The Voice is pleased to introduce a brand new fiction feature.
To kick off the column, we have a special treat – Forgotten Promise, an original short novel by Carla Johnson. For part one of this story, see: http://www.ausu.org/voice/articles/articledisplay.php?ART=429
After the last installment we will begin running a piece of student fiction each week, so start sending in your submissions. Any form of creative writing is acceptable, including short stories and poems.
Part three :
Thinking back now, it had seemed so easy. Immediately after arriving in Vancouver they had a house to live in. It was only after her parent’s death that Laura had discovered the house had a clear title in her parent’s name. Among their financial records, Laura had found bank statements that showed a regular automatic monthly deposit of $2000.00. Laura had assumed that it was a pension of some sort, and in her rush to search for her daughter, had not investigated further. Now she wondered. Where was the money coming from? Where had they found the money to purchase a house? To make the move to Vancouver? Where had her father been that whole night before they left? Again she cursed her many years of lack of attention to important details.
Turning these things around and around in her brain didn’t appear to be leading to any useful conclusions, so finally Laura gave up. She resolved that first thing Monday she would contact her parent’s bank in Vancouver and try to trace that mysterious deposit. But now it was late, and time to get ready for her “date”:
While she showered, her thoughts turned to Adam and his present role in her life. Again she reminded herself that he was not now, nor ever would be again, a part of her. Even if he were not married to Vicki, his betrayal still loomed large in her mind. She could never trust him. But oh! her treacherous heart fought. All the time her head was telling her to be rational; her heart was dressing for Adam. Putting on perfume for Adam. Doing her hair the way Adam liked.
The turmoil in her heart and mind were brought to a halt by the knock on her door. Nervously she glanced in the mirror yet another time, making sure she would present the most perfect appearance possible. She had let her hair loose, and it swung shining to her shoulders. Her favourite dress of red silk swirled around her svelte figure. Yes, she looked her best. “Now, be still, heart!” she warned as she opened the door.
Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at Adam. How handsome he was in his cream suit! How black and shiny his hair was – making her fingers itch to caress it! “Oh Adam”, she thought. “You were mine. How could you have left me?”
His eyes caressed her as he walked with her to his car. With a gasp she recognized his old white ’59 Cadillac. Seven years ago it had been his pride and joy, although aged and battered. Now it sat, gleaming and new, completely restored to its original splendour.
“I finally found enough money to do my baby justice.” He explained proudly. Although Laura flinched at the use of the word “baby”, she couldn’t suppress a sigh of pleasure as he opened the door for her and she once again slid into the luxury of white leather, now perfect and new once more. “I only use it on special occasions”, he added.
“Yes”, she thought, “Special occasions indeed.” It had been a special occasion when he had picked her up to take her to her Grade 12 graduation. She had arrived in style in his Cadillac, secure in his love for her, celebrating that milestone of life. And later, much later, they had parked at the edge of the river. The moon was a golden reflection in the rear-view mirror as they had leaned into the cracked white leather and held each other as if they would never let go. They had made plans that night and the future shone brightly as the moon.
“As Juliet’s inconstant moon!” Laura now thought in scorn. What a fool she had been. Still, the smooth luxury and rich scent of old leather swept her nostalgically into a bemused state.
“Adam, I love it.” She stated. “I always loved this car. Now it’s like everything is renewed. The queen has been given a second chance.”
“Everyone deserves a second chance.” He stated abruptly, putting the car into gear and leaving her to regret her choice of words.
Feeling the purr of the Cadillac’s motor beneath her, Laura was again swept into the past. How many times had they cruised downtown on a Saturday night, enjoying the attention only a car like this could command? How many times had they washed and waxed their “baby” together, splashing each other, laughing as they worked, until the Caddy shone like glass?
She glanced sideways at Adam, recalling all the times they had driven around with Laura cuddled close to him on the wide seat, like the “two-headed driver” they always laughed about. But suddenly the warm glow of her remembrance was chilled by the thought of Vicki. Had she sat close to Adam on this wide white leather seat? How often had they cruised Jasper Avenue together, revelling in the envious stares of other drivers?
As if aware of her thoughts, Adam spoke, “You are the only one who ever appreciated this car. Vicki thinks it beneath her dignity to ride in anything more than a year old. If . .” he corrected himself, “when . . we go out together, it’s in her Mercedes, or one of the new Cadillacs her father keeps in our garage.”
