The tears suddenly stopped. Her folded hands on her chest felt her breath return to a normal pace as she let her entire body ease into the bed. Lila decided to stop crying and was able to instantaneously convince her body to do so. She had made up her mind. Her life needed to change and she was the only one who had the power to accomplish it. Lila understood she was a victim, yes, but she chose to not let that fact lead her life anymore. She slipped into sleep knowing tomorrow was the first day of the rest of her life, a better life for her and her daughter.
“What do you mean you are leaving? Where on earth would a young woman and her baby go that is better than being at home with her mum and dad?”
“Momma, I don’t expect you to understand what I need to do. This isn’t about you or father, this is about Grace. I must let her have a life better than what this town can provide. I need to start over.”
“You forget this town is the place you grew up, it is perfectly fine for your child. Do not insult my intelligence, I know this isn’t about Grace, this is entirely a selfish move on your behalf and I won’t let you take my grand baby away from me!”
“Oh, who is being selfish now!” Lila knew this fight with her mother would go on endlessly if she kept sparing with her. Lila zipped up her bag of everything she possessed, brushed her mother’s shoulder as she walked past and went out the bedroom door. Marion followed her daughter downstairs to the kitchen, walking in a hurry as though she was not ready for this decision to be final.
“Of course you are doing this now, while your father is out working the field for the harvest, not here to convince you to stay. We both know very well you put his opinion above mine and how he has the power to sway your choices. This is a juvenile act and I insist you wait until he returns. Think how upset he will be when you and Grace are gone when he comes home.”
“Guilt trips aren’t going to work here mother. My mind is made up. Plus, I talked to father before dawn and said my goodbyes. Do you honestly think I would leave without telling him? Is that what you think of me?”
Marion stood by the sink with her mouth wide open.
Lila glanced out the back window and felt a pinch of guilt seeing her brother smile and laugh at Grace out in the yard. Frank was too young to understand why she was leaving and Lila fumbled with the right words to say to him.
“Think of your brother at least, he adores Grace.”
“I know. I will write as soon as we are settled, I promise. Momma, I need to do this. I’m tired and weary of being constantly reminded of my mistakes and what happened in the past. I want to focus on the future and be a better mum for Grace. The carriage will be here any moment. I must go.”
“You didn’t make any mistakes Lila. That man is the one who made the mistake. Why should we all suffer because of it?” Marion put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders and looked straight into her eyes, sure she could push this idea off until another day.
“I’m going outside now, with or without your support.” She kissed her mother’s cheek and walked out the door.
“Lila, what do you say I take Grace on a quick walk to the Smith farm, I think she loves their horses. She seems to light up near them.” Frank looked at Lila, tears in her eyes, a large suitcase in her hand. “What’s going on?”
“Frank, Grace and I are leaving. I need to get far away from this place and start over. I will miss you so.” Lila hugged her brother as she heard the carriage come over the hill to fetch her. “I haven’t much time, say your goodbyes to Grace.”
As she watched her childhood home shrink in the distance, Lila knew this was her path forward, an unknown path full of potential and hardship and hope. She knew she had the power to create whatever life she wanted for her and Grace. That conviction would not let anything or anyone stop her. Lila had let a man have power over her for the last year. Their encounter, ever so brief, not only left her as an unmarried mother, but left her with nightmares, left her untrusting of men and left her stripped of the exhilaration for life she aspired to always keep. The three months of Grace’s life gave Lila back some of that innocent joy. God showed her there was happiness to be had even in the darkness.
Lila decided this carriage ride would be the last time she thought about the truth she was hiding. Leaving behind her town and family meant leaving behind the secrets and lies. Her mother could never know who Grace’s father really was and this was the only way to ensure it.