My Love Story

By: Ashley Lantman

This is a true story. This story began years ago, but instead of starting at the beginning, I'll start from the present. Of course, I could start from the end, but I haven't gotten there yet.

I awoke to sunlight. I lie in bed with my husband. It was September. I cuddled up to him and he opened his eyes. Those beautiful brown eyes that have seen so much pain and so much horror. And all of it was my fault. Tears cam to eyes, just thinking of the memories. He lifted his hand and brushed away the tears. He held me, then, like he held me so many times before. It had become routine since we got married, three months ago.

"You ready?" He asked, gently brushing my hair from my face. I smiled and nodded. We got dressed and made our way to the psychiatrist's office. The room smelled of cleaning solution and peppermint. I hated this room. The leather-bound books on the bookshelf with titles like "Depression: and in depth look," and "Anorexia-a Tale of living death." Books that emphasized my problem and the hell I put my husband through. I held my tears back. I couldn't cry again, not here, not now.

The doctor walked in with her two hundred dollar suit and her degree in mental illnesses. It was another session of force-feeding me her philosophical will, and brainwashing me into popping pills to relieve my stresses and pain. The pills didn't work. She kept saying it would take time, but four months and nothing's changed.

The doctor sits in her plush chair and paints a smile on her face. "I do apologize, but my parents have become sick and I must move back to California. I'll be referring you to a colleague of mine." She said, and wrote down the address on a piece of paper. My husband took it and smiled. That smile that always comforted me during an attack. Mental attacks I bombarded myself with, attacks that have lasted three long years. A mental war.

We walked out of the office, and I hoped it was for the last time. We headed home and there was a message on the answering machine. It was from my mother.

"Hello, Dear. I hope you and Rob are doing well. I just called to let you know I'll be in the area tomorrow and will be paying a visit in the morning. I love you both, and I'll see you tomorrow. Bye." She didn't mean it. She didn't love me. She resented the fact I was on medication. She thought I was making it all up. She said it was a cry for attention. I'd be lying if I said I loved her. She's not a mother. A mother would accept her child for all their faults ad shortcomings. She didn't. I called her back and told her that was a bad time for me because of my session.

"You don't need counseling, dear. All these so called 'problems' are in your head..." She continued on for a half a minute about how I was ignored and that Rob wasn't a good husband. I ignored most of it because she never accepted Rob. He was never good enough. I was never good enough.

"I'm hanging up now, mom." I said and turned off the phone. I sank in my chair. I hated having to deal with her. Or maybe that was my problem" I didn't deal with her.

Rob came in from the kitchen, holding two mugs of tea. I smiled and took the cup he held out to me. He sat on the couch beside me. I leaned against him and closed my eyes.

"Was she being rough on you again?" He kissed the top of my head. I nodded. I took a sip of my tea. The phone rang again. This time it was his job.

"Hello? Yeah...Now? Okay...I'll be there soon. See you then. Bye." He hung up the phone.

"What is it?"

"Taylor hurt his back so Brian's there by himself and he has to transport some equipment. Apparently it has to be done by the end of the day or else we won't get paid for the job." He nuzzled my neck." Stay here." He said. My heart fell. It was sad he had to say that. He kissed my cheek and left. I was alone. There was so much power in being alone. I could do whatever I wanted. Even the unspeakable. I didn't want to think about that. I didn't want to think. I sat in silence for a long time, trying to make my mind go blank. It didn't work. My nerves shattered and I couldn't sit still any longer. I had to move, I had to get away. Away from what? I didn't know. I scrambled off the couch and walked quickly into the bedroom. I couldn't stop there either. I opened the door to the bathroom. I opened the medicine cabinet and poured my pills into my hand. I grabbed a paper cup and filled it with faucet water. Both made their way down my throat. I started taking deep breaths. I tried to calm down. My heart was racing and I gasped for breath. All of a sudden my eyelid felt heavy and my body went weak. My surroundings started spinning and I felt myself collide with the cold floor. It comforted me somehow, and I drifter off into darkness.

A beeping machine greeted me when I gained consciousness. My eyes opened slowly, hindered by how much they weighed. Rob was holding my hand and sleeping soundly by my bedside. The scent of cleanliness greeted me, followed by the pain of the needle in my arm. It was the hospital. I peered around the room, trying to find a clock. All sense of time had left me in my slumber. It was a lost cause.

I looked to my husband. His tired expression and his firm grip only confirmed my suspicions. I overdosed again. I gripped his hand tighter. The action stirred him.

"Kate? He lifted his head drowsily. He smiled when his eyes met mine, but his face fell again. "What's wrong?" It was then I noticed the tears falling freely down my face. That knowledge only made me cry harder. I buried my head in my hands and then felt him embrace me as my sobs shook my body. The realization that I almost left him for good had finally sunk in. Death finally sunk in. He rubbed my back. I had never been that close before. So close to the loss of existence.