The mention of Vicki hurt deeply, yet Laura knew that she must become accustomed to not only hearing the name, but discussing it impersonally.
Their destination appeared to be an old house, but turned out to be an exclusive French restaurant. The main floor rooms had been converted into exclusive small eating areas; the one Adam led her to only contained two other tables which were presently empty. Her glance strayed to stairs leading upward, and Adam explained,
“This restaurant also offers several upstairs rooms available for overnight rental for special occasions.”
There was that term again, ‘special occasions’. Surely this WAS a special occasion. Laura felt her cheeks fill with warmth as she speculated on those upstairs rooms. Oh to be with Adam alone again in such a romantic environment! With a rush she realized that, in spite of seven years separation, and in spite of everything Adam had done to her, her feelings towards him had not changed. Her love was still as strong and true as it had been when she was a tender, innocent teenager.
The shock of realization hit her and she glanced up into Adam’s eyes. Could he still read her thoughts? The hunger she saw there frightened her. It wasn’t possible that Adam felt what she did. If his love had been as strong and true as hers, they would have been together always until now. They would have their daughter, their family would be united, no shadows, no nightmares.
The rest of the evening passed by all too quickly. The food was exquisite, as was the environment. But nothing surpassed the company. It was Laura and Adam. Lovers true and honest. They talked of nothing, yet they talked of everything. By the time coffee arrived, Laura felt dazed. She no longer had another life beyond Adam.
“Laura,” he spoke warmly, “It means so much to have you here.” Perhaps the wine had made him bold. “I. . . I’d like you to know: that I’ve never stopped loving you. I looked for you. Oh, Laura, you are the only one I’ve ever wanted or loved.”
Laura wasn’t sure if she was hearing right. After all, the last time they had been together this way, he had proposed that she become his mistress while Vicki retained the position of wife. “Adam” she spoke gently, “you have a wife. You made a choice seven years ago, and now . . . there is no future for us. I can’t say . .”, at this she paused, “that I don’t feel the right things. What I felt for you seven years ago has not changed. But”, she added, “time and unforeseen circumstance befalls us all. We make our choices and then live with them.
Sometimes it hurts.” she added, as he flinched with the cruelty of her words, “but . . ” her voice faltered, “that’s the way it is.”
His eyes were shadowed and there was pain in his voice. “Laura,” he whispered, “Let’s forget the past. Let’s make a new future. Me and you. And our daughter when we find her.” He paused and grasped for words.
“We’ve both paid a heavy price. Can’t we let the past go and make a new beginning?” The hope in his voice was almost her undoing.
“No, Adam.” She forced harshness into her voice. “It’s over. It was over a long time ago. But if . . ” she corrected herself, “when . . we find our daughter, I hope to share her with you, if that proves to be possible.”
Adam made as if to speak again, but stopped. After some minutes, he signaled the waiter and they left the restaurant, silence unbroken. Later that night Laura was to reflect on that silence and wonder if it meant something beyond the words she and Adam had spoken thus far.
As they cruised home in the Caddy, both were lost in thought and feelings. Then Adam sped off and Laura was left unceremoniously at her motel, with only memories of fond good-night kisses to sustain her. She forced herself to focus on their daughter. “You are only here for one purpose. Don’t let him get to you again”. Warning bells sounded in her brain and in her heart, but to no avail. Adam had once again spun his magic. Laura was his victim, helpless to run away from the remembered desire of youth and the new reality of mature love.
To cope, Laura immersed herself in her work. After several days, Aaron managed to corner her. “Laura – have you been deliberately avoiding me?” His teasing tone seemed to mask some deeper emotion. “I’ve wanted to ask you out again, but whenever I phone you aren’t in. Are you free for dinner and a movie tonight?” His tone was so hopeful, his smile so charming, that Laura didn’t have the heart to turn him down, and so she reluctantly agreed.
Aaron again proved to be good company. “I could really get to like this guy.” Laura thought to herself. Still she stayed conscious of her need to somehow use him as a source of information. Somewhere between dessert and coffee she decided to take the plunge.
“Aaron . . ” she began uncertainly, “I . . haven’t told you everything about myself.” She noted the sudden flash of worry in his eyes. Perhaps he was expecting some bizarre revelation; Something that would change his opinion of her forever.
“I had a baby many years ago. She was taken from me. I’m here now to look for her.” Laura waited for a reaction.
