A couple of years ago, I approached Lorna for an appraisal of the first 20,000 words of the draft of my first novel, It’s All in the Genes. Looking back, I can’t believe I had the brass neck to send her such a higgledy-piggledy poor excuse of a manuscript. Thanks to Lorna’s comments and advice, my story took off in a different direction and evolved into Just Say It.
A year later, I met Lorna at a great Writers Weekend Workout at Winchester University. She was one of the brilliant tutors that weekend during an event I felt privileged to be a part of.
Out of the goodness of her heart, Lorna hosted free online writing retreats during Lockdown, the Consolation of Writing. Little old me in the same virtual room as published authors from around the world. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to benefit from these sessions and, I was so engrossed, I kept forgetting to unmute myself! Thank you, Lorna.
(433 words. 1-minute, 43-second read.)
And, there she was, after nineteen years of searching. The statue of the stone angel, ‘my’ stone angel, stood inches away from me. May you always have an angel by your side is the inscription at her feet. She may not have physically been by my side for nineteen years, but she had been the focus of my search.
When I was ten, my adoptive parents gave me a photograph of me with my birth mother after telling me I was not theirs. They reassured me they would, always and forever, love me as their own and I have never for one moment doubted their love. I am holding that photo in my hand now. My birth mother and I standing in front of this stone angel.
She is an august memorial to a woman who died over 200 years before I was born. I look up at her face, holding the tip of her wing gently between my fingers. Cold and hard to the touch, she stares out from unseeing eyes, but she is all-knowing. The wind drops, the rustling of the leaves stops, as a feeling of déjà vu washes over me. I’ve felt her rigid iciness beneath my fingertips once before. Thirty-five years ago. I remember.
‘I’ve been here before.’ A breathy whisper escapes my lips.
I look down at the photo taken a handful of days before I was adopted. My mother’s face is soft, warm, but her eyes betray a sadness within. My five-year-old features stretched by a big smile as I cling to my mother’s hand, with both of mine. Totally unaware that within days I would be saying goodbye to her for the last time.
‘I’ve been trying to find her since I was twenty-one.’ I sigh.
I started the search with the blessing of my adoptive parents. I’d had a very happy childhood, but there was always something missing, niggling. I wanted to know why but, whatever the reason, I was prepared to forgive.
‘You’ve always been the clue.’ I say. My voice, unintentionally, sounds an octave higher. ‘I’ve always believed that if I could find you, I would be a step closer to finding my mother.’
I’m tempted for one ridiculous moment, to take a selfie with ‘my’ angel, but I take a step back. Focussing my iPhone, I capture her as she has always been, alone, in dignified silence.
‘She’s beautiful, isn’t she? Unseeing, but all-knowing.’ A woman’s voice from behind me takes me by surprise. The tone of her voice is soft, warm, and strangely familiar.
I turn around, I see her face, and I know.