The graceless way her life had developed was not novel. It was not even unusual. Her world seemed to the onlooker like a once delicate, yet slightly tragic garden overgrown and marked by neglect. She thought about how she saw pain and loss in each direction she looked. Her failures sprung up all around her, as the only flowers left in her sad little garden. The petals were colorless and with twisted stems, choked by weeds and sorrow.
Her mother wanted little to do with her, Her father even less. Often as a child she felt like there was some kind of clear partition between she and them. At the dinner table they would sit there, her father reading any one of a number of articles on corporate finance, the rise and fall of whatever company, international trade. Her mother would smoke cigarette after cigarette, her mouth a thin angry line. Sometimes the line would open. “Eat your peas.” Her mother would eye the pile of green orbs she kept piling on top of one another and letting roll back onto the plate. Her mother was an excellent cook. But Arabella was lonely. A battle over peas was better than nothing.
“I don’t like peas.” She would answer defiantly craving the attention an argument would bring. Unfortunately even that was beyond what her parents were willing to give.
“I didn’t ask if you liked them. I told you to eat them.” Later, after dinner was cleared, the kitchen cleaned and her parents watching television in the next room she would kick the table leg rhythmically with the tip of her shoe watching the peas bounce against each other. She would take her fork and smash them into the plate, their sides splitting and green flesh spilling out. “Eat the peas Arabella or they’ll be waiting for you in the morning!” The edges of her mother’s voice sailing through the doorway over the muffled sounds of the television set felt like tiny knives up and down her arms. She pushed the plate forward and laid her head on the table in silent protest, knowing exactly what the cold peas would taste like gulped down with water the next morning and not caring.
Her father ran a consulting firm. He had a head for numbers and a firm grasp on the market. He was well-respected and his firm had netted their clients millions of dollars in revenue from their well-placed changes. He was proud of his work. It was essentially all he cared about. He was not an emotional man. He was sparing with his words, his advice, his affection. Her mother stayed home with her, hating every minute of it. Everything about her was cold and disapproving. Everything but her food. Yes, she was an excellent cook. She made Arabella oatmeal and blueberries in the mornings with a sprinkle of sugar on the top. Sometimes she made pancakes or french toast on weekends, the dough always gold and fragrant under the swirls of melted butter and caramel syrup. A cascade of soups- tomato bisque, cream of chicken, southwest chili- appeared on the table at lunchtime always with a side of four buttered crackers. Her dinners were flawless; tender slices of beef paired with roasted carrots and potatoes steamed from china plates. Bowls of clam chowder beckoned. Crisply fried chicken dripped deliciously onto neatly folded paper towels. It was as if her mother put all of the love she had into the food she cooked. There was none leftover for Arabella. Truthfully she had no need to smile. Her cherry pie smiled for her. She would stare angrily out the window, smoking her cigarettes. Almost as though she were waiting for something or someone to come and rescue her.
When Arabella became pregnant with Luke her mother sniffed and said to her father without looking at him “Well I could have told you that would happen.” Arabella stared at her mother, clutching her abdomen.
“My baby is not a mistake.” Tears slid from the corners of her eyes and tumbled over her quivering cheeks.
“Tell that to the rest of the world.” Her mother spit the sentence at her before getting up to clear the breakfast dishes.
Her father looked at his watch and then back at his article.
“You have always been a liability, Arabella. Twenty-four with no college degree, no job and now pregnant by a man who’d as soon slap you as look at you.”
“He’s rich and smart and he’ll marry me, you watch! I don’t need your judgment or your ridiculous pity! He loves me! He said so! I’ll never come back to you for anything ever again!” She yelled these words even as she herself did not quite believe them. He was rich alright and he’d probably marry her. But Love? That was a whole different story. She doubted he could truly love any woman. Not after the life he’d had. But she loved him. And in the back of her mind she swore she could make him love her back if a thing were even possible. She knew she was THE ONE. It just might take all she had to prove it to him.
*to be continued