'I'm looking forward to the day when my grandmother loves me again'.
I hadn't spoken to you in almost three years when you came to me that day. I was surprised when the door bell rang, even more surprised when I saw you stood on the stoop outside. I tried to control myself, but I'm still sure that you noticed the momentary smile that overcame my face. It had been three years since this little girl, my precious granddaughter, had stood before me. The thought of why that fact remained quickly came to me, and I managed to steel myself.
It was only when I glanced over your shoulder, looking at your car parked on the drive, that I saw her in the passenger seat. She chances a smile, and I responded with a glare. There was the reason that you had been gone for so long. You had chosen a life with her, and even after three years you hadn't faltered. I had expected it to have all fallen apart much faster, though really I shouldn't have. I knew how stubborn you were. If you said 'forever', then it was going to be forever. You didn't do anything by halves.
"Abuela..." your voice sounded, bringing me from my thoughts. It was almost a whisper, much softer than I ever remembered it. I quickly glanced towards your car again, knowing that she was probably the reason that you even knew that tone of voice existed, that you could be vulnerable and delicate. I think I silently thanked her in my mind, though this time she wouldn't meet my eyes. "I came by to give you this."
You handed me an envelope. It was white with gold floral swirls as decoration, 'Abuela' written neatly across the front in what looked to be your neatest hand-writing. We had always struggled with your handwriting, especially when you were younger. You had been obsessed with learning to write with your right hand, not wanting the other kids to know you were a 'lefty'. So much so that you refused to write with your left hand for quite some time. You had almost forgotten how to once you started again, neither hand being strong enough to keep up with the other kids in your class. You had caught up fast, however. You always did.
I glanced up from the envelope in my hands, an inquisitive look on my face.
You didn't say anything in reply, you simply took a deep breath, swallowed the knot that must have been building in your throat, and lifted your hand. It lay on your finger, stunning yet elegantly subtle. It shone in the light as you sent a nervous smile my way. I could see you looking on apprehensively out of the corner of my eye, my focus fully on that ring. I had been waiting for this day for years, waiting for the announcement that you were engaged, that there would be a big white wedding with bells and guests and the most terrific after-party. I almost let those memories cloud the reality that there wouldn't be a groom waiting at the alter, the man in a tux stood opposite the girl in the big white dress. I almost allowed myself to forget that this wouldn't be the wedding that I had always dreamed, because you stood before me and showing me the perfect ring that lay on your finger was part one of the dream.
But the dream wasn't reality. It never could be now.
I tore my eyes away, down at the envelope that I'm sure contained my invitation, and shook my head. I didn't speak as I held it out, handing it back to you. I watched your face crumple, your hand drop and your head tilt to the side slightly, in that same way it always did when you didn't understand. I looked away quickly, pushing the envelope further towards you until you took it from my hands. I saw you ring as you did so, the shine suddenly gone, before I turned around and closed the door.
I heard a car door close almost instantly and, from the small window beside my door, saw your fiancé jogging towards you. I watched you fall into her almost instantly, her strong arms catching you and pulling you into her. I watched her tightly close her eyes, she knew that you couldn't see as she tried to keep the tears that sat in her eyes from falling. She was whispering in your ear, I think, and kissing you softly on the top of your head, her hands stroking your hair in an attempt to soothe you.
I turned and walked away.
I heard the wedding was nice. I couldn't resist going online and finding your facebook, remembering when you had set it up for me and laughed as I rolled my eyes. I remembered the password that you set; 'santanaismyfavorite', and how I had told you that I would never remember something that long.
I remembered it first time.
I had logged on, after struggling for quite some time, and navigated to your page. That part wasn't hard, though. All I saw on the page that greeted me were pictures of the two of you, of that day, and messages of congratulations.
It looked like such a celebration. You looked beautiful. More beautiful that I ever imagined when I thought of your wedding day, beyond my wildest dreams. Your hair was left to fall over your shoulders, curled and styled in a way that framed your face. I smiled, remembering how I had always told you that your hair looked best down. You had a veil that sat neatly atop of your head, fell softly down your back. Your dress was just as I had imagined; sleek and understated, yet enough to keep every eye in the room on you. It shone in the light, the detailing on the front subtle but beautiful. You held the bouquet in your hand, a smile on your face that I had never seen before.
You were alone in that picture, though when I managed to navigate to the next picture, you were joined by your wife. The thought made my breath hitch, my heart racing and a strange sick feeling settling in my stomach. It looked like she had only just joined you for the pictures, because you looked so natural. It hadn't been posed, not like the previous picture. She had her arms around your waist, leaning into you with her forehead against your own. Your hands were halfway to snaking around her neck, the bouquet now held over her back. She was looking at you in a way that made my heart beat faster than I ever imagined. Her smile literally shone, her happiness unmistakeable accompanied by the adoration in her eyes. She was holding on to you tightly, your own eyes focused entirely on her own. Bright blue beside deep brown, light blonde against striking black.
