Even when it hurts

Jennifer heard two bangs that sounded very similar to thunder.

It was going to be a bad day.

They’d been having a lot of bad days lately.

Jennifer listened as the hurricane upstairs destroyed everything in her path.

She was exhausted.

Please God. She begged before taking a deep breathe, softly making her way up the stairs. Jennifer knew it was going to be difficult, she wasn’t an idiot. She had researched, she watched YouTube videos, she had prayed, she had went to church, she had a phd in developmental psychology, she was ready.

Turns out a doctorate doesn’t offer much shelter when facing a hurricane.

“Ronica?” she said softly as she opened the door, bracing herself for the damage.

Veronica was sat with her back to Jennifer and her head in her hands. Her stringy brown hair covering her neck and shoulders. She snapped her head back so quickly, Jennifer was afraid she might have moved something in her neck.

“My name is not Veronica.” she said with venom, she said it slowly like a snake, enunciating every word, making sure Jennifer felt every single shot. Jennifer felt herself crumbling. She opened the door fully and stepped into the room.

Veronica jolted up.

She was in her territory now.

“What’s going on?” Jennifer tried again, dropping the “Veronica”.

“Why do you care?” the girl asked quietly, Jennifer taking this as a sign of withdrawal,  took two more steps. Wrong move.

“You’re not my mother.” she said. Jennifer felt her hands clam up.

“You don’t love me! You don’t know me!” She was shouting now.

Jennifer remembered when she picked Veronica up to bring her home for the first time. She’d had a tiny suitcase and she had worn a grey hoodie with black leggings, her brown hair as stringy as ever. Jennifer had made the decision to love Veronica then, and to love her for the rest of her life.

Jennifer looked at the girl that now stood in front of her, her face was crumpled up like paper and red, her nose flared and her mouth opened and closed. She looked like an angry tomato. Jennifer looked at Veronica’s hands clamped tightly beside her and her feet stomping.

She’d been thinking about love a lot lately, about what it meant, what it felt like, if she really had it in her, the word seemed unrecognisable to her now, even when she looked at it, it just seemed odd, incomplete.  She’d mentioned her thoughts to her work friends and they looked at her concerned, then she’d mentioned them to her women’s group and they’d said they would pray for her.

She had appreciated that.

Veronica was now walking towards her, she was pushing.

The thud, thud, thud of Veronica’s hands against her, oddly reminded her of rain, or perhaps when water dripped slowly into a bucket. Veronica’s hands didn’t hurt, there was only so much a ten year old girl could do but the shock from her hands on Jennifer’s chest caused Jennifer to take a step back every time.

“I don’t care! I don’t care! I don’t care! I don’t want your love! Just leave me alone! Just go away!”

This hurt. Jennifer preferred the hitting.

“You don’t love me! It’s not true! It’s not!” Jennifer felt her heart in her throat.

“That’s not true.” Jennifer responded, holding Veronica’s hands.

“Don’t say that.” Jennifer knew she was crying, she wished she wasn’t. You weren’t supposed to cry in front of your child. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s not true.” Veronica continued, shouting louder as if trying to drown out Jennifer’s words. Veronica was crying too, crying and hitting and shouting.

“It’s not true.” She said finally before falling to her knees, wailing into her hands.

Jennifer looked down at the child at her feet.

She felt it then.

The love that she had been questioning, it had been there the whole time. She felt it as it made its rounds around her heart and then out of her heart, out of her chest, into her throat and into her arms and down her legs to her toes.

She knelt down and put her arms around her child. She felt her stiffen but she didn’t let go, clinging on tighter. She felt her childs’ ragged breaths and felt her lean her head on her chest. Jennifer looked out the window, the wind blew against the trees, dragging them left and right. Jennifer hugged onto her child tighter.

“I love you.” Jennifer whispered first into her hair. Incomplete.

“I love you.” she said again louder. She waited and listened to the wind outside.

“Even when it hurts.” She added. Complete. It felt complete now.

“Even when it hurts.” She heard Veronica mutter underneath her breath.

Jennifer smiled and kissed her daughter’s stringy brown hair.

They’d been having a lot of bad days lately.

But today was a good one.