I stepped aside so he could walk around me. He pointed past the kitchen, silently asking if that was the way to the back door. I nodded and walked behind him as he made his way down the hall. When he reached the back door, I saw him pause for a second when he saw my bedroom.
I was suddenly embarrassed that he was seeing my bedroom. No one ever sees my bedroom, so I’ve never felt the need to give it a more mature look. I still have the same pink bedspread and curtains I’ve had since I was twelve. For the first time ever I felt like ripping down my poster of Adam Brody.
Atlas didn’t seem to care how my room was decorated. He looked straight at my window—the one that looks out over the backyard—then he glanced back at me. Right before he walked out the back door he said, “Thank you for not being disparaging, Lily.”
And then he was gone.
Of course I’ve heard the term disparaging before, but it was weird hearing a teenage guy use it. What’s even weirder is how everything about Atlas seems so contradictory. How does a guy who is obviously humble, well-mannered, and uses words like disparaging end up homeless? How does any teenager end up homeless?
I need to find out, Ellen.
I’m going to find out what happened to him. You just wait and see.
• • •
I’m about to open another entry when my phone rings. I crawl across the couch for it and I’m not the least bit surprised to see it’s my mother again. Now that my father has passed and she’s alone, she’ll probably call me twice as much as she did before.
“What do you think about my moving to Boston?” she blurts out.
I grab the throw pillow next to me and shove my face into it, muffling a scream. “Um. Wow,” I say. “Really?”
She’s quiet, and then, “It was just a thought. We can discuss it tomorrow. I’m almost to my meeting.”
And just like that, I want to move out of Massachusetts. She can’t move here. She doesn’t know anyone here. She’d expect me to entertain her every day. I love my mother, don’t get me wrong, but I moved to Boston to be on my own, and having her in the same city would make me feel less independent.
My father was diagnosed with cancer three years ago while I was still in college. If Ryle Kincaid were here right now, I’d tell him the naked truth that I was a little bit relieved when my father became too ill to physically hurt my mother. It completely changed the dynamic of their relationship and I no longer felt obligated to stay in Plethora to make sure she was okay.
Now that my father is gone and I never have to worry about my mother again, I was looking forward to spreading my wings, so to speak.
But now she’s moving to Boston?
It feels like my wings were just clipped.
Where is a marine-grade polymer chair when I need one?!
I’m seriously stressing out and I have no idea what I’d do if my mother moves to Boston. I don’t have a garden, or a yard, or a patio, or weeds.
I have to find another outlet.
I decide to clean. I place all of my old shoeboxes full of journals and notes in my bedroom closet. Then I organize my entire closet. My jewelry, my shoes, my clothes . . .
She cannot move to Boston.
Six months later
That’s all she says.
My mother turns and assesses the building, running a finger over the windowsill next to her. She picks up a layer of dust and wipes it between her fingers. “It’s . . .”
“It needs a lot of work, I know,” I interrupt. I point at the windows behind her. “But look at the storefront. It has potential.”
She scrolls over the windows, nodding. There’s this sound she makes in the back of her throat sometimes, where she agrees with a little hum but her lips remain tight. It means she doesn’t actually agree. And she makes that sound. Twice.
I drop my arms in defeat. “You think this was stupid?”
She gives her head a slight shake. “That all depends on how it turns out, Lily,” she says. The building used to house a restaurant and it’s still full of old tables and chairs. My mother walks over to a nearby table and pulls out one of the chairs, taking a seat. “If things work out, and your floral shop is successful, then people will say it was a brave, bold, smart business decision. But if it fails and you lose your entire inheritance . . .”
“Then people will say it was a stupid business decision.”
She shrugs. “That’s just how it works. You majored in business, you know that.” She glances around the room, slowly, as if she’s seeing it the way it will look a month from now. “Just make sure it’s brave and bold, Lily.”
I smile. I can accept that. “I can’t believe I bought it without asking you first,” I say, taking a seat at the table.
“You’re an adult. It’s your right,” she says, but I can hear a trace of disappointment. I think she feels even lonelier now that I need her less and less. It’s been six months since my father died, and even though he wasn’t good company, it has to be weird for her, being alone. She got a job at one of the elementary schools, so she did end up moving here. She chose a small suburb on the outskirts of Boston. She bought a cute two-bedroom house on a cul-de-sac, with a huge backyard. I dream of planting a garden there, but that would require daily care. My limit is once-a-week visits. Sometimes twice.
“What are you going to do with all this junk?” she asks.