I Wish I Never Knew

Submitted into Contest #125 in response to: Write a story including the phrase “Better late than never”.... view prompt

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Drama Fiction

“You will always be mum and dad to me but I have to do this” she told them.

“We know love; it’s silly but your dad and I want you to come home afterwards”.

“Are you kidding Mum? Why wouldn’t I come back? This is my home you daft thing. I just need to do this, find out who gave birth to me when she was just sixteen and gave me away. Anyway it might not happen – people don’t always find their birth parents”. She walked around the table and put her arms around Jenny, her mother since she was six weeks old. This kind lady, soft skin, salt and pepper hair, bright blue eyes - was Bella’s hero. She not only adopted three children when they were babies but fostered kids for years. This bustling, loving home was a haven to many lonely and mistreated children over the years. It hadn’t been easy some of the time with tantrums and yelling and crying and one time a youngster hiding in the cupboard under the stairs, being found by the police. She had climbed into one of the empty packing boxes in the lightless room and fallen asleep. There was never a dull moment!

 Jenny had so much love to give to everyone and her arms were always giving someone a big warm hug. Bella’s dad Graham, was as warm and loving as her mum was, but just

 quieter and more reserved. He was the parent to play cards with you, teach you how to do a task properly and with care, read stories to you for hours – he also had arms that you felt safe and protected in when they were wrapped around you. Some of the foster children had difficulty settling in and conforming to the rules of the house; although simple enough - to respect, not use foul language, and no fighting, it was difficult for kids who had never had any boundaries before living at Jenny’s. 

She both wanted and not wanted to find her mother. She thought that if she had given her up then, why would she want to see her now after all this time? It wasn’t until she was sixteen that the idea even crossed her mind - another girl in her class told her that she had been adopted and was going to meet her biological mother.

She came home from school that day feeling as if the part of her that seemed lost would be found when she met her birth mother.  She told Jenny about what she wanted to do, and her mother as always was kind and loving saying “Of course you should find her. I’ve waited for this day, sort of dreaded it too, but I understand Bella. You need to know. I will help you start the process.

This is what she had hoped Jenny would say but didn’t honestly know what her initial reaction would be. After all it was like putting people together who should have shared a lifetime of love but didn’t, and there was the hope that the love would surface when they saw each other again. ‘But Mum knows I will always love her more than anyone’ she said to herself.

She knew Jenny and Robert as her parents but out there somewhere was her biological parents – whether they wanted to see and meet her she didn’t know yet. She had an empty feeling inside that would come and go at different times. Now she thought that perhaps it was something that adopted children felt and it only really went away when you pieced together your life.

“Mum” she said to Jenny as they sat down together to have afternoon tea.

“What is it? It sounds very serious!’

“What do you think she will be like?”

“Your mean your….. (Jenny didn’t want to say the word ‘mum’) biological mother? Well if you look anything like her Bella, dark hair, tanned skin, long skinny legs, big brown eyes, and quite beautiful?”

“But what if I look like the person who fathered me!”

“Who knows that Bella? Maybe it’s your father who has the dark hair and eyes and your…mother has the opposite, you’ll just have to wait and see won’t you”.

Bella continued with “I just can’t believe that my mother had me when she wasn’t much older than I am now?”

“Yes but we don’t know any of the circumstances of how or why she got pregnant, there could be a lot of reasons why that happened. You might find out one day love”.

Jenny would never let Bella know how she really felt about her finding her biological mother and perhaps father. She had dreaded this day. Only her husband knew that – and how it stemmed from her own insecurities she had whilst growing up.

She hadn’t been adopted but there were many times during her childhood that she wished she had been. Her family home had been fraught with anger and violence. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother had been depressed for as long as Jenny remembered. She can at times still hear in her head her dad yelling – he would come home drunk and throw his dinner plate across the kitchen because the food looked dry. How was her mother supposed to keep his dinner from being dried out? All she had to warm it was a pot of boiling water on the stove and a saucepan lid covering the plate above the bubbling water? She never knew what time he was coming home but he demanded his dinner hot, the words coming out of his loose mouth in a drunken, obscene tirade.

Her mother would try and placate him, offering to make his something else, quickly rushing to pick up the broken crockery and the meat and vegetables that were splattered across the floor and walls. All he said to her was “I’m out to get fish and chips” and slammed the door behind him.