The relief in his face was palpable. “I knew you had a secret of some kind. Something you didn’t want to tell. I’m glad you’ve decided to share it with me.” he paused, playing with his empty coffee cup. Then he looked directly at her. “Is there any way I can help?”
Laura felt suddenly ashamed that she had thought to take advantage of this kind, sensitive man. “Aaron . . I’m not sure right now, but I appreciate your offer.” She then proceeded to explain all the steps she had taken up until now in her search, leaving out any personal reference to Adam, simply stating, “A friend here in Edmonton is making inquiries as well”. A great weight seemed to lift off her, and they were talking as old friends. Possibilities and ideas flew between them, and they talked for hours, drinking coffee. When they became conscious of the fact that they were the only ones left in the restaurant, they both looked guiltily at the waitress tactfully hovering by, obviously waiting for them to leave. Laura glanced at Aaron as he paid the bill, and a twinkle of unspoken humour passed between them. Again Laura was assailed by a feeling of guilt. Was she using Aaron? He had offered his help. Surely that absolved her. But she couldn’t deny that niggling feeling – knowing Aaron was interested in her personally, knowing she couldn’t return the interest. Again she hardened herself. “Stop being sentimental.” She thought. “Finding your daughter is all that matters.”
A warm camaraderie filled the car as Aaron drove her home. They were now allies. As they turned down 101st Avenue, minutes from home, he said, “I think maybe there might be some information I can access at the hospital. Leave it with me for a couple of days, and I’ll see what I can do.” Before Laura could express her gratitude, he added, “Don’t get your hopes up, there may be nothing, and I may not be able to find it even if it is there. But I’ll do all I can.” With those reassuring words, he stopped the car in front of her hotel. Laura reached for the door handle, thanking him sincerely for a lovely evening. As she turned to him, he reached over and gave her a brotherly hug, as if realizing that any closer contact would be unwelcome.
“It will be O.K. Laura, I feel it inside. Trust Doctor Grant”, he added flippantly. With a smile on her face she escaped the car, waving to him as she inserted her key in the lock.
“He really is a nice man”, she thought to herself. “If only . .” but she didn’t want to admit that something was still holding her back from loving again – something called “Adam”. She did feel heartened, however, having confided in Aaron. Even if he couldn’t help her, it was nice to have finally shared her burden with someone else; someone who had no vested interest in the whole situation. Laura sighed as she got ready for bed.
“Sometimes things seem so close!” She thought ruefully.
On Saturday she went grocery shopping. She was looking over the fruit, choosing the nicest apples; when she became aware of someone beside her. She moved over a little to make room for the intruder to find space, and glanced at her. To her surprise, she recognized Melanie, the little girl she had met in the park.
“Hi Melanie!” she exclaimed. The little girl looked up at her, and her face lit up with momentary pleasure.
“I know you!” she exclaimed, “I saw you in the park.”
“Yes, we swung together. How have you been? Are you picking apples?” Laura added.
“Yes, my grandma asked me to choose some good ones. She taught me how to pick the nicest ones.”
“Your grandma is very smart to teach you things like that,” Laura smiled. Melanie really was a very pretty child, in spite of her seriousness. “So have you been to the park lately?” she added, in an attempt to make light conversation.
“Well”, Melanie said, “I like to go every day, but right now everything is kind of upset in the house I live in, so my grandma makes me stay home most of the time. But tomorrow, Adam promised me he would take me to the zoo, and I can hardly wait!”
Something clutched at Laura’s heart. “Adam . .?” She said quietly. “Is that your dad’s name?”
“Oh no”, Melanie answered quickly. “Adam is . . “, she was suddenly stopped by a tall, grey-haired lady who had come beside them unawares.
“Melanie”, she admonished, “You know better than to be bothering strangers. Let’s go.” Her tone seemed unusually harsh.
“But grandma . . I was just . . ” The little girl’s protests were cut off as her grandma grabbed her arm roughly.
“I said let’s go.” The woman spoke quietly but sharply.
“It’s O.K.”, Laura tried to mollify the grandmother. “I met Melanie at the park. I was enjoying talking to her.” At Laura’s words, the grandmother looked up into her eyes. Laura shrank back at the malevolence of that look. What had she done to merit such animosity? But before she could speak again, Melanie’s grandmother had grabbed her and quickly walked towards the checkouts.
Melanie turned back once and gave a little wave, as if to say, “Don’t mind my grandma, I still like you!”
Laura finished her shopping with a sense of disquiet. Why had Melanie’s grandmother been so hostile? Why had the name “Adam” come up in their conversation? What strange coincidences!
