A Thousand Kisses

Part 9

By: Girl Bard

Disclaimer:Please see part 1. Enjoy!

    December 19th, 2000

    Grace gently buckles Kasey into her seatbelt before climbing into the passenger seat of my Explorer. "Who's ready to see the doctor and get rid of Spots' nose brace?"
    "ME!" Kasey and I shout in unison. "Leth go!" I add and Kasey giggles. I sigh, knowing what she's going to say. She's only been here a few hours and already told me eight times.
    "Jaden, you talk funny." She succinctly reminds me.
    "I know, kid. I know." I respond.
    "Okay you two, let's talk about what we're going to do after we see the doctor." Gracie says, changing the subject.
    "See daddy?" Kasey asks hopefully and Grace looks at me, her face sad.
    "No munchkin, not yet. Remember what your mommy said when she called?" Grace continues, "She said that your daddy was finished with his surgery and was just fine, but he was sleeping because he was so tired."
    "Yeah, I member." Kasey says. "But I'll be quiet so I don't wake him up."
    "I know you will, Kasey-girl, but you get to spend the whole day with me and Jaden, and even get to sleep-over! We're going to have so much fun and tomorrow morning you can go and see your daddy." Grace says, and her patience with the child amazes me.
    "And I hath thomeone I want you to meet." I add, and turn to see Grace looking at me with a puzzled expression on her face.
    "What did she say Pixie-head? She talks funny." Kasey asks and Grace smiles.
    "Who?" Grace asks me softly.
    I give her a little grin. "My grandmother."
    She makes a surprised little "o" with her lips but doesn't say anything. It appears as if she's thinking about the situation and she finally rewards me with a beaming smile.
    "Jaden said that she wants to take you to meet her grandmother." Grace informs Kasey.
    The little girl's inquisitive brown eyes widen. "Does she bake cookies like mine?" She asks, her voice excited. "And does she have a pool with a slide?"
    "Um, no." I answer. "Besithes, ith winther! You can't twhim!"
    "Huh? Jaden, you talk funny!" Kasey responds, erupting in giggles again.
    "I know kid, I know." I respond for the tenth time. Gracie just laughs.


