She had borne two children, one with emergency medical intervention and the other with a speed and violence that was terrifying. But this was the hardest birth: the waiting while he decided, to stay or to go?
She remembers driving through a December night to the home of a kind older couple, themselves veterans of a marriage's attempt to unravel, and here they were! Together still! It could be done. It could be done. It was a dinner party, two marriages almost done, and one, soldiering on.
She remembers the music that played in the car while the heater strove to give warmth against an arctic chill: Linda Ronstadt, at first coquettish, singing Irving Berlin, and then suddenly multiplied as a choir of angels, chanting Latin, breathing mystery.
She remembers driving by houses adorned for the season, the comfort she used to take in the silly displays.
She remembers the older woman nodding knowingly.
Mostly, she remembers a long conversation... months long... of which that evening was just one sentence. Mostly, she remembers: she was on her knees. Begging.
Don't go, as the heater puffed out warmth.
Don't go, as Linda chanted O Magnum Mysterium.
Don't go, pleading across the table with her eyes as the older couple looked on sadly.
It was the hardest birth, and the greatest mystery: the new life after the marriage was no more.