An excerpt from The I of the Storm by Peggy Nolan and Teresa Thompson
“Gretel’s coming to live with us.” My husband’s pronouncement of my future as a stepmom sounded like some offhand comment about the weather.
I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. I froze in mid-step, unable to decide if I should sit down or keep moving. I recovered enough to gawk at Prince Charming and stammer, “What do you mean Gretel’s coming to live with us? I thought she was supposed to live with her mom.”
I felt sick to my stomach for Gretel. I knew how much she craved her mother. It was imprinted in her entire being. From the over-emphasized facial expressions to the little squeaky noises she made in her throat, Gretel’s feelings around her mom and the desire to be with her threw themselves at anyone who would pay her the slightest bit of attention.
“She changed her mind so Gretel’s coming here.” My husband was sitting in his chair, staring at the computer screen, not even bothering to look at me. His voice sounded like a flat, unempathetic slap in the air. “Her mom said she’s not prepared to keep her over the school year. I’m really not surprised. You shouldn’t be either. She does stuff like this all the time.” I realized I was holding my breath. As I let it out, my husband verbally slapped the air again while announcing, “She’s dropping her off on Wednesday. I’ll be at work, but you’ll be here, so that’s fine. Do you think you can to register her for school, too?”
I still couldn’t decide if I wanted to sit or move, and I’m fairly certain I’d stopped breathing again. Would you at least look at me? I screamed over and over in my head until I was finally able to choke out an, “Ok.” It was a knee-jerk reaction and the only thing I could physically throw out around myself as a barrier from this conversation. Ok? Did really just say that out loud? I was having trouble keeping up with my thoughts while simultaneously trying to make this whole situation disappear.
How can my husband be so casual? Why would her mom change her mind the week before school starts? Doesn’t she care about Gretel’s feelings? Can’t she see how wrong this is? What about me? No one asked if it was ok with me. It’s my house and no one asked me a damn thing. There’s no way in hell I’d ever let my daughter go live with someone else. How can Gretel’s mother be so mean? Am I seriously the only adult in this situation who realizes how much of a problem this is? Tears distorted my vision as I set myself back into motion. I rounded the corner of the living room and stumbled into the kitchen, jolting my shoulder on the door frame in the process. I was knocked sideways toward the table. I let out a few shaky breaths as I pulled out a chair and sat down. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. I reached for the phone. My fingers felt like they weighed a million pounds each as I dialed the school’s phone number. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry…
~ Teresa Thompson, co-author, “The I of the Storm”