The two younger children sat on the couch, huddled together, wide eyed, used to hearing and seeing the violent scenes. Sometimes Jenny’s mum made them go to their bedroom before her dad got in but once inside their room, they would sit on the bed they shared and just listen, Jack telling Lucy “I don’t like it when dad shouts  loud and gets so angry that he throws his dinner on the floor. When I’m a grown up I won’t do that” to which she replied “It’s only when he’s been drinking. I heard Mum tell Aunty Joan that”.

Jenny would walk up to her crying mother and put her arms around her shoulders telling her that one day when she worked and had earned enough money, she would buy her mum a house of her own and they would live together….and her little sister and brother.

She hated what her dad did to her mum and knew that when she one day had a husband and family, it would be a happy and safe environment for everyone who lived under the roof. No anxiety, bedwetting and sore tummies.

When Jenny began working and earning money she asked her mother to move into a rental property with her. “Mum, it will be safe and peaceful – you won’t have to put up with what dad does and says to you anymore. I can look after you. Please Mum”. Lucy and Jack had already left home, Jack into the navy and Lucy moved in with her boyfriend when she was eighteen.

But her mum didn’t want to leave her dad. “He’s not well Jenny. I know what he’s like but he really does love me and I need to look after him. He doesn’t drink like he used to. I’m alright, I really am love” and she looked at her daughter with a sad and resigned look in her eyes.

“I can’t make you leave him mum but if you ever need to come over and stay I will always be waiting for you” and the next week Jenny left home and moved into her own flat.

When Jenny had been married to Graham for three years and they found out they couldn’t have children, they decided to adopt. All three children were adopted at about six week of age. It was a happy house full of love. When the children were all at school, Jenny decided that they could give more children a safe and loving environment so began to foster.

Bella had to admit that she was excited at the prospect of finding her mother and possibly her father. She wanted to know firstly what they looked like, their personalities, what they had done for the last sixteen years and lots of other things.

She had watched a film once where a girl who was adopted out at a few weeks of age was reunited with her mother when she was 17. The mother had married, not the father of the baby but someone else when she was 26 and had two more children, but had never stopped looking for the daughter she gave away. The movie ended happily of course, with everyone becoming one big happy family. Bella was a romantic but after living in a home with disruptive and sometimes very difficult kids she knew that life wasn’t a fairy story at the best of times.

Not long after her decision to look for her mother the friend in Bella’s class at school had some good news about her own search. She was animated as she told Bella that her mother had been tracked down and lived only about three hours’ drive away, and was very eager to meet her daughter.

“She named me Leanne apparently but my parents changed it to Danni when they adopted me. I’m grateful for that, I hate the name Leanne!” and they both laughed.

“Do you know what she looks like yet?” Bella asked her friend.

“No” she replied “but I have seen a photo of when I was born and my birth mother is in it” Danni replied. She asked my dad to take a photo and show it to me one day, which they did, but it is so dark and grainy that I can’t tell what she really looks like. I’m meeting her next weekend. We’re all driving up on the Friday night and staying at a motel then seeing her on the Saturday”.

“Are you excited” Bella asked

“Both excited and a bit scared” Danni replied smiling at her friend “I just don’t want her to meet me and then to not want to see me again. I was abandoned once when I didn’t even know about it, but I don’t want it to happen when I know what’s going on”.

“Well I haven’t heard anything yet about finding my birth parents but I’ve been told that I have to be patient because it can take a really long time. When Mum rang the agency that we are dealing with the other day to find out if they had heard anything, the woman said the strangest thing – well I thought it was strange when I heard it”. In a very condescending tone she told my mum “These things all take time – one can’t be impatient and besides, it’s better late than never”….

“Yes that is a bit of an odd thing to say – it’s not like you’re waiting to receive a new pair of shoes through the post!! Danni agreed.

“I didn’t have to look for my parents – an Aunt who was a sister of my birth mother got the wheels in motion. There was only so much she could do though because it wasn’t her who gave birth to me, but by the time she had a few leads, her sister had decided that she actually did want to find me.

Danni went to meet her birth mother whose name was Margaret. She also met Margaret’s husband Joe and her two half-sisters, Lee and Lila.

