two person table by the window, smiling at the waitress as I take a seat. The view is pretty, you can see the nearby river, quite picturesque in the soft autumn sunshine.
The shop bell tinkles and to me time slows down. Way down. And then starts running backwards instead, like the rewinding of a tape, back into my childhood as I meet the eyes of my mother for the first time in thirteen years.
‘Mu- Jan.’ I stutter
I get to my feet awkwardly, I don’t know why, I don’t quite feel like a hug but instead gesture to the seat opposite.
‘Thank you for meeting me, I honestly didn’t think you would’
‘Neither did I actually’
She nods and tries to smile
‘So how have you been?’
We talk for hours. I hadn’t thought I'd stay for long. But two oat milk lattes and multiple pastries later we’re still talking. She tells me about the life she’d gone on to have, her path seeking help, her motivation to get better.
‘It was you Cas. But I knew I couldn’t come back into your life before I was one hundred percent sure I was well enough to be there for you if you’d let me. To play some kind of a role in your life again, even if it was simply some woman you met for coffee. I had to try.’
By the time Joe rang it was getting dark outside, the last golden yellows just fading from the skyline. I hadn't noticed how long we’d spoken but I did notice the weight that had lifted from my chest and the relief it brought me. I had felt for years as though she just didn’t want me, that I hadn’t been good enough for her. That she’d left to get away, no idea that she’d left so that in the long run she could actually remain part of my life. Or even life itself.
We left together through the door, walking out into a cool breeze coming from the river. As we stood to part ways, she thanked me again, for the chance to explain and give me some comfort in knowing I was never the reason to her leaving. She reached out for a hug and this time I did, I was happy to. For so long I'd felt as though I was never quite good enough, like I must have done something wrong along the way and yet she’d managed to take that away despite the years of it sitting comfortably at home within me.
I went home more than happy. Joe saw it the second I walked in the door, the glow in my cheeks and as he said the, ‘Joy in your eyes’. As I lay down to sleep all I could think of was the future of sweet dreams awaiting me on my pillow.