No matter how many attempts I had made in the past, I never had to be hospitalized. He always came, before I passed out, before the last cut, before the trigger pulled. This time was different. This time I almost succeeded, but this time was an accident. I realized then how much I didn't want to die. And I realized the reason, and he was hugging me right now. I cried harder, but no matter how hard I tried, they wouldn't stop flowing. We sat there for what seemed like hours as my sobs shook my body.

I had always felt bad for the pain I put him through, but never had I felt this. Never had I felt this scared. Not so much fear of dying, but fear of never seeing him again. At that moment I realized just how much I loved him. I looked in his eyes.

"I'm so sorry." I choked out. "I'm so sorry. I-I…" The sobs drowned the words I tried to say.

"It's okay." He said, gently, cupping my face with his hand. "I'm okay, you're okay, everything's gonna be okay."

"No." I sniffled. "No it's not." We were silent until I spoke again. "I've done nothing but hurt you since the beginning. I don't want to hurt you anymore." A tear slid down my face, knowing what I had to do. "I want a divorce." He didn't say anything at first. His face was full of confusion.

"That's your solution? Running away! You just expect me to drop everything we've accomplished! Kate! You don't mean that. You love me too much to mean that. I can't believe you would say something like that."

"Robe, I'm sorry. I just don't want to hurt you anymore." I whispered.

"You don't want to hurt me?" He paused. "You don't think a divorce will hurt me?" He stared at me with questioning eyes. Never before had he questioned what I'd done. I almost took it back, but I knew that would be a selfish mistake, so I said nothing.

"When he realized I wasn't going to speak, he left. Just like that. Without a word. The tears streamed down my cheeks, but this time I didn't try to suppress them. I let them flow until I couldn't cry anymore. Until every tear in my eyes had been shed. I found a box of tissues and cleaned myself up so that I was presentable. I slid under the bed sheets and tried to fall asleep. Every time I got close, my heart would think of him and my body would shake as if I was crying, but no tears would ever fall.

I managed to control myself while the doctor was in, but once he left, I let myself fall to pieces again.

It was sometime later I woke up. I only then realized I had been asleep. The doctor walked in and handed me the phone. I was discharged. I called my sister and begged her to come get me. I told her what happened. She arrived after a few minutes and I was packed in the back seat with my niece and nephew. My oldest niece sat in the front.

"I can't believe you, Cami." She said. "Why? Why would you do something like that? I thought you were on medication. Were you taking it like you were supposed to? What happened?" I was silent. My four-year-old nephew was asleep on my right, and my six –year-old niece was watching a movie, too busy listening to the sound through the headphones to really care about what we were talking about. My other niece was sitting quietly beside her mother. It was especially hard for her. I was always her playmate. I took care of her from the time she was born. I was her protector, her strength. I was her hero. Just knowing her hero was almost taken away, broke her. I could see the pain behind her eyes, and I was angry that I caused her so much pain.

Then there was my sister, twelve years my senior, and always the person I looked up to. I disappointed her, and that hurt too. I didn't mean to do it. It was only the second attempt she knew about. The first was the blade. I was fourteen. At the time, she was still living with me and our mother. Mother was off with my nieces and sister walked in when I passed out. I asked her not to tell mom. She kept her promise.

I lied in bed that night. Cole was sleeping on my left, Marie slept between me and her big sister, Beth. Beth and I were still awake.

"Mimi?" She asked, using her nickname for me.

"Hm?" I replied, still turned toward my nephew.

"Why do you want to die?" The question didn't surprise me. It had been asked many times before. To be honest, it was a question that even I didn't know the answer to.

"I don't know." I told her. I knew the answer hadn't satisfied her, but she understood that I didn't want to talk about it. I felt her weight shift on the mattress and I knew she wouldn't bother me anymore that night. When I was sure she was asleep, I crept out of the bed. There was a small balcony by the living room, overlooking the pool to the apartment complex. I opened the door as silently as I could and slid outside into the crisp night air. It was almost midnight by now and the stars twinkled brightly. I leaned on the railing and stared at the sky. It was beautiful, but the moment was bittersweet. Memories flooded my mind. Suddenly, I was seventeen again and we were sitting on his roof, watching the stars. Then we were walking on the beach over spring break, holding hands and laughing. The fourth of July. Fireworks and kisses. Valentine's Day chocolates and dinner. Our wedding. Happiness.

And now a tear slid down my cheek. Memories I clung to, yet wanted to forget. A love I couldn't live without, and yet almost died while I had it. A man, I never wanted to live without, but I was living without him all the same. Unbearable pain enveloped me. I knew the only relief from this pain was one of two things: sleep, and death. I chose sleep. I had enough of death and my body was weary. I slumped against the door and fell asleep, clutching myself so I wouldn't fall to pieces again.

I woke up the next morning covered in a blanket with Cole snuggled up to me. He was so tiny; so innocent. I picked him up gently, making sure he was still warm in the blanket. I opened the door as quietly as possible and put him back in the bed. His eyes opened.