I browsed through the rest of your pictures, the posed pictures looking like something that your mother would already have plastered all over the walls. I imagined the scene with a smile, you rolling your eyes as you saw pictures of yourself and your wife all over the walls of the sitting room. A strong sadness followed it, knowing that these photographs would never be on my own walls. Knowing that the smile I had seen, that I had never seen before, would never sit in my own sitting room. The smiles on both of your faces would have been enough to light the room.
I had closed it down not long after that, unable to shake the feelings that they gave me for the rest of the day. Even as I lay in bed I was unable to sleep, the thoughts of what I had missed plaguing me.
I had missed my own granddaughter's wedding. I had missed her give herself to somebody else, and receive them in return. I had missed my granddaughter become a wife.
I had missed my granddaughter marry her wife.
Your mother showed up a few days later, her stern face showing that she had not yet forgiven me. I tried to keep my face strong, tried to show that she was my daughter, and had no right to judge me for my own decisions. I wasn't sure how well I had kept that façade up, however, knowing that I couldn't even forgive myself.
She handed me an envelope, a bigger one that had something heavy inside, before stepping back out of the door. "You would have loved it," she said simply, not averting her focus. "She looked beautiful."
She turned and left after that. It was a picture in the envelope, as if she had heard my thoughts the few days prior when I had found them on the internet. It was that one, the one that was taken before you had began to pose for the camera.
I smiled sadly, tracing your face with my thumb. A piece of paper fell to the ground, falling from the thick gold frame, and I bent to pick it up.
You always talked about my wedding day, so I thought I would give you something. I wish you could have been there, it was everything that you had imagined and more. I'm so happy.
I don't remember how long I cried for.
The next time you came, you were together. It had been a year, and besides that letter, I hadn't heard from you at all. I kept the picture on my bedside table. It was strangely comforting to know that, despite your life not going in the direction that I had planned for you, you were happy. I didn't understand how sin could look so beautiful, and on many a night I had tried to understand. I had even considered calling you once, your number tapped in and my hand hovering above the 'call' button. I was missing out on so much.
I opened the door and found her eyes first. I understood what you always used to say about her having eyes like the ocean, and really I should have known that you would be married when you had said those things at eight years old. 'Eyes like the ocean and hair like the sun' you had said. Looking at her now, nothing has changed. Even thirteen years on, she was still as bright as ever. She smiled at me, though I could feel the nervousness. The fact that I didn't smile back probably didn't help.
I looked to you next, your face just one of fear. I hated that I made you feel like that. You looked nervous, shuffling your feet slightly, and that's when I saw your hands. Your hand was holding hers impossibly tightly, your knuckles turning pale. I looked a little longer, noticing that hers was holding yours just as tight. The rings were there, your wedding ring looking even more beautiful than the engagement ring.
"Can we come in?" you asked quietly. I didn't reply, I just tore my attention away from your hands and stepped aside.
I watched you lead her to the sitting room, your hands still together, as I closed the door. I gave you a moment, and gave myself a moment also, before I followed.
We had been sat for almost five minutes of silence. I had considered offering you tea, but I wouldn't fall to those courteous gestures, not when you had simply walked in and helped yourself to everything in my kitchen for so long. You were never a guest in this house, and I wasn't ready to face the reality that you now were.
"Abuela," I heard your voice finally sound, looking up at the two of you. It was clear that you had been trying to built up the courage to speak.
It was only then that I realised I hadn't spoken. Not just today, but since that day four years ago. I hadn't spoken since I told you to leave my house and never return, since I told you that I never wanted to see you again. My mouth went dry, and I managed a feeble nod in recognition that I had heard. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what I would say if I opened my mouth and tried to speak. I wasn't ready to allow myself to speak, not wanting to say something that would prompt you to leave, but also not something that would give you the impression that I was okay with you and your wife holding hands in my sitting room. I glanced at your hands quickly before looking away.
"I know that you don't want us to be here, but I'm still your granddaughter..." you spoke, a little more confidence in your voice. "Mom told me that you would still want to know. When there's news."
I nodded again, looking up. The "your mother is right" slipped through my lips before I had even realised, and your face lit up slightly. I felt my heart swell at the sight, though when you averted your eyes to find Brittany's encouraging blue, my heart stung again.
