“What about Dad?” I asked. “I’m sure you want to see Dad.”
She nodded. “Of course. When the time is right, I would love to. I’m sure he has much to share with me.”
“But, don’t you know it all already?”
She winked at me. “Listening to it in his own words would be a treat. But tell him when the time is right, Amy. All of this, I’m not sure he’s ready for. You’ve had a year to process it all, and it’s still strange for you, isn’t it? Imagine how your father would feel as you explain to him all of this at once.”
“Maybe you’ll be a good introduction to this wacky world,” I replied.
She shrugged. “When he’s ready, Amy. Now, is there anything you want to ask me?”
Questions and comments slammed into each other. I completely forgot that Sarah was there at all. She had remained completely quiet the whole time, playing on her phone and giving me the space I needed to be with my mother.
I must have asked her everything I had ever wanted, and still had burning thoughts in my mind. I felt like I had regressed to a four year old, curious about everything. And she told me everything I wanted to know: about love, about life, about how to deal with the disease when it got bad. She understood exactly how I was feeling, and told me what helped to motivate her onwards. But when it came to the topic of Liam specifically, I clammed up.
“I just don’t know where we are. I’m pretty sure we are over, that’s for sure.”
“Nothing in life is certain, Amy,” she replied. “I learned that early one. And I went through the same thing with your father?”
I always had it in my head that Mom and Dad were this perfect love story in a perfect world. She had even told me about their first date, about their wedding, everything. It had never occurred to me that they went through relationship problems.
“Of course. We were so young, Amy, not that much older than you are. He was just starting chef school, and I was working in the local store, nothing glamorous. But it was my first job, and everything was new and exciting to me, I had just moved into my first apartment, and I was newly independent. The only thing old and not necessarily exciting in my life was your father. I loved him, Amy, I did, but I was young and blinded by the difference of the situation. And there was a cute manager at work too.” She winked at me and my mind flashed to Drago. I wasn’t in love with him, or anything close to it, but my friendship with him lately had grown, especially in the hours he spent listening to me rant about Liam and whatever situation had angered me that day. Spending time with him was exactly as she put it, new and exciting. Liam wasn’t old and boring, but I was used to him; I had taken him for granted.
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“We went out on a date.”
This confused me and I furrowed my brow. “But hadn’t you already been out on several dates?”
“Sure. But not in a while. Things had become routine, easy. And remember?”
“Nothing in life is easy,” I repeated her advice.
She nodded. “That’s right. So things had become routine, he’d come over, we’d have dinner, sometimes he would stay, sometimes he would leave. And we got into a rut and got into a fight and we broke up. And then, one day, we agreed to ‘talk.’ We went out on a proper date, got dressed up for each other, he brought me flowers. At first, it had seemed silly. We had been going out for 3 years. But as we sat across the table from each other, over a candlelit dinner, and talked, really talked, and held hands as we walked down the street, I began to fall back in love with him.”
I turned this idea over in my mind. “I’m not sure that I’m still in love with Liam, Mom. I just don’t know what to do anymore, and I’m not sure what will fix it.”
“Well, it’s worth trying,” she said. “Trust me, you might be surprised.”
I heard noises at the far end of the theater, and I was shocked to realize it was 9:30. Classes were already starting, and Sarah was looking antsy.
She nodded. “Of course, my love.”
As we stood up, she grinned at me.
“Well, that should make you less bitchy for the next few days,” she replied. “Say goodbye to your mom and we’ll come back later.”
“Ok.” I gave her a giant hug and it wasn’t enough to last me even two seconds apart from her, but it would have to do. “I’ll see you soon, alright?”
She kissed me on the forehead.
Then I turned and before I could stop myself, I headed down the steps and out of the wings. Sarah followed close on my heels and I grabbed her hand.
“Thank you so much,” I said again. I wiped my eyes, fresh tears coming to them. “I’ve been so horrible to you and Liam and you did that for me.”
“It was actually his idea.” She grinned at me. “You totally should thank him. 150 times over, ok?”