"Mimi?" He asked in his tiny voice

"What is it, Sweetie?" He looked around a minute, taking in his surroundings.

"I woke up and you were gone, and it scared me, but then I walked to the door and you were outside. You looked cold so I brought you a blanket. Did it keep you warm?" I couldn't speak, so I just nodded. It shocked me that someone so young could be so considerate. He fell back asleep and I went to get dressed. My sister was already awake and her husband was still sleeping in their bed. I quickly got dressed and walked into the living room.

Beth was making breakfast and Marie was watching the television while Cole still slept on the pull out couch. They were hard pressed for money. My sister worked part time at a clothing store and my brother-in-law was a night time security guard at some company. They could barely afford what they had, but they were happy. I wish that could be me. I wish I could just be happy.

"You ready?" My sister asked. I nodded. We drove downtown to where the psychiatrist's office was. It was a small building and it looked like a small house instead of a mental office. We walked in and saw a woman at the front of the desk. I sat down as my sister began to talk to the woman.

I smelled cinnamon and the sound of classical music filled my ears. I closed my eyes and let myself sense my surroundings. Minutes later my name was called.

I stood up and followed the woman down the hall to what looked like an old bedroom, but was actually an office. There were two chairs and a coffee table with a small bookcase against the far wall. The doctor was sitting in one of the chairs and stood when the nurse and I entered the room. He was a young man and looked to be just out of college.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Baker. Please, have a seat." He said and motioned for me to sit down. I did as I was told. "So, you're Cameron. The first thing I want to do is try hypnosis. It might not take very long and it might take a while. It just depends on what you tell me. But first, I don't have your file in front of me so how old are you?" This was the first time I was ever asked a question, so I didn't react at first. I was silent, but then spoke.

"Eighteen, Sir." He nodded and made a notation on his paper.

"Alright, then." He took out a watch. "Let's begin, shall we?"

I was five years old. It was my first day of Kindergarten. I walked in the classroom and sat down quietly. I saw my friend and rushed to greet her. The year passed before my eyes and then I was graduating and it was the end of the year and I was going to a new school.

I was six. I was quiet and shy. I was teased and bullied because I was different. I had one friend, Sarah. We were always together. The two people no one cared about, but we were happy as long as we were together.

In sixth grade we were called lesbians. We denied it, but the abuse kept coming. The teachers didn't help. Our parents didn't help. They thought we were making a big deal out of nothing.

We lived in our own little world of each other. Our world, where no one could hurt us as long as we were together.

Then, that world shattered.

We were fourteen, eight years of being together, and we were miserable, but content at the same time. We were at a party. It was her brother's friend's party and he was drunk. My sister picked me up, Sarah said she'd wait for her brother. She didn't know her brother had a few drinks. The car crashed and they were both killed instantly.

I didn't see a reason to live if the one person who gave me life wasn't there anymore. I took the knife and my sister walked in.

I was fifteen and lonely. I clung to the wrong people. He was seventeen, almost eighteen and he thought I was easy. He was high, I got scared and told him I was gonna leave. He grabbed me and didn't let me go until he degraded me to dust.

The next day he claimed he did nothing and said he was tired of my drama. I found a gun. His friend came over to check on me, and found me with the pistol. He stopped me. That was the first time I really paid attention to Rob.

He was handsome, and at first I was angry he had stopped me, but I got over it. I had a small crush on him after that, but I never thought he felt the same, so I said nothing.

We became friends and it was later that year when my attacks started. I didn't know what they were, at first, all I knew was I got really scared over nothing and soon the mental abuse kicked in.

I was weak. I couldn't stand myself. I hated the way I looked, the way I felt. I despised everything about me. Then the mental abuse turned physical. I started cutting. It was a balancing of power. To make myself look how I felt.

It was Easter break. Rob wanted to come hang out. We got drunk and did some things that only complicated our relationship. My mom found out and forbid me to see him.

"Do you want to end up like your sister? She'd say. "Do you want to be a slut?" I went in my room and turned to my blade. Rob sneaked in and saved me once more. I was sixteen and I started experimenting with drugs. They didn't do anything for me, except for this one pill. It ruled my life that year.

I overdosed on it one day when my mom and I fought. I was dizzy and he walked in a split second before I passed out. I stopped after that.

I wasn't addicted to it. I dropped it just as fast as I picked it up.

Rob and I snuck around a lot in order to hang out. It was still really awkward, especially after that one night, but I clung to him and all memories I had of Sarah. Even now, she haunts me.

It was my seventeenth birthday. I hadn't made an attempt in months. I was still cutting, but not as bad and not as often. Rob and I snuck out that night. He was going to start a job the following week so we both knew we wouldn't be able to hang out as much after that.

That night we were in the back of his truck, staring at the stars. He kissed me. WE weren't drunk and we were drug free, so there was nothing but his own will to motivate him. I was confused but we continued kissing until almost midnight. He asked me out. I said yes. The following year was uneventful. I was a senior, so what? The only people I cared about were either gone, or not at school.

