I left early in the morning a few days later. The Aunt and I decided that we would not inform my birth-mother about my departure. I did not realize it, but my Aunt would be the one who ultimately paid the price for that decision. It would be her responsibility to tell my birth-mother and, after all, that was her niece and she would be delivering heartbreaking news. I worried about her later, forced to fuel the flame of an already emotionally charged situation. At the time, she did not seem to struggle with this betrayal, but I'm sure that it must have been a heavy burden.
The goodbye at the station was so hard, and it would be the last time I saw the Aunt. I'll always love her. She was an amazing person who seemed to intuitively know just what I needed. I think perhaps out of the entire family I met there, we were the most alike. When the bags were all loaded and the bus began boarding, I hugged her tight. I thanked her for everything and promised to call her often. With tears, we parted and I took my seat on this bus that would take me across the country, and back to my home.
The ride was incredibly long, it was going to take me roughly 36 hours. I'm not ashamed to say I was feeling frightened and alone. I was now very pregnant but still a waif and some of the people on this bus were intimidatingly large. The bright spot, and there just always seems to be one, was the gentleman seated across the aisle from me. Ironically, he was the biggest person on the bus. When I wasn't napping he would chat with me, eventually asking how far along in the pregnancy I was and why in the world I was travelling across country in my condition. He was older, perhaps mid-thirties, and reminded me of "Bear" from the movie Armageddon. He had an easy laugh and incredibly deep soothing voice. I told him a short version of the story, and that I was going home. He shared stories of his own and we passed the long hours together. He was from Tennessee and the lay-over in Knoxville was the only stop where I would have to board a different bus.
I had to wait three hours in the station for the next, and final leg of this journey and those were the longest three hours of my life. The station was dark inside, it was three in the morning, and we were in the middle of downtown. I noticed my "Bear" keeping an eye on me, occasionally checking in to make sure I was safe. Here was another angel I thought. His bus left an hour before mine, and we simply smiled and waved at each other as he disappeared from my life. The significance of his random kindness will be with me always, he was literally a light in the dark.
I didn't have a Bear on the next bus, but I was so exhausted that I slept almost the entire ride. As we neared our destination, my anticipation and excitement grew. Soon I would be able to rest, reflect, and be with the people that knew me the best. My mom was there when we arrived and I fell into her open arms. I was home, safe and sound. The chaos was over and I would be allowed to focus on what was most important in this moment, the arduous task of finding my son's adoptive parents.