    It doesn't take long before Jaden is being called into the doctor's office. I offer to accompany her, but she decided to go by herself. So Kasey and I settled ourselves into one of the comfortable chairs and read Highlights magazine.
    I used to read those as a child and loved them. I remember my grandmother telling me about Goofus and Gander, or whatever his name was and how I should always strive to be as little like Goofus as possible. I wonder what she would think of me now. I'm certainly not living out the life of morality like Gander, or at least according to her.
    That's okay. I bet Goofus is much happier than Gander. Was his name Gander? Or Gallant? I think it was Gallant.
    Regardless, I hope Jaden's appointment is okay and she doesn't need surgery. I still feel so guilty and wish the entire accident had never happened.
    "Auntie Pixie-head, what does this say?" Kasey asks, her tiny hands pointing at a word.
    "Sound it out, what does it sound like?" I prompt her, and her small forehead furrows in thought.
    "Ma-ma-ma-th." She beams, revealing two missing white teeth. "Math. That's when you add numbers."
    "Very good." I reward her. "So what does this entire sentence say?"
    She reads easily. "I like to do math. Two plus two is four."
    "Wow!" I compliment her, very impressed. "Kasey, how old are you?" I can't believe she can read so well. I know that Diana and Joe work with her a lot and she's naturally intelligent, but I started reading easily at five and Kasey is a lot younger than that.
    "Four and a quarter." She tells me, looking very proud of herself.
    "You're the smartest girl I know." I tell her and lean down to whisper in her ear. "But don't tell Jaden, she thinks she's the smartest girl I know."
    She giggles. "I won't." She looks serious for a minute. "Is Jaden's grandmother nice?"
    "I don't know." I tell her honestly. "I've never met her either." I think for a second, and then decide to be completely honest with the child. "I do know that she's very sad though."
    "Why?" Kasey asks, her large brown eyes full of anguish for someone she's never even met.
    "Because she has an illness that has made her lose her memory. She doesn't remember everything anymore, even Jaden." I answer. "And it hurts Jaden very much to not be remembered."
    "Oh." The little girl responds, looking down at her hands. "Why can't she remember?"
    I shrug my shoulders. "No one knows, Kasey-girl. It's like the sun and the moon. No one knows how they got there, they just did. The doctors know how to fix things like your daddy's broken legs. But sometimes they can't fix everything."
    "Like when my hamster died, no one could fix him." She says and I am once again shocked at her intelligence.
    "Yes. It's very sad, but things like that make you thankful for what you have. I'm sad for your hamster and Jaden's grandmother, but I'm thankful for you and for Jaden." I tell her and she climbs onto my lap, resting her head against my shoulder.
    "I'm thankful for you too." She says, her eyes closing. I smile against her soft hair and hum softly to her. Diana mentioned she would probably need a nap, and she might as well take it here while Jaden's being looked at.
    Sure enough, she falls into a light sleep and I am content to hold her protectively in my arms. She's a wonderful little girl and very much like the kind of child I would expect Jaden and myself to have; intelligent, inquisitive, and outspoken. Diana and Joe have done a wonderful job raising her.
    It's funny, I always thought of settling down and having children as something that would make me tremendously unhappy. Now I realize, that it wasn't the thought of settling down, it was the thought of whom I was expected to settle down with.
    I wrinkle my nose at the thought of Scott. What a pathetic little asshole.
    My frown is immediately replaced by a smile at the thought of Jaden. I know I will spend the rest of my life with her, and if we are lucky enough to be blessed with children, I think it would be an added bonus. I'm not sure how she feels, but I know that she loves Kasey as much as I do. And she's already scoping out the baby section when we go shopping in preparation for Kasey's sibling on the way.
    The door to the patient room opens and I look expectantly to see Jaden. An elderly woman comes out instead and I sigh inwardly and glance at the clock. I wonder why it's taking so long and I want to ask the receptionist if everything is okay with Jaden but don't want to wake Kasey. Besides, I know that if something were wrong Jaden would insist that they come and get me. But I'm still nervous.
    Sitting down across from me, the woman smiles at the sight of the sleeping bundle in my arms. "Lovely child." She says, her voice friendly.
    I smile. "Thank you."
    "How old is she?" She inquires.
    "Four." I answer. "But she acts more like ten." I add, grinning.
    "I remember that age well, I have five children myself." She responds, her weathered eyes twinkling.
    "Five? Wow, that is quite a brood. You must be very proud."
    "Yes, they were quite a handful." She studies Kasey before continuing, "She must look like her father, but she has your nose." I bite back a smile.
    "Oh, she's not mine." I tell her, blushing. "I'm just watching her for a friend today."
    "Well, that's nice of you dear." The woman adds. "Do you have children of your own?"
    "No." I tell her, tightening my arms around Kasey when she starts to stir in her sleep.
    "You will." She tells me wisely. "You have the look of love about you."
    I smile, a bit puzzled by her strange remark and before I can respond she smiles at me one last time before turning her attention to a magazine.
    Instead of bothering her, I focus my attention on my surroundings. The office is small and tidy and I begin tapping my foot impatiently. When is Jaden going to be finished?
    Kasey squirms a bit in her sleep and I still my motions. I don't want to awaken her. I try to amuse myself by studying the people in the room and trying to figure out why they are here. The elderly woman I was speaking with is obviously with someone and was sent out here to wait like I am.
    The nurse sitting behind the desk snaps her gum irately as she sorts through stacks of files. The clock tells me it's lunchtime. She probably is trying to finish the piles before going on her break.
    When the door opens again I sit up slightly, careful not to wake Kasey as I hope to see Jaden. Sure enough, I am blessed to see her tall form striding confidently toward me, her beautiful face free from the cursed nose protector.
    "Hey." She greets me quietly, looking affectionately at Kasey curled in my arms.
    "Hey yourself, gorgeous. How did everything go?" I ask, knowing from the smile on her face that it's fine.
    "Pretty good. No surgery or anything, I just have to be careful and stay away from trouble. I told the doctor that would be hard living with you." She responds, her gentle smile telling me that she's teasing.
    "I'll try really hard not to knock you over again." I answer honestly, reaching my hand out to caress the side of her face. "I love you." I tell her softly.
    "I love you more." She says, her voice as quiet. We exchange a few moments of loving looks before Jaden clears her throat and stands. "Let's get out of here." She gingerly takes Kasey from my arms and holds her against her chest. "I'll try not to wake her."
    "Good idea, she's pretty tired." I mention as I follow Jaden out of the door. The elderly woman I was speaking with gives me a knowing smile as I pass her.
    I smile back.