"We're..." you paused, taking a breath, still looking at her. I saw her smile slightly, nodding. You nodded back, looking down.
She seemed to understand, your own language always a mystery to me. She turned to me now, you still looking at the space on the couch between the two of you. She offered me that same small smile as she caught my attention, though my face stayed emotionless. "We're having a baby."
I heard my own breathing stop after a shot gasp, my eyes widening I'm sure. You must have heard too, because you risked a glance in my direction, trying to gage my reaction. I don't think you could, because you kept your eyes on me. I couldn't read my own reaction either. I felt a tugging at the corner of my lips, urging me to smile. I felt a burst of happiness that was accompanied so cruelly by reality. I felt that same sick feeling that I did as I looked through your pictures online, as I looked at that picture beside my bed every night.
I looked at Brittany, at your wife. She was still looking at me, still holding you together simply by holding your hand in hers. Her eyes were still big and blue, trusting and open. Her lips were still forming a smile, a hint of her pearly white teeth showing between them. She would make a wonderful mother.
I looked away, down at the ground, trying to collect my thoughts.
"I'm pregnant," you added, as if reading my mind. You are carrying a child. My own granddaughter is carrying a child.
"Santana is the oven for this one," Brittany chimed in, a small bubbly chuckle following. I could tell that she was trying to lighten the mood. At the same time as resenting the gesture, I welcomed it. Especially when I heard your own giggle follow. I looked up to see her nudging you, you shaking your head with that smile on your face. "I'll be the oven for the next," she added, turning to me. "We got a donor that was blonde. I wanted the baby to kind of look like both of us, you know? He had blue eyes, though they also kind of looked green, so maybe the baby will come out with green eyes. But that's okay, because it will still have Santana's genes. I don't think Santana could make an ugly baby."
I didn't look back at you, but simply down at my hands that were clasped tightly together. I allowed myself to indulge in the happiness for a moment, giving in to the pull that was forcing me to smile, keeping the small gesture to myself as I tucked my chin further into my chest. I remember the wedding pictures, the way you had looked both together and apart. It would be a beautiful baby.
"Are you okay?" you asked after a moment or two, I wasn't sure how long.
I nodded, lifting my head. "When are you expecting?" I asked evenly, too many emotions running through me to really present you with any.
"October," you smile. "I'm fifteen weeks gone."
Fifteen weeks. You had been pregnant for almost four months and I had no idea. I hated that I had missed that first moment, when the tests were positive and the excitement was uncontainable. I imagine it in my mind, imagine how you would race to tell your mother, how she would try to keep it under wraps until things were a little further along, but would have told the entire family by the end of the week.
You untangle yourself from Brittany, sitting a little straighter as you dig into your bag. "We had a scan," you say, pulling out the little picture that is presented in a small card. You don't try to hand it to me, simply placing it on one of the small tables in the room. "It's weird that there's actually a baby in here..." you laugh, looking down at your stomach and pushing down your shirt slightly. I almost gasp as I see that your stomach is already protruding slightly. You were always so slim, even the slightest change was evident. It was a tiny bump, the baby clearly destined to be as short as you. I smiled at the thought, unable to stop myself, and continued to look at the bump. You must have noticed, because you flattened a hand against your stomach and held it there gently. "You can..." you stopped, waiting for my eyes to return to your own. When they did, you swallowed hard. "You can come to the next scan. If you want."
I was frozen, staring back at you. I don't think I moved for at least a minute, feeling your eyes on me, waiting expectantly.
I don't know how long it was before I shook my head and saw your face fall, or until I looked away. I stood, flatting out my skirt and moving towards the door. "You should leave," I stated simply, walking and waiting for you to follow.
I waited outside of the sitting room, hearing whispers and rustling as you got your things together. I thought back to the note that you sent along with the picture; 'I understand'. I wondered if you still did, especially now that I didn't understand myself. I was elated at the thought of a baby, of you having a child. But then the reality set in, the reality of this child having two mothers, of you and your wife bringing this child up. What would happen when you went to parent/teacher conferences, when the child turned up with both of their mothers. Or when they would make a new friend, and have to explain that there was no father figure in their life. The thought shook me, and I closed my eyes.
I was still waiting for you when I heard your quiet sob from the other side of the door, making my eyes clamp shut even tighter.
"Baby," I heard a whisper try to soothe you. "Santana. Honey, it's okay. We're okay."
I heard rustling for another moment until it came to a stop, a sharp intake of breath following seconds later. I knew what that was, especially when I heard your lips smack and both of you let out a long, shaky breath. The image of you kissing her in my sitting room made a tear that I hadn't even noticed fall from my eye, and I quickly moved my hand to catch it.
