Twenty-One

My mother rang me every day until the day that we were to fly out. I learned that she was now a published author. She wrote in Italian, which meant I would have a lot of studying to do before I would be able to read one of her books. But now I knew where I got my love of the written word from. My mother sounded like everything I dreamed she would be, and everything I wanted to be myself. I sat on the sofa, which I still used for my bed at my aunt's house. There were no spare rooms with three children already, and a fourth when Frances came home. But I didn't care about such things. My possessions, those that my father had not had anything to do with the purchase of, had been moved over to my aunt's.

                I picked up my scrapbook, which I hadn't looked at since moving in with my father. At the time, I had been stupidly overcome by the material things which he was able to offer me, and I had forgotten when my real dreams lay. But now, I flicked through the pages, drinking in each picture just as I used to. I saw the pyramids, and imagined myself riding on a camel through the vast desert surrounding them. I looked at the coral reefs and pictured swimming in amongst the fish which were all the colours of the rainbow. I pictured walking through the mountains, lying on the beaches, paddling in the underground lakes. Only this time, it was different. Just a few months ago I had closed my eyes, and there I stood all alone. But now, I pictured James beside me, travelling with me and enjoying everything that I had always wanted to see. Was it such a silly dream after all? I didn't think so anymore.

                Suddenly, something came back to me from a long time ago. First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do. Who had said that to me? It had been Rosemary, the girl from Anthony Parson's Hall, the only friend I'd had whilst I was there. I wondered how her life had changed since she had gone to live with her grandmother. I prayed for her sake, that her experiences with the real world were nothing like mine had been so far. I thought long and hard about the quote she had given me, and now was the time it really came into play. She had told me she knew I could write a book, and at the time, though I had tried, I never managed to produce anything worthwhile. Was that because my life up until that point had been lived through books? Now I had experiences of what life could be like for the misfortunate. I knew that I should write a book about it. It was the only thing I could have done, and the final thing to set myself free of my father.

                I clung to the hope that my mother would be all I thought she was. But I didn't want to hope too much, because I was afraid of another bitter disappointment, just like I had had with my father, and then a second, with my uncle. It was odd to think how nothing happened to me the first fifteen years of my life whilst I was in the orphanage, and then so much had come along all at once. I was still overwhelmed by it all, but bit by bit I was getting used to the idea of meeting my mother. The mother that I had always believed had died during childbirth.

                I wondered how my father had originally reacted to my mother's letter. Something told me that he wouldn't have been heartbroken. More than likely, he would have laughed, knowing that, although my mother thought my uncle was totally different from my father, he was really exactly the same. He just hid it better, because he'd had years more practice at having a family than my father had had when he finally won me back from the orphanage.

                "I honestly thought that I would be trapped with my father forever." I said to James one day. "He sort of had that affect on people. Making them think that there was no escape from him." I sighed, and James cuddled me close to him, kissing me to take my mind off it all. He was good at that! We had still not consummated our love, and neither of us wanted to until we knew that it was definitely the right time. Truthfully, I thought it might be, but I still didn't want to rush it, and end up ruining everything. I confided in my Aunt Polly about this, and she told me that it would happen naturally when the time was right. I agreed with this, and decided to let everything happen in it's own time.

                "I've got a present for you," he told me. "It's exactly three months since I first set eyes on you, and it feels like I've spent my whole life with you." He handed me a small box, and I gingerly opened it, wondering what could be inside. There, lay a delicate necklace, it's pendant shaped like a teardrop.

                "It's beautiful," I breathed.

                "It's a pearl, just like you," James told me with a smile. "It's tear-shaped to remind you that every tear you've shed is making you stronger, preparing you as you become the person you've got to be."

                Soon it was time to fly off to Italy. My aunt drove us to the airport, and waved us off as we walked up the gangway onto the plane. I was scared, and I tried to put it down to my never having flown before, when in reality, I just didn't know what to expect when the plane landed again. We would be in a whole different country, and I would be with the mother I had always longed for.

                Please, I told my heart, please don't let this be another ridiculous dream. I'm sick of the fairytales. I want reality, but I also want to be happy.

                James held my hand tightly as we took our seats, recognising how tense I was. He ordered us both a soft drink and something light to eat, hoping it would calm my nerves a little bit. We had grown past the stage where we had been timid around one another. He wasn't my teacher anymore, and that made a lot of difference. Also, he had done so much for me. He was the one who had been there to help after my father had beaten me so badly that I could hardly move. As I thought back to when we had first met one another, it amazed me how far we had come. Both of our lives had been completely turned around.

                "How did Aunt Polly manage to get hold of my mother after so long, anyway?" I mused, out loud. "Did they stay in touch?" I couldn't see that happening, not when my mother had slept with my aunt's husband. Yet my aunt knew all about that now, and held no resentment towards anybody. She was a wonderful woman, and I hoped that I could be as level-headed as she was one day.

                "She didn't contact your mother," James sounded surprised. "I did. I thought you knew that?"

                "You? I had no idea!" I leaned towards him, kissing him soundly. "Thank you. I love you so much."

                "I love you too, Pearl," he told me, honestly. Then we sat back, as the plane began to take off, leading us to a whole new country where I hope that some of my dreams would finally be fulfilled.