“He’s very tall,” my mother said as Nath left us behind to bring the car closer to the entrance. I found myself chuckling before I rolled my eyes. Of course, his height is what she would have noticed first. It was late in the afternoon on a Saturday morning. My mother had arrived at the tiny town a few minutes ago. She had taken the bus, and that was why we were currently standing outside the bus station as we waited for Nath. I was wearing casual clothes, a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved top I had to roll up because they were Nath’s and were too big for me. My mum was in her regular long skirt and loose fitting blouse look.
I had been nervous to meet her after the past couple of months, but she had been bubbly and happy like she always was, so I calmed down and became more open chatty as well. She was going on about the renovations to the kitchen back home, and how she was excited to be finally getting a dishwasher. It made me smile. She really was a simple woman.
“So, what have you been doing for the past few months?” she asked, breaking the silence that had washed over us after her last sentence. I shrugged, leaning off the pillar I had been resting on before looking out into the parking lot. There were other people here as well, but it was mostly empty.
“I’ve taken up some hobbies...” I trailed, taking my eyes to the ground. “I got a job, I learned to cook—”
“You can cook now?” she asked, making me look up at her. She sounded surprised and curious. I smiled, nodding before looking away.
“Yeah, Nath taught me,” I said, taking out my hands from my pockets before playing with my fingers. My skin was tougher now, and I was more tanned thanks to taking walks with Nath and helping him out with more physical things.
“He can cook?”
“He lives alone, he would die if he didn’t know how,” I laughed, and my mother just homed. The little farming town I had grown up in was very traditional, and from what I’ve been learning since I got here, maybe too traditional. I didn’t really know many ‘girl’ skills, and I hadn’t been expected to. Now that I think about it, I didn’t know many ‘boy’ skills either. Nath had recently started showing me how to drive, and he was letting me near his tools as well — they seemed foreign, and I still had to ask him how to use stuff time and again.
Nath’s car soon parked right in front of the bus station entrance. I picked up my mum’s box and she followed me. I opened the back door, and as she climbed in I went to drop the boxes at the back. When I went to sit up front I realized how tense the atmosphere was. Nath started to drive, and none of said anything until my mother spoke up.
“You’re very tall,” my mother said, making me chuckle. Nath seemed taken aback. He couldn’t turn back to look at her, but I could see he was trying to look at her from the driving mirror.
“Well, yes,” he said with a small chuckle. Turned to look at my mother, she had a small smile on her face, and she was probably wondering what to say now. She didn’t have to say anything since I butt into the conversation, so it wouldn’t die.
“How was your drive here?”
“Long,” she said, making me laugh.
Soon we were both chatting with my mother about mundane things like the church choir, and how expensive a loaf of bread was back home. Nath was nervous. I could tell from the way his hands gripped the steering wheel. I thought about it for a while before I reached out to squeeze his tie. He turned to me with wide eyes but looked away when I gave him an assuring smile. I think my mother noticed this because she went quiet, but I noticed she was smiling at us from the side of my eyes.
After about fifteen minutes we were at Nath’s place. Nath had taken the time to fix up around the house, the place was covered in a new coat of paint — a nice sea green. We helped my mum with her bags, talking to her as she looked about the small street. The neighbors that rarely made an appearance were looking at us through their window. I waved when I caught them, and they waved back. They were all odd like that, somewhat like Nath. There was no shame in being curious here.
The brown stray dog that followed Nath around the place was looking at my mother with perked eyes. I wondered what it was thinking. It probably wondered what the small person with greyish hair was doing here. It walked up to us, and my mum smiled at the dog, bending over to pat its head while Nath laughed.
We took my mum’s bags up to the guest room, and Nath left the both of s in the room alone saying that he needed to prepare for dinner. The room went silent once he closed the door behind him. It was just me and my mother, and I’m sure she had something to say to me. I turned to her, taking slow steps in no particular direction before I settled on sitting on top of the room’s dresser.
“He seems like a nice person.”
“Yeah,” I said. I was surprised at my own voice. It sounded choked and worried. “Sorry. I just—” I sighed, covering my face with my hand. I wasn’t sure why I was crying now, but I was. My mother got up from the bed before walking over to me. She placed her hand on my shoulder, resting against me as she held on to me.
“It’s okay,” she whispered, and I just nodded, trying to clean my eyes with the back of my hands. My body was shaking, but I was relieved, all the tension from worrying this morning had been washed away. When I had calmed down my mother started to talk about things to distract me. She was telling me funny stories about my sisters and dad. She talked about getting a small vegetable patch, and she asked me if it would be okay for her to cook something for us tomorrow. Soon I was smiling again. Nath’s voice soon rang through the small flat asking us to come out for dinner.
Nath had made some sauce and boiled potatoes. The dog was inside too and was hanging around the dining table as Nath and I talked to my mother. It was mid-evening now, and the room was lit by the orange light above us as the day got darker. We talked about mundane things, and Nath seemed relaxed by my mother.
“When did you those?” she asked, pointing at the tattoo on Nath’s wrists. He had worn a long sleeve top today despite it being warm to hide them, but he you could still the ones around his collarbone and wrists.
Nath shrugged. “I have friends that are tattoo artists. You go to visit, and before you know it you’re getting inked,” he said with a small chuckle and my mum looked on at him with a partly confused smile. I wasn’t sure if it was because she didn’t know what being inked meant, or because she hadn’t really seen people with tattoos before.
“Is there anything you want to do while you’re here?” Nath asked, changing the conversation. My mum looked down at her plate of food as she hummed.
“I just wanted to see Mathew,” she said with a smile before looking up and turning her gaze to me. “Do you still go for service?” she asked, I caught the hint of hope in her tone, and she looked sad when I shook my head.
Great, things are awkward again. I thought.
“He doesn’t go to the Mormon church here, but sometimes we go to a Catholic chapel in the next town,” Nath said, making me blink. I had zoned out without realizing it. My mum was looking at Nath now.
“Used to be,” Nath said with a shrug before giving the dog that was sitting beside his seat a piece of meat.
“Anyway, if you want to take a walk in the morning you can head out with Math and me tomorrow. The library here’s also huge, and they have a nice farmer’s market at the end of every week,” Nath said, changing the conversation. At the mention of a farmer’s market my mother started asking questions, and just like that, I was left alone to think. I turned to Nath, smiling in silent thanks.
When we were done with dinner. I helped Nath out with washing the dishes while my mother watched us with a curious gaze. She kept asking me how my prayers were going, and how the last few months down here have been. At first, Nath tensed up, but he relaxed when he realized it was my mum just being my mum without any malic in her tone.
“How’s dad?” I asked, turning to face her when I dried the last plate in the sink.
“Your dad’s fine,” she said with a small smile. “He wants to speak with you, so if you can manage it you should call him,” she said, and I nodded. The fact that I was nervous yet happy didn’t quite show on my face since my expression was void and numb. My dad wanted to talk to me? I was giddy and happy. I haven’t spoken directly to him in a long time.
“Nath seems like a great person,” my mother had told me when Nat left the kitchen briefly to give the brown stray a treat.
I smiled at her before settling down on the seat across from her. “Yeah, he is,” I replied.
Nath was great, he really was. I had a long way to go with accepting myself and navigating my faith, while Nath had a long way to go unpacking the things that happened with him in the past while mending his relationship with his mother. I was glad someone was patient enough with me to try and understand, and I was happy to help Nath out with sorting out his feelings. We didn’t always agree, but it worked. We had each other to nurse and kiss each other’s wounds.
I couldn’t be more grateful.
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