You went into labour just under a week before your due date. The baby was due on the 15th of October. Your mother called me, her voice full of worry and panic, though also pride and excitement. She called me on the way to the hospital, telling me that Brittany had already gotten you there, and your father was driving the two of them. She asked what time I would be turning up, because she had a feeling it wouldn't take long.
She had turned from elated to angry in the space of only a few seconds when I told her that I wasn't going to be there at all. She was right about it not taking long though, she called me that night, at 2:30am, knowing that I wouldn't have been able to sleep without knowing. You had a girl, according to your mother she had a few dark curls already on her head. She said you did so well, but I expected nothing less. You had always been tough.
I didn't sleep at all that night.
You mother came by a week later with another package. She didn't speak this time, not really. She handed it to me, told me to watch it, and then left.
I had to work out how to use that DVD player that you had explained to me a thousand times in the past. I did it eventually, finding the right channel on the TV and settling down on the couch. There was blackness for a moment, a continuous dull buzzing, and I quickly thought that I had done something wrong.
"Is it working?" stopped me from getting up from the couch, however, and I sat back again.
"I think so," the reply came, and I recognised it as Brittany. I smiled as she turned the camera upside down, frowning at the lens in confusion. "We didn't have to get such a fancy camera, San. I can use my other one easily."
"It needs to be good quality," I heard your voice struggle in the distance, and I held my breath. I could tell you were already close to the birth.
"Why do you want all of the gooey stuff in HD?" Brittany laughed, moving the camera around finally, and I found myself smiling along.
I felt my heart warm when she finally turned the camera to you, my hands itching to hold your own at the look on your face. Your hair was dishevelled as you lay on the bed, your head back and your breathing heavy. Your eyes were scrunched up, as if trying to make the pain go away. I smiled, my hand unconsciously finding it's way to my chest and resting over my heart. I wanted so badly to hold you and tell you that it would all be over soon, tell you how it is completely worth the pain when you finally get to hold your baby in your arms. I remember holding you after your mother had given birth, though you were not as easy as your baby appeared to be. Your mother was in the hospital for over a day, constant contractions and what she thought was finally it. She had told me that it was time at least five times before it really was. You were so small. I have never seen such a beautiful baby seconds after birth. There was no question, even after only a few moments and still covered in the traces of your birth, that you would grow up to be impossibly beautiful. I wasn't wrong.
"It hurts," I heard you groan after a moment, the small whimper that followed betraying the humorous tone that you were trying to pass off.
Brittany clearly saw through you too, the camera shaking slightly as she rushed to your side. She lay it on the small table that lay across the bottom of the bed, quickly moving both of her hands to your face, wiping away some of the sweat that had gathered. She leaned in, placing a soft kiss on you forehead. "You're so beautiful," she breathed, smiling as she pulled back. I saw your face calm slightly, your eyes calmer as you looked back at her. She took one of you hands, a huge smile still on her face as she pulled it to her lips. She placed a quick kiss on your skin. "She's going to be here soon."
She. You were having a girl.
You gripped her hand tight, again closing your eyes as you hissed in pain. It soon turned into something that was almost a scream, and I saw the look on Brittany's face. It was like your pain hurt her. She watched your face contort with the pain and she felt it too, her smile falling and a concerned frown replacing it. She held both of your hands now, allowing you to squeeze them as hard as you needed to, and doing the same right back. She was there for you completely. I didn't even notice that I was smiling until the scene calmed slightly and you fell back, exhausted. I didn't stop it this time, allowing a proud tear to fall from my eyes also.
There was a little more video of the two of you, I think you had forgotten that you left the camera on. Brittany had crawled onto the bed, resting her head on your stomach. It's strange, but I only noticed then how big it had gotten. You lay in silence for a moment, your hand finding her hair and gently running through it. Even when you curled up slightly in pain, she didn't falter. Somewhere during that time she had begun to sing You Are My Sunshine, running her hand over your stomach.
I had never seen anything so beautiful.
When the camera came on again, after Brittany realising that she had left it on the last time and quickly turning it off to save memory, everybody was rushing around. I saw your mother rush towards the camera, a few nurses in the room rushing in different directions. "Ethan!" she exclaimed, getting closer. "You don't even know how to use a camera!"
"Who else is there to hold it?" your father's voice sounded from behind the camera, your mother rolling her eyes in a way that was so very you, before snatching it away from him. You were always so very alike, you and your mother.