Later that evening, as Laura was preparing her lonely supper, the phone rang. It was Aaron. “Laura!” his voice was excited, “I’ve found out some things that I think might fit! Can we get together?”
Laura could not contain her excitement. “Aaron! Tell me! Don’t make me wait!” Her heart swelled in anticipation. A breakthrough at last?
“No, Laura, I’ve got to show you what I found. Are you free right now?”
Of course she was. “Alright. You win. Come over Aaron, and tell me in person.” She resigned herself to having to wait. “Have you had supper? If not, I’m just making mine. You’re welcome to join me.”
“Supper sounds great. I’ll be there in about 15 minutes”, and they terminated the conversation in order to hurry his arrival.
Laura rushed about trying to stretch her supper to feed two; fortunately she had stocked up at Safeway. All too soon it seemed (where was her sense of urgency?) his knock sounded at the door.
Aaron refused to enlighten her until they had eaten supper and shared the bottle of wine he had brought. Finally, relaxed and replete, they sat on the hard motel sofa and faced each other.
“Tell me, tell me Aaron! I’ve waited long enough. What have you found?” she demanded. In answer he pulled a white paper from his jacket pocket. He held it towards her. It was a photocopy of a standard form of some kind. The title on the top read, “Record of Adoption of a Minor Child Within the Province of Alberta”. As Laura scanned the information in front of her, she gathered that this was a record of the adoption of a child born on April 7, 1987; in Vancouver, Canada. With a cold shock she recognized her name under the “name of mother”. “My baby!” she whispered. She quickly and excitedly glanced at the entry under “name of father”. It was blank. In fact the rest of the document held no other identifying information whatsoever. Under the heading “name of adoptive parents”, the entry was again blank. Laura let go an audible sigh of disappointment.
Aaron seemed to sense what she was thinking. “I know it doesn’t seem to give us (she noted the use of “us” and warmed to it) much to go on, but it does confirm that your daughter was brought here to be adopted. At the hospital at which we work, in fact!” he added jubilantly. “If we can find out this much, we can find out more!” he stated confidently.
Laura hesitated, then spoke, “Thank you Aaron. What you have found means a great deal. At least I know for sure I’m on the right track. I have a feeling that my daughter is still here, somewhere, in Edmonton. Thank you for giving me that confidence.”
Aaron beamed with pleasure. “I like you, Laura, I like you a lot. It gives me a great deal of happiness to help you and make you happy. I just wish I could find out more for you, but I’ll keep looking.” His warm words were accompanied by an even warmer look. It was obvious that Aaron wanted more than just a “working relationship” with Laura. How she wished she could give it to him!
Aaron gave her a chaste peck on the lips as he left the motel a little while later. He was so sweet! “Please, God,” she prayed, “let me feel something for this dear man. Let me forget Adam. Please wipe him out of my mind!” It was her best chance now. Find her baby, and forget Adam in the arms of another man.
Her search now became heated, confirmation that her daughter had come to Edmonton seemed to give her new impetus. After some days, she heard from Adam. “Laura,” he stated without preamble, “I have information from Vancouver. Apparently your”, he abruptly corrected himself, “our daughter, was adopted by a single woman. All I can confirm so far is that she was living in Edmonton at the time.”
“I already know that she lived here, Adam.”
Laura proceeded to explain about the adoption certificate that she had seen, leaving out details about who had given her the document. Adam seemed irritated that she hadn’t shared this information with him. But after all, he hadn’t called in more than a week! Laura stated as much,
“Well, you hadn’t called, and I don’t like to call you. But”, she added, ashamed suddenly – after all, it was his daughter too, “I should have told you. We did agree to always compare notes.” She didn’t add that Aaron’s involvement had complicated things somewhat for her. Adam had no right to be jealous anyway.
“Laura . . .,” there was a sudden break in his voice. “I’d like to see you:”
Read The Voice next week for part four of Forgotten Promise.
For submissions for the upcoming Voice student fiction column, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carla Johnson grew up in Western Canada. She loves to read and tell stories to her cousins and younger sisters; and especially loves creating mystery romance stories because love is like that. If she could change the world she would do it through peace, love and song. Her favourite pastime is baking goodies for her family and friends, riding her bike, traveling to new places, and staying up waaaaay past everyone else’s bedtime. She is not related to Johnson & Johnson product providers although she avidly uses most of them.