Dedicated to Edie and all the moms who had to go it alone.
Edie was only 23 when she moved on Sepviva.Street. Like most of the girls of her generation, she dropped out of school to work, got married and had children. Edie married when she was 18. By the time, she was 23 she had 3 little girls with a 4th on the way. It was during the last pregnancy that Edie’s husband told her that he had met someone else, and wanted a divorce.
Edith thought he was kidding, but when she saw he had packed his clothes and was putting on the suit he usually wore to church she knew he wasn’t. Edie was frantic. “What did I do?” She asked. “Nothing,” Bernie said. He kept his head down. He would not look her in the eyes. “Bernie, please don’t do this. You have 3 kids who love you. You have a wife who adores you. Please don’t,” Edie touched his hand. But Bernie jerked away, “Don’t touch me.”
Without another word, he picked up his bag and walked out. It was just as simple as that. At least for Bernie, it was. But not for Edie. But, there was no time to nurse her broken heart. She had children to care for. She had to find work fast and an affordable place to live.
By the end of the month, Edie had found a one bed apartment. It was above a bar. It was nasty and run down but it was all Edie could afford. She had no choice. She had no skills, and she was pregnant. She begged for work at a box factory and was lucky to be hired.
It was on her walk home that the woman she had seen on the factory pranced up behind her. Edie didn’t know they were there until she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Hey there young lady. You’re certainly a fast walker.” The voice was heavy and strong. It reminded Edie of Lauran Bacall. Edie slowed her pace. The woman was big boned, mannish yet pleasant to look at. Edie smiled and extended her hand. The woman took it. Edie was surprised at how gentle her handshake was. “Let me introduce you to the moms of Sepviva street. This here is Gail, and this here is Lori, and this here is Marie. The other ones are home. They don’t work. I’ll introduce you to them later” Edie looked at the women who were grinning at her with big, toothy grins. Edie returned the smiles with her own. The big woman continued on, “We saw you when you first moved in and we’re going to stop by this Saturday but then we saw you at the factory, and figured after work would be a good a time as any.” Edie laughed. She immediately liked them “And who are you?” Edie asked the leader. The big woman’s cheeks reddened slightly, “oh, silly me. I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Dorothy but you can call me Dot. Everyone else does.”
They walked on giggling at silly jokes and bits of mindless gossip. Edie felt the weight of loneliness slowly lift. She hadn’t realized how much she missed the company of women. “So,” Dot asked during a brief interlude of silence. “How old are you, young lady?”
Edie gulped and murmured, “I just turned 23.”
Dot’s face flushed with amazement, “Oh my God, you look like a baby.”
Edie blushed and thought, “Not anymore.”
Dot continued to smile as she asked, “Are your parents in the area?”
Edie shook her head, “No, my parents passed when I was little.”
“Oh, terrible,” Dot gasped and quickly changed the subject. She lightly tapped Edie’s tummy, “I see you got one in the oven. When are you expecting?”
Edie tried to keep her voice calm as the enormity of what she was facing grew heavy in her chest, “April, I think.”
“Have you been seen by a doctor?”
Edie shook her head. The
women exchanged worried looks then they did what any decent women would do.
They offered to help. Edie was just a girl, they reasoned, and was in need of
motherly guidance. “You have to see a doctor.”
Edie hung her head down. “I can’t afford a doctor.”
Dot’s maternal instinct took over and she grasped the young mother’s hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
Marie wasn’t about to be left out of this one and grunted, “Oh no you don’t, Dot. That’s too much of a burden for one person. All of us can chip in.”
The others agreed. Dot invited Edie to sit with them after dinner, “It’s too hot to sit alone in that little apartment of yours. You come over and I’ll introduce to the rest of the moms. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
Edie was glad to accept. After she washed up and fed the girls, she walked down the street to the block where the older women sat on their newly washed white marble steps. Dot saw her and stood up. She gave Edie a cheerful grin as she patted Edie on the back. She introduced Edie to the others. They liked Edie right from the start, and Edie liked them, too. She sat next to them enjoying the waning evening and the warm summer breeze. It become a routine for her. Whenever the weather was nice, and her girls were attended to, Edie would sit with the moms of Sepviva street. It would be a routine that would last for decades.
After a few weeks, Edie began to relax. She wasn’t as jumpy as she once was and she didn’t cry as easily. The older women helped her. She didn’t even have to ask. They watched her children, and more than once a week they made her dinner. When they went shopping on the avenue, they would pick up stuff that was on sale- socks or pajamas or blouses for her girls, and sometimes for Edie herself.
Edie had done good with her daughters. People told Edie what good girls they were- so sweet and polite. Their adorable faces attracted a lot of attention. So did Edie. The Moms of Sepviva Street would tell her to the point it was annoying how good looking she was. Everywhere Edie went, she got admiring glances. The women were subtle, but the men were not.
“Where’s her husband?’ the younger ones wanted to know. “Her husband walked out on her for another woman,” Lori told whoever asked. She wanted everyone to know what a prick Edie’s husband was. “He walked out on her? Hell,” bachelor men would shake their heads, “something’s wrong with that guy.”
Edie was pregnant but that didn’t stop men from asking her out. There was particular guy who followed Edie around like a puppy hungry for a treat. Whenever Edie left work for the day, there he was. Whenever she went shopping, there he was. Whenever she mistakenly made eye contact he winked at her. Edie was not only annoyed but awed by the young man’s belligerence. She asked Dot who he was. “His name is Larry. I hear he’s got a thing for you,” Dot chuckled. She found the whole situation amusing. But Edie wasn’t amused. The last thing she wanted was another man in her life.
