Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, a very rainy afternoon….
Cara felt like her heart had been torn from her chest and thrown like a stone against an unbreakable wall; a wall that also reflected her pain and sadness. She was helpless to do anything other than stand like a seven-year-old in the doorway; almost holding onto Mariah’s leg.
“You can’t go.”
The woman stepped around Cara and out the door. As if to punctuate the paragraph that was her day, their boxer puppy hopped off the couch and ran out the door and to the car, jumping in the open rear hatch. Mariah pulled the puppy out and scratched his ears before urging him back to Cara. The puppy splashed playfully through puddles before running up the porch and into the house. A small consolation.
As the car sped off, Cara collapsed back onto the porch steps. If it had been an argument, she could almost accept Mariah’s departure. And if there had been any hate or animosity, she would have understood in a way, since she felt she didn’t deserve Mariah’s love. But it wasn’t hate or animosity or spite that pushed Mariah away but love. A love that wished to be of no burden to Cara….
Just forty-six minutes before….
“Your family…Your dad...he’ll never forgive you,’ Mariah said as she stared out beyond the property to her house…their house miles away where Mariah lived in hope to be together with the woman she loved.
“I don’t care,” Cara pleaded. She did care, of course. No child can bear rejection, but the loss of her family paled when placed beside the only one she had ever loved. Cara reached over the small table that separated their chairs; a gulf easily crossed in the physical but light years away in the painful scheme of things in their lives.
“You can’t…. I wish things were different, but they can never be so long as your father bars the door from me.” Mariah had been a family member in way since she and Cara were little. But that changed when Cara introduced her new friend when they returned from Canada after over a year away,
“Mommy? Daddy?” She had barely gotten past the two endearments when Cara’s father scowled at the arrival of his daughter and the boy to whom she had been engaged…the boy was no longer a boy and Cara became unwelcome in her own family. James left with her in the fall only to return the following year as Mariah. From that point on the two bore what sloughed into an almost benign neglect, as someone once said.
“Your sister can’t even have you at her own wedding. And your Mom cries all the time, from what Liz says in her texts.”
“It doesn’t have to be forever, Car… Just for now?” What is that scripture that says greater love has any woman than to lay down her life?
“If he has his way, I’m afraid….”
“That we’ll never see each other again? I know it hurts, Car, but we will be together. We just have to give it time.”
“You can’t! I won’t let you!” Cara shook her head as the tears flowed freely. Mariah pulled her close and kissed her forehead. A Galadriel-ish blessing that did little to comfort Cara. She clung to Mariah as the woman pulled away gently.
“We have to…. And we have to make this as real as we can.” Mariah looked over her shoulder through the front door into Cara’s father’s face. Jake’s scowl was ever-present and daunting, but Mariah took a deep breath. She turned to Cara and nodded, mouthing ‘show’s on…”.
Minutes later, Cara sat on the porch steps. The puppy had come back out and was licking her hands. She scratched behind his ears, earning a playful yip before he trotted back onto the porch to grab a stuffed toy squirrel, Cara followed him with her gaze until she felt a chill that did not come from the rain.
She looked up to see her father standing on the porch; an almost –satisfied grin grew as he looked down at her. She burst into tears. The moment might have started out a bit artificial, but the heartbreak over his ignorance was all too real. She rose slowly, shrugging off his attempt to console her for what he himself had caused. She walked into the house; leaving him in a hopeful prayer that he might see the light.
A moment later he was joined by a slight-looking woman. Dana grabbed her husband’s arm and turned him slowly toward her.
“It’s not fair, Jake. You have no business coming between them.”
“Jeez, Dana? If he was anything close to a man, it would never have gotten this far,” he said.
“She loves our daughter, Jake. She loves Cara. Why can’t you get that straight?” Dana walked down the hall and knocked on Cara’s door.
“Sweetie? He just needs time,” Dana wanted to believe that but faith just wasn’t coming to her or Dana or Liz. Jake was about as stubborn as anyone, but his adamant demands wore them all down like a steady stream of water on soft stone. But somehow Dana was struck with an odd sense of new faith that certainly was belied by her husband’s expectations. Oh well…. Life can be entirely strange if altogether fitting….
Acme Supermarket, Denville, New Jersey, a few months later….
Dana stood by the deli counter. She felt a warmth come over her and turned to find a familiar face.
“How are you,” Dana asked Mariah.
Mariah sighed. Dana stepped closer and rubbed the woman’s arm, leaving her feeling much safer.
“I miss her terribly, Dana.” Mariah wanted to include the endearment ‘Mom,’ recalling her love for the family who helped raise her in a way when her own mother was dying.
“We miss you too.” She paused. Both she and Liz still tried to reach out to Mariah, but Jake still saw her as James and treated Cara as if she had made the worst mistake in embracing James as Mariah.
“That’s almost accurate, Dana…. Jake can’t handle me the way I am and I can’t be what he expects.. for Cara.
“How are you holding up, sweetie?” Dana looked into Mariah’s eyes, seeing as world of sadness but something else…. Resolve? Determination?
“I’m believing. I can’t push this because it can only work for Cara if it works for everyone.
“You love her that much?”Dana paused but quickly added.
“Of course you do. You’ve loved her since you were what…. Seven?”
“Six-and-a-half,” Mariah laughed.
“I don’t think…. I’m sorry, but I don’t think he’ll ever change. I love him, but….” Dana shook her head. Mariah had never seen Dana look so tired.
