“Are you sure you’re Okay?” Henry asked as Shawn pulled his suitcase out of the back of the old pickup. “I got the guest room—you could stay there for the night—just in case.”
“In case of what, Dad?” Shawn asked. “In case a Mexican psychologist breaks out of jail and travels over three hundred miles to inject me with drugs?”
“Fine,” Henry snapped. “But I expect you for dinner tomorrow night, and if you are one minute late . . .”
“You’ll file a missing person’s report,” Shawn said. “I get it. I’ll be there.”
“Well, then, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Henry said as he put his truck into gear and drove away.
Shawn grabbed his bag and walked into the building, trying to ignore the pounding headache located somewhere near the back of his skull.
For the past 24 hours, give or take, he’d been stuck with his father. Gus and Juliet had both left Tijuana on Sunday, planning to go to work on Monday morning. But the doctors had wanted to keep him in observation for two days, to ensure that the digitalis was out of his system and had not caused any adverse effects. After he was released, he had to go to the police station, give a statement, and sign a document testifying that he would not sue the Tijuana police department for the actions of their employees as long as they fully covered all his medical expenses.
Through it all, his father was standing over him. Shawn realized the old cop was just trying to protect him. It was a natural paternal instinct and as annoying as it was, it was also somewhat reassuring. Shawn had come uncomfortably close to death; it was nice to know that someone was looking out for him. However, Shawn would have preferred that someone to be a little less condescending and a little more supportive. The drive back to Santa Barbara had been made tolerable only because they were able to catch radio broadcasts from spring training and didn’t have to interact on a level any deeper then their mutual hatred of A-Rod.
As Shawn walked down the hall towards his apartment, he wondered what Gus was doing and if he could be convinced to stop doing whatever it was, drive by Kingston’s for some jerk chicken, and watch whatever happened to be on Comedy Central. But as soon as he opened his door, those plans flew out of his mind.
“Mom?” he asked, not quite believing his eyes.
“Welcome home, Shawn,” she said with a smile. “How are you feeling?”
“Right now, pretty confused,” he said as he pulled his suite case into the apartment and closed the door. “I thought you were in Portland.”
“I left early,” Maddie said walking up to him and enveloping him in a hug. Still startled, it took Shawn a moment to realize he should hug back.
“I have to leave for Salt Lake City early tomorrow morning,” she explained as she pulled away from him. “But after all you did, I wanted to see you, Goose.”
“How did you even get in here?” Shawn asked.
“Gus let me in,” Maddie said simply. “Now, are you hungry? I made your favorite, pork chops and applesauce.”
“Mmm, smells’ great,” Shawn said, because he didn’t have the heart to tell his mother that pork chops and applesauce hadn’t been his favorite meal since 1987.
“I was going to have dinner laid out for you, but you don’t appear to have a table.”
“Yeah,” Shawn said, looking around his apartment as if he’d never noticed that deficit. “I guess I usually eat at the counter or in front of the TV. But I don’t eat here often, so . . .”
“Well, I’m sure we can make do,” she said. “The chops won’t be done for another thirty minutes, so why don’t we sit with some wine and talk?”
Shawn mustered a smile for his mother and let her lead him to the couch, where two wine glasses filled with a white wine were sitting on the coffee table.
“I bought this in Portland,” his mother explained as he took a sip. “There was an organic winery right on the base of Mount Hood. This bottle was made with a combination of grapes from California, Peru, and Spain. It’s a little acidic but I enjoy the robust flavor.”
“Yeah,” Shawn said, putting the glass down. “It’s nice and sweet. Mom, what the hell are you doing here?”
His mother sighed, looked down at her glass, and answered honestly. “Your father kept me updated. I feel horrible Shawn, I really do. I never meant for any of that to happen to you.”
“I know that,” Shawn said, putting his hand on her arm. “You didn’t have to come all the way here just to tell me.”
“But I did have to come,” she insisted. “If not for you, then for myself. You almost died trying to protect me. If that had happened, I don’t think I could live with myself.”
“But, it didn’t happen,” Shawn told her, looking her in the eyes. “So why don’t we just forget the whole thing.”
Maddie smiled at him wryly. “You’re enjoying being magnanimous, aren’t you?”
“I have no idea what that word means,” Shawn told her. “But if you’re trying to say that I enjoyed helping you—then yes, I did.”