Edie was now visibly pregnant. She had been to the doctor, and as far as he was concerned she and the baby were healthy. One evening as she headed toward the market, she almost colluded into Larry. “Hey Edie, you busy?” Before she had a chance to respond, he said, “I figured we could catch a movie tonight and maybe get a bite to eat afterwards.” Edie put her hand on her protruding belly. How could Larry miss this? “Are you kidding me?” Larry saw her hand on her belly and took a step forward. “Don’t worry about the baby,” he spoke reassuringly, “I have a simple solution.” Edie was too stunned to reply. All she could do was blink. Larry took it as a sign she was interested. He took a step closer and announced, “I’ll tell everyone he’s mine,” His eyes twinkled impressed at his cleverness. Edie reminded silent. “Well?’ he asked. Edie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It took a second for it to seep it. Then she exploded, but Larry was so young and adorable it was hard to be mad at him too long. Still Larry’s adorability didn’t change facts, and the facts were Edie didn’t want another man. There was only one man and he no longer loved her. “You’re nuts!” she couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all, “You don’t look like you can take care of yourself let alone a family. Now go away. Shoo and don’t bother me again.”
Edie was thrilled when she felt the baby move and he moved almost hourly. She knew in her heart the baby was boy. She told the Moms of Sepviva street she suspected she was having a boy and they agreed because she was carrying so high. “But,” Dot shook a worried finger at her, “you need to put on some weight. If you breast fed that little baby isn’t going to get any nourishment from that skinny body of yours.” Edie didn’t argue. Dot was right. She did need to gain more weight. Dot noticed the look of dismay on her face and abruptly announced, “I’m going to the market. Come with me, Edie. I want to get a Turkey. I’m going to cook it up and give you half.”
Edie had lots of things to do but she could never find it in her heart to turn Dot down. “Ok, Dot,” she smiled, “but let’s not stay there all day. I have lots of chores to do around the apartment.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll help you. I won’t be too long, promise.” Dot replied. She gathered her purse and headed toward the market. Edie followed behind wondering where all her friend’s energy came from. Just like Edie predicted, the shopping took longer than Dot said it would. After nearly an hour of picking up stuff that Dot didn’t need, they finally got the spinach and turnips for the stew Dot intended to make. They got into line surprised at how crowded the market was on a Saturday morning. Edie reached over to the magazine stand and picked out the National Enquirer when she felt eyes on her. She glanced up and saw a women staring at her full of disgust. “oh, so we finally meet,” she spat. Edie was baffled. The woman realized that Edie had no clue who she was. “I’m Julie.” Edie continued to look baffled. The woman smirked. “I’m Bernie’s new wife.” She patted her belly. The mischievous look in her eyes deepened, “His pregnant wife.” She looked Edie over. “Oh, it looks like Bernie left you with a little something to remember him by.”
Edie hadn’t intended to cry but she did. She put her hands to her face to cover her tears. “You can cry all you want. He’s mine now,” Julie grew bold. She stepped closer toward Edie. She didn’t notice a large woman rushing toward until it was too late. Dot grabbed her by her arm and pushed her into the magazine rack. “Get away from Edie, you damn whore. It’s only because you’re expecting that I don’t beat you to a pulp.” Julie gasped too frightened to struggle. A crowd had gathered. They watched but didn’t dare say a word. Dot clutched Julie’s arm more firmly. Her nose practically touched Julie’s, “don’t come back around here again if you know what’s good for you. You understand me?” Dot released her and Julie pushed her way through the crowd. Dot beamed triumphantly as she slid her arm behind Edie’s back. Edie brushed away her tears and watched until she could no longer saw Julie. It would be years before she would see her again.
Edie gathered up a bag of groceries. She and Dot headed out of the store toward home. She was on the avenue when she adjusted the bag. It was then a sharp stabbing pain erupted in her belly caused her to suck in air. Dot had a concerned look. “Nothing to worry about,” Edie smiled weakly, “just my nerves, I guess.” Dot patted her shoulder, “Now, don’t you pay her no mind, Edie. She’s no good.”
When Edie got back to the apartment, another sharp pain came on causing her to double over. She went into the bathroom, and sat on the toilet. She breathed in slowly until the pain lessened. In her underwear, she noticed a thick green stain, and wondered what it was. “I’ll ask Dot. She’ll know,” Edie said out loud. There was a loud racket coming from the stairwell. Edie sat up straight listening. It was the girls. They had come home. They were hungry and letting Edie know about it. “Mommy, fed us. When’s lunch?” The girls were like little homing pigeons. They rushed to the bathroom door before Edie had a chance to announce where she was. They banged hard with their little hands. “Mommy, mommy!” they cried in unison. “I’m coming. Hold on a second.” Slowly Edie got to her feet, and pulled up her pants.
The pain was now gone. As soon as she opened the bathroom door she was swarmed. All three girls jumped around her jostling for her attention. Edie listened to their stories. She was careful to fuss over each one as she made her way to the kitchen to make sandwiches. Edie had been so distracted throughout the day that she didn’t notice the baby had not moved. Dot came over with the half of turkey she promised. She stayed and the other moms of Sepviva Street showed up. They sat at Edie’s small kitchen table smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. Finally, it was dinner time. Each mom excused herself. They asked Edie to sit with them later, and Edie said she would. “I’m going to feed the girls and take a nap. I’ve feel so tired.” The moms blew kisses and left.
Edie fed the girls and lay down. When she stretched out on the mattress, she realized how exhausted she was. Her eyes fluttered as she ran her hands over her taut belly. As sleep forced its way on her, Edie thought dimly that her belly seemed much bigger than it had earlier.
