Mom and I stand in silence for a moment in Gretchen’s driveway. The suddenly still front yard reverberates with the buzzing of unseen insects hiding in the pristine flowerbeds. In the distance, a seagull screeches, and I can hear the mumbled roll of the waves as if my ear is pressed to a conch shell.
“I guess we better go inside,” I say finally. And then I turn to Mom.
She’s staring, unblinking, at the plaque at the base of the front steps. Welcome to the Malone’s. My heart sinks as I instantly feel her pain – the pain of losing Billy; the pain that has lessened for me over time but has never let up its hold on her. Her eyes glimmer with unspilled tears; her lips press tightly together as if she’s trying to seal off the sadness.
“Mom?” I ask softly, but she doesn’t move. How could I be so selfish?, I think as a heavy wave of guilt rushes over me. I have been so focused on myself that I forgot how hard this trip would be for my mom. While I was sitting on the plane worrying about my summer vacation and missing out on time with my friends, Mom was probably thinking about the last time we were in this house – Billy’s funeral.
I reach out and touch Mom’s arm. She jumps slightly, and a tear escapes from the corner of her eye. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” she sniffs, wiping her face quickly. Sighing, she turns to me and smiles a little too brightly, as if trying to prove it.
“It’s OK, Mom. You don’t have to be fine for me,” I smile back, feeling my own eyes begin to fill.
Mom stares into my face and grasps my hands in hers. She lets out a teary laugh. “All right, then. We’ll be fine for each other.”
“We always are.”
She wraps me up in a tight hug, and we begin to walk toward the front steps. Together.