    Gracie and Kasey are chatting as I walk nervously down the hall to my grandmother's room. I was surprised the man at the front desk even remembered me when I told him who I was here to see. He explained that my grandmother rarely spoke anymore, and was in her own little world. She hadn't had a violent outburst in a few weeks and kept to herself in her room rather than interact with other patients and staff.
    She never was a solitary person until after my grandfather's death. I guess I would be the same way if I lost Grace.
    "You okay, Spots?" Grace asks, always in tune with my emotions. I try to smile brightly at her.
    "Not really." I tell her honestly.
    "Do you want to go in first by yourself?" She asks, concern evident in her tranquil eyes.
    "No." I reply quickly.
    "Okay." She says amicably, pausing at the door to allow me to go in first.
    My hands shakily push the door open to reveal my grandmother.
    She looks the same as I remember; tall and elegant like my mother. Her hair is long and silver streaked with gray and is tied in a loose knot at the nape of her neck.
    Her blue eyes, a mirror image of my own, regard us questioningly, and she makes no move to stand from her seat by the window.
    "Hello Katrina." Gracie says, her voice so gentle it is like a breath of air. "My name is Grace, and this is my friend Kasey. Your granddaughter Jaden is here."
    I want to scoop Grace up in my arms and plant a thousand kisses over her entire body. Her intuition amazes me, the way she always knows exactly what I need. She rescues me time and time again.
    "Hi." Kasey says brightly, undaunted by my quiet grandmother.
    "Jaden!" My grandmother exclaims, and her voice makes my heart ache with guilt. She holds her long arms out to Kasey. "Come give Nana a hug."
    Grace gasps, but quickly recovers. Her aquamarine eyes meet mine and I confirm what she is thinking with a slight nod of my head. My grandmother thinks that Kasey is me as a little girl.
    Kasey boldly goes up to my grandmother and wraps her short arms around her waist. My grandmother smiles before letting her go.
    Returning to Grace's side, Kasey tugs on her shirt. "She doesn't seem sad Pixie-head. I bet she does bake cookies." Grace smiles fondly down at the little girl and places her hand on her shoulder.
    I don't know what to do. If I try and explain things to my grandmother, I think it will make her confused and upset. Of course it hurts me that she doesn't remember me, but I know it is because of the disease, not anything personal. I should be comforted by the fact that she looks healthy and well taken care of and that she remembers me at all.
    "How are you?" Grace asks my grandmother who looks at her accusingly in return.
    "Who are you and what are you doing with my granddaughter?" She asks Grace, her accented voice on the verge of anger.
    "My name is Grace." She explains calmly. "I am someone who loves your granddaughter very much." Gracie looks at me and smiles the sweetest smile.
    "How are you, Wren?" My grandmother addresses me for the first time.
    I look at her, confused. Wren is the pet name she always called my mother by. One by one, the pieces sink in. Not only does my grandmother think Kasey is myself, she thinks I am my mother. I understand her confusion; everyday I look in the mirror and feel I look more and more like my mother. No wonder my grandmother is mistaken.
    "I'm fine." I tell her, feeling confident enough to tentatively approach and give her a gentle hug. "How are you?"
    "Good." She responds. "Where is Jonah?"
    I swallow audibly, my body tense. Grace looks frantic, like she cannot decide what to do. I don't want to lie to my grandmother, but I don't want to upset her.
    I have no idea what is best for her. For a few seconds we all stand, silent, as I contemplate what to say. Instead of answering, I decide to change the subject.
    "Do you remember the book, The Last Unicorn?" I ask her and she smiles in recollection.
    "Of course, that was Jaden's favorite story. We used to read it and then she would terrorize all the light colored horses on the farm by looking for their horns." My Nana chuckles as she remembers and it makes me want to cry.
    "Thank you for reading that book." I say, my throat suddenly dry.
    "I love my grandchildren." She says, her blue eyes vibrant.
    "I know you do." I respond.
    "We'll be outside, okay?" Grace tells me gently. I nod at her and she squeezes my hand. "Kasey-girl, say goodbye to Jaden's Nana."
    "Bye Nana." She says sweetly, waving her little hand before following Grace out of the room.
    My grandmother watches them go interestedly, looking so much like I remember her as a child I expect her to be herself again.
    But she's not. She looks at me questioningly and I search for what to say next. I'm glad that she's even speaking; I guess it's unusual for her to do so.
    Suddenly I want to be a child again, to find solace in her strong embrace and know that no matter what happens that she will be there. She was the only mother I ever really knew and I wish I hadn't been so angry that I shut her out.
    "I'm sorry for the way I treated you." I tell her honestly, tears forming in my eyes. I feel as if I'm going to fall over, my knees are shaking so badly.
    She doesn't respond, and doesn't even give me a sign that she's heard me. Her blue eyes seem to look right through me and I wonder if she's simply just faded away to her internal thoughts.
    I wait for a few more seconds, and when she doesn't reply or move I turn and head for the door.
    "Come here." Her voice calls me and I turn to see her standing with her arms outstretched. I gladly fall into them, sobbing like a child as her delicate hands stroke my back and hair.
    "I love you." I tell her softly.
    "And I you." She answers. I know she thinks I'm someone else, and she's probably just replying by rote but it still means something to me. It always will.

