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“Yes, after that. After the last one, you shut down. I even gave you all those articles on adoption and surrogacy, and still, you wouldn’t even try for Finley. The church offered you a prayer circle, and you wouldn’t even show up.”

“Maybe praying doesn’t fix what’s broken,” I barked her way, feeling my blood pressure rising. I could hardly believe what she was saying, but then again, I could. I knew my mother and how she believed so strongly in my flaws.

Her eyes watered, but she didn’t cry. “You don’t mean that. You’re just hurting right now. Prayer changes everything.”

“Everything but this,” I told her. I prayed for a child. Every single day, I prayed, and the prayers went unanswered. Then I prayed for my husband, and those, too, were received with silence.

“You didn’t even try, Grace,” she said, her disappointment loud and clear.

She spoke her words as if she didn’t know how cruel she sounded. I hadn’t even tried? If only she knew how much my body knew of my failed attempts. If only she knew how looking in the mirror each morning, knowing you couldn’t give your husband what he’d always wanted made one feel. If only she recognized how, for years, the only word I knew was “try,” second only to “fail.”

“And I think that’s my breaking point,” I blurted out, tired of talking about my marriage, my faults, my disappointments. I had no words left for her. I pushed my chair away from the table, stood, then walked to the spare bedroom and closed the door behind me.

I lay on the queen-size bed as I listened to Judy try to tell our mother why she was wrong in every fashion. Mom wasn’t hearing it, though. She had her way of life and never understood that others’ lives didn’t need to mirror it.

“Judith, you cannot always protect your sister and her actions, and she is your older sister, after all—it’s not your job to make excuses for her,” Mom barked.

“I’m not making excuses,” Judy replied. “I’m trying to show you a different side. She’s your daughter, and she was betrayed in the worst way possible. By the two people who she thought truly cared about her. I mean no disrespect, but maybe now’s not the time to come down so hard on her, Mama.”

“Yes, well, I’m going to go speak to her one last time before I leave.”

I sat up on my bed and cussed under my breath.

Her footsteps were growing closer, which made my stomach knot up more and more.

“Grace?” she asked, not waiting for a reply before opening the door. She looked my way as I sat with a pillow in my lap, staring at her. “I’m sorry you got upset.”

That was how she always apologized—a non-apology. Not, I’m sorry I upset you, but I’m sorry you got upset.

There was a big difference. She never took the blame for her actions, only apologized for others taking offense.

“It’s fine. No big deal.”

“But”—she shook her head—“it is a big deal. This is your life, Grace. Do you really want to ruin it at this point? You’re almost forty. Do you really want to start all over?”

I was thirty—how was that almost forty?

Even if I was forty—what was so terrifying about starting over?

I’d rather start over at forty than stay somewhere miserable for the next forty years.

“Mom, no offense, but can we not do this tonight? I’m tired and mentally checked out.”

She nodded. “Okay, but we should talk about this later. Maybe we can look into therapy.” That was Mama’s fix to everything—first prayer, then therapy. She walked over to me and kissed my forehead. “I’m only this way because I love you, Grace. I hope you know that.”

“I love you, too, Mom.” That wasn’t a lie.

I loved my mother, but oftentimes, I wondered if I liked her. I wondered if she wasn’t my mom if I’d like her as a fellow human. Most signs pointed to no, but still, I loved her as the woman who gave me life even when she told me I needed Jesus’s help to fix my womb.

I listened to Judy say goodbye to Mom, and when the front door closed, I let out a sigh of relief.

It only took a few seconds for my sister to pop into my room, the palms of her hands rubbing against her eyes as she groaned. “That was fifty million times worse than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be awful.” I scooted over on the bed and patted a spot beside me. She gladly took it and leaned her head on my shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Grace. If I’d known she would be that bad—”

“You’d what? Tell her not to come over? Let’s face it, this night would happen regardless. It’s fine.”