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  • R. L. Mosz

A Motherless Child

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

In my upcoming book, Soul Tie, protagonist Tamara Castellan deals with multiple problems as she struggles to navigate a complicated life. Unhappily married and the stepmother of two troubled children, her older brother Michael is also seriously ill. And to make matters even worse, Tamara is secretly enamored with a wonderful man, associate Gil Payne.

Unfortunately, Tamara's mother, Naomi, is of no help. She favors her wonderful physician son and all but ignores her daughter. The following is an excerpt from when Tamara and Michael visited Naomi for their weekly get-together. Along for the ride is eight-year-old stepdaughter Kateryna.


“I’ve already explained it,” I began again, trying to contain my exasperation. My mother never listened to a word I said. “Michael doesn’t want us asking too many questions about his treatment, so I’ve stopped prying.”

“Well,” Naomi began with an insensible expression, “Has he at least mentioned if he’s feeling any better?”

“He’ll be here in a few minutes,” I repeated for the umpteenth time. “Why not just ask him yourself?” My most significant purpose to my mother was possibly relaying vital information about my brother. She never asked after my own welfare.

Naomi brushed her wavy strands of hair back from her face while regarding me blankly. She tied an apron over her long, loose peasant dress and repositioned her satin hair bandana. My mother had yet to emerge from the hippie era now decades past.

“Dr. Westmoreland was able to cure him last time,” she continued. “But now he looks worse than before.”

“He didn’t cure him, Mom, that’s just the point.”

“He was fine for years.”

Kateryna sat quietly on the loveseat across the room, absorbed in a book. After a glance her way, I unclenched my teeth and resumed trying to reason with my mother. “Please don’t interrogate him when he shows up. If you do, he won’t come anymore.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Naomi said. “He loves to come by for lunch every Wednesday.”

I held my peace, but I knew my brother disliked our mother’s second husband immensely. Indolent and living off Naomi’s inherited estate, Garret was a surly chameleon who played her like a fiddle. I avoided him and limited my contact with my mother to Wednesday afternoons when he attended his pottery-making class.

But our mother adored Garret and, despite my constant objections, insisted on telling me on numerous occasions that he was her soulmate.

Michael emerged through the side kitchen door, and Naomi’s face lit up. They embraced. “I’m so glad to see you,” she exclaimed, discreetly wiping a tear aside.

“Me, too.” He patted her back and turned in my direction. “Hello, Tamara.”

I hugged him and could feel the bones in his back. Stepping away, I noted his completion. While pale, he appeared well overall.

“I’m glad you could make it,” he whispered in my ear after smiling at Kateryna. “I need to talk to you alone before you leave later.”

“Okay.” I nodded. “What about?”

“Later.” His expression grew serious, and he motioned toward our mother to warn me it was personal.

After lunch, we stood in the drive next to my car. Kateryna waited patiently by my side.

"I’ve been updating my accounts and named you the beneficiary on most of the documents. I’d also like to leave you the house,” he added, glancing back at the kitchen windows. “I didn’t want to say anything during lunch because it would just upset her.”

“Yeah.” My mood sank lower.

“It’s not to say I’m not coming back from this,” he hastened to explain. “It’s just a good idea, considering things. I’m feeling fine, and that’s the time to take care of things.”

“Of course.” I looked away. To my surprise, Kateryna held my hand.

“Even if I weren’t ill, I’d get around to it eventually. After all, I’m not married and have no children.”

I swallowed hard and tried to fight the tears behind my eyes. “Uh-huh.”

“I can’t discuss it with Mom right now, that’s for sure. And I’m not leaving anything to her. She’s been well provided for by our grandparents, and besides, Garrett doesn’t deserve a damn thing.”

“I agree with you there.”

“How about we meet up later in the week?” he asked.

My mood lifted slightly. “Okay, let’s do that.”

“I’ll call you,” he promised.

For once, I knew he would. Michael’s priorities had shifted. For the first time in many years, he focused less on accomplishing goals and engaging instead on what he termed downtime.

As we drove back to Stardust Park, my heart felt weighed by a strange irony. If my brother died, I’d be able to jump-start my life after leaving Blaine. I’d have a place to live and perhaps enough money to fight for partial custody of Kateryna.

But as I turned onto the highway, I prayed that death would not take Michael from me. I importuned he’d recover again and begin his life anew, as I must do. I glanced in the rearview mirror at Kateryna’s sedate expression and imagined for a moment that I’d never married Blaine. How easy and free my life would still be. I’d never have known Kateryna or become tethered to the complex problem of her history.

I’d have met Gil as an unmarried woman during my internship at the Center. Unencumbered, a romance might have blossomed, leading to a profoundly fulfilling marriage with a man who cared deeply for my well-being. I imagined us having a baby together—perhaps a beautiful little girl—born with a clean slate and no problems whom we’d both adore.

I grimaced, returning to the reality of no escape except by sheer, bitter hard work and endless complications. It was doubtful Gil would ever be attracted to me, even after a divorce. What would I have to recommend myself except for a history of baggage brought on by my own poor decisions?

The truth was I already had a husband and a daughter. I had a partner I now planned to dump. But it occurred to me as we passed by the hideous new shopping center that no one ever “dumped” a man like Blaine. You either left in a casket or crawled away with your last vestiges of strength like a beaten animal.

As we turned into Stardust Park, Kateryna broke her silence.

“I don’t think your mother likes you very much.”

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