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Prologue to A Song in Every Silence

September 1965

By seven-thirty last night, three regimented years of nursing school ended in a short walk across a stage. I received polite applause, a prickly bouquet of pink roses, and a rolled-up diploma. My parents gave me a gleaming new Mustang Fastback.

Before he left, I clung to my father's strong shoulders, not wanting to let him go to his other family. I saw his tears. "Good night, Daddy. Thank you so much—for everything. I love you." I waved until the taillights disappeared, whispering into the dark, "Goodbye, Dad… I'm sorry."

This morning I forced a laugh as I hugged Mom. I cranked up the radio, gunned the Mustang, and roared down Fulton Street before I lost the last of my resolve. I couldn't get away fast enough.

Making a turn west, I caught my reflection in the mirror: dark curly hair and fair skin. Audrey Hepburn sunglasses hid my eyes. I was twenty-one, all grown up, and finally, finally, I was a nurse.

My car closed in on its shadow. I passed a rest area and glimpsed a little girl skipping beside a tall man. His hand held hers. I'd bet she felt loved and safe with her daddy. If everything had been okay, I would have considered myself like her—one lucky girl.

In spite of everything, I smiled at the headiness of graduation, a new car, moving, and becoming a nurse. Lovin' Spoonful crooned, and I sang along, "Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart? How the music can free her, whenever it starts…" Losing myself in it, I floated above the things threatening my happiness. I trusted with all my heart the wonderful life I'd always dreamed of was just starting.

I yawned as foliage along the roadside blurred into long ribbons of faded green. If it'd been a normal day, the monotonous thumping of the tires might make me pull over. I lifted my foot from the accelerator, reconsidered, shoved it down again. This crisp fall day was far from ordinary.

When I turned up the radio, a familiar fluttering low in my belly jolted me back to my private world. I hadn't told a soul—no friend, family members—not even my sweet mother. Since the date rape, my engagement ring no longer covered its indentation. Even if he'd called, I wouldn't tell the young man who took away all my dreams. My shame swelled, and tears left wet spots on my lavender sweater.

When BJ Thomas sang, a stronger flicking came from the baby inside me. My hand flew to cinch the lap belt tighter to keep him safe. I snuffled through BJ's lyrics, "Don't worry baby, everything will be all right." My heart knew I carried a boy. It also knew nothing could ever be right again.

I am not fit to be a daughter, a wife, or a nurse.

Another tiny wriggle.

How can I possibly be your mother?