My mom is going out on a date with David and when I walk into her room to say goodbye to her, I take a step back. She looks utterly beautiful.
Jokingly, I say, “You clean up nicely.”
She smiles nervously. “I do not know what is wrong with me, but I want to make a good impression.”
“Mom. If those old feelings you and David had for each other are still there, then he would not even notice whether you arrive in a potato sack.”
Her hands smooth over the delicate satiny material of her dress. “I suppose you are right.”
Inquisitively I ask, “So? You think he is the one?”
“We’ll have to see and take things one step at a time.”
Love surely is inexplicable and mystifying—so messed up.
I hear my dad honk his car horn outside, and hurriedly I rush over to her. I lean in for a hug and I hug her carefully so I do not crinkle her dress, smudge her make-up or mess up her hair.
“Good night, Mom. Behave yourself this week.”
She laughs nervously. “Don’t worry, when you get back you won’t suddenly find a strange man living with us.”
The thought never even crossed my mind and I really hope it does not happen.
My dad honks the car horn again, so I quickly grab my bag and rush downstairs. At the door, I call up to her, “Bye, Mom. I love you.”
She calls down, “Enjoy the week, Heather, and I love you more.”
Smiling, and before I close the door, I call up to her, “I love you most.”
I push against the door once to make sure the lock is latched.
We drive away from my home, and my dad talks about everything we will be doing during the week. He talks about Shirley, and I can hear the laughter, love and joy in his voice when he talks about her.
I realize I have accepted that although my parents did once love each other, they grew in different directions, and they have found love with other people. My dad laughs again and my mom has a sparkle in her eye. I understand now, sort of, there are diverse kinds of love, like the kind where you only feel affection for another person, the kind where you adore another, the kind where you worship another human being, to be devoted to someone, to care for somebody, be in love with another. Love was never lost—I just did not understand it completely. I thought it is supposed to be black and white, wrong and right, but there are a million layers to love, and it is not easily put into plain words or understood. There are times when you just have to trust in your heart, that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, or that excited feeling you cannot suppress.
When we stop in his driveway, the pixie-like Shirley opens the door on cue. I am, weirdly, pleased to see her.
She does not offer to take my bag again, and she does not take me upstairs to my room. After she greets me in the hall with an awkward hug—awkward because when she comes toward me, I pull back nervously. She says friendly, “Put your bag in your room. Dinner is ready.”
So effortlessly, in nine simple words, she made me feel at home. I wonder if she went on a crash course on ‘How to make your new stepdaughter feel at home’.
We eat at the dinner table and then afterwards we watch TV together.
Later, when I go up to my pastel splash room, and before I get into bed, I open the window. The latch on this window is not broken and although I have not seen Jayden since that day in the park, I am hoping he would come because I need to speak to him.
I lie on my back, and I try to send my thoughts to him, but I doubt he will receive them.