It was dark when Edie woke up. Sharp pains radiated across her belly. There was a pain sharper than the others and Edie felt a burst of fluid. Her water had broke. But it was much too early. She was only 6 months pregnant. And the water wasn’t normal. It was dark green. Another sharp pain convulsed in her belly. This time she screamed. Her daughters rushed into the bedroom and immediately began to weep. As young as they were, they knew something was terribly wrong. “Get Miss Dot and the other moms, please. The baby’s coming.”
Edie withered on the bed trying to control her breathing. Beads of sweat went into her eyes and mouth. Her clothes were saturated. “Mommy,” she cried out for a woman who had died long ago. Suddenly, her tiny room was filled with women she loved like family. “We’re here, sweetheart,” a large hand touched her cheek. Edie recognized the voice instantly. There were other voices that pierced through Edie’s agony. “I called her doctor but he’s not picking up,” one anxious voice whispered.
“I called the operator. They’re sending an ambulance.”
“Oh, thank God.”
Another contraction seized Edie. Her hands were caressed. Her face and arms were wiped down. Water was brought to her chaffed lips. There were more sharp pains and another gush of fluid.
“The baby is coming. Oh, dear God, it’s too soon,” Edie cried out as another urge to push on her.
Her heart fluttered hard as she struggled to catch her breath. She bore down hard, sucking in quick breaths in between her teeth. The baby’s head emerged and Gail helped to ease the rest of body out. There was no cry from the tiny baby.
All sound had ceased. Gail held the still form as Dot wrapped a towel around him, “Edie, the cord is wrapped around the baby’s leg.” She quickly unraveled it and went through the motions to stimulate the baby knowing it was much too late. She rubbed the baby’s feet. She breathed on his little face. There was no response. Cries of grief filled the room. “A boy or girl,” Edie asked, her voice barely a whisper. “A boy, Edie. A perfectly formed beautiful boy,”
Edie sobbed as she extended her arms. She was so weak but she had to hold her baby boy. “Of course, my dear,” Gail whispered. The baby was placed on Edie’s chest. Edie stroked the baby’s plump cheek, “I’m so sorry, son. I love you. I’ll always love you.”
In the distance, there was the shrill sound of sirens. “They’re finally coming,” Dot complained. “There’s nothing they could have done, Dot. The baby was too early,” Gail said sadly. She turned to Edie, “the ambulance is coming. Let me wash him.” Edie let Gail take her baby. Gail walked toward the kitchen, and suddenly stopped. A thought came to her, “Edie, please let me baptize him.”
Edie’s eyes were as round as an owl’s, “But only the priest can do that.”
“Not if it’s an emergency,” Dot interjected.
Gail took the infant to the sink. She washed the form so tiny it fit along the length of her forearm. She gently dried him and swaddled him in a towel. Dot brought a bowel and cup of water. As the moms of Sepviva Street crowded around the bed, Gail poured water on the infant’s forehead and whispered, “I baptize thee in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
Dot stayed with Edie for days. She washed Edie and fed her. She took care of the girls. Her husband made the baby’s coffin. The neighbors chipped in and bought a site at the church graveyard. It was a site that sat a good distacne away from the other graves. Edie was grateful of that. She wanted privacy when she visited her baby. Every morning, as she walked to work, Edie would stop by her son’s grave and prayer. In her mind, prayer gave her strength, and courage. One morning, about a month after her miscarriage, Edie was surprised to see a dogwood sapling- her favorite tree- planted by the grave. Edie found out later that Gail had bought it.
Bernie knew about the baby’s death but never said a word. Edie was devastated but mentioned it to no one. It was in December that Julie gave birth to twin boys. Edie wept bitterly when the girls told her. How ironic was it that Bernie’s wife should give birth to two sons while her son born too soon lay in a cold grave? Edie went to work. She took care of her girls. She put on a good show but the Moms of Sepviva street saw through it and were concerned.
It was late at night when the enormity of her son’s death would sneak up on her. She was too numb with grief to do anything except stare at the ceiling unblinking for long moments. Months ago, she asked why Bernie did what he did. Now she asked why her son had died. Was there something she could have done? She would have done anything even sacrificed her own life for her son. Now, he was dead. He would never know how much his mother loved him.
After the miscarriage, Edie withdrew into herself. She went straight home after work. She didn’t sit with the moms anymore. She preferred to lay in bed and watch re runs on TV. The Moms of Sepviva Street knew they had to do something. Edie was melting away right before their eyes. It was a Friday and the beginning of Spring, and the Moms decided to take Edie to Greenwood dairy for their monster scoop special. Edie loved ice cream but when her friends offered she declined. Dot took Edie by the arm and directed her toward her car. “Edie, stop this. We know you’re suffering. And we know Bernie didn’t get in touch with you. Let him go. He’s not worth it, sweetheart. Don’t waste your energy on people who don’t love you. Concentrate on people who do. We all love you, Edie. You know that. Don’t shut us out.”
Edie folded her arms across her chest and stared blankly at the pavement then it was as if a light turned on. Dot was right, and Edie told her so. “The hell with him. The hell with her, too. Now, let’s get my ice cream.” A cheer rose up, and off they went to Greenwood Diary.
But the depression was deep and despite the support the Moms offered, it was taking Edie down further and further. People told her with time the pain would go away. But Edie knew that was not true. The pain of losing a baby never goes away. Still she didnt want to stress out the Moms of Sepviva Street anymore than she had so she learned how to hide it with bright smiles and silly gossip and playtime with the girls. Edie’s sudden change in affect made everyone happy. They honestly believed Edie had beaten back her depression.
