“Well, it’s about time that you remembered that you have a mother.”
Noah ignored her comment. He looked around the room. Nothing had changed.
“You haven’t wanted to see me any more than I’ve wanted to see you.”
“So, why are you here? What do you want?”
Noah had had another session with Sarge before his trip. Sarge had wanted to better prepare him for this conversation with Melina. He’d emphasized to Noah that this was for him and not for his mother.
He’d told Noah not to expect his mother to respond in a positive way. Maybe she would, but it was more likely, from what Noah had told him of her, that she would not. However, he said that Noah still needed to vent his feelings, and Noah needed to do it in a respectful, calm way so that his words would really sink in for her.
He saw her expression change and was shocked to see that what he said had hurt her. The hurt expression quickly changed to one of anger.
“I didn’t say that to upset you. It’s just a fact.”
She remained silent, and he was quiet for a few moments thinking, remembering.
“I’ve never told you why I left home, and I want to tell you now. The first time that I ran away, you sent Will to find me and bring me back home. I thought that maybe I had been wrong. That you and Will really did want me with you, but things were the same as before I left. Nothing had changed. I mean, yeah, you went through the motions. You made sure that I had everything that I needed, but—“
Noah’s words trailed off. This was harder than he’d expected it to be.
“I could see that you took care of me just out of duty and not from your heart. I knew that it was different with other mothers. I’d see them with their kids at school and other places, constantly trying to hug them and giving them kisses, encouraging them to do better and commending them when they’ve done well.”
Melina stood silently.
“However, you, my mother, were quick to seize on my faults; telling me that I was just like my father, no good and useless. So I ran away again, and I never intended to return home. During my trial, when you told me that I was the biggest mistake of your life, I knew that it was the truth. Even though you’d never before said the words, I knew that was how you really feel about me.”
Noah just looked at her, and she looked away.
“I came very close to seeing myself the way that you see me, but I met two people at the right time in my life who really helped me to know who I was, and who I wanted to be. The first person was Ton.”
“Ton helped me to learn even more about car and motorcycle engines. He had patience and taught me everything he knew. He said that I had a natural talent and knack with repairs, and he encouraged that in me. It made me want to learn even more about them. He taught me camaraderie and showed me how to be loyal to your real friends. When he looked at me, he saw someone worthwhile.”
Melina didn’t say anything.
“Then I met Sharlee. From the first night that I met her, she seemed to see the real me. The me that I didn’t even know existed. She said that she wished that other people could see me the same way that she did. You know what, Mother? Now they do. Now I do too. She saw good things in me that I didn’t even know were there inside.”
Noah frowned. “You’ve made comments like that before, and I never understood why. You of all people should know that no one forces me to do anything that I don’t want to do. I’m not sure what type of woman you wanted as a daughter-in-law, but most mothers would love to have Sharlee as a part of their family.”
He paused. Then began speaking again when Melina didn’t reply.
“If you wanted a daughter-in-law with intelligence, Sharlee has that in abundance. If not a verified genius, I know her IQ has to be close to genius level. She earned her degree in bio-chemistry, and when the kids are older, she’s going for her masters. She’s definitely beautiful on the outside and with the personality to match. She’s got a big, loving heart, and she’s an awesome mother.
“She doesn’t like for us to mention this, and it wasn’t reported to the press at her request. But, when we were lost in the mountains, I left Sharlee and Sky in a cave, hoping that they would be safe there while I looked for help. A wolf got inside with them, intent on getting to Sky. Sharlee used a lit branch from the fire and speared it into the wolf’s side to kill it before it could get to Sky. She did it while standing on a badly sprained ankle.”
Melina just looked at him silently. Noah smiled thinking of another example.
“The first time that we were at Chucky Cheese restaurant after Skylar started walking, Skylar and I were in another part of the restaurant from Sharlee. I had taken her to the playground equipment, and Sharlee was sitting at our table. Chucky Cheese is always crowded with parents and children; children who are constantly calling out “Mommy!” Well Skylar wanted Sharlee to see something that she was doing, and called out “Mommy!” Out of all of those children’s voices Sharlee recognized Skylar’s and came straight over even though she couldn’t see us till she got there. I found that to be amazing and special.”
Melina felt memories coming back to her of when Noah was small. She’d recognized his call too among all of the other children around them. She pushed those memories away. That was a difficult time for her. She and Will were newly married, and he hadn’t wanted children. He’d even suggested that she put Noah up for adoption, but she’d refused to do it. Why? Why had she refused? Noah was speaking again.
“I’m not saying that Sharlee is perfect or that our relationship has always gone smoothly, but she’s loved me no matter what we’ve been through. I love her the same way. She doesn’t have to “trap” me to keep me with her. I chose her and each day I’m thankful to have her and our children in my life.”
Noah had a sudden realization! His mother had become pregnant intentionally thinking that his father would marry her if she were pregnant. She resented and disliked Sharlee because Sharlee had held to her principles and not slept with Noah until after marriage. For the first time Noah had a better understanding of his mother. However, knowing didn’t make him feel that there was any justification for her treatment of him or of her disdain for Sharlee. Though Sarge was right. Noah had needed to talk with her even if it was for the last time.
“Mother you and I may not ever have a normal mother and son relationship, but that’s okay. I don’t need that anymore. However, you have grandchildren now, and if you would like to be a part of their lives then the door is open. Our children’s lives are filled with family and friends who love them, and you are welcome to be a part of that, but with this understanding. I won’t allow anyone in our lives who does not treat my wife with the respect that she deserves. As I already mentioned, Sharlee has a big heart, and she is very forgiving. She told me to invite you to have breakfast with us at Bronson’s penthouse tomorrow morning.”