The camera was quickly focused, thanks to your mother, and was capturing the people rushing around the room. Only then did I hear your cries, a man in scrubs settling between your legs and pushing them apart a little further. You mother was stood at the side of the room, trying to stay out of the way, clearly stood beside your father. Brittany was stood beside you, her face full of panic and worry, the calm Brittany that sang to you earlier gone. She still held your hand firm, though her face was full of fear. She watched you writhing on the bed, the tears in your eyes falling fast.
A nurse came over seconds later, quickly saying something to Brittany, causing her to nod her head in response. She turned her attention back to you, lifting her other hand off the bed and pushing some hair from your eyes. She said something to you then, something that I couldn't hear over the rustling of your mother moving the camera. The nurse must have told her what to do, because she had a suddenly determined look on her face, though her chin quivered every time you would feel a sudden wave of pain.
"Okay, Santana," the doctor smiled as he looked up at you. You somehow managed to look back, your face still covered in sweat, your hear now pushed back out of your eyes. "I'm going to need you to push when I ask you to, okay? Just push as hard as you can."
You nodded in response, a particularly loud cry escaping as you flopped back. You closed your eyes tight, as if preparing yourself, and Brittany watched your face carefully. I felt my own heart pounding in anticipation, knowing that it would all be over in just a few moments. I waited for him to say those words, those words that you were dreading and eagerly awaiting at the same time. I remember that feeling.
Brittany lifted your hand to her mouth quickly, placing a rushed yet settling kiss on the skin there. "I love you so much," she said strongly, gripping tightly.
You smiled, eyes still closed, before taking a deep breath.
The horrendous cry that you released as you began to push shook me, my other hand joining the one that currently lay over my heart. I held my breath, watching the corners of your eyes turn pale as you squeezed them shut, leaning forwards as you struggled. I felt your pain, in the same way that I saw Brittany feel it beside you, a clear tear falling from her face and landing on the bed beside you.
"Push, baby," she gasped, clearly wanting to do more than hold your hand. She held your hand with two, not even flinching at the pain she must have felt. "You are so amazing," she added in an almost whisper, looking at you as if you were the most incrddible thing she had ever seen. In that moment, I'm more than certain you were.
You opened your eyes as you lay back, gasping out a breath that came out shaky and ragged. You shook your head when the midwife told you to push again. Your head rolled to the side, finding Brittany. She gave you an encouraging nod, managing a smile through her tears. "I can't," you shook your head fasted, clearer cries escaping. "I can't. It hurts."
I watched a sob wrack Brittany as she heard your broken voice. It was so rare to hear you like that. In fact, I don't think I ever had. Your voice was terrifyingly small, everything within you believing that you truly couldn't do this. "Come on, Santanita..." I heard myself whisper, urging you on.
Brittany leant in, shaking her head. "You can. You can do anything, remember?" she smiled, that huge, sweet smile that could make anybody melt. "Push. Push and she'll be here in a few minutes. Our baby will be here."
That's all it took for you to take a deep breath and continue on. The cries continued, the helpless claims of 'I can't' still sounding every now and then, but then it happened. A small, almost silent cry began, soon becoming louder and much more obvious. Brittany looked down, catching a glimpse of the baby, turning back to Santana with wide eyes. She sobbed through a smile, a disbelieving laugh filling the room, along with the cries. "You did it," she laughed, leaning in to you quickly and crashing her lips to yours. I didn't even flinch, my smile didn't falter, but another tear fell. You both smiled through kisses, her eyes squeezed shut and yours open lazily, watching her face. "We have a baby," she breathed as she pulled back. "We have a baby, Santana."
You laughed in that same way, breathless and disbelieving. You lay your foreheads together until someone interrupted, offering Brittany the scissors to cut the umbilical cord. She moved to the other end of the bed, letting go of your hand slowly, it seeming to have melded into her own. She caught sight of your baby, her breath hitching and stopping all together as she saw her there, moving in the midwife's hands. She moved forwards tentatively, waiting for the go ahead, before following their instructions and cutting. She looked up at you, an unrivalled pride in her eyes. You looked back, flustered and tired, though a content smile still gracing your lips.
She moved back to you after a moment, again taking your hand. "She's so beautiful," she whispered, as if it were a secret. She shook with a cry and you pulled her in close. "You're so beautiful."
You lay a hand on her cheek and you just looked at one another. In your own little world, your own little bubble. Only when one of the nurses brought the baby over did you pull apart, your previously tired eyes seeming to come to life as she brought the baby closer to you. You didn't breathe as she placed her in your arms, the blanket around her covering her tightly as she wiggled slightly, her eyes squinted. You watched her for a long time, just taking her in. You looked at her like she was the best thing that had ever happened to you and, as you noticed your wife's finger rise and trace her cheek softly, you looked at her in exactly the same way. You sat on the bed, your own little family surrounding you, and you looked happier than I could ever have imagined.
