Sandy was relieved when she received the response from Barbara. She really did want to speak to her and to find out more about her.
They agreed to meet on Saturday at the same café as before, which was the first time that Barbara could be there. So they both had several days to wait before the meeting.
For Sandy it was a time of reflection. She thought about her past and about the child that she had adopted. She thought of all the reasons she had given herself for not following up on that.
She was sure the child was in a good family; the child would be disturbed if she found that her birth mother was looking for her; Ian and Val and the boys lives would be disturbed and if the child was not in a good family, what could she do about it and on and on. Many times over the years she had told herself these reasons for not seeking out her daughter or her whereabouts.
But she knew that the real reason she hadn’t tried to find her daughter was because she was afraid. Afraid that if she did see her, if they did meet she would regret her decision about the adoption.
She never discussed this with Greg or anyone else. Greg knew about the child but never once had he questioned her about whether she would try to find the child. And now she found that the child had been searching for her.
Now, all the hurts and secrets and questions she had hidden from herself were brought out into the open. And she didn’t know how to cope.
Meantime, Barbara was also reflecting on what she had done and why. She knew that she had envied the other Barbara the life she had. Her own life had not been good, a series of foster homes one after the other and at none of them did she really fit in or feel loved. She left to make her own way as soon as she could.
And now, she had to face up to the hurt she had caused Sandy in opening up the old wounds and bringing her secrets out into the open. How would she convince Sandy that she meant no harm? She just hadn’t considered the ramifications of her actions.
She spent the next few days berating herself for being selfish and thinking only of herself.
So both women were a little apprehensive at the forthcoming meeting.
Barbara was there first and she was sitting waiting when Sandy appeared. She was heartened by the fact that Sandy smiled and waved her hand when she saw her. So, Barbara thought, this isn’t going to be a confrontation.
Sandy came over and sat down at the table with Barbara. They ordered and then each looked at the other to see who was going to start the conversation. Barbara got in first “I’m really sorry for deceiving you Sandy. I didn’t think of the effect it would have on you. So I apologise. And if you tell me to go, I shall just get up and leave.” With which she stood and picked up her bag.
“No, no. Please sit down again. “Said Sandy. “We can talk this through. There has been no real harm done. And probably it was time for the secret about Barbara to come to light. It certainly is something I should have told my son about years ago.
You knew my daughter and I didn’t so we can maybe talk a little about her and her life. But first please tell me about you.”
So Barbara spent some time telling Sandy about the orphanage and the foster homes. She did tell her how unhappy she’d been as a teenager but she didn’t tell her why. Nor did she tell her how many times she had run away and each time she was brought back she was placed in a different foster home.
She told her how she finally left home to make her own life. She had taken a series of jobs working in offices until eventually she had ended up working in the same solicitors’ office as the other Barbara.
She told Sandy how they became friends, initially sharing their lunches and then going places after work together. She told how she had no experience of theatre, music or any of the arts and Barbara had introduced her to these. They had little money so they spent time at the museum or art galleries where entry was free. And on the occasions that they went to the theatre they bought the cheapest seats.
Sandy could tell from the tone and the lightness in her voice that she really loved the other Barbara as a surrogate sister, and had enjoyed the time they spent together. Sandy was pleased that her daughter and this Barbara had each other as friends.
Once Barbara had finished they sat in silence for a few minutes.
“I think I understand why you tried to impersonate Barbara” Sandy said. “And I accept that you didn’t intend any harm. We can get over that. As I said it was probably time for that particular skeleton to come out of the closet. “
She looked thoughtful and then said “I don’t know if you would like this idea but I suggest that we tell the others that you made a mistake. You are not my daughter after all. We can meet from time to time and you can tell me more about Barbara.
I do know that she was tragically killed with her parents in a car crash. Maybe later on, I might want to look up her relatives but not for some time. I have a lot to digest as it is.”
She looked at Barbara who was looking pensive. “Do you really mean that?” she asked. “I would so like to keep in touch with you. But what will you tell Cathy, your husband and your son? How will they react?”
“Well Cathy has met you and Greg found out that you are not my daughter. Greg might take some convincing that it’s all right for us to keep in touch but both he and Cathy are good people who want to see me happy. The only reason they each made enquiries about you is because of that. So I’m sure all will be well.
As far as my son is concerned, well that’s a different matter. He is unhappy that I didn’t tell him about the adoption and I don’t think I can lie to him about you. I think I will tell him the truth. I will follow up the phone call with a letter in which I can put my feelings about you and about why I think we should keep in touch.”
They both thought they had said enough for this time and decided that they would meet again the following Saturday. Sandy was concerned that Barbara was going home to be on her own, but she felt happier when Barbara told her she was meeting a young man later.
So with that, the two women picked up their bags and with a brief hug, went their separate ways.
“Friendship,” said Christopher Robin, “is a very comforting thing to have.”
― A A Milne
To be continued….