One morning as the sun peaked over the row homes that lined the street across from the apartment, Edie went to her son’s grave. “he’s alone.” She knelt and as her tears dripped down her face, she pressed her hand into the grave. “You’ll never know how much I love you.” There was no one in the graveyard so there was no need to hide her grief. Edie put her hands to her face and moaned as she rocked back and forth. Suddenly, a sensation pressed against her cheek then slid down her neck. It was silky and soft and smelled of the sweetness that only babies possess. Edie sat completely still as the sensation increased in warmth, and lingered. Edie could almost hear the words, “It’s Ok, mom. It’s OK.” Slowly it faded.
It was her son. He had known her love. He felt it as he grew in her belly taking from her nutrients and oxygen. It was only by a cruel mistake of nature that the very thing that gave him sustenance took his life, and there was nothing Edie could have done. This was not her imagination. She believed in the other side, of life after death. Her son had reached out to comfort her, and Edie felt comforted. She wiped the tears off her face as she rose to her feet. She saw the imprint of her hand in the soft dirt and smiled.
The girls were now in middle school and growing a little too fast for Edie’s taste. Sometimes they would disappear for hours. Edie would ask where they had been and always the reply was a shrug of their shoulders. One day, the factory’s boiler broke down and the workers were sent home. It was incredibly hot and no one complained especially Edie who wanted more than anything to take a cold shower. School had been out for over two weeks. The girls were home by themselves. They were told not to wander off. Edie figured they were old enough to be alone besides most of her neighbors were around in case something happened.
Edie took her time walking home thinking about what she was going to make for dinner then decided against cooking. “It’s too damn hot out. I’m going to make sandwiches and be done with it.” Finally she reached her apartment. She unlocked the door and walked in. As she ascended the stairwell, she heard voices – voices that were distinctly little boys.
Edie listened curiously as she slowly took the steps. The last two steps creaked as she put pressure on them and the voices ceased. Edie stepped into the kitchen, and her eldest daughter, Lucy jumped out, “Hi Mom. You’re home early.” Lucy was cheery and spry, and that was unusual. She was up to something. “Who’s here?” Edie asked as she stepped furtively into the kitchen. “No one, Mom.” Her daughter was following too close. Edie could feel the tension in the air. She turned to Lucy with a knowing smile, “Sounded like you all were having a good time while I was at work. So who’s here?”
Her daughter’s eyes moistened with anxiety, and she hung her head in shame. “Oh, mom. Please don’t be mad.” Edie felt anger tighten in her throat, “you better start talking real fast.”
Lucy gulped, “Sage and Sebastian are here.”
Edie was startled. “Sage and Sebastian?”
“Yeah, mom. Our brothers. Dad’s boys.”
Edie’s head instantly throbbed. Lucy had betrayed her. Didn’t Lucy understand the pain her father had caused? Didn’t she care? Edie wanted to scream. She wanted to slap Lucy. Instead she closed her eyes and took deep breathes as a little voice inside her head urged her to think rationally. She could not let anger get the best of her. She had to play it smart and act cool. Besides she had never seen Bernie’s sons, and despite everything, she did want to see them.
“Mom?” Lucy broke into Edie’s thoughts. “It’s ok,” Edie murmured as she patted her daughter’s hand, “you can tell your sisters and brothers to come out.”
“Really, Mom? You’re not upset?” Lucy asked surprised and elated all at once. Everyone knew Edie had a wicked temper, but not today. Edie shook her head, “Your brothers are welcome anytime, sweetheart.” Lucy stared at Edie. At first, she couldn’t believe it but quickly realized her mother was serious. She let loose a great whoop. “Come on out!” She only had to say it once. Lydia and Lynette burst out from the closet. Two little boys followed close behind. They were replicas of their father. The fear and tension Edie felt quickly evaporated. “Hello Miss Edie,” the twins chirped together as they stood shoulder to shoulder like miniature soldiers. Edie was charmed by their adorableness. She couldn’t act disinterested even if she wanted to. “Come here, you two,” she laughed and held out her arms. They hurried to her squealing like they had known her all their lives.
Edie made lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the kids. They played hide and seek. They wrestled. They played tag. When they got tired, Edie read to them. The boys sat close to her. Sage lay his blonde head against her chest and fell asleep for a few moments then perked up instantly when Lucy told him it was time to go. “Oh, do we have to?” he complained. He gazed up at Edie hoping she would intervene.
“I don’t want to go either,” Sebastian whined, too. Staying with Edie and his sisters was more fun than being at home. “But you have to,” Lucy interjected glumly, “We have to or else your mom won’t let you over here anymore.”
“Aww, man,” Sage pouted and folded his arms across his chest, “I wish you were our mother.” His plump face was full of all the sincerity of a five year old. Edie’s heart swelled. She had fallen in love. She touched Sage’s cheek, “I’m not your mother but I promise I’ll love you like I am.”
Lynette and Lydia took the boys by their hands. It was time to go. “Bye mom! I mean Miss Edie,” Sage waved as he went down the stairwell. “When can we come back, mom?” Sebastian put special emphasis on mom. “Anytime, boys. Just come over,” Edie’s smile was ear to ear.
They came every day. And, every day, they hid in the closet when they saw Edie coming home from work. As hard as the boys tried they could not remain still for more than a few seconds and gave themselves away. Still, Edie pretended to be horrified when out they sprang growling like little monsters. They rushed toward Edie with their little fingers stretched out like claws. Edie begged for mercy then without warning, she lifted them in her arms, nibbling on their exposed tummies as they shrieked with joy.