“We’ll see about that.” I gave her a hip bump as we headed to class.
I haven’t been to class in a while, but I didn’t feel that panic that I had before. Somehow I knew that everything was going to be alright now, no matter what path I chose. And the path I was looking at was a lot brighter than the darkness behind me. Mothers really do fix everything.
I slapped aftershave on my face and ran a hand through my hair one more time. It was the middle of the day, so it felt silly to be this dressed up, but it’s not like we could go out at night. When Sarah had told me about Amy’s mother’s suggestion, I imagined my expression was the same as Amy’s had been. I didn’t think anything would save us, especially after our last big blow up. But I was lonely, I was miserable and I knew that sitting around upending a bottle of bourbon wasn’t going to do any good either. Besides, the worst that could happen would be that we’d end up with more awkward glares and angry glances than ever before. Or she would stake me in the back in the middle of the night.
Years ago, this would have given me no trouble. Dressing up and going out with women was second nature to me. Although I usually didn’t go out on formal dates with them. A pickup across the bar was enough for me for the night. But then, that was how I got myself into this whole night crawler mess to begin with.
I had paged through my wardrobe like a teenage girl going to her first boy band concert; and eventually chose dark pants and a dark shirt, open at the collar. With a bit of product in my hair, and freshly saved, I was surprised how much a difference it made in my appearance. Once upon a time, there had been a whole team of people whose job it was to make me look irresistible. Now, it was just up to me. Although I had to admit, I looked a damn sight better than when I was normally walking around the school, unshaven and in yesterday’s clothes.
I picked up a package I had sent my secretary out to get last night, and made my way out of my condo, which I had taken pains to clean. Depending on how the day went, who knew where we would end up?
I drove on purpose, pulling down my sunglasses against the morning glare. I didn’t want this to end up as another bar date, stumbling out with blood turned to alcohol if it went badly. If I chose to drive, I knew I’d keep myself in check.
Amy was waiting outside the front doors, and my jaw almost dropped when I saw her. She was wearing a black jersey dress that fell loose and tight at just the right places. Amy had always been small, but she wasn’t without curves and long legs that seemed to go on for miles. She was wearing flats and she had her makeup lightly applied, so that her eyes shined in a way that they hadn’t in weeks. She had a small clutch purse in bright yellow that attracted my attention. She looked absolutely stunning with her hair loose and flowing around her face. I nearly drove into a post in my haste to park.
“Hey,” I called, trying to keep it casual.
“I’m fine.” The gentleman in me forced me out of the car and had me holding the door for her, until she was safely inside and buckled up. “Oh. This is for you.”
She opened the corsage cautiously, and I saw a smile light up her face. It had been so long since I made her smile.
“Thank you, it’s really pretty,” she said, putting it on her wrist.
I slid into the driver’s side, and started the car.
“There’s something I had in mind, but first, do you need anything? Breakfast? Coffee?”
“Coffee would be great,” she replied.
I mentally tried to calculate where the nearest coffee place was. There was still an awkwardness between us that had never existed before, a silence that had once been comfortable and was now filled with words we didn’t know how to say. “Was your night alright?”
“It was fine,” I said, not wanting to tell her that everything was easier because I was thinking about today.
The transformation had not seemed as painful, the bloodlust not as bad, because I was distracted by plans of today. I remembered that clearly, from the year we were together. If I wanted to ease the pain, I simply had to think of being with Amy, and I would be able to get through it. Even better were the nights she came and sat with me, a cup of strong coffee in her hand and her homework in her lap. Those silences that passed in the dark of the night, broken by her typing and my happy sighs, were easy; peaceful. I barely felt pain or cravings those nights.
But since we had been apart, it was worse than ever.
“That’s good,” she replied and resumed looking out the window.
We didn’t say another word to each other until we had both gotten breakfast and were back on the highway. With each moment that passed, I was worried that we were drifting further apart from each other, and it wouldn’t be salvageable. Finally, she spoke and I breathed a sigh of relief.
“So, where are we going?”