“Hole In My Heart” by Renee Howard Cassese
We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. This week, the precious gift Paula gave away comes back to her unexpectedly.
We present our Feature Story: “Hole In My Heart” by Renee Howard Cassese
Paula stared at the box wrapped in brown paper that sat on her coffee table. She traced the return address a hundred times with her finger until the bold letters swam together like oil on a summer day. But it wasn’t summer, and rain dripped down the living room window like the tears on Paula’s cheeks. When she couldn’t delay the task any longer she ripped off the brown paper and opened the flaps of the box.
Bright yellow tissue paper burst into the late afternoon darkness and from the cloud of sunshine Paula pulled a love-worn teddy bear with one glass eye, one furry ear and a body matted with the moisture of kisses and tears. On the bear’s chest was a red felt heart dark with age.
Paula bit her lip and leaned back on the sofa. She remembered the last time she’d seen this stuffed bear over ten years ago.
She was only seventeen years old then. She lay on her bed in the hospital waiting for a gift she couldn’t keep. It had been wet and cold and the room was dark with shadows. The door opened soundlessly and a nurse with curly red hair walked over to
Paula and handed her a bundle of pink blankets.
“Do you want me to stay while you feed her?” the nurse asked.
“No, I’ll be okay.”
Paula took the baby from the nurse and cradled her daughter in her arms.
“Hi, Suzanne,” she said and watched as the baby’s mouth puckered into an O.
She settled the baby on the bed inside the V of her legs and unwrapped the blankets. Immediately arms and legs twitched and stretched and Paula stroked the velvety new skin with the same fingers that would sign away this tiny girl to the Ambrose
Adoption Agency in less than an hour.
Paula couldn’t take the baby home, she couldn’t take care of her and she couldn’t undo the mistake she had made nine months ago.
“I love you, Suzanne,” she said. “Some day when you’re a big girl I hope you will believe that. I hope you won’t hate me for letting you go. I’ll pray every night that you have a happy life.”
Suzanne cooed as if to tell Paula that everything would be all right.
Paula laid a hand on the baby’s tummy to steady her and leaned over the bed where she picked up a brown paper bag. From the bag she took a soft brown teddy bear with a red ribbon around his neck and a red felt heart glued to his chest.
“This is for you to keep you soft and warm. Take care of him like I wish I could take care of you.”
Paula fed Suzanne her bottle and the baby drank in the warm white liquid. She fell asleep, her head a presence on Paula’s arm that would never completely go away.
The red haired nurse returned and took Suzanne from her mother’s arms. Paula kissed the cool pink forehead and the tiny fingers and whispered goodbye.
Paula showered letting her tears mingle with the hot water that sluiced over her bare skin. She dressed in her maternity jeans and a baggy red sweater and waited for Mrs. Sanders to come from the adoption agency. When Mrs. Sanders arrived, the blonde-haired woman with the half smile handed papers to Paula and rested a steady hand on Paula’s shoulder as she signed them. When Paula handed them back, she asked a favor.
“Will you make sure that wherever Suzanne goes to live, she takes this teddy bear with her?”
“Yes, I can do that.”
“Maybe someday they will tell her it was from her mommy.”
Mrs. Sanders smiled a smile that never stretched to her eyes. Paula turned her head away as the woman left. The door whispered shut and Paula was alone.
In her darkening living room Paula turned on a table lamp and looked at the tag hung on the bear’s neck with gold embroidery floss.
“Look inside my heart,” she read.
She touched the felt heart on the teddy bear’s chest. She lifted the ragged piece of felt and found a rough hole torn in the bear’s fur.
“Look inside my heart,” the tag commanded.
Paula’s fingers obeyed the plea and withdrew a pastel scrap of paper from the cavity beneath teddy’s heart.
I know you loved me. I wish I could have stayed with you,
but I’m not mad at you. My new family is very nice and I am
happy. I love you. Maybe someday I can see you again.
Thank you for the teddy bear. My new Mommy told me that
it came from you.
Paula clutched the bear against her middle. Her second child had lived and died in her womb. There would be no more babies for Paula.
She threw the bear across the living room where it slammed into the white brick fireplace.
“I love you too. I love you too.”
Renee Howard Cassese writes poetry, fiction and memoir from her home on Long Island. This is her second story accepted by Metro Fiction (read her first story “After the Ball“). She works as an Assistant Principal in a special education preschool. Renee’s stories, essays and poems have appeared in several publications or books including Story Circle Journal, Full Circle Journal, The Storyteller Magazine, “Growing Up on Memory Lane,” “Turning Memories Into Memoirs,” and in online sites such as The Writer’s Eye. She is a certified Journal Instructor and Memoir Instructor. Her hobbies include reading, scrap-booking, painting and walking in nature. You can read more about Renee on her blogs “Renee Is Writing” and “A Marriage of Poetry and Art.”
Tags: metro fiction, renee howard cassese, short stories