Over the years, they wrote letters to Edie, telling her of their adventures and ending with promises of their devotion that would last till the day they died. They would compete against each other as they vied for her attention. At least twice a week they invited themselves for dinner. On friday and Saturday nights, they would beg Edie to let them sleep over. How could Edie have the heart to say no? She never could. If she had allowed it they would have moved in. That wouldn’t have bothered Edie in the least.
One day, Bernie and Julie came to Edie’s apartment looking for Sage and Sebastian. Julie yelled to them from the street but they pretended not to hear and hid under Lydia’s bed. Finally Bernie had to come upstairs and force them out. Edie stood in her tiny living room. She was not going to hide in her own apartment. Bernie saw her. He looked at her a little too long. Four pregnancies had not thickened her waist. She was as pretty as she had been when he had first laid eyes on her all those years ago. He opened his mouth to say something then Julie screamed for him, and he turned away. He pulled the boys out from under the bed and rushed them down the stairs. Edie laughed as she listened to them plead and beg to stay until they were outside. She went to the window. She saw Julie and was shocked at how heavy she was. Julie saw Edie, too and mouthed something terrible. Edie was too far away to hear but she understood.
The twins were ordered into the back seat. They quickly rolled down the window as Bernie started the car. Sage leaned out the window. There was a look of firm resolution on his creamy white face. He saw Edie at the window, and yelled up to her loud and clear, “Don’t worry, Mom. We’ll be back.”
Edie turned 30 and she still turned heads. But she never noticed, too caught up in her dream world as she walked to and from work or to the market. The Moms of Sepviva Street tried to get her interested in one young man then another but Edie politely declined. The man she loved no longer loved her and he was the only one she had ever wanted.
Edie’s daughters grew lovelier with each passing season but it was her eldest who attracted the most attention. Lucy had grown tall and shapely. Her hair hung like black satin down her back. Strangers gaped at her. Neighbors amired her.
Edie was nervous. She was fearful that Lucy would attract the wrong attention. She warned Lucy about boys and she knew Lucy listened. “I don’t want you getting yourself in trouble and ruining your life, you hear?” Edie warned. Lucy reassured her. As far as Edie knew, Lucy did not have a boyfriend. But, she knew it was only a matter of time before she did. “You know it would break my heart if you couldn’t go to college and make good on your life,” Edie told Lucy one afternoon as they walked to the market. “Oh, mom. Don’t worry. I’m as pure as the Virgin mother,” Lucy laughed as she hugged her mother. Still, Edie knew how girls got when they got caught up with guys. She knew she had to be extra attentive.
Trouble didn’t come with Lucy chasing boys or vice versa. It came one night when Edie had to work overtime. Lucy met her at the factory after her shift was over. It was almost 8:30 pm and the sun had gone down. The air was thick with humidity. Edie enjoyed walking on nights like this and she was glad Lucy was there to enjoy it with her.
They came to the tunnel that Edie walked through going to and from work over the years. But it was always during the day. Now, the tunnel looked sinister and threatening. Edie hesitated and Lucy took her hand something she had not done since she was a little girl. Edie smiled at her daughter. There was nothing to be afraid of.
They were half way through the tunnel when they heard the roar of motorcycles. There were quite a few of them. Edie could hear their engines reeving as they sped in their direction. Edie nudged her daughter closer to the wall. The cyclists were now in view. Edie thought they would go right past them but they didn’t. There were four of them. The leader saw Edie and Lucy. He raised his hand and the others pulled to a stop while gunning their motors. Edie clutched Lucy’s hand to her side and increased her pace. “Hey, ladies. What’s the hurry?” Edie and Lucy put their heads down and made no reply.
“Yo, I’m talking to you. I don’t like being ignored.” Fear almost paralyzed Edie. She forced herself to push forward holding her daughter close. The leader was practically shoulder to shoulder with them. Lucy began to weep. The other cyclists sped onto the pavement and blocked their way. The leader grabbed Lucy and pulled her from Edie. “Wow. We hit the jackpot. Take a look at this beauty,” he exclaimed as he grabbed Lucy’s chin, and thrust it upward. “Mom!” Lucy screamed. “Get away from my daughter, you creep!” Edie shoved the leader with every ounce of her strength. He didn’t budge. The cyclists burst out laughing.
Edie had to do something. She would die before she would let them hurt Lucy. And that’s exactly what would happen or worse if she fought them. Every nerve in her body quivered, but she knew she could not panic. Think. think.
She was just a little woman. She was no match. She had to formulate a plan and fast. The leader pulled Lucy to his chest and Lucy screamed for her mother once more. “Get off her, you son of a bitch,” Edie screamed. Then it came to her without thinking. The ruse just tumbled out of her mouth before it fully formed in her brain. She remembered hearing the name of a notorious motorcycle gang leader on TV a few months back. Now the mention of this gang leader might save her and her daughter. “Do you know who I am, you bastards? Do you?” The cyclists looked at her with wide round eyes. “Who?” the leader inquired suspiciously. There was a bit of fright in his voice, too. Edie widened her eyes and took a step forward, “I’m Crazy Wolf’s girl. Did you know that? No, you didn’t. And wait till I tell him how me and my daughter was rough housed by you ruthless shits. He’ll make you disappear. You hear me? They’ll never find your bodies.”
There was a silence. The men stared at her. They beleived her. “Look, lady, we were only messing with you. You didn’t take us seriously did you? The leader coughed uneasily. Edie knew she had them. “What’s your name, little lady?” another asked, anxious to soothe things over. “My name’s Edie,” her voice shrill with anger.
“Well, Miss Edie, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” a particularly brutish cyclist said with a nervous laugh, “Can we escort you and your daughter home?”
“Thanks but no thanks,” Edie snapped. She wanted to maintain the upper hand despite feeling faint, “We’re fine. Now, good night.” With that, Edie grasped her daughter’s wrist. “Keep walking,” she murmured as she led the way.
