Hundreds of Butterflies. Chapter IX
It was ten o'clock on Thursday morning, almost two weeks to the day since Alice was born and just three short days since I had taken her and come to live with my sister and her girlfriend.
Ruth had taken the morning off work to help help me with some college applications for September. Suddenly there was a knock at the door, I was instinctively on edge, so as Ruth went to answer it, I quickly lifted Alice up out of the moses basket in the corner of the room, and carried her out of sight into the kitchen.
I listened closely to Ruth opening the door, and a voice I didn't recognise asked if I was there.
"What the hell?" I heard Ruth exclaim, "Mum? Dad? What's going on?"
I panicked, Ruth's house didn't have a back yard, or a backdoor. I was trapped.
I crouched down on the kitchen floor and held Alice close to my chest, I wrapped my cardigan around her and began to sob.
I had no idea what was about to happen, I was so scared.
I could hear a lot of people coming into the house and I could hear my sister yelling; "what the hell is going on? What are you all doing here? Alice is Rebekah's daughter!"
"Alice?" I heard a voice say quizzically.
"Yes Alice! And who the hell are you?" Ruth exclaimed.
Then I heard my fathers voice, "Ruth mind your language, and this is the child's mother!"
"You are in my home dad!" My sister screamed "I will talk however the fuck I like! And what are you talking about? That baby's mother is Rebekah!"
"Actually she isn't" said the unidentified voice, whom I figured belonged to a police officer, "Rebekah signed a document terminating her parental rights and signing them over to the Maxwell's. Your sister is no longer the baby's legal guardian and she is guilty of kidnapping!"
"Kidnapping?" Ruth exclaimed, shocked.
"Where is your sister Miss Collins?" Asked the police officer.
I heard footsteps, and my sister walked into the kitchen. She looked at me, crouched on the floor sobbing, with Alice in my arms. She gave me a devastated look that told me there was nothing she could do, I shook my head pleadingly at her. She quickly turned her back on me and blocked the doorway. "Rebekah and the baby are in the kitchen, they're safe. But before I let anyone near them I want some answers!" Ruth barked. There was silence from the living room for a few moments and then the police officer spoke again. "She signed away her parental rights and then kidnapped a child from her home Miss Collins! You don't require any answers nor shall you receive any!"
"From her home?" Ruth whispered softly.
"I don't remember signing anything!" I yelled from the kitchen.
"Are you saying that you don't remember signing the termination of parental right's form? I can't believe that!" The officer called back.
"Oh come on!" Laughed my sister sarcastically, "she had just given birth! She was exhausted and probably still fuzzy from all the drugs, you could have gotten her to sign a form saying she wanted the baby to be flown to Africa and raised by lions and she wouldn't remember!"
There was a pause in conversation, then the police officer asked, "Mr Collins? You did explain to her what she was signing didn't you?"
"Of course I did, she understood completely!" My father barked gruffly.
"Well in any case, Rebekah took a child from her home, she kidnapped her. Whether or not she was fully aware of what she was doing."
"What do you mean from her home?" Asked Ruth confused, "Becka you told me you ran away from the hospital..."
"She lied to you?" Asked the officer.
"I had to! If i'd told you the truth you would have called the police,and they would have taken Alice away from me again!" I sobbed.
"Stay there!" Ruth barked at everyone in the living room, she slowly turned and walked over to me, crouching in front of me. "Becka... You kidnapped a baby!" She said softly, laying a hand on my shoulder.
"No!" I wailed, "She's my daughter! They took her away from me! But I'm her mother, she needs to be with me!" I began to sob uncontrollably, and I hugged Alice closer to me. Ruth dried my eyes with her sleeve, i could tell she was trying to think of what to say next.
Then a different voice called from the living room, it was Maggie Maxwell.
"Rebekah, honey, can I talk to you please?" She called tentatively.
"You can if you take that tone out of your voice!" Ruth shot back angrily, "my sister is not mentally ill, nor is she a little child!"
"Your right, sorry." Answered Maggie, "Can I come into the kitchen please?"
Ruth looked at me, and I nodded. Although I didn't want to give Alice back, I knew I was wrong to have hurt the Maxwell's, they were good people.
Maggie walked slowly into the kitchen and looked at me, "where is Bethany Rebekah?"
"Her name is Alice! And she's right here, I have her."
"May I hold her please?" Maggie asked gently.
"No." I said firmly, "I'm her mother, she is perfectly fine with me. I can take care of her!"
"I know you can sweetheart, but you know, I'm her mother too. And you know it was wrong of you to take her... don't you?"
"No your not! I'm her mother!" I sobbed.
"Well, Rebekah, you gave her to us."