    December 21, 2000

    "I'm going to die." Grace informs me succinctly as her knuckles turn white from gripping my hand so hard.
    "No you're not. However, you are going cut off the blood flow to my hand, which will then turn gangrenous and wither away, leaving me with a stump." I answer, my ears popping from the sudden increase in altitude.
    "Ew." She says, her pert nose wrinkling. I love it when she does that; she looks like a bunny rabbit. "But then," she continues, musing, "I could call you Stumpy Spots."
    "Har, har." I tell her, relieved when she releases her death grip on my hand. I rummage in my carry-on and emerge with two pieces of gum. I offer her one.
    "Thanks." She says. "Is this crazy?"
    "What, flying halfway across the country to look up your biological mother you never met or found about until a few weeks ago?" I shrug. "Nah, it's your normal run-of-the-mill adventure for two lesbians living together after having a long-distance relationship."
    She looks at me with an astonished expression. "What's with you today? You're in a mood."
    I shrug again. "I'm not really sure. I'm feeling pretty good, maybe because I don't have to go through nose surgery, I don't have to work until December 26th, and I'm on a mini-vacation with the woman I love." I smile brightly at her. "Life is grand."
    Gracie smiles now, that tiny smile she can't help but make when she's trying to pretend she's exasperated with me. "You're nuts."
    "Yep." I respond, tickling her side. "Seriously though, how are you? Are you okay? Nervous? Excited? Having second thoughts?"
    "All of the above." She answers, looking almost ill. "I'm the most scared about being on this stupid plane. And then I'm excited by the prospect of meeting Laura Greene, but terrified to actually knock on her door. I mean, what if she doesn't want to know me? What if she hasn't told her family about me? What if I'm just an interruption to her day and I ruin her Christmas with her family?" Grace is babbling now, her words rushing out of her like a river.
    "Hey, it's okay." I tell her, grasping her hands in mine. "We have her phone number and her address. We don't just have to show up at her doorstep unannounced, okay? We can get to the hotel and give her a call." I try to soothe her, knowing her heightened nervousness about flying is increasing her anxiety now.
    "But.." She begins.
    "And, if for some reason she's insane and doesn't want you in her life, then we get back on the plane and go home. It's her loss Gracie, that's for sure. Anyone who doesn't want to know you doesn't know what they are missing. I know it will be hard for you, but we'll get through this. I promise you." I tell her firmly and am rewarded by watching her incredible eyes slowly lose some of their fear.
    "Thank you." She says and I kiss her hands clasped in mine.


    I think I might puke. No doubt about it, I'm either going to pass out from the fear and shock of what I am about to do or I'm going to be sick to my stomach.
    I'd bet on the latter.
    Jaden sits next to me on the bed, rubbing my back comfortingly. It would be so easy to use these two days in Chicago as a vacation with Jaden, see the sights and relax. Instead I'm insanely going to call someone I've never met or spoken to.
    Someone who gave me away the day I was born.
    It's fucking ridiculous.
    My hands can't stop from shaking and I swear my teeth are chattering. I'm holding the phone in my hands and have already memorized Laura Greene's number. I need to just dial and see what happens next. She probably isn't home anyway.
    With a sudden burst of confidence I dial the number. It rings a few times and just as I'm about to hang up a girl who sounds to be Lydia's age answers.
    "Hi, um, is your mother, er, Laura there?" I stammer, my heart racing as it finds its way to my throat.
    "Yeah." The girl replies. "MOM!" She shouts in the distance and I close my eyes with sudden dread. What in the fuck am I doing?
    "Hello?" Laura's voice greets me and I almost die. This is the voice of my real mother. It is soft and gentle and wonderful. "Hello? Is anyone there?" She continues and I realize I have to say something or hang up. This is my chance, the only one I will get.
    "Um, hi." I say, my voice shaking like never before.
    "Who's this?" Laura questions and I don't know how to reply. Your daughter? Grace? The child you gave up for adoption? Who am I to Laura Greene? A memory that should have stayed buried?
    "My name is Grace McKenzie." I tell her in a rush of words. That's all I say, and I wait to see how she will respond.

Part 10: To be continued…..

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