He saw the surprise on her face.
“What a question to ask! Why wouldn’t we be together?”
“I’m not trying to imply anything mother. It was just a question.”
Noah pulled a check out of his pocket and handed it to her.
“What is this for?”
“Because I remember that I have a mother who did do some things right for me. You and Will taught me how to be a hard worker. Even though I didn’t always listen, you taught me right from wrong, and I intend to teach those same things to my own children. This check is for you to do whatever you would like with it. It comes with no strings attached. I know that there is no way that I can repay you for raising me, and I just want you to have this.”
Noah sat the check on the table, and then he left the house.
He’d asked her about herself and Will. She’d not given their relationship any serious thought lately. Years before, Will had cheated on her, and they had gone for marriage counseling.
For a time, their relationship had improved, but now? Will was keeping unreasonably late hours again, and they seldom spent time together. They had grown apart. She knew that he was cheating again; if he had ever really stopped. She acknowledged that this time, she didn’t even care.
She sighed looking at her reflection again. She supposed that she still had her good looks despite the light dusting of gray hair. One of the department heads at the firm in which she worked as an executive secretary had lost his wife two years before. A couple of months ago, he’d stopped at her desk and told her that he hoped that her husband knew how lucky he was. She’d brushed the compliment aside and thought that he’d said it because of his own loneliness now that his wife was gone. He was a kind, attractive and hardworking man. Instinctively, she suspected that if she gave him any encouragement, he’d ask her out.
Her parents didn’t believe in divorce. She knew that if she divorced Will that would be just one more thing that they would hold against her. She closed her eyes because of the pain that thinking of her parent’s rejection still brought her even after all of this time. Why did she still care what they thought of her! It had been years since she’d been happy. Didn’t she deserve to be happy? The check that Noah had given her was more than enough for her to get a fresh start in her own place. She had a lot to think over.
The next morning, the doorman at Bronson’s building rang. Melina was asking to be allowed onto the penthouse elevator. After she arrived, Bronson let her inside and called Noah to the door. Noah was surprised to see his mother, not believing that she would really take him up on the invitation for breakfast. He smiled in welcome. Looking at him holding Logan, Melina realized what had been different about him the night before. Not only had he matured, but he radiated happiness, contentment and self-confidence.
Noah explained that Skylar enjoyed looking at the pictures in his and Sharlee’s wedding album.
“I been wanting to meet you!”
Melina stood up and looked at Logan.
“This is Logan. Would you like to hold him?”
Sharlee came out to greet her and call everyone to the table. Noah took Logan, and Melina headed toward the dining room. She looked back in time to see Noah and Sharlee share a quick kiss. The genuine love and affection between them was clearly evident.
Melina resolved to try to get past her resentment of her son and daughter-in-law. She’d thought a lot about her conversation with Noah the night before. Her own parents had never been physically demonstrative with her, and she had followed their example in her raising of Noah. As for loving him, she couldn’t give him something that she didn’t have to give.
During breakfast, she looked over at Logan and Skylar and saw Sharlee and Noah’s interaction with them. It brought back memories of Noah as an infant and as a toddler. Maybe it was for the best that she and Will had not had more children. There appeared to be something lacking inside her that children clearly needed from their parents. She could see the bond that Noah and Sharlee had with their babies. Noah seemed to sense her disquiet. He met her eyes.
He said it in diffident way, but Melina could see the hope in his eyes.
“We can give it a try. I’d like to be a part of my grandchildren’s lives too.”
Melina looked at Noah in surprise. No he hadn’t told her about it. So Sharlee explained and told her how well Noah was doing with his dealership too.
“I’m so proud of him!”
Melina looked at Noah.
Noah was shocked that for the first time, she’d said those words. He studied her expression, still not sure if the words were genuine. Maybe it didn’t matter anymore. Maybe just the fact that she’d said them was enough now. He smiled and thanked her and Sharlee.
They all talked together and laughed together throughout the meal. Melina was pleasantly surprised to find out that her son had a good sense of humor and a way of telling a story that she couldn’t help but genuinely laugh along. Skylar seemed to have that trait too. Melina realized that Noah had inherited it from his father. It had been years since she’d had any pleasant memories of Noah’s father. She felt a twinge of guilt and pushed it aside, determined to enjoy herself.
By the time she left, Melina had come to an important decision. She wanted to be happy again. After she left Bronson’s home, she went looking at different houses and apartments around town.
“I need to talk with you.”
“I know that you’re cheating again Will.”
Will was shocked! He knew that she didn’t believe in divorce. He did still love her, but not in the way that he used to love her. He’d thought that they would be shackled together for the rest of their lives.
“You mean that you want a divorce?”
The word sounded ugly to Melina when she heard him say it. However, she knew that it was past time for her to begin living her own life, and not the one she’d wasted uselessly trying to live up to her parent’s standards. Noah had wisely realized the futility of trying to live up to her stifling standards years before.
“That’s exactly what I mean. I signed a lease on my own place. I’ve already started packing, and I’m moving out next week.”
Will turned away from her and couldn’t keep a smile off his face. A surprising feeling of freedom flowed through Melina too.
Should she tell Noah? If she did, he might become so angry that he would not allow her into his family’s life. She thought about the sweet innocent faces of her grandbabies. No. She would keep it to herself and destroy the contents of the chest before she moved out of the house.
Noah and Sharlee’s trip to Bridgeport will continue in the next chapter. It should be posted next weekend.