I was never allowed to meet Sabina because my strong resemblance to her mother would have freaked her out. I had to rely on Janet’s descriptions… that Sabina was sensitive and beautiful, but somewhat hardened, that she was extremely practical but had a hysterical side, that she had a bad temper but could be sweet and loving, that if she drank she became mean. The drinking was a problem. Sabina couldn’t hold her liquor — just two glasses of wine would make her start talking too much, and a third glass would cause her to slur and grow argumentative. I wondered if this were genetic: Nicu Ceausescu, most likely her father, had been a bad alcoholic. Janet wouldn’t allow Sabina to drink around her, and counseled her to quit altogether. “You’re pregnant. Drinking is off the table,” she’d say.
Sabina seemed to comply. Her pregnancy was going well. She’d finally seen a doctor who put her on vitamins and administered a sonogram: she was thirteen weeks and her baby was due in April. When Sabina saw the tiny form of the baby on the monitor, she let out a scream. This was happening, she had a child growing inside her, and she was all alone. She began weeping. Janet, who’d accompanied her to the doctor, had a hard time calming her down. “Look, I’m in the same boat, pregnant and alone,” she told Sabina. “We’ll help each other out.” That was no real consolation to Sabina, who stuck out her lower lip and reminded Janet that she had family close by — her brother and step daughter, while Sabina had no one except a soon-to-be ex husband. “Well, go back to him,” Janet snapped. “It’s not too late.”
“Never!” Sabina snapped back. The doctor had warned her to be careful riding. A chance fall or bumpy ride could be bad for the baby. That didn’t improve Sabina’s mood. About a week after her visit to the doctor, right at the end of October, Sabina showed up at Janet’s house with a small suitcase. “I want you to keep this for me for a while,” she told Janet. “I’m going to Romania to see my mother. I’ll be back in two weeks.”
“I thought you were estranged from your mother,” Janet said.
“I can’t stand her,” Sabina agreed. “But I have a baby growing inside me. I need to talk to her. I need the truth about certain things.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea in your condition?”
Sabina looked at Janet and gave a sharp laugh. “My mother is a midwife. She’s the best person for me in this condition.”
Janet tried to talk her out of what she considered a dangerous plan, but there was nothing she could say to dissuade her. Sabina’s mind was made up. Perhaps it was the hormones. She was going to Romania to see the woman who, in her own words, had made her life a misery.