When Edie and Lucy got to Sepviva Street, the moms were still outside. They saw the looks of horror on their ashen faces and jumped to their feet. “Edie, what happened?” Dot rushed toward them. Edie and Lucy wept as they told their tale. All the moms were horrified. No one said it but all were thinking it. Edie and Lucy could have been raped or worse.
That night, Dot stayed over. She slept in the same bed with Edie. Once during the night, Edie whimpered to Dot, “They almost got my girl.” Dot brushed Edie’s hair from her pale face. “But they didn’t, Edie. You were there. You saved your girl.”
That night had been the worst of her life and she did not sleep well. Edie had hoped to sleep in. But Lydia put an end to that when she came screaming into the bedroom, “Mom, Mom!”
“Mom, there’s a bunch of guys on motorcycles outside. They want to see you.”
Edie’s eyes flashed open wide. She sat up. Dot sat up.
Edie quickly dressed. She washed her face. She brushed her teeth. She combed her hair. Her mind was reeling. Who were they? What did they want? Her legs trembled convulsively as she inched her way down the steps. She opened the door. Dot was close behind ready for action. She would never let anything happen to Edie.
There was a man about Edie’s age sitting on a Harley. He was scruffy looking but not unclean. He grinned at Edie. “You just as pretty as the boys said you were.” Bile ran up Edie’s esophagus and she coughed. “The boys said you told them you were my girl. Is that true, Edie?” Edie looked at him and nearly burst into tears. But the man on the cycle didn’t notice. He continued to talk. His voice was young and sweet. “You want to be my girl, Edie? If I took you home to my mom she would be so proud of me. Maybe for the first time in her life.”
Edie stammered. The bile was at the back of her throat. She had to think fast again. Maybe it would be better to tell the truth or at least part of the truth. She stepped toward him tentatively. “You’re Crazy Wolf?’ she said desperate to keep her voice steady. “The one and only,” the man on the cycle announced. “Well, Crazy Wolf, I’d love to be your girl. But another man has my heart and he’s had my heart since I was 17.” Crazy Wolf’s eyes widened. He was impressed.
Edie went on, ” But I want to thank you.”
“You saved me and my daughter.”
Crazy wolf was confused, “I did?”
“Yeah. Your boys threatened me and my daughter. I said I was your girl to make them go away and it worked.” Edie gave Crazy Wolf her best smile. He gleamed like a proud peacock. “Well, Edie. For a beautiful woman like yourself, I’m proud to be of service. I’m sorry you don’t want to be my girl but if you change your mind, you just let my boys know.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that,” Edie said as sweetly as she could as her stomach churned sour, and her legs trembled almost buckling at the knees.
Crazy Wolf grinned. For a second Edie glimpsed the darling boy he must have been before crime and drugs ruined him. With a nod to Edie, he reeved his Harley and sped away.
Edie watched till the gang was no longer in sight. She went to take a step but her legs give out. Dot got to her just in time. She steadied Edie and led her back inside. “Edie, I’ll handle the girls today. You rest. You’ve had enough excitement to last a life.”
The men who would have loved Edie and could have given her a decent life, gave up and moved on. Edie didn’t notice. She worked like she always had. She took care of her children. Every Friday and Saturday when the weather was nice, she sat with the Moms of Sepviva Street and talked about politics or the soap operas she never saw.
A house that needed fixing was for sale and Edie bought it. It was small but it was good enough for her and her kids. She did most of the work. She tarred her own roof, and did her own plumbing, and bragged about her talents to her neighbors who told her they wouldn’t be caught dead tarring a roof. “That’s a man’s job,” they teased. “Well, I ain’t got no man,” Edie huffed, “So I guess I’m stuck.”
It been a long time since Edie had seen Bernie. Still she dreamt of him when sleeping and awake. It was those dreams, her children and the Moms of Sepviva Street that got her through the days. The twins told Edie that Bernie was sick but Edie thought nothing of it. How serious could it be? Bernie was a young man. Weeks later, Edie immediately sensed something was wrong as soon as she walked through the door. She called for her daughters. At the top of the stairwell, they appeared along with the twins. They’re faces were swollen and tear stained. Edie knew before they uttered a word. “Oh, no, no!” she moaned and staggered back. Lucy ran to her, “Mom. Oh, Mom. Daddy’s dead.”
“What happened?’ Edie could barely get the words out. Sebastian’s voice trembled as he spoke, “He told me he wasn’t feeling good. I made him breakfast but he said he wasn’t hungry and he was going back to bed. When I came home from school, I found him on the floor.” Sebastian sobbed and went to Edie. She held him and motioned to others. She held them and they wept together.
A week later, Bernie was buried. The kids went back to their normal routines. Neighbors offered condolences on the day of the funeral and never mentioned it thinking Edie had forgotten Bernie a long time ago. Julie grieved then stopped. Later, she remarried and moved away. But for Edie, grief never left. She grieved in the darkness of the night as her children slept. She grieved in the coolness of the church before the mass at dawn commenced. How does one mend their broken heart? For some, there is no healing. When Bernie left, Edie held onto to a precious hope that he would come back. Years and years went by but that hope never died until Bernie died. Now there was nothing for Edie.
The girls finished high school and moved away. the time came when the twins graduated and moved out of the city, too. Edie wasn’t upset. They had to find their way in the world, and live their own lives. Besides she had the Moms of Sepviva Street to keep her company. Edie never imaged anything happening to the women she loved like family but things did happen. The Moms grew old and died-one by one. Within five years, they were gone. Then Dot died, and Edie was inconsolable. Dot had been her anchor, her rock. Now, she was gone, too. Edie was alone.
