My heart pumped as Agatha peered at the screen, her specs at the tip of her nose. Before I could catch myself, I chuckled, nervously. She turned to glare at me as I took a seat beside her, then looked again at the screen. I wanted to know, and didn’t. After all, it had been 20 years since Rosemary died and I never expected this.
“Look, Mabel, this website he mentions, it seems legit. I think this young man is who he claims to be, dear.” The computer screen blurred as I fought back tears. Could this be Rosemary’s baby boy?
I got up and went to the window to gaze at my garden. Roses flourishing in that deep pink hue that inspired my baby’s name, and the greenery all round, were soothing to these tired old eyes. Could it be true?
Aggie came over and put her arm round my shoulder, and I leaned gratefully into her soft sturdy bulk. When she’d talked me into setting up the email account it was so that I could stay in touch with my niece and nephews, and get a bit of news from home. When this email arrived a week ago, I was shocked and confused and I had no one else to call but my oldest friend.
I invited her to tea but she knew from my tone that something was wrong. I reassured her then set to making sandwiches, my mind racing in different directions. Bless her heart, Aggie arrived by 4 PM and when I told her what happened, she sat down at the computer and began clicking away on the keys like a woman half her age. “Have you looked at the photo?” she asked. I shook my head; I couldn’t. “Do you mind if I…?” I nodded.
It seemed to take hours til Aggie spoke the words that confirmed my hope and my fear. “He looks like Rosemary – the eyes, the mouth. Come and see.” But I couldn’t. Instead, I went to get a photo of my only child, drinking in her smile, and the honey blond hair she either hated or loved, depending on the humidity in the air. I carried it to the table and sat down again. I squeezed my eyes shut, then opened them and looked at him. Then at the photo. Back to the screen. “Yes…” my whisper trailed off as I lifted a finger to the face on the screen. My grandson, Tony.
“Mabel, dear, let’s have our tea, shall we?” We sipped the rich Darjeeling and nibbled on sandwiches and Nice biscuits. Neither of us said a word but we were thinking the same thing. This young stranger could be, probably was, my flesh and blood.
I thought about my little girl, how hard it was for us after Mel left. I’d buried myself in work, I had to, and Rosie enjoyed school and seemed to settle in. By the time I knew something was wrong, it was too late. She left home right after university to take a job 120 miles away. On her rare visits, the strain between us was almost unbearable and each time she left, I took comfort in knowing how happy she was, teaching and living life on her own terms. I was devastated when the cancer took her shortly after her 50th birthday.
Now, here was this young man, the baby she’d given away – not telling me for years. He went looking for his mother but found me instead. I laughed, then I cried, and Agatha patted my knee and my arm, sniffling too.
Three weeks later, on Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang. I smoothed my skirt, glanced at my face in the mirror, scowled at my flushed cheeks. I took a deep breath and opened the door. For some reason, I looked down and saw brown Hush Puppies. Above them, blue jeans and a corduroy jacket over a cable knit sweater. A flash of white collar, then the pleasing oval of his face. Smiling lips, straight nose, thick-lashed hazel eyes and dark blond curls touched with gray at the temples.
“Hello, Mabel. I’m Tony, your grandson.” He held out his hand to shake mine.
I’m not a sentimental old fool, but my eyes filled with tears as I stepped forward, put my arms round him and said, “Tony, come in. Your mum Rosemary was raised in this house – welcome home.”