The day I turned eighteen, Rob took me across the state border and we got married. It wasn't planned, it just happened, but it was what we both wanted. It should've been a happy ending, but it wasn't.

I didn't tell him that, while my attempts had lessened, my attacks had increased. They were almost every day now. I didn't know what caused them, but whatever it was, was getting worse. He found out and that's when we went to the first psychiatrist.

She started telling me that If I would repent for my wrongs it would go away. It started before "my wrongs" so I knew she was lying. I tried. I really tried to do what she said, but none of it worked. I asked if she had a pill or something that could help. She prescribed me something.

My mother found out and said that rob had put the idea in my head and the only thing making me sick was him. Her words hurt, but I should've known she wouldn't understand. She never once tried to understand me, or my feelings. So I gave up on pleasing her.

I opened my eyes to a white ceiling. I was back to my present. The doctor was watching me carefully.

"Do you know the name of the pill your previous doctor prescribed? He asked. I nodded.

"Zantaft." His eyes widened.

"Do you know what those pills are?"

"I thought they were antidepressants. Why else would she give them to me?"

"They're sugar pills. I think she must've thought that if you thought you were on medication, you would get better. Unfortunately, from the hypnosis and my own observations, I think you have the severest case of depression I've seen yet." He scribbled something down on his paper.

"Your sister said you made another attempt recently. Is that correct?" I nodded. "What happened to your husband?" I told him we were separated and we might be getting a divorce. He nodded. "The separation was a good idea. But wait on the divorce. It could become a bad experience and that would hinder and progress we might make during that time." I nodded. "I'm taking you off those sugar pills and I'm putting you on a real antidepressant." He scribbled down my prescription and told me the session was over.

"I'll see you next week, Mrs. Woods." I smiled and walked from the office, finding my sister still seated in the waiting room.

"Well?" She asked, standing.

"I need to pick up my new prescription." I stated. WE walked to the car and drove to the pharmacy.

"Wanna get lunch after this?" I nodded. After we picked up my pills we ran to a fast food place and grabbed some food. She had a few errands to run so we ran around for a while. We were in the middle of the grocery store when my cell phone rang. It was Rob.

"I just wanted to know how your appointment went." He said.

"Alright. He put me on different medication."

"Oh…" We were silent for a while

"If that's all you have to say, then I'll talk to you later." I hung up the phone before he could convince me otherwise. I sighed. I hated being away from him, but I knew that being with him would only cause him more pain.

"You okay?" My sister asked, noticing my grief. I nodded and was silent the rest of the trip.

The rest of the day passed by in a blur. He called multiple times after that, but I didn't pick up the phone. I cried myself to sleep that night. I couldn't bare the pain I was in. I craved his voice. The tears fell, a whole dozen of them. I hadn't gained back my ability to sob, yet. I shook and gasped for breath, and when I finally fell asleep, I dreamed of him.

I couldn't speak. I couldn't breathe. He was everywhere in my dream, but he was always out of my reach, always just beyond my outstretched hand. Would I ever catch him? I didn't know.

I awoke the nest morning with tear stains on my cheeks. I was thankful that my nieces and nephew were visiting their grandmother on their father's side. My sister had left earlier that morning to prepare for Beth's birthday party.

I had a whole day of nothing to look forward. I didn't want to do anything but sleep. I tossed and turned, but the restless feeling never left. I rolled on my back only to have my stomach rumble. I groaned, but got up to forge for food. I found some cereal in the cupboard and took it into the living room to eat. I sat on the pull out couch and turned the television on to drown out the silence. I picked up my cell phone only to find that Rob had left a voicemail. I listened to it.

"Hey, Cami. Look, I know you're upset over what happened, but I'm not. I love you so much…please, can we just talk? I've called a lot today even though I knew you wouldn't pick up. I just needed to hear your voice…" He was silent for a moment and then sighed. I love you Cameron. I've loved you since the day I first met you…I don't want to lose you, whether it be by suicide or divorce…It hurts. It hurts in so many ways. I want what's best for you, Cameron. If that's a divorce…then," he paused. "So be it." HE whispered, and then hang up. I felt my heart break. My world crashed. I felt the walls I had built crash down around me and my mind was left in ruin. HE was gone. He was gone. It was at that moment I realized that maybe I had chased away everyone that was ever important to me.

The weeks passed by and turned into months. Beth turned thirteen, Marie lost another tooth, Cole learned his alphabet, and my thoughts and attacks were getting better and better. I was still miserable. Rob stopped calling after a while. My mom said it was for the best and I couldn't help but snap at her.

It was the week before Christmas. I was at my final session for the year. Dr. Baker said that if I needed anything at all, just call. We were about to wrap up when his phone rang.

"Hello? Yes…She's sitting here with me now." I couldn't hear who it was on the line, but I knew it was someone I knew. "Yes, she's fine. She's doing much better. I think a lot of it is the medication…" He continued talking about my progress, or at least, I assumed it was me. "Would you like to speak with her?" He asked. He handed me the phone and smiled.