"I didn't want to! They made me!" I yelled. And at the sound of my raised voice Alice began to cry.
I lifted Alice from my chest to my shoulder, bouncing her a little. "Oh hunny I'm sorry, Mummy didn't mean to wake you up." I whispered soothingly. After a minute or so, her crying changed to grizzling. "Ruth could you get me a bottle? She needs feeding."
Ruth turned and took a bottle from the fridge, "It needs warming up," I told her, "just put it in the microwave for thirty seconds."
She did so and handed the bottle back to me. Since my arms were full, I asked Ruth to hold out hers so I could empty a drop of formula onto her forearm.
"Is that too hot?" I asked,
"Hmmm... maybe a little. Do you want me to run the bottle under the cold tap?"
Maggie cleared her throat, "Rebekah, you obviously take very good care of her. I can see that your a great mum, and I didn't know that you didn't really want to give her up! I'm sorry!"
I looked up at her "Does that mean your going to give her back to me?" I asked hopefully, my voice breaking a little.
"Well, Rebekah do you really think you'll be able to take care of her permanently?"
"Yes!" I exclaimed, and as I fed Alice her bottle, I told Maggie, Joseph, my parents and the police officer, who had all made their way into the kitchen by now, all about my plans for college, then a degree following that. "I know it won't be easy but I can make it work! And Ruth and Erika have offered to help me!" I finished, almost breathless.
Ruth smiled reassuringly at me, "She came up with all of this by herself you know," She told the kitchen full of people, "she had it all worked out before she even got here!"
Maggie nodded and looked at me. "Well you've certainly got a good plan Rebekah, but taking care of a child at sixteen, and then trying to get a degree at the same time? I don't think you realise how hard that could be!"
"I do!" I exclaimed, "I know it's going to be really hard, and it might be easier just to get a council house and live on benefits, but I want to get a great career so that I can give Alice everything she needs!"
"That's admirable Rebekah," Maggie replied kindly, "but what about what she needs while your getting your A-Levels and your degree? She'll be at least six by the time you graduate, and then you'll get a job and have to work hard to pay off your loans and debts, so Beth-" Maggie paused, "Alice will be raised by childminders!"
I stayed silent. I had no response. Eventually I managed to squeak; "but I love her." My voice and heart breaking as I realised that it wasn't going to be enough. Maggie looked me in the eye. "I understand," she whispered sympathetically. I knew she did. She understood exactly what it was like to have a child, to have her placed in your arms. To stare down at her, fall in love with her, so strongly. And then to have her taken away, and there was nothing you could do to stop it. She understood, because I had done that to her!
I started to cry again, "I'm so sorry Maggie! I just love her so much, I wanted her back, I never meant to hurt you or Joseph!"
"I know, I know! It's OK, I understand." Maggie cooed, putting her arm around me.
We sat for a few minutes staring at each other, I knew I had to give Alice back but I was so scared. Maggie looked down at Alice in my arms, her eyes were open and her fingers wiggled as she drank from her bottle. Maggie smiled, "Alice is a beautiful name, how did you come up with it?" She asked.
"It was my mother's name," interjected my mum softly. "They were very close, but she died when Rebekah was eight."
I nodded in agreement, "that's where it came from" I whispered. I looked at my mother and she smiled back at me warmly.
"Have you ever heard of an open adoption Rebekah?" Maggie asked.
"I think so, Mr Carlson, the social worker, said something about it, but I don't know what it is."
"Didn't Mr Carlson explain it to you?", Maggie asked.
"No, Dad said it wouldn't work, so..."
"Well there's a surprise!", exclaimed Ruth.
"Well, an open adoption would mean that we would adopt Alice and she would live with us, but you would still be in her life. You could come and visit her and maybe take her for days out now and then. She would grow up knowing who you are. It would mean that you could do your A-levels and your degree, get a job and have a life, but still be part of hers!"
Joseph walked up and knelt beside his wife, he smiled warmly at me. "I think that would be a good idea, don't you?"
"Oh for goodness sake! This is ridiculous!" Exclaimed my dad, I was surprised he'd managed to stay quiet until now. "Rebekah you are going to give that child back to the Maxwell's, and then your going to do as we agreed! You will finish school, go to a university of our choosing, get a job, get married and continue with your life! You are sixteen years old, you are a child, and you will obey your parents!"
"Be quiet John!"
There was a stunned silence, I looked up, my father was just as shocked as I was.
"Esther, what is the matter with y-"
"Be quiet John!" My mother said again, more forcibly this time. "Rebekah had a child two weeks ago! That is not something she is going to be able to just forget! No matter how much it may embarrass you in the church!"