“At first it was a bit awkward” Danni told Bella at school but once we had hugged and cried and wiped our tears, clinging on to each other for what seemed an eternity, we all sat down outside at a café and talked. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. My mum and dad warmed to Margaret straight away and although it was clear that we were two separate families with a connection from a long time ago, I could feel warmth and love all around me. I got on really well with my half-sisters, and I even looked a bit like one of them! Margaret hadn’t kept in touch with my birth father after she had me so doesn’t know where he is or anything about him. She said that I could probably find him if I really wanted to”.

“Will you keep in touch with them all?” Bella asked, slightly envious that Danni had found her birth mother and even had other family. She knew it was a bit mean to feel this way but couldn’t help it and consoled herself with the thought that it could be her turn soon.

“Yes we’re going to. They don’t live that far away so they said in the next school holidays they would all come and visit us. We hardly scratched the surface of what has happened to us all in the last sixteen years! I am so happy Jemma. I feel complete and I didn’t think I would feel this different – so excited about the future. Funny isn’t it really?”

“I’m so glad that you found your mum Bella – and the fact that she wanted to see you in the end makes it even better. I just can’t wait for the phone call to come to say that we can meet up with my birth mum. I just wish it would happen soon” and she hugged her friend genuinely delighted for her.

The phone call they had been waiting for came five weeks after Bella’s conversation with Danni. It seemed like it had been about five months!

“We have to go into the office tomorrow love” Jenny told her daughter when she got home from school – they’ve got news for us – well especially for you Bella.

“Mum I’m so excited “and she jumped up and down like a little child, running over to Jenny to hug her.

Bella could hardly sleep that night – she had the day off school (“it’s only a Friday anyway” she said to Danni when telling her the good news)

The place they had to go to was in a complex that housed a variety of businesses – a lawyers, hairdressing salon, a Dr surgery and a ‘small business claims’ office. They were all on the ground floor and very easy to find. They walked into the office and up to the counter. A smiley young girl asked them their names and who they were there to see telling them to sit down and wait for a few minutes until they were called.

The waiting room felt like a dental surgery waiting room, a bit sterile. Chairs, very pale grey and matching the walls were placed up against the two open walls. They were the only two people waiting and it was very quiet. The only sound they could hear was the receptionist typing on the computer and a clock ticking on the wall closest to the door.

“I’m nervous Mum” Bella said to her mother and reached over to hold her hand.

“It’s exciting love. You’ll be fine” and she stroked her daughter’s hand softly.

Three months after that appointment Jenny still couldn’t help but cry sometimes when she thought about it. It was the shock of being told about her birth mother in such a matter of fact way, as if because they hadn’t seen each other since her birth, it didn’t really matter.

“Sit down please” the woman behind the desk had said to them. “Now there really isn’t an easy way to say this but the person you have been trying to locate, your birth mother Jemma, was killed in a car accident eighteen months after you were born. We haven’t been able to track down your birth father but we’re told he left the country a year or so after the death of Miss Richardson”.

The room was silent. Nobody moved for what seemed like a long time, but was probably a few seconds, and then Jenny said in a clear, controlled voice. “Thank you. I think we will leave now to process what you’ve just told us. If we could have that report forwarded to my address please we would be grateful. And with that they both left the room. Bella hadn’t said a word and they both walked quickly to the car.

Once inside the car Jemma burst into tears, and later sat drying her eyes and sniffing. Jenny watched on helpless and knowing that she needed to let it out.

Bella wiped her eyes and blew her nose then she turned to Jenny and leant over to hug her tight. “I’m so sorry my darling” her mother said into her hair. I really wanted you to find and meet the person who brought you into this world. I feel so sad Jemma that she’s gone”.

“I know Mum. I feel sad and angry at the same time, even though I never knew her. Fourteen years ago she died and we never knew - and without knowing how happy and well loved her little baby was” and she started crying again.

When they arrived home Bella told her mum that she just needed to be alone for a little while before talking about it.

She sat on her bed.

Inside her diary she wrote in bold print ‘IT ISN’T ‘BETTER LATE THAN NEVER’…..IT’S BETTER TO NEVER KNOW.

December 23, 2021 12:32

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