"Hello?" I asked. The other end went silent. "Hello?" I asked again. Still no reply. "I'm giving the phone back to Dr. Baker now-"

"Cameron." I stopped. My eyes widened.

"Rob?" I felt tears well up in my eyes. I never realized how much I missed his voice until that moment.

"Cameron, I-I just…I just called to check up on you. I asked Dr. Baker if he could tell me how you were doing. He says you're doing a lot better since you got on the new medication…" He rambled on some more before I cut him off.

"Lunch. Meet me at the drive through in half an hour."

"Okay." He said.

"Bye, see you then."

"Bye." I hung up the phone and handed it back to Dr. Baker.

"Bye, Dr. Baker. I hope you have a merry Christmas."

"I will. Take care, and have a merry Christmas."

"I will." I walked out the door, waving to the nurse. I had recently gone back to work and had been able to get a car. It had good gas mileage, and wasn't too old. I got to my car and felt sick to my stomach. I rushed back inside and a few minutes later I felt a lot better. I splashed water on my face and rinsed my mouth out. A thought crossed my mind, but I ignored it.

"Since I had half an hour to waste, I ran to the drugstore to buy a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste so I could get the awful taste out of my mouth.

I passed by the pregnancy tests and remembered my previous thought. I decided there was no harm in making sure so I grabbed one. I paid and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. I was almost done when I took out the test from the bag. I read the instructions and did what they said once I finished brushing my teeth. The stripe was red. I tossed it in the trash and walked out.

I had about ten minutes until I had to meet Rob. I got in the car, but couldn't forget the red line on the test. I sat for a moment and decided to go back inside. I walked down the aisle and found the test I used. I looked at the box. I read the instructions again. My eyes got wide. I ran back to the bathroom and found my test. Sure enough, the stripe had changed. I sat on the floor.

A few minutes later I went to the counter with a few new purchases. I sat in my car and fixed Rob's Christmas present.

I pulled into the drive through a few minutes late. I found his car and parked next to it. We both got out and hugged each other. I held his hand and smiled.

"I have a present for you." I pulled him to my car and pulled out a little bag.

"What's the special occasion?" He smiled.

"Christmas. Celebrating how much better I've gotten. The fact that I'm normal on my medication. Whatever you want it to be for." He pulled out the tissue paper. He reached in and grabbed the second pregnancy test I took. He turned it around to find the stripe blue.

A look of shock crossed his face. His eyes widened and a smile formed where his open mouth had been. He looked me in the eyes.

For a brief moment, I felt like we'd never been apart. Like we'd never had problems and that I'd never tried to leave him.

I pointed to the bag and he reached in to pull out a pacifier and a bottle. Tears welled up in both of our eyes.

"I'm pregnant."

I moved back in with Rob that night. Marie and Cole were sad to see me go, Beth was as reserved as ever. I still wasn't sure if she had forgiven me fore what I'd done.

I told my sister and she congratulated me and promised that if I needed anything to just call. I promised I would. We made plans for Christmas dinner and to take the kids to see Santa.

The week before Christmas passed by quickly and soon I was standing at the door to my sister's apartment. Beth opened the door.

"Where's Uncle Rob?" She asked.

"He's still at work, but he should be here shortly." I smiled. She let me in, still frowning.

Dinner was delicious and the time flew by. We began opening presents. It was after all the presents were done that I let the rest of the family know about my pregnancy.

Beth still showed me no emotion. Marie and Cole were ecstatic and Nick was happy for me. It was later that night, after tucking Cole and Marie into bed, that I found out why Beth was upset.

"Auntie Cam?" She asked.


"Why do you want to leave?" She looked at me from her seat on the balcony. Rob, Lizzie, and Nick were inside talking about something.

"Leave? Why would I want to leave? I love you and Cole and Marie too much to leave."

"Then why did you try? Why do you want to die?" I paused.

"Sweetie, I'm really sick. Depression is different for everyone, just like everyone reacts differently to a cold. Some people have it worse than others. I don't want to leave you. My disease makes me think that dying is a better alternative than living. Do you understand?" She thought for a moment and nodded. "Don you forgive me?" She sighed.

"I don't know." I nodded.

"I understand." I stood up. "Well, how about we go inside and eat some more cake? I smiled. She gave a weak smile in return and stood up with me.

After another hour, Rob and I went home to sleep off the big dinner we just had. We sat on the couch with some hot chocolate he just made.

"I'm glad you're home." He smiled and kissed my shoulder.

"I am too." I smiled back and kissed him. "How about we play a little trick on Dr. Baker?" I grinned.

"What kind of trick?" I put my mug on the table, grabbed the phone and motioned for him to be quiet.

"Hello?" Dr. Baker answered.

"Dr. Baker?" I asked.

"Cameron? Is that you? What's wrong?" I began sniffling.

"I'm-" I cut myself off to make it seem like I was crying.

"Are you hurt? What happened?"

