I want Nola.
Those words rang in Kate’s head over and over again, like a chant echoing as she struggled to come to awareness. But it took her a moment to really listen to her own thoughts.
Nola. She wanted Nola. She didn’t want Nola to do anything for her, to get her something or be somewhere. She didn’t want to see Nola to make sure she was all right in that automatic way a mother checks on her children without thinking. She wanted to be with Nola. She wanted nothing more at this very moment than simply to be with Nola.
And then it struck Kate hard that this was the first time she felt that way in longer than she could remember. The pain of that realization was nearly as deep as any pain she was feeling from having her body cut apart. Morphine could not dull the stab of realization that she had gone so long without just wanting to be with her own daughter. At this moment it seemed so simple, such a sweet, natural feeling. There was something eternally recognizable about it, but more than that. There was also something specifically familiar about feeling it in a hospital bed, like this; some sort of déjà vu. But she couldn’t quite place it, couldn’t hold fast to the familiarity before it slipped through her wavering consciousness.
Kate struggled to open her eyes. The surgery was over, they’d removed something, but was it both her breasts, one…just the lumps? She tried to move her head but her neck throbbed and her shoulders seemed immobile. Something was in her left hand, a button, yes, to call the nurse. Kate pushed it but heard nothing. She clicked it several times. Then she remembered something about self-administered pain medicine. But it was too late…her mind was drifting back into that other world.
Over the next 24 hours or so Kate drifted in and out of consciousness and her pain waxed and waned. But like one long continuous dream each time she came the closest to being awake before pumping the morphine back into her veins it was Nola that sprang to her mind. Nola as a baby, Nola the last time she saw her, the door glass breaking, her hiding spot in the butler’s pantry, bedtime stories, morning breakfasts. The visions were not linear, not in order; it was like a flowing spiral of sporadic imagery all of Nola swirling throughout the years of her life.
By the next day the images had become fully fleshed out memories and they’d fallen into order. They began with the morning when Nola was born, six weeks too soon, taken by cesarean when Kate’s blood pressure had risen dangerously high. Graham was out of town and trying to get a plane back from Montana…or was it Wyoming? They’d whisked Nola away before Kate could even see her and then something had gone wrong, too much blood lost. She remembered nothing until she woke up a day later. Deirdre, dear old Grandee, was beside her holding Nola, singing softly to them both.
Kate’s first thought at that moment wasn’t about if her baby was okay. It wasn’t even about whether she herself would be alright. It had been that she wished Deirdre would just take Nola, just take her right then and keep her forever…what a horrible thing for a mother to feel upon seeing her child for the first time! What kind of mother was I? How could I have felt that way? But she couldn’t help it, she tried to push the feelings away, tried to conjure up the way she thought she should be feeling, the way she felt with Ethan, but it seemed as if the control of her every thought was completely beyond her.
Deirdre had seemed to understand, told her that sometimes mothers don’t always take to their babies right away, especially when the birth had been traumatic. Just nurse her, hold her, just go do all the things she had done with Ethan and the love would come. Grandee had promised.
But had it? Had she ever let herself love Nola the same as Ethan? Or had she only gone through the motions? With Ethan it had been easy, her heart had swelled the minute he began to grow inside her. Once Ethan was born and they put him in her arms Kate felt that overflowing of emotions, almost a physical gush of heat in her heart that overtook her. She couldn’t get enough of him. All she wanted was to be with him.
That was what she felt now, that was the vaguely similar feeling!
Here she was in a hospital, that place where mother meets child for the first time, where that magical connection finally takes physical form after being merely subjective for nine long months. Now, here in this hospital bed over ten years later she felt that longing, that same warmth for Nola that a new mother might feel, or something strangely parallel to it at least. That was the familiar sensation she couldn’t quite place! She felt love for Nola open up in her that she’d closed off, walled in. She wanted to be with Nola…just to be with her would be enough. How long had she divided herself from these feelings? Worse, oh God, so much worse…how long had she robbed Nola of them, cut her off?
Nola wasn’t a baby anymore. But it wasn’t too late. It couldn’t be too late. She was still here. Nola was still here. There was time. There had to be. Why would she be given these feelings, these thoughts if there was nothing to be done? Or was this what hell was...you realized all the mistakes you made, all your failures, when it was already too late? No. No, this couldn't be too late. Not yet.
It wasn’t until a nurse came in with a tray and tried to get her to sit up and take some clear liquids between gulping sobs that Kate realized two more things. No one from her family was there, and she definitely didn’t have her breasts. Both realizations where beyond excruciating. But unfortunately neither was surprising.
six words: see ya soon - minor eye injury still needs healing