He could hear her voice as he slowly ascended the stairs, asking the kids to be seated for breakfast. He knew she’d be home even though he hadn’t been able to reach her via phone. She turned off her phone whenever she didn’t want to be disturbed by anyone but he was always welcome, she’d told him, whether or not her line connected. She would always be home anyway. He had to come in through the main entrance at such times but he didn’t mind, neither did anyone else. They were more glad she was speaking to anyone at all.
They were all seated; the kids at their table and they at theirs when her phone rang.
“It’s your Mom” She called out to the eldest of the kids who went up to answer it.
The conversation went on with the regular “Yes Mom” and “Fine” until they heard him say, “I don’t think we should come home yet Mom. We’ll try not to disturb her but she needs us. You know she doesn’t laugh anymore, she just has this sad smile on. But she’s started to hug and kiss us again as before. We can’t leave now.”
Her eyes watered at the child’s words and he took her hand from across the table and began to gently stroke it. She looked at him through her tear-filled eyes and lamented, “What have I done? I’ve turned the boy into a man! He shouldn’t be this grown-up and worried about me; I should be.” He smiled as she spoke but kept stroking her hand. It felt relaxing.
With the end of the call came a silence that wore on, the kids cleared up their table and silently left the adults alone. In the silence, he looked at her. There was a calmness about her. Gone were the boisterousness of her youth; of their youth. He loved her; he’d never stopped but he needed to know if a chance existed for him. He stroked her hand now to get her attention. She looked up.
“You are different!” He said
“Pain played its part; maybe the greater part.” She responded
She bent her head but he nudged her again. This time, she saw in his eyes the pain of a past unfulfilled and the hope of a future? She furrowed her brows then smiled with understanding.
“I am not willing to lose you again but I cannot compete with a memory.” He started
“Then don’t!” She said “Make yours’.”
Then she smiled her assent. It was time to try again!