"I'm pregnant!" I smiled.

"Congratulations! How far along are you?"

"About three months. I go to the doctor two days after Christmas."

"Wow. I know Rob is thrilled and your sister must be ecstatic!"

"They are." I smiled.

"Well, I'll see you in January, and take care of that baby."

"I will." We said our farewells and I hung up the phone.

"I have my Cami back." Rob snuggled into my back.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You're back. Your playful nature, your smiles, your love of life. It's all back. The light in your eyes, everything." He whispered. I smiled.

"Well, we better be good this year and go to bed before Santa gets here." I smiled playfully. I took his hand and we went to our bedroom to sleep.

I dreamt that night of what the future might hold. Was there a boy or a girl inside me? What would they be like? How many children would Rob and I have? So many questions that would only be answered in time. "All things come in time," as Dr. Baker always said. For the first time, I started to believe it.

It was now February. My baby is healthy and we have another doctor's appointment in a few days. It was a cold day and I had to go to work. I left before Rob woke up and left him a note telling him I had left. It was really early and still dark outside. I ran by the fast food place to get some breakfast and then continued on my way to the daycare.

I worked at the daycare where my nephew went. It had decent pay and I only had to take a few classes to get the job; mainly to learn what to do if a child starts choking or if they get seriously hurt how to deal with it. I worked in different classrooms and today I was helping out with the three-year-olds. It was a small class with about seven kids. There were eight before Cole graduated to the four-year-olds last month. There were four girls and three boys. I walked in, signed in, and walked down the hall to where the classroom was.

A few children had already arrived. One was a little girl named Meredith, she always carried a doll or stuffed animal with her. Then there was Tommy, he was the rowdiest boy I'd ever seen, and the other was Ginger, she was, by far, the shyest of the group and was normally clinging to my side.

As the morning wore on, all but two of the kids popped up. The two absent were twins, Micah and Michelle, they both had caught colds over the weekend. Chelsea was pretty upset about it since Michelle was her favorite playmate, but quickly got over it when Adrian arrived. He was her little "boyfriend," and they were pretty inseparable for the rest of the day.

It wasn't too hard to keep track of the kids since there were only five today. Tommy kept harassing Meredith by waking up one of her baby dolls she had just put down to sleep. Chelsea and Adrian were playing tea party, even though Adrian objected. Chelsea promised him they would play cars when they were done. And, as usual, Ginger was right by my side, clinging to my skirt.

It was around lunchtime when Shelley, the woman at the desk, called to say a visitor was coming to see me. I was a bit confused at first, but when I heard a knock, and opened the door to a bunch of roses, I smiled.

"Happy Valentine's Day." He smiled, peeking around the flowers.

"Rob! They're beautiful!" I took the vase of flowers were in and set it on the counter. The conversation had attracted the attention of the three-year-olds and the four, who had previously been playing, gathered around me, and Ginger looked up at me with her caramel eyes.

"Mrs. Cami? Are dose fowers for you?" Tommy asked in his three-year-old speech. I smiled and nodded.

"They're so pretty!" Meredith, who had the best pronunciation, stated excitedly.

"Thank you, Sweetheart." I said.

"Can I smwell dem?" Chelsea asked. I brought them down to her and all of the kids crowded around to take a whiff.

"Dey smwell gwood." Adrian said. After a few minutes of fawning over the flowers, all, but Ginger, went to play.

"I'm taking you out to lunch today." He smiled.

"Where are we going?" I smiled back.

"That's a surprise." He said mischievously.

"Tell me!" I said. He shook his head.

"Mrs. Cami? Are oo leabing us?" It was the first she said all day.

"Just for a little while, Sweetie. I'll be back when you wake up from your nap."

"No!" She screamed and clung to my skirt. "Stay wiff me!" She began crying.

"Sweetie! It's okay. I promise I'll come back." I tried to reassure her, but she continued. I called her grandmother to find out why Ginger would act that way.

"Hello?" Said an elderly voice.

"Hello, Mrs. Rosing? This is Cameron Woods; I'm a helper here at the daycare center. Um, Ginger has been acting a bit different today."

"How so?"

"Well, she's normally clingy, but today I'm going out to lunch with my husband and when she found out she burst into tears."

"She doesn't like people leaving her. Her mother was a single parent and she'd come to stay with me when her mother had to work. About a year ago her mom left and got into a bad car accident. She was killed instantly. I was given custody immediately, but my health isn't very good right now so I'm not sure how much longer I'll be here. It's nice that she's finally taken a liking to someone again. She's always been shy and after her mother died she stopped talking completely. She's just now talking again." She said. I looked down at the child who was now in my lap. To think someone so young could be hurt so much at such a young age.

"Would it be alright to take Ginger with us?" I asked.

"Of course, Dear. I think she'd like that."