I looked at my sister, she was gobsmacked. My mother walked over to me and gently helped me to my feet. "Rebekah I'm so sorry! I'm sorry I forced you to do something you didn't want, and I'm sorry I didn't support you. I just thought I was doing what was best, for you and the baby."
I nodded "I know, it's OK, but, how did you know where to find me?" I asked.
"I knew you'd probably be at your sister's, we went to all your friends houses in Crawley."
I was confused, "but how did you know where she lives?" I asked, after my sister had left home my parents had stopped speaking to her and cut off all contact. Or so I thought.
"Mum kept in touch with me," Ruth said quietly,
"Ruth sent me her address," my mother told me, "I wrote to her every once in a while but..." She turned and looked at Ruth, "you never wrote back!"
Ruth began to cry quietly, "I was just so angry at you! When I told you I was gay, you said there was something wrong with me, you pushed me away! I thought you didn't love me anymore, it really hurt, but I kept all your letters. I couldn't bring myself to throw them away."
My mother stood in silence, crying, rooted to the spot. I knew she was struggling, she wanted to run to her daughter and beg her forgiveness. To tell her that she would always love her unconditionally, but she couldn't get passed Ruth's sexuality. If she did what she wanted, she would be condoning Ruth's lifestyle, and that was something she couldn't bring herself to do.
I inwardly screamed at my mother to stop being so stubborn and give her daughter a hug.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but this is getting out of hand." The officer said, irritated.
I looked at the Maxwell's, "maybe we could arrange an open adoption?" I asked quietly, beginning to cry again, Maggie placed a hand on my arm. "I think that would be best for everyone, especially Alice!" She smiled.
"Thank you, i'm so sorry for taking... Bethany" I whispered. The Maxwell's were her parents, and they should have been the ones to name her, even though I was scared and devastated, and still unsure about the whole thing, I did know that.
Maggie raised her eyebrows thoughtfully, "what about Bethany Alice?" She mused.
"Bethany Alice Maxwell" Echoed Joseph, "yes, that's a beautiful name!"
I smiled and kissed my daughter on the forehead one last time, before I handed her over to the Maxwell's and she became their baby. I lifted her bottle from her mouth, and gently placed her into Maggie's arms. Maggie smiled and kissed her daughter, then handed her to Joseph, who gazed adoringly down at his little girl.
Maggie hugged me tight, "everything's going to be alright hunny!" She whispered in my ear. And although it still hurt a lot to give up my baby, I believed her.
After Maggie stopped hugging me I had to go to the police station. I did after all kidnap a baby! And even though Maggie and Joseph didn't press charges, I still had to be in the station for a long time. Being interviewed by lots of different people, going over and over what happened.
Finally they let me go, my dad had gone back to Crawley, but my mum and Ruth were waiting to take me back to Ruth's, where we stayed that night. Mum met Erika and the four of us went through everything. We decided that I should stay with Ruth and Erika, but that I would go back to Crawley every weekend to spend time with my parents and Bethany, which I did. I changed schools and started at a school in Brighton to do my A-Levels, and Ruth and our mother kept in touch too, even though my mum still didn't feel comfortable with Ruth and Erika being together, she realised that being a mother was more important.
So now here we are, back where we started, do you remember? I'm on the train from Kent to Crawley, going home for the Christmas break. Bethany Alice Maxwell is nearly two and a half now, and she's beautiful! She calls me 'Auntie Becka' and she knows that Maggie and Joseph are her mummy and daddy, and that I am her special Auntie who grew her in my tummy for them. She's still too young to understand fully yet, but as she grows up she'll understand more.
I did my A-Levels in Brighton and got all A's and B's and now i'm three month's into my Social Sciences degree at the University of Kent. I love it! And after University I plan to become a family counsellor.
As for my sister and Erika, they got married last year! It was a beautiful ceremony, and even though my parents didn't attend, they have stayed in touch. In fact this year we're all having Boxing Day dinner together at the Maxwell's big new house; Maggie, Joseph, Bethany, me, Ruth, Erika and my mother. We did something similar last year, it was a lot of fun.
Ruth and Erika have an extra surprise for Christmas this year, they've sworn me to secrecy but I suppose I can tell you. They're adopting a little girl! She's three months old and named Honey. They're flying to China in January to sign the adoption papers and pick her up.
Unfortunately real life isn't always wrapped up in neat little packages where every cynic sees the light and everybody lives happily ever after. My father still refuses to acknowledge the existence of Bethany, or Ruth and Erika, and our relationship is strained to say the least. Even though he'll probably never change, I still have hope, after all...
God works in mysterious ways!
Only One Mother, A Poem by George Cooper.
Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
Hundreds of shell's on the shore together,
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of lamb's in the sunny weather.
Hundreds of dewdrop's to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.