Chapter One

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Whispers from the Heart


Maria Bernard

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Whispers from the Heart, Copyright © 2017 by Maria Bernard, ISBN: 978-0-9938067-6-6

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Chapter One

If you had told me last Christmas, I'd be a young widower the same time next year, I wouldn't have believed it. Yet here I am in December, gazing helplessly at the grocery store shelf, my motherless babe in my arms.

"Bear with me, sweetie. I'm afraid your dear old dad's at loss for all this."

Tucking Hope's head onto my shoulder, I continue to stare at the shelves holding things I know nothing about. But I'm determined to make this happen. All I want is to give my infant daughter a proper Christmas. For not only is this our first Christmas on our own, it is also my baby girl's first birthday.

My poor little girl, my sweet Hope. I've let her down in so many ways. For too long I've lived in the shadow of my grief. I've neglected her, I have, and I won't deny it. I can tell by the way she clings to me. She is just getting used to me again. In the beginning, I was afraid of her a little, I must admit. As excited as I was to be a father, I hadn't expected to be a single parent to a newborn baby girl. But then again, I'm sure Hope hadn't expected to be left motherless before she took her first breath. We had been handed a raw deal, the two of us, no doubt about that.

It's hard to believe the one year anniversary of her mother's death is only a month away. I lost the love of my life on Christmas Eve as she gave birth to my daughter and the memory of it still tears me apart if I dwell on it too long. Yet never have I blamed Hope, for that would be unforgivable of me. Even in the darkest depths of grief, I knew this to be true. But that doesn't stop others from doubting the depths of my love for this gift I hold in my arms.

I ignore the incessant buzzing of my phone in my coat pocket. I don't even have to check to know who it is. My dearly departed wife's mother is determined to take Hope away from me for the Christmas holidays and I am just as determined not to let that happen. I will not give her that satisfaction no matter how daunting the idea of doing this on my own is. As great is my grief, my stubborn nature will not allow me to give up. I will not give up my daughter. She is all I have left of her mother.

"May I help you find anything?"

Snapping out of my thoughts at the sound of the young woman's voice, I turn and with a frown, I shake my head. "No thanks, I'm doing fine on my own." My voice comes out gruff and rather curt. I don't mean to sound that way, but it's how I've come to be. Before I can apologize, she nods and turns away, but not before I notice the doubt come across her face. With regret, I watch her walk away wearing the requisite blue smock that tells me she works here. Poor girl is only doing her job and I go and bite her head off. Now Hope is starting to fuss. Who can blame her? Feeling useless, I abandon the half-full shopping cart and leave the store, making a mad dash for my car.

"No worries, we'll try again another day," I say as I buckle Hope into her baby seat. "Thanks for putting up with me." I lean in and give her kiss on the cheek. "I'll make this happen, I promise."

As I drive, I wonder if I should make such promises when I haven't the slightest idea if I can do this. I don't know how to cook a turkey. I haven't got a clue how to go about it and then I wonder why I'm even bothering with trying. Hope wouldn't know the difference. It's not like she's going to eat a full course meal. As it is, she's just started solids not long ago. Yet for some reason, I feel compelled to try. Even if just to prove to myself that life can be normal for us again. I want to create happy memories for Hope.

For the first few months following Mary's death, I don't even know how I was able to cope. The only thing that kept me going was taking care of my baby. As unbelievable as it may seem, some things kicked in naturally, as if on instinct. Other things, I have Mavis to thank for. With the help of Hope's nanny, I learned fast how to change diapers, how to hold a baby's head, how to bathe her and hold her when she cried, because she cried, oh, how she cried. In truth, we both cried and at times it was hard to say who cried more.

What I regret most is how my grief hit me hardest when Hope was only four months old. Before then, I had operated on auto-pilot. Hope needed me and I had acted on it. But as time passed, I found myself taking a step back. Maybe because by then I had started to trust Mavis more. Hope's nanny had proven worthy of my daughter and I took it for granted. That's when the full force of my loss hit me. It hadn't happened on purpose but I started to distance myself from my responsibilities little by little, and before I realized it, I had literally disappeared within myself. I stopped working at the symphony. I couldn't play piano, much less create music. So I took a leave of absence and have yet to return to my job as the head composer for the Symphony of Toronto. I stopped taking calls from my peers. For me, everything just stopped.

It wasn't until more recently when I found myself walking into St. Peter's again, the little stone church where Hope was baptized, did I start to come back to the world of the living. Yet by then, the damage was done. My daughter had given up on me. She hardly knew me. Here we are in December, and she still doesn't know me in the way she should. Even though Mavis disagrees with me, I can tell by the way she clings to me. She is afraid to let me go. She fears I'll abandon her... again.


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