“The axe forgets, but the tree remembers.” – African Proverb
While everyone else at St. Joseph Mercy hospital’s Christmas Charity Gala was either dancing, drinking, or mingling. Miranda stood alone in a barely lit corner in an alcove near the third floor bathroom of the Pegasus Hotel where the event was being held. She was texting Raphael, the only man in her life who happened to also be the love of her life.
Miranda: Hey, kiddo. I’m just checking in. Did you lock up? Ensure all the doors and windows are closed and don’t forget to set the alarm.
Raphael: Hi, mom. You do know I’m not a kid anymore, right? I’m fourteen years old. I’m quite capable of governing myself.
Miranda: That didn’t answer my question.
Raphael: Yes, mother. I’ve locked up and checked all of the points of entry/exit. I’ve also brushed my teeth, taken a shower, eaten dinner, now I’m listening to some music before I go to bed.
Miranda: There is no need to be a smarty pants. I’m just checking to make sure you’re okay. I worry sometimes.
Raphael: I know mom. But you really shouldn’t worry. You raised me right, so trust your handy work.
Miranda: LOL. I trust you. Where is your grandmother?
Raphael: Two gin tonics and she was out like a light an hour ago.
Miranda: Shoot. She’s drinking again? I really shouldn’t have left you with her. I should have followed my mind and left you with the Stewarts.
Raphael: Mom, relax. Breathe. I’m fine. Granny is fine. You should be enjoying yourself. Not texting your son.
Miranda: I miss you.
Raphael: I miss you, too. When are you coming home?
Miranda: Soon, honey. The car is picking me up around noon tomorrow.
Raphael: Okay. Love you.
Miranda: Love you too.
He'd said, “Love you” first. It always warmed Miranda’s heart when her son showed affection. He was usually a very reserved person. The only time he showed emotion was during his interactions with her. She’d been warned by other parents to look out for the terrible teen years. She had been given an entire laundry list – rebellion, disrespectful attitude, self-absorption and the inability to see things from anyone else's perspective, laziness and carelessness, and a negative attitude toward life, school, or other people, among other terrible traits of teens. Fortunately, Miranda hadn’t experienced any of those. Her son was thoughtful, considerate and compassionate. She wasn’t sure how much of that had been influenced by the fact she was a single parent. Because of circumstances beyond her control, her son didn’t have much of a childhood. He’d been forced to ‘grow up’ way before his time. The first ten years of his life, she’d struggled to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. It was only in recent years was she able to provide a comfortable living for them. It helped that her mother had finally allowed them to move in with her and she was able to save on rent.
Sending one last text, don’t stay up too late, Monique sighed and lowered her phone. Once again, she was feeling guilty about having left him in Berbice during the holidays to attend this function. But she was a lower level employee of the hospital working in the pediatric ward, and she didn’t want to ask for any special favors or seem ungrateful for the new opportunities the hospital was providing for her.
She’d wanted to bring Raphael with her, this being the first Christmas they’d ever spent apart. But Raphael had declined. He hadn’t wanted to leave his grandmother. It was commendable, but Miranda couldn’t help feeling a little resentful of his relationship with his grandmother.
She was glad they were getting along. But she was sad she didn’t have a better relationship with her mother. That ship had sailed a very long time ago. While Beverly adored her grandson, she could never forgive her daughter for getting pregnant during her final year of university and having to drop out.
But that was a lifetime ago. Miranda didn’t regret her decision then or now. Her only regret was having hooked up with his father in the first place. You live, you learn.
Bringing her thoughts back to the charity gala, Miranda wondered if she’d shown her face enough to leave the event a bit early. She didn’t have a choice about attending. The hospital was raising funds to expand the department she was attached to. It was that very expansion that was responsible for her being offered a new position. So she couldn’t just skip it.
Despite the unfavorable timing of the event, it was truly remarkable and ambitious what the hospital was attempting to do. She’d been hired as a child advocate. Her job was to communicate with the patients and get a sense of their general well being. They had seen over the years a high surge in children who were being physically abused as well as children who had cancer or a terminally ill disease who were tired of the treatments, chemotherapy, prods and poking. They just wanted to enjoy what little time they had left and not spend it attached to machines in the hospital.
The idea behind the new project was that the child advocate would be the voice of those children – to speak up for what they wanted. So far, she’d overheard a lot of her fellow attendees gossiping about what a novel idea it was and speculating on whether or not the hospital’s ‘experiment’ would lead to new legislation on the rights of a child. Only time would tell how it would play out. In the meantime, Miranda was happy about the steady paycheck as well as the opportunity to work with kids, which was her passion.
She glanced at the clock on her phone. The gala had started two hours ago, so she was probably safe to go home and curl up with a glass of eggnog and watch a movie in her hotel room. She’d booked a room at a less expensive hotel across town. She would return there and pack and wait for the time the hire car driver would pick her up. Rather than go to the car park, she'd arranged for the dirver to pick her up at the hotel when he had the required number of passengers. But that would be hours from now. Her heart was filled with a deep longing to see Raphael again. She wasn’t used to being away from him for so long, and found herself missing their domestic routine. Besides which, she wanted to capitalize on this time she had with him. In a few more years he would be off to university. Then she’d be free to die of loneliness. She had no life outside of her son.
But enough of this pity party for one, she decided, pushing herself off the wall she’d been leaning against and throwing her phone into her clutch. She’d find Mr. Newman, the hospital’s director and wish him season’s greetings before heading on out…
Suddenly, she stopped short. A chill came over her and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up straight. It was as if there was cold air giving her a blast from the past, because that’s the reaction her body used to have when Ranveer was nearby. But that couldn’t be. Could it? Last she’d heard, he was in the Cinderella county of Essequibo. While this gala had been geared to cater for the richest of the rich, there was no reason for him to be here. He was not philanthropically inclined.
Her heart now pounding in her ears, she looked around just to make sure.
And that’s when she locked eyes with her ex-boyfriend, father of her son and current billionaire, Ranveer Seecharran.