“But if it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to see you two together…”
She was almost spot-on; thankfully off just enough to see hope restored without the painful sacrifice that the moment threatened. She sat down on the bench in front of the store; looking quite ill. Mariah held her hand for a few minutes. When Dana felt better, they parted with a lingering hug. While Dana hoped things would change, Mariah believed they would...
Morristown Medical Center, a few weeks later…
“I’m sorry, Jake, but no one in your family is a match. We’ve started a data-base search already, and we can still hope, okay? The slim Irani woman patted him on the shoulder as she guided him to a chair in the nearby waiting room, where he slumped back in a chair next to a coffee bar. His almost ever-present glare faded to a half frown as he began to sob.
Two days later…
“Good news! There’s a match. Nearly all the markers. Some young man in Boonton of all places.” Dr. Shah smiled at Jake and Liz. Cara was in the room with Dana, giving her what would prove to be more than just good news.
The charge nurse came up to Jake, her expression one of near-joy and relief.
“Mr. Allucio? Dr. Shah will be by in a few minutes to explain. The young man whose marrow matches is at the nurse’s station. All of the additional tests and exams are finished, so it’s just a matter of taking care of scheduling details for tomorrow morning. Your daughters have already spoken with the fellow, and he’s been in to see your wife. Thank god, yes?”
A few minutes later Jake sat in the waiting room across from a familiar face. The young man was more than thin; at least much slighter than Jake remembered. His clothing seemed to be ill-suited. He wore loose jeans and he sported a red and grey flannel shirt and work boots. His hair was short and neatly combed and his face bore not even the slightest trace of down.
“Hi,” James said softly. Even if he had actually tried, there would never be any success in being the man Jake wanted his daughter to marry. But there he was,exactly what Jake hoped for. One who would treasure Cara.
“Is this some sort of joke? This changes nothing!” Jake snapped. James shook his head and a welcoming smile crossed his face.
“Mrs. A has been a Mom to me since I was little. She needs this and I am ….” He wanted to add that Jake had been the Dad he never had. The young man began to tear up as he recalled the love the family had held for him until form got in the way of formation. What Jake had always sought for Cara, even if he never thought of it that way, was the one to love his daughter.
“But this?” Jake practically glared at James. Had he actually slowed down enough to think, he would have recalled that James was actually more manly than ever while not looking like anything other than the woman Mariah had always been. Hu -manly.
“I’m here for your wife. Nothing else.” James had not planned anything to convince Jake of his intentions. Mariah had hoped that time and reason and love would do what was necessary to change Jake’s heart. It just worked out that James was the savior of Mariah in a way. The man who would seek to be the father to the adopted son saw the child who had always been there as a blessing to the Allucio family
“I…This doesn’t mean that…. You’re…”
“No, you're right, Jake. It doesn't. No matter what you think of me, I’m here to be a part of what life has in store for your family. No matter what you think or say or do, I’m here, and that’s about it, okay?“ James smiled broadly even as the tears fell freely. Mariah was there if only Jake would choose to see her, but James loved the family no matter what, as he said.
A few days later...
"So that's it? You're just going to go away?" Dana tried to raise up, but was still weak. Cara paused crying and hit the button on the bed control.
"For now.... Mom." James may have been standing there, but Dana's third daughter was really there all along. Cara walked around the bed and pulled the woman close.
"I...I believe with all my heart," Cara said. It wasn't easy to put 'feet' to her faith, but Mariah's resolve gave them all strength.
"I'll leave you to it, Dar, okay?" She pulled Dara into a hug before walking out of the room. She strode, she would recall later. Each pace seemed to bring more of Mariah out; perhaps more than ever. As she stood at the elevator, she felt a tap on the shoulder.
"Thank....thank you," Jake said. He nodded, leaving James confused until Jake smiled. No other word was spoken, but James Connor O'Casey took his last breath as the elevator descended even as Mariah ascended from the person who was James.
St, John's Episcopal, New Jersey, three years later….
The church was nearly full with family and friends in attendance for a much anticipated union. The bride shook a wee bit; a breeze from the open door brought an unseasonable summer chill. Elizabeth Allucio O’Casey, Cara’s matron-of-honor, rubbed her arm and leaned close; kissing her cheek through the thin veil. Eamon Patrick O’Casey, Liz’ husband of two years, stood in contrast to her on the other side of the altar along with another less imposing figure. The brother of the one standing beside him.
“Who gives this bride in marriage?” The woman spoke.
“We do,” Dana and Jake Allucio said eagerly. Dana smiled through proud tears at her daughter before waving at Cara’s beloved.
“And,” the pastor paused for effect, her smile widening as she continued.
“Who gives this bride in marriage?”
“We…we do as well,” Jake said as he smiled.
“Thank you,” Mariah mouthed….
The Grand Hotel, Toronto, Ontario, a few days later...
‘You never gave up hope,” Cara cooed as she played with Mariah’s hair,
“Because I believed your father always loved you. He just needed to see that I love you. I do, you know,” Mariah said as Cara settled into her embrace.
“You would have given up everything… even risked your life…. Given up who you are? For my father?” Cara began to weep, but the soft tears became a wondrous torrent as Mariah spoke in gentle correction.
“No….everything I did? All for you.” She pulled Cara close and smiled.
"And no hyphens... I'm Mrs. Mariah Allucio, dear sweet wife,' Mariah giggled softly.
"For me?" Dana cooed.
“All for you..."
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.