Time moved on. The neighborhood changed. Others moved into the homes that her dear neighbors once lived in. The factory that Edie labored in for years closed and was ruined by kids who smashed its windows and tore off its doors. The Church, Edie had prayed in for so long closed, too. The neighborhood that had pulsated with generation after generation of close knit families and neighbors was now broken. Those who could get out got out. Many sold their homes for the fraction of their cost. But not, Edie. She refused to budge.
Many nights, Edie would hear screaming and cursing. On the weekends, the music blasted so loud her windows shook. Sometimes, she heard gun fire. Her girls begged her to move in with them. They told Edie she could take turns staying with each daughter. But, Edie wasn’t hearing any of it. “This house is my house. I’ll leave when I’m carry me out.”
No one bothered her. The new neighbors liked Edie. And, why not? Edie got along with everybody. Edie would wave hi and engage in small talk. “Well, I guess you’re the last of them, then.” Edie’s eyes traveled over to the steps now stained and chipped where the moms of Sepviva street sat for years. “yeah, I’m the last of the Moms,” she said sadly almost dreamily. She would talk further about inconsequential things like property taxes or the crime on the avenue then excuse herself to go back home and either read or watch TV. Just before bed, she would stare at the ceiling and imagine Bernie. Always, he was young and he was in love with her like he had been when they were first married. Sometimes during the day when she was doing her chores, he would appear, too. He was so real- he was real even though Edie knew he wasn’t. She would talk to him and he would answer back. She knew if anyone knew they would think she was crazy. But Edie didn’t care. Her imaginings made her happy. What was the harm in that?
One day, as she returned home from shopping, her new neighbors- really they weren’t her new neighbors. They had been Edie’s neighbors for years but that’s how Edie referred to them- stood by the corner chatting. It had been months since they had seen Edie, and eyed her anxiously. “What’s wrong?” Edie was surprised to be an object of such intense interest. “Edie, if you turned sideways, we won’t be able to find you.” They laughed nervously. “I don’t understand,” Edie was baffled. “Edie, you have lost so much weight. How you going to catch a man without meat on you”. Edie laughed, “ I forgot about men a long time ago.” That was true. Edie had forgotten about men. That is except one, but the neighbors knew nothing of him.
Edie put her groceries away. She felt dusty and decided to take a bath. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her new neighbors were right. She was too thin. She touched her belly. She was proud of the fact that her stomach was as flat as it had been when she was a young girl. Now it was caved in. She took a closer look at her face. She had always looked young but now she looked pale and worn.
She lay down in the tub and closed her eyes wondering what the problem could be. She did have a chronic moist cough that hurt. Sometimes she brought up spots of blood but she thought it was because of a virus going around. Lydia burst into the house. “Mom! Mom!” she yelled as she ran up the steps. Edie got up as quickly as she could. She pulled a towel toward just as Lydia pushed open the door. “Mom, I..” Lydia stopped mid-sentence. She stared her mother’s naked body and burst into tears.
Edie’s daughters took her to the doctor. Blood test were done then an Xray followed up by a biopsy. Edie knew before the doctor said it- Lung Cancer. He referred Edie to an oncologist who wanted to do chemotherapy, and radiation but Edie refused. She had no desire to go on. For what? The people she loved were dead. Her girls and the twins were grown and on their own. There were no grandbabies from her girls nor would there ever be. For Edie, life had run its course.
The pain came on suddenly and it stayed. Toward the end, only Morphine worked. Her daughters and the twins who loved her more than their own mother took turns caring of her. Sometimes, Edie was alert and knew what was going on, but as the cancer advanced further and further, her eyes dimmed and her memory faltered. Once, she mistook Lynette for Dot who had washed her and fed her after her baby boy died.
“Did he breathe?” Edie asked.
Then Edie remembered. Dot was gone and so was her baby boy. “It doesn’t matter now,” she grimaced. Her daughter thought she was in pain and gave her another dose.
One day, as Sebastian spoon fed her oatmeal, Edie smiled happily. “You came back.” There was a look of love in her eyes. “Who, mom?” Edie’s eyes refocused. Sebastian looked so much like his father. But he wasn’t his father. Bernie had died years ago. She murmured embarrassed, “I thought you were Bernie. I thought you came back. I thought you changed your mind.” Sebastian could not hold his tears as he took Edie’s thin hands into his and kissed them over and over.
Morphine was given every four hours, but it wasn’t good enough. She needed more and more to calm the pain. Her disorientation deepened. She called for her mother and father, for Dot and the other Moms of Sepviva Street. She wept when she got no answer.
The weather turned ugly. The temperature dropped. Snow and sleet fell as the winds stronger and stronger with each passing hour. The force of the winds buffeted against the windows making them quiver. The cold crept through the seams of the old house. But, the cold didn’t bother Edie. It was the pain that got her. It caused her to cry out and arch her back. Within weeks, she was emaciated unable to keep any food down. Her daughters and the twins took turns cajoling her teasing her lecturing her anything to make her eat. But Edie told them truthfully- it hurt to eat. One day, Sage got three tablespoons of oatmeal into her mouth, one after the other. Edie swallowed. Everyone was jubliant. Edie smiled then leaned over the bed and threw up the oatmeal. Edie retched again. Blood poured out of her mouth like someone had turned on a faucet. Sage grabbed a bucket and put it under her chin. Her children watched in horror wondering how a being so wasted could bring up so much blood. Finally, Edie stopped. Her mouth was rinsed with water. Her face was wiped down and dried. Her head was lowered onto the pillow. Edie fell fast asleep as another dose of morphine was administered.
