Garden of the Gods
When fifty-year-old Jolie Stevenson’s birth mother finally calls, it should be the culmination of a life-long dream, except that the woman has no desire for a relationship, but simply needs a body part—bone marrow to treat leukemia. But
that’s only the beginning of Jolie’s problems….
The woman standing in the doorway looked exactly the way I had pictured myself at seventy years of age. She had the same big hazel eyes, fair complexion and smile, but that was where the resemblance ended. Her eyes, unlike mine, held little warmth. Oh, God--why did I come?
The woman was more slender than I, and wore a shimmering white silk blouse over perfectly creased gray flannel trousers. Her gray low-heeled sandals displayed toenails painted to match glossy red, manicured fingernails.
She held out her hand as I walked through the door. I shook hers, wishing she had reached out to hug the stuffing out of me. But how could she know that? Her hand felt cold in mine before she finally pulled away.
“You must be Jolie. You’re exactly as I always pictured you.”
“Oh, well, thank you,” I stammered uncertainly, unsure whether it was a compliment or not.
She gestured toward a tastefully decorated living room, done in muted shades of teal, gray and mauve. The semiformal room looked like no one ever sat in it. The gray carpet still bore the tracks of a vacuum cleaner and the scent of lavender potpourri filled the air, making me want to sneeze. I’m allergic to lavender.
The sofa and loveseat were covered with stunning cream, burgundy and teal flame stitch upholstery in a pattern I had never seen.
My mother stood before us and said, “You must introduce me to your husband.”
“Oh--of course. This is my husband, Brian.”
“I thought so. Hello, Brian. May I offer the two of you something to drink?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said, brushing her off, feeling awkward.
To Brian, she said, “Coffee, iced tea or perhaps apple juice?”
“Apple juice sounds good,” he agreed.
“Please, have a seat,” she said before disappearing out the door.
When we were alone, Brian reached for my hand as we settled on the sofa. “You okay?” he asked softly.
“I don’t think she likes me,” I whispered, feeling shaky and uncertain.
He shook his head, a sad frown in his eyes. “Now, you haven’t spoken ten words to her. Try not to jump to conclusions yet. All right?”
Glancing around the room, I took in a framed print of a calla lily that looked so real, I wanted to get up and touch it, but I sat utterly still, barely able to breathe in my anxiety.
My mother returned, a moment later, with a fancy white wicker tray. It looked as if everything in her life was chosen with great deliberation. Why hadn’t she chosen me the same way?
She set down the tray and handed a glass to me. “I brought you apple juice, too. Hope that’s all right.”
“Oh, yes, thank you,” I said as I felt my mouth go dry. I sipped my drink, nervously waiting for her to speak.
She sank into a teal, flame-stitched, overstuffed chair and sat back, crossed one leg over the other and carefully smoothed her slacks. I observed her features. She had the same slightly rounded face as mine, but hers was more chiseled. And she was quite pale; only her cheeks were rosy with blush. Her graying ash blonde hair was done in the current slightly messy style that barely brushed her shoulders, and I thought it suited her.
Her eyes were alert and savvy, but not warm. I wondered what was going through her mind. If she felt no warmth toward me, why had she called?
After sipping her iced tea, she set it on a coaster beside her and folded her hands in her lap, as if trying to still nervous movement. Perhaps she was as uncomfortable as I.
Trying to overcome my anxiety, I said, “I really love your home.”
“Oh,” she said, glancing around. “Thank you.”
She turned again to face me. “You’re probably wondering why I have suddenly shown up in your life after all these years. Isn’t that right?”
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