After that day, Ginger was glued to my side. Unfortunately, it was only a month after that her grandmother died in her sleep from a heart attack. In her will she asked if it was alright with us, if we could adopt Ginger. Rob and I both consented. Cole loved having someone younger than him to play with. Marie thought she was adorable and wanted to dress her up. Beth still wasn't quite over what had happened six months ago. Ginger was still very clingy but had gotten better as time wore on. My sister loved her and wished that her youngest two would be half as quiet as she was. It was now the beginning of April and we found out that I was having a boy. It was that day that Ginger proved to us she had a talkative side.

"Mommy?" She asked. She had quickly started calling me that.

"What is it, Sweetie?" I asked with one hand on my now plump stomach.

"When is baby brover coming?"

"Sometime in June." I said.

"I know, but what day?" The articulation of her words had also improved.

"I don't know. Whenever he's ready to come out."

"Where are we going now, Mommy?"

"Another doctor."


"So he can make sure Mommy's mind is getting better." I had also started speaking in third person.


"Because Mommy's mind is sick so the doctor gives mommy medicine to make it better." She was quiet for a while and then asked another question.



"What's baby brover's name gonna be?"

"What do you want him to be named?" She thought for a little while.

"Jimmy." She said.

"Why do you want to name him that?" Rob asked from the driver's seat.

"Cause it sounds like my name."

"I think it's a wonderful name." I said, smiling at the almost four-year-old in the backseat. She grinned back at me. "Someone has a birthday coming up." I stated.

"Me!" She shouted.

"What do you want?" I smiled.

"I want Mommy, and Daddy, and Jimmy to stay wif me foreber." At that innocent statement, my head pounded. Then my breath quickened.

"What's wrong, Cami?" Rob asked quietly so as not to frighten Ginger.

"Panic attack." I gasped out. It had been months since I had been struck with the physical and emotional feelings of an attack.

"We're almost there so just hang on a little longer." He whispered and took my hand. The feeling of his hand on mine made me feel a bit better.

We arrived at the office and Dr. Baker managed to calm me down enough to the point I wasn't in danger of passing out.

"I'm not sure why that happened. I'll need to run a few tests to make sure your chemicals are balanced." He drew some blood and came back a while later with the results. "It seems that you had a surge of one particular chemical, which is what induced the panic attack." He said. He prescribed another medicine that would decrease the chemical and told me to take it once a day for a week.

"Mommy? Are you okay now?" Ginger asked.

"Of course, Sweetie. The nice doctor gave Mommy some medicine to help her mind."

"What was wrong?"

"Well, there was too much of one thing in Mommy's body and it made her sick, but once Mommy takes her medicine she won't get sick like that again." She went quiet again and didn't talk much for the rest of the day.

It was later that evening, after we had tucked Ginger in, when we heard a scream. We rushed in and Ginger clung to me.

"Don't go, don't go…" She kept repeating as tears streamed down her face.

"Don't leave me, Mommy." She later told us she'd had a nightmare about me leaving and never coming back. I assured her I wasn't going to leave her and, after an hour or so, she drifted back off into a dreamless sleep.

It was early June. My due date was the seventh. We waited, but nothing happened. Ginger was four now and she was almost all talk. She was extremely excited about getting a new baby brother. We recently moved into a two bedroom apartment so that we'd have more room for our growing family.

It was the ninth of June and I woke up in the middle of the night with a craving for chocolate chip cookies. Luckily we had bought some a few days before so I didn't have to wake Rob up.

I got out of bed as quietly as possible and walked into the kitchen, Right as I reached for the cookie, I felt Jimmy kick.

"I know, you're gonna be a chocoholic when you come out." I said and rubbed my stomach. I took a bite of the cookie, and my water broke. "I guess you got tired of waiting. Oh well, let's go get Daddy and Sissy." I walked into out bedroom and gently shook Rob awake. "Rob."

"What is it, Babe? Another craving?" He said sleepily.

"No, Jimmy wants to come out and say hi." Rob jolted out of bed.

"I'll get the stuff, you get Ginger." He began rushing around; grabbing anything that looked like it might come in handy. I simply walked to Ginger's room.

"Sweetie? We've got to go to the hospital now." Ginger rolled over lazily.

"What for?"

"Jimmy's coming soon." She picked her head up, and wiped the sleep from her eyes.

"Baby brother?" I nodded.

"He wants to come meet his big sister." She smiled.

"Okay." She got up and walked with me out to the car. We were all in our PJ's as we walked into the hospital.

A few hours later I was holding a beautiful baby boy. My sister and her family arrived, along with my mother. She stayed quiet most of the time, and only spoke to ask to hold him. I let her. I wasn't in the mood for grudges; I was too drugged up to care about some petty fight.

As she held him, I felt dizzy. Every sound sounded as if I was under water. Ginger looked at me.

"Mommy, are you okay?" She asked. That was the last thing I heard before everything went black.

When I woke up, I was connected to a bunch of machines. Rob was talking to the doctor at the doorway. He turned and saw that I was awake.

"How ya feeling, Cami?" He asked softly.

"What happened?"

