Chapter 22: Present 8

22Present #8

            I thought about what Will had said. In my usual fashion, I would cope by not dealing with it, which is how I found myself on a train back home for the second consecutive weekend. I was getting some space, conducive to figuring things out, I rationalized. The weekend before I had thought about the Enson-Mortons, but had done little proactively. I needed to intensify my search. It was like I was a teenager, thinking that finding them would solve my problems. Maybe it would this time.

My mother picked me up from the train station again. She had tried to conceal her surprise over the phone when I’d called and told her about my weekend plans. When I was in the car though, she hardly said anything.

“Do you still like your job?” She asked. There must be a reason I left New York every weekend when my social life would be at its peak.

“The job’s great.”

She kept her eyes on the road.

“Luke asked me to move in with him.” I don’t know why I said it. I didn’t usually let my mother in on my decision-making process, but I was desperate for any advice and opinions I could get.

She hit the brakes a little harder than she normally would at a stop sign. Her body jerked back, the curls atop her head bouncing like matress. She turned forcefully toward me.

“What did you say?” She asked, hushed. Her wide eyes were fearful.

“I said I’d think about it.”

She drove on, her eyes set firmly on the road, as if she couldn’t bear to look at me. By that point, we neared the house, its brick façade nearly within sight. I could see her constructing the last few weeks in her head. My visits home hadn’t been solely coincidence.

“When did he ask you?”

After the first week, I had lost count of the days. Adding the math myself, I realized it didn’t look pretty.

“Two and a half weeks ago.”

We pulled into the driveway.

“Good God, Emma.” She turned to look at me once again. As the shock wore off so did her frantic manner. “You have to give him an answer, even if it’s not what he wants to hear.”

She unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car. I did the same. She hurried toward the house, not bothering to look if I was following. She locked the car without so much as a glance.

“Well, do you have an opinion on the subject? What should I say?” I asked when I caught up to her on the porch. She shivered when I asked.

“Yes and no.” She replied firmly. The key remained listlessly in her hand, the front door safely locked.

“Meaning?”

“Yes, I have an opinion,” she began. “You should say ‘no.’”

I regretted asking her. I only wanted to hear one answer.

“Why?” I asked aggressively as she coaxed the key into the lock.

Her hand shook as she tried opening the door. The key rattled as it found its place.

“Because that’s what you want to say.”

The door opened and we walked inside. She placed the key back in her purse and the purse upon the table in the entryway.

“That is not what I want to say.” I answered indignantly.

Her face drew stern, her lips thin and strained, her eyes suddenly tired. She braced herself for telling me the truth, rather than sheltering me from it. For a moment, I wished she would lie. It was the only time I would ask to be protected.

“If you take nearly three weeks and still can’t say ‘yes’ then the answer is ‘no.’”

She knew she was right. We stayed in the hallway in a stand-off, each refusing to relent. It recalled so many times growing up. This time, though, we took the same side, even if we didn’t yet realize it.

“Put the poor guy out of his misery.”

I nodded.

“Kathleen, Emma, that you?” My father’s booming voice sounded from the kitchen.

I was grateful for the distraction.

My parents were going out to a party that night. I was invited to accompany them, but I said I’d rather stay home. I thought about calling Luke, but decided that I should probably sleep on the decision and tell him in person. He deserved at least that. My mother’s opinion only confirmed what I knew.

“What will you do tonight?” My mother asked several hours later when she came downstairs, dressed for her party, to find me still sitting, reading the same book, at the kitchen table.

“I think I’ll take a walk and go to bed early.”

“Sounds good. I love you, darling.” She kissed my forehead.

“Love you too, Mom.”

“Al,” she yelled to my father, who was probably still adjusting his bowtie upstairs. “We’re going to be late!”

I could hear his footsteps on the stairs.

“Goodbye, Emma.” He said as he came to fetch my mother from the kitchen.

“We’ll see you in the morning,” she added.

They left for the party. I closed my book, took the spare house key from the kitchen drawer, and started on my walk.

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