It was then that I realised that this was my dream for you. For you to have a family. For you to be married to someone that loved you unconditionally and completely, to find someone that would cherish you, all aspects of you. That you would have children and you would raise them together. My dream for you was happiness, and I had always imagined you finding happiness in the same way that I myself had. In the way that everyone had always found happiness around me, the way happiness had been described to me as a child. Happiness in a husband, in the love of a man and your family.
It was then that I realised your happiness was much the same as mine, with just one minor difference. You found your happiness in the love of another woman, in the love of your best friend of years. The best friend that had been there since you were younger, that would run around in my back yard each day after school and would come over in the winter to make snow angels with you. You found love in someone that found the world in you. You were finally complete.
Really, that's all I ever wanted.
I got your address off of your mother. She had told me that I missed the moving in party that you had held, and it was only then that I realised I didn't even know when you had moved out. I reached the steps before your door. You had a small little house, though it was definitely something for your twenty two years. Your mother had told me that you don't plan to stay in Lima, but for now it's the best thing for your daughter. To move somewhere bigger, better, would be to accept a smaller home with a smaller yard. You wanted her to have a childhood that she remembered, and that thought made me smile. You were twenty-two and already so mature. Both yours and Brittany's cars sat in the driveway, there were flowers all over your front yard, all neatly aligned and well kept. They were colourful, especially in the sun that shone down on them. It all looked so perfectly domesticated, and my heart melted at the sight.
I found the strength to press your doorbell after a few moments, waiting anxiously outside. There was laughing on the other side of the door, laughing that got louder as she got closer. I could tell it was her by the way she giggled. You would always laugh so loudly, head thrown back and a smile on your face. I saw her through the slightly distorted glass of the window, and the door swung open seconds later, her expression turning from happy to surprised in seconds. She didn't falter though. She smiled at me, in a way that made me feel like I hadn't turned my back on her, her wife and her child. She smiled at me in a way that made everything suddenly feel much easier. I instantly understood what you had meant by that when you were thirteen.
"Hey," she greeted softly. "You want to come in?" I managed a smile back, and I think that surprised her more than anything. I nodded, watching her smile again, allowing me to enter before leading me in. "Santana!" she called out, walking through your small hallway. I looked around, pictures of the wedding and your daughter hanging on the walls. It was surprisingly modest for a house owned by the two of you. I had expected bright colours contrasting with dark, but the walls were painted a calm and tasteful beige, the occasional colour thrown in there. "We have company," she smiled as she entered what appeared to be your sitting room. She must have noticed me come to a halt because she turned to me quickly, that same smile on her face, and waved me in.
You weren't looking my way when I walked in. Your daughter was laying on the ground, on one of those play mats that your mother had always had for you, and smiling up at you. She had her hands outstretched, trying to catch your face in her hands as you leaned down, almost touching her nose with yours before pulling back. You laughed softly as she found your cheek with her palm, managing to catch the other with her second hand, holding your face in place. You smiled at her, leaning slowly down and gently pushing her nose with your own.
I think my heart grew two sizes watching you, and another when Brittany walked slowly over and sat beside you, placing a gentle hand on your back. She had a slightly concerned look on her face, as if trying to communicate with you through a touch. It worked. Of course it did.
You looked up at me, careful not to hurt your daughter as you did so, and your eyes widened when they found mine. You had a confused half-frown on your face as you pulled away from your daughter, who's head fell to the side as she reached out for the small teddy bear that lay beside her. You looked from me to Brittany, who shrugged with a smile, her hand still on your back. She rubbed small circles there, nodding in encouragement. The way you communicated, silent and yet completely articulate, never failed to surprise me. You understood each other completely. She was calming you down, that much I could tell. She moved her hand to your face, pushing a piece of hair from your eyes before leaning in and placing a soft kiss to your cheek. She moved over to your daughter then, gently picking her up from the ground and taking the teddy bear also. "We'll wait in the other room," she said to both of us, "when you're ready, call me and we'll come in." We both nodded, and with one last smile they left.
You picked yourself up from the ground, moving to your couch and sitting down. You signalled to the arm chair, motioning for me to sit. I nodded, sitting down and straightening out my skirt. I didn't know where to start, or really what to say, so I settled for not saying anything. It felt strange, how talking to my granddaughter was now so difficult. It had been my own fault. I had left it for so long.
"Why are you here?" you asked simply, blunt in your questioning.
I looked away from you, clearing my throat before meeting your eyes again. "Your mother gave me a copy of the DVD," I said simply. You looked confused. "Of the birth," I clarified quickly, and your face fell into understanding. You looked down, embarrassed slightly. I could tell that it was because I had seen it. "You did wonderfully."
