My eyes were red when I walked into my mother’s room that Christmas morning. Lucy was sitting on the chair, and my mother was knitting a bright pink blanket while they watched A Christmas Story on the small TV. When I walked in my eyes went right to Lucy, and she put down the TV guide, knowing I wanted to talk with her away from my mother.
My mother on the other hand was completely oblivious to anything around her. “Kitten! Merry Christmas,” she cheered to me in the off tone she seemed to get more and more often. I stepped in and gave her a kiss on the top of her head, still wearing my dinner clothes, with the added bonus of blackened knees I’d received from kneeling on the ground to retrieve Allie’s spare key. My swollen hand went behind my back so she didn’t see the devastation I’d inflicted upon myself. “Merry Christmas, Mom. Did you have a good morning?” I asked.
Her hair was in a tight ponytail. That’s what she prefers on days that are meant for relaxation. But even relaxed she was all prim, proper, and well put together. “Oh yes. Lucy made me confetti pancakes this morning. And do you know what she did to the syrup?” she asked me, like she’d done something amazing.
“She put the maple syrup in the microwave, and when it was warm, a pat of buttah in it!” She laughed happily. “Best thing I’ve evah had,” she told me contentedly.
“Wow, that does sound scrumptious, Mom. I can’t wait to have her make me some,” I replied, kissing her well sprayed hair.
Lucy walked over and retrieved her cigarettes from the kitchen counter. “Loretta honey, I’m going to go have a quick smoke. I don’t want to miss the part where they put the lamp in the window,” she told my mother as she headed for the door.
My hand fell to my mom’s shoulder. “Mom, you don’t mind if I go with Luce to get some fresh air now, do you?” I asked softly.
She wasn’t even paying attention to a word I said. Her knitting needles started back up, as she watched the Christmas movie that was our family favorite. “Oh no, kitten. Go right out along,” she mumbled as she chuckled at the TV show.
Lucy had walked outside already. I saw that she’d picked up a bandage wrap for my hand, already having seen the swelling. When I walked into the little courtyard, she looked me over, then shook her head.
“You’re still in your same clothes from last night. And girl, where is your jacket? It’s freezing out here!” she exclaimed, lighting her cigarette, and walked over to me to take my swollen hand. “I think you might’ve broke it, sweet pea. How did this happen?” she questioned. I just shook my head quietly, not ready to tell her all the things that had just happened.
“Is this about me taking your momma back home to Georgia? I know you love her, A.B. But I do too. I already told my kids that we were moving down to Savannah. They’re on board with it, I promise. They’ll all love your momma just as well, and you can come and see her any time you like.”
I nodded to her. “Mom’s sick, isn’t she?” I whispered, not really wanting the truth but at the same time needing to know.
“Yes, I believe she is, sweet pea.”
I choked on the sob I was holding in, trying not to let it escape me. “I thought so. Are we thinking it’s just the Alzheimer’s, or something more?”
“I’m thinking there’s more going on, but yes, Alzheimer’s is a part of it,” she told me sadly.
I looked up at her, and she was watching me as she wrapped my hand slowly. “Lucy, do you want to do this? You are taking on so much. Do you want me to quit my job and move down to Georgia with you two? I’m here, and I am her daughter,” I whispered.
“I know you are, and that’s why I thought you’d be mad at me for taking her away from you. Because I know you love her with all your heart.” She let go of my hand, taking the cigarette from her mouth. “I’ve been with her for eleven years, Adire, and I love her. I want to take care of her, but in doing so, I need you to sign some papers saying that I’m her caretaker, and I have rights to help her and make medical decisions for her as well. Are you all right with that?” she asked.
My arm came to my chest, holding my hand up to try to help the throbbing. “I’ll sign whatever you need me to, and whenever you need me, I’m only a phone call way,” I told her with a shiver that ran the length of my body.
She rubbed the sides of my arms to warm me up. “Girl, let’s get you inside,” she chortled at me. I shook my head, still needing to tell her the real reason for the visit.
I took the cigarette from her mouth and took a deep drag. “I want you to take Mom away from here…now. I want you and her away from Revere, out of Massachusetts by daybreak. I don’t care what you tell Mom, you just need to get her away from here, and I think Georgia sounds perfect,” I said. “If you need any help with moving, just let me know and I’ll pay for it. If you think you’ll have to just pack a suitcase and have movers come for the rest, so be it. I’ll pay for that as well.”
Lucy’s dark brown eyes went wide with shock that I agreed with her, and didn’t put up the fight she thought she was going to get by telling me she was taking my mother out of state. “A.B., what the heck has gotten into you?” she asked, snatching her smoke back.
My hands shook and I clenched the unhurt one into a fist as I tried to remain in control of myself. “I met someone tonight at Davis’s place,” I murmured.
“Who’d y’all meet to cause you to get this upset?”
A tear escaped, and I quickly wiped it off my face. “I met Davis’s father,” I whispered.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked at me, not quite understanding the big deal. “And…”
“Lucy, Davis’s father was the man who hurt Mom.”
“What?” she yelled out into the empty courtyard.
“I’m telling you, he’s the man,” I adamantly whispered.