Shawn’s mother nodded and smiled at him with her perfectly loving, motherly smile—the smile that made everything better. “You’ve always been such a good boy, Goose. I don’t know how I ended up with a son as good as you.”
“Dumb luck, I guess,” Shawn replied. “But I think you should run with that luck. After dinner, you, me, mini-golf. What do you say?”
“I say I have an early flight,” his mother replied. “And I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“What are you talking about?” Shawn asked, “You don’t look a day over thirty-five.”
“That may work with the girls you flirt with at the bars . . .” his mother started.
“Mom, I wouldn’t tell anyone I flirted with that they looked thirty-five,” Shawn said. “I’m not into cougars.”
“I’m not sure what that means,” his mother said. “And I’m fairly sure I don’t want to.”
“All right, so mini-golf is out,” Shawn continued, nonplused. “Can I interest you in laser tag?”
Maddie laughed, rolled her eyes and said, “How about a quiet dinner at home and an early bed time?”
“You pulled that on me for the first fifteen years of my life,” Shawn said. “And those quiet nights at home were never as fun as you said they would be . . . except, maybe, for the time that dad tried to make saganaki. How does paintball strike you?”
Maddie opened her mouth to reject, once more, her son’s ideas, but she was interrupted by the door bell, so instead she said. “Who could that be?”
“Probably no one, we can ignore it,” Shawn said.
“That’s not very polite,” His mother scolded. “Why don’t you see who it is?”
Shawn sighed and obediently walked over to the buzzer next to the door. “Osborne residence,” he replied, slurring his words. “This is Ozzie.”
“Shawn?” a chipper voice crackled. “It’s Juliet. Gus said you were coming back today and I just wanted to see if you were OK.”
“Aw, Jules,” Shawn said, genuinely touched by her concern. “That’s really sweet of you.”
“If you’re interested,” she said. “I just picked up a new volume of MST:3K, containing classics like Time Chasers and The Touch of Satan.”
“MST,” Shawn said. “That’s the thing where the little robots make fun of the terrible movies, right?”
“I thought we could kick back, maybe order some Tai.”
“Jules, really, that sounds great, but the thing is, my, ah . . .” Shawn turned to look at his mother, only to see that she was shaking her head at him vigorously. “Hold on,” he said, taking his hand off the button and, effectively, cutting her off.
“What?” he asked his mother.
“Invite her up,” Maddie said. “Watch your silly movies and eat in front of the TV.”
“But, Mom,” Shawn said, trying not to sound as disappointed as he was. “You’re here and . . . and I can’t remember the last time you’ve been in my apartment. We should eat and talk and—”
“That was a joke,” Shawn said. “We should sit here, drink your sweet wine and . . .”
“You’ll have more fun with her, Goose,” his mother said, turning and picking up her purse from the coffee table. “You’ll have to let me know if she likes the wine.”
“Seriously, Mom, I see Jules, like, every day. We live in the same city. I can hang out with her tomorrow.”
“And I have an early flight,” his mother responded, walking up to him and giving him a warm kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for everything. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been there to help me.”
“It was no problem,” Shawn said, smiling at his mother even though he didn’t feel like smiling at all. “Have a good time in Salt Lake City.”
“Thanks, Goose,” she said, opening the door and stepping out into his hall. “You have fun with your friend.”
His mother closed the door and Shawn found himself alone. After clearing his throat to loosen up the tightness he felt, he pressed the buzzer again. “You still there, Jules?”
“I’m seriously considering leaving.”
“Well, don’t,” Shawn said, trying to build up to the excitement he would have felt at the prospect of a night full of bad movies with Juliet, had his mother not just walked out on him. “Because I’ve got two pork chops up here, and they’re baking in applesauce as we speak. Plus, there’s this organic wine that my mom gave me, and I think it’s too sweet but she asked for your opinion in particular. I’ve already uncorked it, so if you don’t come up tonight, it’ll be all stale and I don’t want to have to explain to my mother that it’s my fault you didn’t like the wine she picked out.”
“Your mom wants my opinion on wine?” Juliet asked. Even through the scratchy comm, Shawn could tell that she was smiling.
“Yes, she did. So, will you come up and try it or am I going to have to disappoint her?”
“Well, I’d come up if someone would buzz me in,” Juliet answered.
Shawn smiled and swallowed his regret that his mother had walked out. Instead, he chose to look forward to a fun night with a beautiful girl. He pressed the buzzer and let Juliet in.
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