You smiled in spite of yourself, nodding your head in acceptance of the compliment before we fell into silence again. "Brittany wanted to call her Sunshine," you say finally, surprising me. We both look up at the same time, catching each other's eyes. "But it reminded me too much of this really annoying girl from high school."
I laugh, and you seem shocked by the smile on my face. "What name did you choose?"
I don't think that you knew that I hadn't learnt her name, because the question seemed to catch you off guard. "Well, Brittany found this site online called 'Hippy Baby Names'," you laugh, shaking your head. I smile at the familiarity. That definitely sounds like something she would do. "So she was obsessed with names like Sky and Rainbow for months. It was kind of hard to find something that she would go for after that." You chuckle softly, looking up again. "Her name is Lily."
A feel my smile before I can even process it. "Lily," I breathe out, our eyes finally fixed on one another's as I nod slowly. "It's a beautiful name."
You nod once, taking the compliment and acknowledging my gesture, before looking down again. We fall into silence and I glance at the wall behind you. There is a large picture there, clearly from some sort of professional shoot. You're sat on the ground beside Brittany, both of you dressed in a plain white shirt and a pair of simple jeans. You aren't made up, not overly. You look natural, like somebody just walked into your home and took a snapshot of your life . The smiles on your faces are much the same, looking towards the camera as your head leans against her shoulder.
Between you, sat on the ground, is Lily. Both yours and Brittany's hands are keeping her steady, holding her in her sitting position as she too looks at the camera. She has a wide, toothless grin settled on her lips. She looks so happy, as a young baby should. She doesn't look any different to any other children that I see playing at the park with their mother and father. She maybe
even looks a little happier. She really did look like a cross between the two of you, so much so that I felt a knot form in my throat. Somehow, she had Brittany's blue eyes. Maybe not as vibrant, but they were definitely as blue. She had your tan skin, slightly lighter, and her short, curly hairs were dark.
"We had that done about a month ago," you interrupt, following my line of sight and looking at the photograph. "We have like, twenty of them." I laugh with you as you shake your head, turning back to me with a grin. I watch the scene for a moment longer before turning to you. "They took like, a million pictures. Brittany's choice, obviously. We have them scattered all over the house."
I feel my smile widen further hearing you say that. 'All over the house'. It all just seems so perfect. And for once, when I nodded and glanced back at the picture, the sick feeling didn't come. In fact, I felt my heart warm.
"Why are you here?"
The question was blunt and it took me by surprise, my expression faltering as I looked back at you. You were watching me, trying to figure me out, suspicion in your eyes. It hurt to see you look at me like that. To know that me coming to my own granddaughter's home, to my great-granddaughter's home, was such a strange event. Strange enough to make you suspicious. I looked away for a moment, my hands falling to my lap and coming together, fingers twisting. "I wanted to meet her. I hadn't even seen her before today."
"That's your fault," you bite back quickly, and I nod. I know that.
"I know," I clarify, still not finding your eyes. We fall into silence again, though this time I am staring intently at the ground, hoping for my mouth to move and say everything that I want it to, but that my brain won't allow. I don't know how to say what I think or what I feel, because I still don't understand. I don't understand why you are here, living with a woman. I don't understand why your life turned out this way. I can see the happiness, and I can see the family that you have built and that is only just starting to blossom, but I don't understand. I shake my head at my own thoughts, my brows furrowing.
"It's okay," you speak softly. It shocks me. I expect anger and retaliation, I expect you to question my silence. "It's okay to not know what to think about this," you clarify as my eyes rise to find yours. You smile. "I'm not asking you to love the idea of me and Brittany. You don't have to, not yet anyway. Maybe one day. But your my grandmother. I need you to love me."
My eyes widen as I shake my head, almost too fast. "Of course I love you, Santanita," I say quickly. I see your face brighten, whether it's from the name that I haven't spoken to you in years or the reassurance of my love. You nod after a moment, feeling myself settling a little as I see you accept what I have said. "I will love you no matter what."
"Unconditional love," you nod, and we both smile together. "I know what that feels like now. With Lily. Like, people always talk about how you love your kids differently to everybody else, and I always thought that it was crap, but when she wakes up in the morning and clings to me when I pick her up..." You trail off and I nod, knowing the feeling exactly. My heart swells hearing you talk like this. My own granddaughter, a mother. And a brilliant mother at that. "The first night we brought her home, Brittany just sat and watched her," you chuckle, shaking your head. "I woke up in the middle of the night and she was just watching her, stood beside the cot. She told me that she wanted to make sure she was okay."