“Sweet pea, that was so long ago. How can you be sure after all these years?” she asked. But I could read it on her face: she was hoping, praying, I was wrong.
I gave her a sarcastic laugh. “If there’s one thing that stays in my mind about that night, it’s me sneaking around the corner and seeing him grab her backside, and say some foul words to her.” I laughed, in pain. “Seems the old bastard is still saying and doing the same old horse and pony act,” I exclaimed to her angrily, thinking back on what I’d just witnessed.
Lucy found her way to a bench and collapsed down on it. “Oh lordy, sweet pea! That’s something I never thought I’d hear coming from anyone,” she said out loud, deep in thought. “Now you want to have us move to Savannah because of him?”
I walked over and plopped down very unladylike, wrapping my arms around myself to keep warm. “Yes, and I want you to do it as soon as possible. The last thing I need is him trying to find her, or her seeing him pass her by on the street. Can you imagine the devastation that would bring, if he just all of a sudden popped in to talk to, or threaten Mom?” I told her adamantly.
“But why would he come looking for her?”
“Because of me, Lucy. Because of what I said today, what I accused him of in front of his whole family. I gave him a clue that she was still around here, and I’m Davis’s fiancée. Now he knows there’s someone out there that truly knows what he’s done. And I’m afraid of what the man might be capable of,” I said angrily. I shivered and her arm draped around me. “Are you telling me you’re going to marry that boy?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No! How can I marry him now? He’s the son of the man who tried to kill my mother… I can’t, I just can’t!” I whispered, wiping my runny nose ungraciously with my sleeve.
Lucy held a handkerchief out for me to take. “Okay, sweet pea. I’ll have us packed up by tonight, and we’ll be gone by morning’s light.” She nodded, taking one last drag of the cigarette. “So now what are you going to do?”
The deep breaths of arctic air burned my lungs before I spoke. “I’m leaving. I’m leaving him, my brownstone, and Massachusetts altogether. I plan to be gone for quite some time. I’ll come and visit you in Savannah, when I’m finished with my upcoming job.”
Her dark hand went over mine lovingly. “And the boy?” she asked gently.
It seems when I’m with Lucy I turn into a fifteen-year-old girl once again, and I shrugged my shoulders as I used to do so long ago. “Life has thrown me another curve ball. How can I get past who his father is to my mother?”
“Sins of the father, sweet pea. Shouldn’t be on the shoulders of his son,” she offered. Her head turned, and her eyes roamed over me. “Last night you told Loretta you loved him. Is that true?”
“Yes. I still love him, even though I can’t.” Glancing down at my hand, I knew I was going to have to visit the emergency room before I left. “So anyway, I’ll come see you and Mom before I head out tonight. I’m going to get some personal things taken care of. But I’m going to purchase you two new phones so I can get hold of you anytime I’d like,” I told her.
She nodded. “You heading to the hospital to get your hand taken care of?”
I bit my lip at the pain that was still throbbing forcefully. “Yes. I’ll get that taken care of first.”
“What, you’re not even going to tell your boy you’re leaving him? Don’t you think he deserves to know what you’re up to?” she asked, with a deep frown on her face.
“No, and I have no plans for telling him, either,” I replied.
“So you’re just going to run away now?”
“Lucy, when is this ever going to stop for me? We both can see, any time I am seriously involved with a man it seems to have some serious repercussions on my life and on my family. Don’t you think it’s time to call a duck, a duck?” I asked with a shrug.
“You said yes to his marriage proposal?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I don’t think a man that in love with you is going to just move on, A.B.,” came her reply.
“I’m sure he’ll move on, Lucy. They all do, don’t they?” I murmured sadly.
She shook her head at me.“It seemed like he had some plans for you, girl. You need to settle down, A.B., have a family,” she prodded me.
But I shook my head back at her, unhappy with where the conversation was headed. “Things became messy, and messy doesn’t become a woman, Lucy. I cut him loose and I’m going back to work. That’s all there is to it.”
“If that’s all there is to it, why do you seem so miserable over the thought of it?” she asked, rubbing my back.
That made me push myself up from the bench and start for the door, before turning back around to face her. “Some things are not meant to be, Lucy, even when we want them more fiercely than we’ve ever have wanted anything in our lives. I have always been a realist when it comes to life, and the decisions that needed to be made. I’ve always accepted what’s happened in the world around me, and it’s now time to get back on course and move on like one must, and as I always do,” I said simply, as I made my way back to the door that led into the home.
“Adire, Adire…” she called out. I stopped to turn back around to her. “One also changes, sweet pea. Sometimes what you once were is impossible to go back to when you’ve broken free from that mold,” she told me. “Like it or not, I see a difference in you. There will be repercussions if you don’t deal with things, and leave the man you’re in love with.”
I frowned at her words, but she continued. “Just remember that, when you feel yourself fall from this decision. Even with your knees all scraped and hurting, you can always pick yourself back up again, sweet pea.”
We stared at each other for a minute, I and this second mother of mine. “I’m going to say goodbye to Mom. I’ll have plane tickets and a car ready for you in Savannah within the next hour. I’ll drop off the phones before I head out tonight,” I blurted out to her, not wanting to hear the truth in her words…not wanting to admit the truth to myself.