“Ooh, what’s that?”
I drop the large Styrofoam container of leftovers onto the kitchen table in front of Mom. “Lobster ravioli’s in some kind of cream and truffle sauce. I couldn’t eat it all. You can have it.”
“Mmmm, thanks Luc. I was just going to make some soup or something.”
As Mom cracks open the box of leftovers, I make my rounds through our small bungalow-styled house, flipping on every light switch. When I had gotten home to a pitch-black house, I thought my mom must be out. Instead, she was sitting in near darkness at the kitchen table, watching the news on a small portable television.
“Did you do anything today?” I call from the bathroom as I pull a large bottle of Aloe Vera out from under the sink and begin to apply the cooling gel to my cracked red nose.
I can hear Mom start up the microwave. “Not really. I did some research, I watched that new documentary on the Miami public school systems … and I talked to John Bainbridge.”
A glob of Aloe Vera slides through my fingertips and plops onto the bathroom counter. “Oh yeah?” I call out sweetly, trying to sound nonchalant.
Mom suddenly sticks her head around the corner of the bathroom door, her eyebrows raised. “Yes, I did.”
“That’s nice.” I focus intently on evenly spreading the gel across my cheeks and hairline, ignoring Mom’s prying gaze. Finally, I give up.
“Oh, all right!” I sigh, wiping my hands on my shorts. “I threw out his note.” I plant my hands on my hips and stare into Mom’s smirking face. “So what?”
Mom raises her eyebrows, but her eyes are smiling.
“Oh fine! I’m sorry!” I cry, exasperated. “The guy just creeps me out a little, that’s all.”
“Lucy, stop being a drama queen. John is a perfectly nice guy,” Mom says. I scowl. Pretty soon my face is going to stick this way.
“Lucy…” She cups her hands under my chin. “He’s very helpful. And he’s just my friend. I need a friend right now.”
“You never even met him! He lives across the country and writes stupid articles about dog fashion shows and Connecticut’s largest pumpkin patch.”
Mom smiles and gently tugs at a loose strand of my hair. “Well, you’re the one who keeps telling me to read the HAPPY stories in the papers. What could be happier than a black lab dressed as a pirate, or a poodle in a tutu?”
I can’t help but laugh, and Mom pulls me close and gives me a tight squeeze. “Mom, I love you.” My voice sounds muffled in her bathrobe.
“Love you too, Lulu,” Mom replies, using my childhood nickname. Sighing, she takes a step back and grabs my hands. “Trust me when I say that things with me are changing for the better…”
The shrill sound of the telephone ringing interrupts her mid-sentence, and she smiles. “Let me get that.”