The road is lit in pieces. Sunlight shines through the trees above Adeline, broken as the light filters through the branches covered in bright green leaves. This summer has been hot, but in the shade Adeline does not feel uncomfortable. The road she is walking down will lead her home, where she does not want to go. So, she walks slowly and enjoys the slight breeze flowing through her auburn hair. She had it tied up when she was working, but now it falls freely just below her shoulders. She considered cutting it but summer break has passed so quickly it seems pointless now. She could finally dye it, like she’s been wanting to do for years. If she wanted something different she could do that. But, something different isn’t really what she wants right now. Her hand instinctively reaches up and touches her stomach. She stops walking. Sweat is collecting behind her neck and the wind has stopped, as if it knows the same dread Adeline feels. She thinks, my life will never be the same now, then drops her hand and continues walking.
She desperately tries to think of something else, but every thought leads her to her guilt. It would be different if she was only letting herself down. If her mother hadn’t cared so much about Adeline’s future, it would be easier. She could forgive herself if her mother hadn’t done so much for Adeline; if her mother hadn’t worked so hard to give Adeline a promising future. But, as she walks past her neighbor’s brand new white fence, she can’t disguise the guilt. Her mother will know by the end of the night that Adeline broke her promise. And no thoughts of hair cutting or dyeing will mask what she feels boiling inside her.
Adeline was never told she was her mother’s mistake, but she knew it by the way their life looked. Other kids would come to school with brand new shoes every other month. Adeline was lucky if she got a new clothing item on any day that wasn’t Christmas. Her mom bought her baggy clothes so she would grow into them. And she worked so hard to get those baggy clothes and to wrap them every Christmas eve in any wrapping paper that survived through the years. Adeline didn’t need to be told, she just knew her mother wanted more. She wanted more for herself and for Adeline. But now Adeline is following in her mother’s footsteps, and breaking all her promises.
“You’ll go to college, right?” Her mother would ask, almost every time Adeline got a decent grade on any assignment.
And Adeline would reply effortlessly, “I promise I will mom.”
The answer seemed obvious back then. Now she wonders what she would’ve said if she had known what her future would look like. More than anything, Adeline wishes that she would’ve known how hard finding her way would be. Her mom did her best to prepare Adeline, but somehow she managed to get lost.
When her mom’s first published book became popular and they moved into their first real home Adeline thought she could finally forgive herself for existing. Her mother finally got what she wanted; but Adeline just had to mess it up again. The guilt is boiling in her stomach and she starts up the hill which will lead her to their home. No matter how hard her mother works, Adeline just can’t make life any easier for her. As much as she tries, she always fails. She walks out of the canopy of trees and the sun is hot on her back but she barely notices it. The top of the hill moves closer and closer, no matter how slowly Adeline’s feet move.
The house becomes visible as she reaches the top of the hill. It’s a blue house. Adeline’s mother always wanted a blue house. Not an obnoxious blue, but a soft, quiet blue. Her mother favors quiet things. Maybe that’s because Adeline was always so loud. There’s a bay window in the front, where her mom likes to read. She often tells Adeline how much she had always wanted a bay window. Anytime she couldn’t get comfortable on their old couch in their old apartment, she would remind Adeline about the bay window she longed for. In the backyard, there is a tree which creates a perfect amount of shade. If Adeline had to guess, she would bet her mother is laying under that tree right this minute. Adeline’s mom always wanted a tree she could write under in the afternoons. When her mother would come home from work at night, long after the sun had set, she would tell Adeline all about the tree she would love to write under.
When Adeline’s boots reach the grass in front of her home, she nearly trips. The road she had been walking on was neatly paved, a contrast to the uneven grass. Adeline should blame her clumsiness on her thoughts; but she prefers to blame it on the change in terrain.
As she walks up the steps to her front door, Adeline’s nerves fill her stomach. The guilt is still there, but her dread has cut in line. A thousand tiny needles prick her from inside; it’s as if the needles are trying to break free from her stomach. If she could immediately, she would love to let them out; but the only way to be rid of them now is to get this over with. Her mother is not in the backyard, as Adeline had hoped. Instead, she is in the kitchen humming a song as she fixes dinner. Adeline kicks off her shoes in the living room, under the bay window. She puts her backpack on the new couch. Then, she walks into the kitchen.
“Mom?” She says, twisting the ring on her middle finger.
Her mother turns to look at her daughter with a huge smile. “Oh, you’re home early!”
Adeline takes a deep breath. Her mother is happier than she’s ever been. Now that she has the house and the life she’s always wanted, she is so happy. “I need to tell you something.”
Her mother stops stirring whatever dish is on the stove and turns the heat down. As she wipes her hands on her apron, she turns to Adeline with her smile slowly fading. “What is it?”
She takes another deep breath. The words are difficult to find. They’re hidden behind the thoughts of blue and trees. She breathes in deeply one more time and says, “I’m pregnant.”
Adeline waits for any one of the ways she expects this to end. She waits for her mother to scream, or to cry. Maybe she will kick her out right here and now. Her mother had wanted a better life for Adeline. She gave birth to Adeline when she was only sixteen. Her mother must resent Adeline for how long it took for her to get her perfect blue house. And now she has disobeyed her mother’s most important rule. She has gotten pregnant before graduating college. She hasn’t even made it to her first day in college. Anything her mother will do now will be justified. Adeline never wanted to disappoint her mother. She had always wanted to go to college before having a baby. And now, again, she is to blame for the disappointment.
Eternity has passed for Adeline now but only a few real seconds has gone by. Adeline’s mother has begun to cry now and Adeline dreads her words. When her mother can speak, she says, “Oh, Adeline. I’ve always wanted to be a grandmother.”