The path in front of me curves around a lake. The weather is perfect. I can feel the sun heating my face. I'm not wearing sunglasses but I'm not squinting or shading my eyes. The brightness is pure and glowing, not blinding and harsh. There is a slight breeze gently whispering past my ears, but otherwise it is quite. There seems to be no one in this park except me and the stroller filled with soft pink blankets.
As I proceed around the bend, the lake is to my right, and up ahead on my left is a small clearing in the trees. There sits a bench and on the bench sits a woman. I can't make out her features but I know who it is and I can feel her warm smile even from this distance.
In a moment I am standing in front of her. She is looking up at me with her wide grin and she looks the same. Wonderfully the same. She is not the sick woman with a swollen face and bald head. She is not that fragile being I remember hugging all those years ago, not knowing it would be the last time. She is strong, like I remember from my youth. She is the woman who baked spaghetti sauce all day on Sundays, who made jam on her back porch from the berries we had picked, who canned the sweetest corn. Even now, all these years later, I can close my eyes and recall the precise smell of that sauce, the exact sweetness of that jam and the firm texture of that corn.
She is beautiful and she is looking at me like I am her everything. It is exactly the look I remember from her, the inviting smile that always made me feel safe and special. I never doubted her love for me. I never doubted that I was special to her. So much so, that sometimes I'm convinced she loved me the most...thought I was the most special. Right now, I need that confidence. I need her to hug me and make me feel like everything will be okay. Reassure me that my world isn't crashing.
The baby is crying now. She stands and touches my cheek. Then she turns and gently lifts the pink bundle out of the stroller. She stares down into the blanket and smiles. The sobs fade as the small being melts into the creases of her elbows and softness of her chest.
I open my mouth to protest, but she stops me.
It's okay. I'll take care of her.
Knowing what that means forces hot tears out of my eyes and down my face. I lean in to look at the small baby in her arms, but she pulls her close, shakes her head slowly and takes a step backwards.
She'll be safe with me.
I take one step back. Her smile grows as she floats further and further from where I stand until all I can make out is the bright light in her eyes. I want to remember this moment. A moment that isn't quite real. I want to remember this light, this smile, these promises.
The sun is peeking in through the window and playing across my eyes. I squint and blink away the sharp edge of the light.
Ainsley's nose is almost touching mine.
Mommy? Why are you twying?
I wipe the tears from my cheeks and force a smile. My grandmother's sweet face still fills my mind and though my doctor's appointment is 2 days away, I already know. The vision of my grandmother provides a small sliver of peace. But the sadness and the fear are heavy on my chest. The knowing is hard, like a knife pushing deep in my gut, relentless and without mercy.
Why are you twying mommy?
I pull her into my lap and hug her close. I close my eyes and breath in her soft baby scent, slowly it is being replaced with the aroma of childhood.
I kiss her soft curls and say Just a dream, baby.