“Mom, I’m late.” There was a leaden weight in her voice.
Mrs Noble didn’t register the tone, didn’t turn around to face Ada, but continued making breakfast while replying, “Honey, you’ve got over an hour until school starts. And you have to eat first.”
“No, Mom. I’m late.”
Then it clicked. Mrs Noble spun around, surprised, bewildered, but ready to be supportive, even if her first reaction was to wish that her daughter had been more responsible.
“Oh. I didn’t know you were already…”
“Honey, it’s okay. I just wish you would’ve talked with me before you decided…”
“Mom!” Ada pleaded, gritting her teeth and clenching her fists, her arms going rigid at her side. “I didn’t…” It was a whisper then, “I didn’t want to.”
And then Mrs Noble understood. Later, when thinking back to this moment, she had a parallel thought about something she had once read about the sacrificial rituals of the Aztecs. She had read that an obsidian knife was shoved up under the rib cage of the victim, from below the sternum, followed by the priest’s hand, and the heart removed. In retrospect that’s how she imagined her guts felt in that moment, that something deep inside her chest was being pulled sharply and forcefully downward, being ripped out through her abdomen, only it wasn’t being cut out. The guts and connective tissue were being ripped apart instead of neatly sliced. She nearly fainted. She lost sense of time, of being in the world at all.
“Oh, Honey!” she shrieked. She made a move towards Ada, her arms stretching out to take her into a protective hug. But Ada recoiled, and Mrs Noble lowered her arms.
As tears rose to Mrs Noble’s eyes, Ada pleaded, “Mom, no. Mom, don’t cry. I can’t take it. I didn’t tell you to… I can’t take it if you’re upset, too. It’s too much. I just, I just…”
Mrs Noble stood immobile, stupefied, wanting to die for her impotence, for her inability to know what to do, how to make it better, to do anything to help her daughter, or to deal with this horror which she would allow to happen to herself over and over until the end of eternity if it would mean that it didn’t have to happen to Ada.
And an eternity is how long it seemed that they stood facing each other, neither speaking, a holding pattern as any word, any thought, any action waited to present itself as an option. And then Mrs Noble disregarded her daughter’s plea, ran to her, grabbed her fiercely in her arms and sobbed. Heavy, thick sobs, as Ada went limp and muttered, “Mom, mom, mom, …” Slowly, over and over again until her words were nearly inaudible.