If I Fell
Cheryl Skory Suma
Since the day I fell, my life changed for the better. I’ve made peace with the darkness surrounding that period in our lives — I’ve come to accept that the accident was unavoidable.
That was months ago. Today, as I sink into the chair by the window, I’m caressed by the shadows. We are familiar, these shadows of the past and I. They brought me here, embracing my swollen belly, talking to you while I gaze at the mountain outside. You are my gift from above. You’ve taken away my worries and replaced them with love’s ache, dear daughter-to-be. When you arrive in a few weeks, both of us will be born anew — you, for the first time, I, recently graced with a second chance.
Until then, I play classical music — in hopes of stimulating your developing brain, but with the added benefit of soothing my nausea. You dance gentle summersaults whenever Debussy comes on, which allows me to fantasize that you are destined to become a poet or musician. I already adore this someday-you that lives in my imagination. It won’t be long before you push your way out to join me, then we can cry your first breath together. Then I can begin to know you beyond your kicks and wiggles, and you can get to know this new me — both of us free of our past cages.
My favorite time to hike is at dawn when the mist has not yet burned away and still cradles within the mountain valleys. Since moving to the Rockies, I’ve always risen early, intending to start walking after a quick coffee. More often than not, though, I end up leaning on the windowsill to watch the elderly couple across the street as they weed their garden together.
Most mornings, they’re up and working before I’ve crawled out of bed, quietly yet harmoniously expelling invaders. Like long-time dance partners, they move in unison without speaking, anticipating when to go forward, when to go sideways. I envied their harmony — their quiet acceptance of their shared task and of each other.
So far, I haven’t met anyone willing to weed the garden quietly with me. So instead, I walk, seeking the silence between breaths. When I accepted the hostess job at one of Banff’s cheaper hotels, I didn’t come for the free apartment, clearly not for the pay; like everyone else around here, I relocated for the abundance of gorgeous hiking trails the Rockies had to offer.
I’ve come to know the nearby mountain trails as well as any local, and I’ve enjoyed exploring the more challenging summits. Last fall, when I met your father hiking for the first time, I had no idea how much that one particular trail would impact my future.
I went back to that trail only once, a few months after it happened. I never finished retracing our steps — around the bend and up the path to her highest peak. When I reached the base of the climb, the landscape had changed. The rock wall had let more of her children fall — baby boulders come to rest at their mother’s feet, their demise blocking my progress.
Instantly, I regretted going there. It appeared as if the cliff could not bear what she had done last spring, nor your part in it. She’d left little pebbles so carelessly at her highest edge — the perfect recipe for a misstep, then a slide backward over her brink to join the offspring she’d so casually released below.
I glanced down at my ever-growing belly. Message received. I went home and never hiked that trail again.
Since the moment I fell in love with you, my future daughter, my eyes were opened. That day your father took us on that hike, the day of the accident, was meant to be. Just like you.
I remember how hot I was, having dressed too warm for the weather to cover the bruises on my arms and legs — evidence of his latest rage-fest the night before. He was infuriated I’d become pregnant, became even angrier when I said I wanted to keep you. Nevertheless, he’d been careful not to hit my belly. “What about next time,” you whispered in my nightmare that night.
Yes. What about next time.
He was hungover, so I was surprised when he suggested a hike. Perhaps, he felt guilty for the latest beating and wanted to do something I’d enjoy. More likely, he wanted to ensure I didn’t speak to anyone. I’d ended up with one of the few apartments with an actual backyard, so other hotel staff were prone to dropping by unannounced for a gab and a beer.
As we walked along the trail, I imagined what your smile might look like, how your voice would sound the first time you said mamma. Then, I remembered your dream whispers.
It was you who made me realize I didn’t have to accept his violent outbursts, his need for control. It was my job to protect you, but it was more than maternal instinct that surfaced that day — I fell in love. I realized that if I was worthy of being your mother, then I deserved love, too. I had to protect us both.
I was careful to hug the rock wall as we reached the peak’s narrowest, most treacherous section. Your father, however, grew impatient with my cautious pace and pushed past me along the cliff’s edge.
Then, I tripped.
It was my love for you that allowed me to stumble into his side, then leap back out of arms reach — to save us both. To let the rock wall go about her business. Tiny pebbles. Then the fall. Such a horrible accident.
Now, it’s just you and me. I have fallen, and there’s no going back.