Maggie sat on the porch, sipping wine and watching the sun set over the far side of the lake. The day had been far less emotional than she expected. The hope chest revealed its secrets; she read the letters. And when she was finished she felt satisfied. Peaceful even. She'd had two mothers who loved her. One she knew. One she didn't. Until now.
She tried to imagine what the night she was born must have been like. Two women forced together by undesirable circumstances. One crying for the babe she would never again hold in her arms. The other for the betrayal that had brought the child into the world. Both mourning the loss of a man they loved. They would forever be connected, though they would never speak to or see each other again.
She thought about the day her own daughter was born. How she'd felt when they placed Michelle on her belly, writhing and screaming. She was exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time. Filled with love. She was much older than Charlotte or her mother had been on that fateful night. And having a baby with her own husband. There was really no way to compare the two events.
Maggie had not been upset with her mother when she found out about Charlotte. Her mother had never lied to her. She knew she was adopted. She knew her father died in the war. And he was her father. There had been no deceit. Her mother just hadn't told her the whole truth. Maggie wondered if that had been hard for her. She obviously harbored no ill will toward Charlotte. She had sent those letters each year as promised.
Her mother had not married again. Never even had another romantic relationship with a man, that Maggie was aware of anyway. It wasn't that she was an angry, bitter woman. She just focused her energies on her career. Moving to the city after Maggie was born had opened up a whole new world to her. It had been a rebirth, and her life went in an entirely different direction than it would have if Maggie had never been born.
Which brought her back to her father. He died before she was born, but did he ever know the pain and disgrace he had left back home? What had caused him to be unfaithful to her mother? What would he have done if he'd returned from the war? Would he have gone to Charlotte? Or stayed with her mother? What would have happened to Maggie? So many questions that would never be answered.
But there were many which had been. She knew the direction Charlotte's life had taken. Her birth mother had spent her whole life wishing she could know her first born. Maggie could tell she'd read the letters hundreds of times. By writing back, in her mind she was connecting with her child. And in the end, she had. She had enabled her daughter to see in to her heart. Maggie recognized a lot of Charlotte in herself, too.
Charlotte never left the countryside. She married and had more children. She was always an outcast to her family, because of the scandal she had caused. They refused to acknowledge her existence even though she lived in the same town. All except for Charlotte's maternal grandmother, the one who had left her the cabin.
The Winiskis wanted the cabin back in their family. Maggie was not sure what she would do. She felt like she would be betraying Charlotte if she gave it back to them. After all, they had cut her birth mother out of their lives. Why did they feel they deserved to have the place that meant so much to her? Maggie didn't want to think about that now. It threatened the tranquility she was feeling. The Winiskis could wait for an answer. She'd take her time.
The sun had dipped below the horizon now, and the surface of the lake had turned a beautiful deep indigo. Maggie breathed in the fresh air deeply. So different from the city. She understood why this was a place of reflection for Charlotte. She finished the last sip of her wine, rose and turned toward the door. One more night and she would have to return to reality.