But like an incandescent flare that burns brightly only to burn itself out, her all-consuming happiness burned, shrivelled and turned to ashes.
Just a bunch of teenagers broke a traffic signal and Laura’s life changed. Her husband and 2-week old daughter were gone in a heartbeat leaving her wounded, scarred to mourn.
The only other miraculous survivor of the wreck was her 2-week old son. The other twin.
He planned to get enlisted. And he wasn’t to be deterred or swayed. Turning a deaf ear to his family’s pleas and reprimands alike, Sam walked out.
Marianne caught up with him on the sweeping marble stairs. Yanking him by his arm, she forced him around and snarled into his face, “It’s about Laura, isn’t it?”
He looked at her with little regret, calmly removed her hand and turned away.
‘I pity you, Sam… I pity you and your obsession with your mother! You never did grow up… you never did learn!” Marianne called out softly to his back.
“You can break off the engagement then, Mari… I won’t hold you to it.” Without looking back, Sam continued across the huge lawns and eventually disappeared behind the huge oaks.
Marianne could only gape; transfixed, numbed.
Having never known her own mother, she wasn’t the best judge but still she wondered, “What else can having a mother who doesn’t love you do to you?”
It was Sam’s last weekend at home. He was busy with his last-minute arrangements. There was nothing much left to pack, but much to arrange for the plantation, his plantation, while he was away… and if he never came back.
A discreet knock sounded on the door. His mother entered. At a little over forty, she looked much older but with the hauteur and pride that befitted the dowager of Ridgelow Plantation. Her once-acclaimed beauty and vitality were now mere chapters of a happier and forgotten history, Sam thought with a pang.
“Hello, Mother. You needed me?”
She didn’t say anything right away but calmly surveyed her son’s sparse room.
“So you really are going to go through this farce.”
Sam’s lips tightened. “I am joining the Army, Mother. I’d barely call that a farce.”
She let that pass. “Nothing anyone can say will change your mind, is that it?”
“Do you want me to change my mind, Mother?”
“Of course, I do! Who will look after this plantation, your legacy? I want you to stay, marry well and look after your inheritance.”
Sam smiled, with a tired, rueful shake of head, “You have to do better than that.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about… What can be a better reason than that? Fine, then stay for Marianne’s sake, Samuel.”
Sam laughed, “I think she can do better than a loveless, arranged marriage.”
“I don’t know what you want, Samuel! Do whatever you wish, I won’t stop you!” Laura remarked coldly as she strode out.
Sam watched the door close behind her, the pain now an old friend. “If only you understood, Mother.”
“I just wanted to let you know, the train was on time and we stayed till it pulled out.”
Marianne sipped on her wine seated opposite to the woman who could have been her mother-in-law. In another lifetime.
“Thank you, Marianne… I see you are not wearing your ring anymore.” Laura observed.
“I didn’t, Laura, if that’s what you are thinking. Your son did.” Marianne said with bitter laugh.
“I don’t think he cares if he comes back or not…” she added quietly.
A heavy silence descended.
When suddenly Marianne broke out, “Would it have been so difficult for you to ask Sam to stay back?”
“What?! I did…”
“No, Laura, asking your Son to stay back?” she cried. “For you, and not the estate? Is it too much to want your mother to love you?
“I lost! I lost my love because you couldn’t love your own son, the child who lived, all for the memory of a dead one!”
“I’ll never forgive you, Laura. Neither will God… Never!” Her voice dissolved into tears.
Laura stood up and walked away towards the tall windows. The only sounds in the room were of Marianne’s heart-wrenching sobs.
“After the… that… that fateful day, I would stand by Sam’s crib, scared to touch him. I’d stare at him all night, a silent vigil, afraid that he might stop breathing. I wouldn’t hug him, never played with him, never allowed him near me… But I’d watch from afar.
“I couldn’t have lived if I lost, again. To me there was no choice… To protect myself from another heartbreak… I had to refuse him, refuse loving him.
“I can’t change a thing, Marianne. I wish I could but I can’t. It’s not left in me.”
She turned to face Marianne, almost pleadingly, eyes shining with naked pain and said in a cracked voice, “But to the woman who loved Sam, who loved him best… please understand, Marianne… I can’t turn back time, I wouldn’t change a thing, probably never will… but I loved my son, I loved him till my heart felt it would burst with it… I didn’t want him to go…
“But I couldn’t tell him, Marianne… I couldn’t!”
Marianne could only stare as the arrogant, cold and formidable woman dropped to her knees in front of her, and wept inconsolably.