I Love You, Jilly Sanders, page 23
Tears darted painfully into Jilly’s eyes.
“I told Otto and Cat,” Jane Sandra said. “I told them about your letter and how you thought I was your mother. They wanted to come after you, but I asked them to let me talk to you first. They’re all worried about you. Even your young man.”
“They are?” Jilly whispered.
Jane Sandra nodded. “Tage said to tell you he would wait for you on the porch.” Jane Sandra jumped down from the car and dusted off the seat of her pants. “Look, Jilly,” she said. “You have a choice here. You did a brave thing coming out here when you did, looking for your mother and all, and who knows? Someday you might just find her. But until then, you need to make up your mind. Are you going to be willing to let other people love you, or are you going to stay abandoned for the rest of your life?”
Jilly didn’t say anything. Jane Sandra touched her shoulder, her fingers a feather-light caress. She set off across the field, leaving Jilly standing by the car, her mind slow to let go of the dream she’d carried for so long.
She had a choice of whether or not she stayed abandoned?
Maybe Jane Sandra was right. Maybe she had enough distance from everything to see most clearly what was clearly true.
This didn’t have anything to do with whether or not her mother loved her. In fact, that was a question she might never find an answer for, a true unanswerable question.
But an answerable question was whether or not she considered herself worthy of love.
She thought of Otto, of his humming, of the way he made cornbread for her and assigned her geography papers to write, of the way he worried about where she was and if she was okay.
Otto loved her.
She thought about Cat, too, and how Cat arranged for her to go to school at home, how she bought her supplies and flannel pajamas, soft and warm, and of how she tried to protect them all from Reuben, even if she might have had to pay for that protection with her own life.
Cat loved her.
And Gwen. Gwen’s love for Shye and Ariana, and now Mackenzie, still didn’t run her dry. Her feelings for Jilly were clear in the way she trusted her with the girls, with the way she teased Jilly about Tage, and with the way she made Jilly peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches, the same as she did for Shye.
Gwen loved Jilly, too.
Then she thought of Tage. They’d been through so much together. He knew everything about her—her darkest moments and her lightest ones—and he was waiting for her back at the house. She could see him in her imagination, sitting on the porch swing, his face peaceful and certain.
Tage loved her.
Almost of their own volition, her feet started moving.
Jane Sandra was right: she had a lot of people who loved her for who she was now, people who wouldn’t care her mother once, for whatever reason, a long time ago, left her as a baby all alone at a church.
She didn’t need to keep looking for love—for validation—from a mother who was no more than a biological start on the life she now held in her own hands. Why, she might never find her real mother!
A new thought sprang full-blown into her mind: She’d been lucky! For the first time in her life, from the moment she’d met Otto right up until now, she’d been well and truly lucky, and she’d almost missed it entirely!
Oh, wasn’t that the way with people! Why did most people look far and beyond for something to make them happy when the answer was always so close?
Her heart lightened and she felt as though she might have the ability to fly back to the house and to everyone who was there—her family—waiting for her arrival, and she broke into a light run.
She felt free for the first time in her life—free to start to live the way she’d always dreamed. That thought reminded her of the dream she had when she first came here, the dream with the faceless person who talked first about loving Jilly.
Her skin tingled. She knew who that person was now.
“I love you, Jilly Sanders,” she whispered, her voice floating up into the cloud-scattered blue sky. “I love who you used to be, who you are today, and who you may end up to be.”
Cindy Lou Daniels, I Love You, Jilly Sanders