Amelia sat on a bench facing one of the smaller ponds at the center of the park. Charlotte could tell it was her from a mile away. The bun sitting atop her head so tight it was amazing the flesh around her face did not rip off, and the straight as an arrow posture was all too familiar. She knew Amelia sat there with her eyebrows furrowed and a frown to end all frowns as she stared at the ducklings paddling along the water, chasing after each other.
Breathing deeply, Charlotte rumpled the papers she held firmly in her hands. If she lost them somehow before making it to the bench it would be pointless to meet her mother-in-law, a woman she detested with every fiber of her young life. At the tender age of twenty, Charlotte had already experienced the wonders of marriage, the atrociousness of an evil mother-in-law, and the tragedy of loss. Just twenty and already a widow.
The sun was just winding down as its last rays of dark yellow beat down on the blades of grass and leaves, making them shine a brighter jade than usual. Children’s laughter from the jungle gym echoed through the trees, along with a breeze as soft as a butterfly kiss carrying the scent of new life with it. Spring had just begun coming in the form of fresh baby leaves on the branches and flowers in every color in full bloom. The only darkness around was the shade Amelia sat in.
This woman had made her life with Brody so much more difficult than it had to be. So much so that dislike turned to blatant hatred almost overnight. So much so Charlotte could not wait to share with Amelia the news the police had brought her.
Walking stiffly over to the bench, she sat down as far away from Amelia as she possibly could without sitting on the ground. The bench was worn down, Charlotte could feel where the paint had chipped off through her jeans. Old, ugly, and practically useless. No wonder Amelia wanted to sit on it, they had so much in common.
“You’re late.” Just as Charlotte had thought, Amelia had a puckered lipped frown on her with her eyebrows almost touching. She only spared a glance to make sure it was Charlotte who was sitting down. “But what did I really expect from you?”
Ever since Brody died in a car crash four weeks ago, Charlotte had been unable to ride in a car, bus, or train. It felt like being thrown into a deadly cylinder quickly losing oxygen. Her pulse quickened, her heart thumped like a black smith with a hammer, causing her to feel panicky and faint. Instead she walked everywhere, which was extremely unreliable when it came to time.
“I’m not here for you jabs, Amelia. I’ve got something to tell you.” Charlotte gulped down some saliva to moisten her dry throat, but before she could begin, Amelia launched into an attack.
“You can stop right there,” she held up a hand as if to actually stop her, “If you have asked me to come here to tell me you are pregnant, you can expect no help from me. I am not in the business of charity. Babies having babies.”
Babies having babies. Amelia had never kept quiet about her disapproval of Brody and Charlotte’s relationship, more so when it came to the age difference. Brody was eleven years older than Charlotte, and Amelia never let them forget it. He was twenty-nine when they met, thirty when he had asked her to marry him, and thirty-one when he died.
“Amelia,” Charlotte tried to speak evenly, keeping her emotions in-check. She would not let this bitter old woman break her down anymore, those days died the day Brody did. “That would be the last thing on earth I would ever tell you. I would never allow you near my child, or any child if I could help it. It’s amazing you were allowed to be a foster parent.”
“Oh, here we go!” Amelia threw her arms in the air, shaking her head in disbelief.
Charlotte closed her eyes, remembering the first day Brody invited Amelia over to meet her.
“Before she gets here,” he had said in his relaxed voice, “I have to tell you that she isn’t my real mother.”
“What?!” Charlotte was taken aback. At first she was hurt and a little angry, but it was hard to stay that way at him. He had never mentioned anything concrete about her except that she could be hard to deal with.
“She fostered me when I was ten years old until I turned eighteen.” Brody’s usually carefree attitude seemed to be straining as he explained the situation. “I need you to take her with a grain of salt. She can be difficult, but please remember she is the only mother I’ve ever had. However, never call her my mother in front of her. She will be quick to remind you she is only my foster mother.”
Charlotte had thought she could deal with anything for Brody’s sake, but Amelia was something she had never factored in. Even if he had never told her they were not related, she would have noticed it right away. Brody had dark hair with dark eyes. His body was broad and muscular. When Amelia came through the door looking like a gray eyed, mousy haired skeleton, there wasn’t much doubt in her mind. Yet, more obvious then physical differences was their personalities. Brody was like sipping a cool glass of sweet tea on a warm day while you rock back and forth in a rocking chair on your porch. Amelia was like being thrown naked into the depths of a frozen river. The introduction of being “the woman who fostered him for eight years” as opposed to “his foster mother” was not necessary, but said all she needed to know about Amelia.