The hospice nurse told her family that Edie’s time was coming to a close.
The hospice nurse predicated Edie would not last more than a week.
Her children wept. Despite her confusion, Edie knew , too. There was nothing that could be done. The priest gave last rites. Those who knew Edie filed in to say their last goodbyes. Edie recognized most of them. She was too weak to hold a conversation. All she could do was give each visitor a light smile and a nod of the head. For a brief moment, the pain stopped, Edie asked if someone could open the window. Lydia did. As the cold air hit her face, Edie sighed deeply. It felt so good.
Sometime in the night, Edie opened her eyes. She looked up at the IV bag and noticed it had stopped dripping. She looked at the clotted blood in her IV line. She slipped her fingers under the catheter and pulled it from her arm. No blood oozed from the site. She took a deep breath and then another. The congestion was gone. Her lungs were clear. It no longer hurt to breathe. She pulled her legs up under her bottom and with a great heave catapulted herself upright on the mattress then unto to the floor without a creak from the wooden floor boards.
Edie took another deep breath. Still there was no pain. This is wonderful, she cried out. She had to celebrate. She twirled on her bare feet and leapt into the air pretending to be a ballerina like she did when she was a little girl.
Her daughters were on the couch. On a pile of blankets assembled on the floor were her daughters’ closet friends
The boys’- Bernie’s boys- were stretched out on the chairs. She had loved them like they were her own sons. She leapt out of the bed graceful and quiet like a cat. She went to Lucy, and kissed her on the forehead. She was the child she had loved the most although she would never admit to anyone including herself. Lucy opened her eyes and looked deep into Edie’s. She murmured, “Oh mom,” then fell back into a sound asleep. Edie caressed Lucy’s cheek like she had done when Lucy was a little girl then she went to the others. She kissed her two younger daughters and the sons who should have been hers. “Love you,” She whispered gaily as she tiptoed to the front door.
She stepped out. The sky was brighter than she had ever seen as if a painter had painted the sky a luminous gold. It was no longer cold. It was warm not the sticky humid warmth of the summer but a thick fluid warmth that soothed and energized. Edie felt she could dive right into it and swim till she couldn’t go on.
Edie shielded her eyes as she walked down her steps. She looked up and down Sepviva Street and blinked in amazement at how clean it was, “It’s like it’s brand new.” The cherry trees that had been set on fire summers ago were full and blooming. Edie thought, “They came back to my dreams.” She had missed them so. She took a blossom and marveled at how sweet its scent was.
She looked across the street and was startled to see the Moms of Sepviva Street. Edie frowned. Maybe it’s the Morphine making her dream of ghosts. Then she saw Lori holding her granddaughter who had died when she was only two. Edie sucked in her breath as reality sank in. She was not in a dream or a drugged haze. She was dead.
With a jolt, she glanced back at her house. Fright took hold of her but it quickly dissipated. Her children were all grown and settled in their lives. They would be OK. Soon, they wake to check on her, and would weep when they saw she died during the night. Edie felt tears drip down her throat. She hated to leave them. She wished she could go back to when she was young and they were little but that life was gone forever. Edie looked at her house for a long time. She had loved her house, and took good care of it. She knew it would not be long before the laughter of another young family would echo through its rooms. Life will go on as it always has. “Whoever you are, I hope you’ll be happy,” she whispered.
Edie went to the Moms of Sepviva Street. “You don’t know how much I missed you,” she wept as she held each and every one. Dot had an infant in her arms. Edie knew who the baby belonged to. She took him and him close, “My sweet baby.” He cooed as he lay against her neck.
A favorite song, Light my fire began to play high above and then all around her. Edie had loved that song when she was young, but never listened to it again after Bernie walked out on her. She closed her eyes as she sang the song. She held her son as the others pressed gently against her. Slowly, they faded away. There was nothing Edie could do but let them go. The sounds of their breathing was the last to fade.
In the distance, a figure approached. Edie recognized the walk. She knew who it was. She let out a cry of joy as she ran. It was Bernie. She giggled like she did when she was young and full of hope. She wrapped her arms around him and felt a wonder that only a living being could feel.
All the sorrow or loneliness she had experienced throughout her life was swept away. She felt cleansed. Bernie lifted her up high and swung her around like he had when they were first married. He kissed her and she returned his kisses. Time stopped so she could enjoy all that she had missed while living. He held her face and stared into her eyes with a love she had never seen. She could have stayed there with him for eternity. But without warning, he took a step back although the look of love did not diminish. Edie knew something was coming for her, and she was not afraid. The golden sky intensified. Bernie held her once last time then slowly with regret in his eyes, faded away. An orb full of thick golden lava appeared in the sky. It moved toward her lowering itself until it stopped in front of her as if waiting to be inspected. Edie didn’t flinch as her eyes locked on it’s immense brilliance blending and swirling unto itself. Edie could see that it was a living thing. It moved forward then back then forward again inches from her face. Edie knew what was expected of her.
Without hesitation, she stepped in and moved forward into its liquid unencumbered. Memories of her life flashed before her. In those memories, Edie saw the love she wasn’t fully aware of when she was alive- the love of her parents, her children, the twins, the moms of Sepviva street and Bernie, yes even Bernie. Edie choked on tears happy to have been blessed with such love.
As she merged into the liquid light of the orb, Edie felt love again as it soaked into every pore of her body, and flooded her soul, her very essence. She became one with love itself. She was love. She had returned from where she had started. Where, she knew, all of humanity started and eventually returned – a place where love formed.
At that very moment before all consciousness ceased, Edith understood – Love had never abandoned her. It had always been there for it was as much a part of her as it was with all the living things of the universe.