"Everything's okay. Jimmy's fine. The doctor said that there was a blood clot in your heart, but they're gonna make sure you're okay." He told me. He held my hand, and I could see the sparkle of tears in his eyes.

"Really?" I knew he was just trying to make me feel better.

"The doctor said that you have massive scarring on your heart." He said.

"Rob, please, don't dance around it." I whispered.

"He said…they'd have to operate…he said that…you may not make it." Rob lost his composure. He cried. I'd never seen him like that before. I held his hand, and tried my best to reassure him.

"Let me see Ginger." I asked, when he'd calmed down. He brought her in and she climbed up in the bed with me. "Sweetie, Mommy has to have the doctors look inside of her, at her heart." I told her.

"Is your heart sick?"

"Well, Mommy has something called a 'clot' in her heart and the doctors have to get it out."

"Oh." She said.

"The doctors have to put me to sleep for a little while, okay." I said and rested my forehead on hers.

"Okay." She smiled. "The doctors will make Mommy all better!"

"Yes he is! I smiled and tickled her. "Go tell Daddy that I want to see Jimmy, okay?" She ran off to go find him and I prayed it wouldn't be the last time I saw my little girl.

Rob came in, holding our baby in his arms. I smiled. I pictured the four of us out on walks and tears flooded my vision. I held the sweet new life in my arms.

"Hey, Sweetheart. I'm your mommy. You already knew that, though. Mommy's gonna have to leave for a while, but she'll be back. I love you." I gave him back to the nurse as a tear slid down my cheek. For the first time in my life, I wanted to live.

I was wheeled down the hallway and Rob followed me as far as he was allowed to go. "I love you." I said. "I'll see you when I come out." I smiled.

"I love you too." He said as they took me in the room. The doctors talked me through everything as they put the anesthesia mask on and told me to count back from a hundred. My last thoughts were of my children and my husband. Then my world turned black.

That's what it said. That was my mother's life story. I read over a few of the passages again, and salty tears filled my eyes. I never knew the suffering she went through.

"Ginger! Are you done up there?" Jimmy yelled from downstairs. I was in the attic, looking for some of Mom's jewelry. "We need to hurry up! We have to leave soon! You don't wanna be late for your own wedding!" He called. That's the reason I was up here.

"Jimmy! Come up here!" I called down to my little brother.

"What?" He asked from the ladder.

"I found an old album with pictures of mom." I said. He climbed up the last few rungs and sat beside me. The album was dusty and old. I showed him our mother. She died about a year after her surgery, so Jimmy never got to know her. Dad and I always talked about her and he always wanted to hear and learn more about the mother that loved so much.

Reading the album, and looking at the pictures, gave both of us a little insight into who she was behind her mask. She never showed us anything but a smile. It was almost like the only thing keeping her there was us.

The back of the album, Daddy did. It was an article of her death. She died in her sleep, from what, we aren't sure. Maybe it was just her time to go. Maybe she was only here to help us; to give life to people that would make a difference.

Whatever the reason, she died happy. I remember thinking that she was smiling because she was happy to leave, but I soon realized that wasn't the case.

We heard footsteps. It was Dad. He must've just gotten home. He came up the ladder and sat down beside us.

"You're mother worked hard on that." He said. He walked over to another box and pulled out the box that held Mama's pearls.

"Something old, right?" He smiled. I nodded. I took the box from him and continued to hold the album. It wasn't big, but it held so many memories of the one person who inspired me the most. I continued to hold it until we got to the church. I placed it down long enough to get my dress on and have Samantha, my best friend and hairstylist, do my hair.

Something old-my mother's pearls; something new-my bouquet; something borrowed-Molly's hair clips; something blue-the garter. The recipe of luck for a happy marriage. I knew Greg and I didn't need luck. He may be a year and some odd younger than me, and fresh out of high school, but there was nothing I wanted more than for our happiness and Id do anything for the man that was standing down the aisle from me.

My father took my arm and walked me down the aisle.

"You're mom's watching, and she's smiling for you." He whispered. He didn't have to say it, because I already knew that.

I thought back to the album, and my mother's flowing cursive writing. I remembered the note my mother had hidden in the front.

"This is for you Ginger. I want you to write about your experiences of life and love. By now, you've probably read about all the pain that I buried inside me. I just hope your story ends happily. I don't know when my time will come, but I hope I can give this to you in person. If not, then so be it. Fate works in mysterious ways, but I believe, now, that everything happens for a reason and that every story, no matter how tragic, has a happy ending. My happy ending is you and Jimmy, and your father. I love you, and I hope you will use this album to tell your story as well.-Mom"

Tears filled my eyes. I knew I would fulfill my mother's last request. After the wedding, I took the album and put the note on another page. That's where my story begins. Unlike my mother, I don't believe in happy endings. I believe in new beginnings. Life never really ends, it continues, even after death. No one's ever really gone as long as their memory is kept alive. So now, I continue this story, and I want my daughter to continue it after me. Love is a never-ending story, because real love never ends…