Mom continues to write furiously in her notebook as the flight drags on for what seems like an eternity, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s writing about John Bainbridge and what happened earlier this week. I’ve spent the past thirty minutes willing myself not to look at her page, telling myself I don’t really want to know, but the anticipation is killing me. Finally, I shift uncomfortably in the narrow airplane seat and steal a quick glance at her notebook as I try unsuccessfully to stretch out my cramped legs.
The guilt hits the instant my eyes scan the page, and I quickly turn to look out the window. I try to focus on the thick layer of uninterrupted clouds that rolls beneath us like a down blanket. I try not to think about what I just saw. But the harder I try, the bigger the words I spied in the midst of her unintelligible scribble seem to imprint themselves on the sea of white fluff: “Amazing.” “Unexpected.”
I shake my head, trying to get the words to disappear. But they keep popping up. “Amazing.” “Unexpected.”
They’re just words, I tell myself. They’re meaningless, singular words. She could be writing about anything – how Gretchen seemed to really open up to us during our stay, how much Andrew resembles my brother Billy when he was young ... She could even be jotting down ideas for a new children's book.
But something about those two words nags at the back of my mind and makes me think back to earlier this week – when Mom surprised me by suddenly announcing she was going to run out for some coffee...
“Coffee? You hate coffee!” I had called out in surprise.
I had been sitting in Gretchen’s living room playing Candy Land with Andrew when Mom whisked by, grabbing her pocketbook as she head to the front door. She stopped for a moment in the foyer, pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“What? Oh, yeah, no not coffee, sorry. One of those tea latte things at Starbucks.” She smiled quickly, opening the door.
I narrowed my eyes. “Mom, you hate Starbucks too. What is going on?”
“Oh fine!” she exclaimed, flinging the door shut. Letting out a deep breath, she rushed: “I’m meeting John at Starbucks –” She held up her hand as my eyes almost popped out of my head and added “--JUST to say thanks for all his help over the years.”
“You sneak!” I cried, pointing a finger at her. I tried to sound serious, but I couldn’t help smirking in surprise at catching her in such a horrible lie.
She winced and covered her face with her hands. “Stop looking at me like that!” she cried, laughing.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me! Have you been planning this the whole time?”
Mom dropped her pocketbook on the floor and sat down on the arm of the sofa. “No, no, nothing like that. When we talked last Monday he mentioned it and--”
“You’ve been talking to him while we’ve been here? How often?”
“Not often. Maybe once a day or so...”
“Once a day! Mom!” I jumped up off the floor, knocking the game pieces off the board.
“Hey!” Andrew cried, scrambling to pick up the pieces. I ignored him and planted my hands on my hips, glaring at her.
“What? Can’t I have friends?” she asked defiantly.
For a second, I felt like the mother scolding her misbehaving daughter. “Of course you can have friends. But he wants to be more than your friend.” I cringed at the thought.
“You don’t know that.”
I threw her a sarcastic look. “Mom, I’m fourteen not four. I know that.”
Mom sighed dramatically. “Well, I don’t know that. So I’m going to Starbucks. With a friend. That’s all.” She stood up, brushing the wrinkles from her shirt. “So you can watch Andrew?” she asked, suddenly sweet, to change the subject.
“Ugh! Yes I can watch Andrew.” I answered glumly, plopping back down on the floor. Mom smiled and leaned forward to kiss the top of my head. Then she walked quietly out the door.
“Well, I guess it’s just you and me.” I sighed, turning back to Andrew – and I laughed. In the course of a few minutes he had fallen fast asleep on top of the Candy Land board, his thumb in his mouth.
“Or, just me.” I groaned, picking up the scattered game pieces and throwing them into the box.
Mom and I never discussed her outing when she got back home a few hours later. Now, stuck on the plane next to her as she writes – I’m sure – about her “amazing” time and her “unexpected” feelings for John Bainbridge, I feel sort of, well, left out. Like everyone I know has something interesting and new happening in their lives. Everyone but me.