It's been a while since I've updated, but any of you with kids probably know what I've been finding out - that just because Little Moira has gotten better about sleeping through the night, she finds other ways to wear me out. She seems to have spent roughly a week crawling before she started walking, and she tries to get into everything. She's incredibly curious, changes favorite foods all the time, and is just a little ham.
She's also got the craziest sense of timing. A couple months ago, Krystle and I got the emails saying that reservations for the Inn would be going on sale, and we messaged back and forth like crazy for a couple of hours. She ran down a list of what she was planning to do with her body first, I countered by saying that Moira would wake up crying just as soon as she had lowered herself into that bubble bath, and we eventually got to our next things (Krystle had made her way to Africa as me by then, so our schedules are kind of out of sync). A couple weeks later, we booked three blocks for late spring: One for me to become some unknown person, one for Krystle to become herself again, and then one for me to get my life back. My folks grumbled at the expense, but were extremely pleased with the thought of the weirdness being in the rear-view mirror.
And then, that night, Little Moira decided to say her first word. She was in the bathtub, hair up in little puffs, pushing some toys around, making little noises. I said that was a boat, asked if she could say "boat", and then nearly fell over when she looked up and said "mama".
I don't think I'd really been avoiding that word deliberately, but I think somewhere in the back of my head, I knew that I wasn't encouraging Moira to say that particular word because I knew that I would eventually be myself again, and we'd made the effort for people not to think I was her parent, so I probably shouldn't get used to the idea. So it was always "can you say dolly?" or "can you say Grampa?" or something like that. I'm not even exactly sure where she got "mama" from, now that I think of it. Maybe a visitor - or, I guess, everyone we know who's not in on the whole Inn thing. But she did, and in the moment we were all so excited that we didn't give it more thought beyond that.
But then she kept doing it. Other words came, sure, but that was the one she had the best handle on, and it started to get to me. On the one hand, it felt really good, especially when she'd hug or kiss me at the same time, but eventually I started feeling guilty about what was going to happen in a couple months.
I reached out to ask the other Inn people I knew, not really asking specific questions and mostly not getting really specific thoughts. Only Mrs. Kim really seemed to get what I was trying to ask and seemed ready to tell me the thing I needed to hear in no uncertain terms. I guess that on some level you just have to have the experience.
So I looked at my schedule and asked Krystle if we could schedule a private video call for the next night I had off, one where she didn't have to worry about being overheard or interrupted. She said yes, and that night I dragged my laptop out into the living room, hooked it to the big TV, and asked Mom and Dad to come out before I started the call. Krystle was a bit surprised to see the living room when the connection was made, and they raised their eyebrows at it. I think they kind of knew them what I was going to say, but couldn't quite bring themselves to believe it.
I couldn't either, to be honest, and I was shaking, but I did it anyway. "So, um, I don't know if I'm the last one to figure out how this story goes, but even if I am, I guess I've gotta be the one to say it.
"I'm not going back to the Inn. Not this summer, and probably never."
My folks took a moment or two to process it, sitting there in shock, but Krystle wasn't shocked into silence. "The f--- you say you're not going to go back to the Inn?"
"I... I've been thinking it over, ever since Moira called me Mama, and I just can't imagine not being her mother. She's been inside me, and then with me every day, and the thought of letting her go... I just can't!"
"Then adopt her! I promise, I won't put up a fight - I might've done that anyway!"
"And deny her the only mother she's ever known? What if she doesn't recognize me and doesn't take to me? I could ruin her life!"
Dad put his hand on my knee. "Don't worry about that, son. Kids are resilient - soon, it will be like this never happened."
"And then later? When we have to tell her that her mother gave her up, add that onto the other lies?"
"It won't be like that. I can't guarantee it, but--"
"But why take the risk?"
"BECAUSE YOU'RE STEALING MY LIFE!"
"I know! And I'm sorry! But everything else seems worse!" I turned to my father. "You always told me to do what's right - what kind of person would I be if I didn't put being Moira's mother first?"
"You'd be my son." He sounded as hurt as angry to say it. "You'd be my son again."
It hurt, and I tried to tell him that as long as he thinks of me that way, I still would be, but it sounded weird coming out. I looked at Mom, which felt a bit desperate - she's taken the whole thing with magic and me being a girl even harder than Dad - but I figured that if Mrs. Lincoln-Kim would get that the bond between a mother and her child is so important, surely my own mother would. "You get it, right, Mom? You never would have let me go?"
"I understand, Jonah, but this is how God tests us, to make sure we don't behave selfishly, or go against how he made us. You've already failed that test once, by lying with a man, but God gave you a second chance! Don't throw it back in his face!"
I felt punched in the gut, but also angry. "Moira isn't a test! She's her own person, a blessing! How can you even suggest--"
That's the moment I knew I was on my own, that my folks and Krystle just weren't going to understand. It's hard to blame them - we've all got strong ideas of what our lives should be, and it's not this. There's a way to get closer to that. But you hear people talking about how they love their kids more than their own lives, and normally that just means you'll die for them. But I love my daughter so much...
It wasn't the same in the house after that. I thought, maybe, after the shock, maybe they would all understand given time, but the next night, while I was at work, I felt panicked. I couldn't believe that my folks would actually hurt Moira, but they still might "solve the problem" - drive a hundred miles and leave her somewhere safe, spin a story about me being the one to do it when the police checked her fingerprints - and as much as I know I couldn't even think that, I couldn't stop.
So while they were at work, I packed what I could, drove the car to the nearest stop on the Downeaster, and took the train into Boston. Momma Kamen was glad to see Little Moira, a little disappointed to see me, but not really disappointed in me. I'm not sure how much she's joking and how much she's serious about not being able to handle the quiet since Karla moved out, but she's making things pretty easy. Ashlyn and Moira hired me back at The Changeling.
Which is what I am now, I guess, based on what they tell me about the Irish myth, a fake Krystle taking the place of the real one, without any pretense of it being temporary any more. It doesn't escape my notice that the changelings are usually the monsters in those stories, and the people who take over others' lives despite the others wanting them back are the villains when Inn people tell their stories. I guess I'll just have to live with it and see how God judges me later. For now, though, I'll just have to live with that, so long as Little Moira keeps calling me her Mama.