Ignorance is not something I’m familiar with. So I can’t help but feel that I should have known—should’ve seen this coming.
After all, I lived with Drew for two years. how long does it take for a leopard to change its spots?
Oh, that’s right—they don’t.
My mother brushes my hair back from my face. “hush now, Katie.”
My eyes are swollen and my nose is stuffed, making my voice sound nasally and childlike. “W-w-what . . . am I . . . g-g-going to do, Mom?”
She smiles calmly, like she has all the answers. Like she has the power to take away any hurt—even this one—as easily as she used to kiss away the pain of my bumped shins and scraped knees.
“You’re going to sleep now. You’re so tired.”
She continues running her fingers through my hair. It’s soothing. Relaxing. “Sleep now. . . . Go to sleep my sweet, sweet girl.”
My father taught me to play the guitar, but I get my voice from my mother. Lying in bed, I close my heavy eyes as she sings. It’s a Melissa Etheridge song about angels knowing that everything will be all right. It’s the same song she sang to me the night my father died—the night she slept in this bed with me. Because she couldn’t bear to sleep in their bed alone.
With my mother’s voice in my ears, I finally let go.
And fall asleep.
You know when you have a fever? And you lie in bed, and toss and roll and twist the sheets around your legs? You’re not really sleeping, but you’re not really awake either. There’s moments of consciousness, when you open your eyes and realize with disoriented wonder that it’s dark outside. But for the most part it’s just a foggy blur.
That’s what the next two days were like for me. A montage of sunlight and moonlight, of tears and vomiting and trays of food being taken away untouched.
The moments in that space between wakefulness and slumber were the hardest. When I’d start to believe it was all some horrible nightmare conjured from watching too many 90210 reruns. I’d feel a pillow against my back and swear it was Drew behind me.
he gives the best wake-up calls—it’s our own little tradition. Every morning he presses up against me and whispers in my ear, worshipping me with his words and with his hands.
But then I would open my eyes and see that the pillow was just a pillow. And it felt like a newly formed scab being torn off—I bled a little more each time.
There just aren’t words to describe how I missed him. None that could even come close.
I physically ached for his smile, his scent, his voice.
Imagine a car’s going sixty miles an hour down a country road and a tree falls and the car hits it. Boom—instant stoppage. But if the person in the driver’s seat isn’t wearing a seat belt? They’re still going sixty.
And that’s what love is like.
It doesn’t just stop. No matter how hurt or wronged or angry you are—the love’s still there.
Sending you right through the windshield.
On the evening of the second day, I open my eyes and stare out the window. It doesn’t rain often in Greenville, but it’s drizzling now.
Fitting—what with the black cloud over my head and everything.
Then I hear my bedroom door open. I roll over. “Mom, could you . . .”
Only it’s not my mother standing there. My voice is quiet, softly surprised. “Oh—hey, George.”
You remember George Reinhart, don’t you? Steven’s widower father? he and my mom are together. They hooked up at Matthew and Delores’s wedding.
Don’t worry—I’ve tried to block that part out too.
But they’ve been going strong about a year now. In spite of George’s best efforts, my mother refuses to move to New York. She says Greenville is her home, that she likes her independence. So George comes down here pretty often to visit—weeks at a time.
And my mom reciprocates when she can.
George is a good guy. he’s kind of like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life—a little on the dorky side, sure, but decent. The kind of man you’d want looking after your mom.
his glasses sit crookedly on his face as he holds up a tray. “Your mother’s swamped downstairs, but she thought you might like a cup of tea.”
Running your own business isn’t as easy as it looks. Yeah, you’re your own boss—but that means no calling out sick, no playing hooky. And if an employee doesn’t show up? You’re the one who has to pick up the slack.
George tries hard to help out with the diner. Last week my mom had to drive Jose, the cook, to the hospital after he sliced his hand open chopping potatoes. And George tried to fill in for him.
No one was injured—but the fire department had to come to put out flames, and the diner closed early because of the smoke.
Still, I guess it’s the thought that counts.
I sit up and adjust the pillows behind me. “Tea would be great.
he puts the tray on my nightstand and hands me a warm cup.
Then he wipes his hands on his pants nervously.
“May I sit?”
I take a sip and nod. And George plops down in the beanbag chair beside my bed. he adjusts his glasses and wiggles around to get comfy.
I almost smile.
Then he looks at me for a few seconds, trying to find a way to start. I save him the trouble. “Mom told you, didn’t she?”
he nods solemnly. “Don’t be upset with her. She’s worried about you, Kate. She needed to vent. I would never divulge your personal information to anyone.” he taps his temple with one finger. “It’s in the vault.”
I actually manage to chuckle, because he reminds me so much of his son, Steven.
And then my smile fades, because he reminds me so much of Steven.
“John called me. Asking about you. I told him you were here.”
My eyes rise sharply. Questioning.
“I didn’t tell him why you were here—not exactly. I told him you were worn out. Burnt out. It’s not uncommon in our field.”
I don’t have a plan regarding the Evans. Technically, I’m carrying their grandchild, a part of their family. And even if their son feels otherwise, I have no doubt that Anne and John will want to be a part of its life.
But I can’t think about that. Not yet.
George continues. “he’d like you to call him when you’re feeling up to it. And he wanted me to tell you that he unequivocally rejects your resignation.”
My brow furrows. “Can he do that?”