I smile, nodding in understanding.
"She's an amazing mom," you say, your voice suddenly sturdy and strong. I look to you and your face is hardened. Your eyes are sharp as they stare into mine, as if daring me to claim otherwise. I just nod again. "Seeing her with him, seeing them together..." I wait, knowing that you need a moment when your eyes glaze slightly. "When I was fifteen, and when everything was confusing, I thought about it a lot. I read things online that told people to think about their futures, think about whether they imagined them to be with a man or a woman. It seemed to be the answer I found everywhere, so I did it." I don't expect the outburst, but you haven't looked up again and you seem determined to continue, so I listen. "I tried to think about kids and marriage with a man, and it didn't feel right. I couldn't imagine myself being happy like that. I imagined it with a woman," I close my eyes tightly and look down, this conversation sounding awfully like the one that took place when you were 18 and I turned you away. I don't know whether it was the memory or the words you were saying that caused my heart to race and that sick feeling to settle in my stomach. "It felt kind of exciting, but it still didn't feel right. But when I imagined it with Brittany..."
You let that hang in the air, knowing that you didn't need to explain further. Brittany had always been your future plan. Even when you were young, and when you didn't really understand why, she was still your future plan. The way you spoke made it sound like she had always been the certainty, the clarity, and this house and your family proved that to be true.
"What I'm trying to say is that...I didn't get it either," you shrug, again smiling at me. There is a kindness in your face, an openness that I assume has came with maturity. With your child. With Brittany. "I didn't understand it, and I lashed out. I went through it too. I'm not asking you to be okay with this, because I know what it's like not to be. You can't force yourself. I'm just asking you to stop lashing out."
I nod, again my eyes finding the ground. I never considered that you would understand. That you would be able to somehow find empathy in all of the terrible things that I have done. It's a process, and though mine has already taken much longer than yours, I feel like we are taking a step. I remember equating it to grief one night, when I lay in my bed and got lost in my thoughts. I remember thinking about the five stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I remember the denial and the anger happening fast, almost at the same time. I remember telling myself that maybe, if I had done something differently, distanced you from Brittany somehow over the years, it would be different. I remember crying alone after reading your letter, after watching your birthing video.
And now I am sat on your couch.
But it's not grief. It's not a loss. Nobody has died. What I thought was the loss of a granddaughter, and the loss of my dreams and hopes that I had for you, was a beginning. It was the gaining of another granddaughter, one that loved you more than I think I have ever seen anybody love another person before. It was the gaining of a great-granddaughter, blue eyes and dark hair, a beautiful cross between the two of you. It was the gaining of a calmer, more mature you. No more hitting out, getting angry and leaving your house at all hours in the morning, turning up again the next day still drunk, your mother calling me to tell me that you were safe. You're twenty two years old, and already I feel you have gained so much.
It's not a loss at all.
"I am so very proud of you," I say honestly, tears having formed in my eyes as we had sat in silence of my thoughts.
My words seem to surprise you, your mouth falling agape though the sides still lifting, morphing into something that looks like a shocked smile. Your eyes look like I imagine mine to, glazed and with tears gathering. One escapes your eye, falling slowly down your cheek as you let out a breath. It's shaky, though I can hear the happiness in it. The relief. It's like I had just said to you the one thing you had been waiting to hear for four years.
I think maybe I had.
"Thank you," you say eventually, little more than a whisper as you close your mouth, sucking in your lips slightly as you try to fight the quivering of your chin. You still have that disbelieving smile on your face, and I mirror it with one of my own. You find yourself letting out a breathy laugh to break the tension, looking down at the ground for a moment and trying to shake away the tears. "Do you want to meet her?" you ask as you raise your head, finding my eyes again.
It takes less that a second for me to agree, nodding my head eagerly as you smile, getting to your feet. You tell me that you will be back in a moment and leave the room. I can hear you talking to Brittany in the silence of the house. I can hear you sniffling, your voice still breathy and happy. I smile. She squeaks a little when she finally speaks, an excited and involuntary noise I'm sure, and then I hear the smacking of your lips as she kisses you. It's followed by a few more, short, happy kisses.
I only find myself smiling further.
You're holding her when you appear in the room again a second later, smiling at me and bouncing her in your arms a little. Brittany is behind you. She offers me a grin, nodding once in my direction before moving towards the couch, her hand slowly pulling across your lower back in support as she does so. You turn to Lily, kissing her forehead and pulling her attention to you. I see your little girl smile, lifting a hand clumsily and placing it again on the side of your face.
"Lily bear," you say softly, smiling back at her. "Meet your bisabuela."