“Did you tell Anna the good news, Cecelia?”
Mom has the grace to flush, and I know it will be bad. God, just don’t let it be marriage. I’ve feared that since I was ten and finally realized that one of these jerks might become a permanent fixture should Mom actually marry one of them. Luckily, the relationships ended before then.
“Well, dear,” she neatly shrugs out of Terrance’s grasp as she leans forward. “I’m getting older now.”
She’s fifty-five. Hardly old.
“And there’s so much to see in this world.”
Terrance’s hand lands on her hip and he strokes her butt. I’m now officially ill.
“So I’ve decided to retire,” Mom says with another flush.
“That’s…” I struggle. “Well, that’s great, if that’s what you want, Mom.” I’m happy to think of Mom relaxing, even though I suspect she’ll be bored within months.
But she’s not done. She shifts in her seat, and my heart plummets. God, please not the marriage thing.
“What?” I ask.
“I’ve also decided to sell the house.”
The words set off a bomb within my skull. I just sit there, my brain scrambled, leaving me unable to speak.
“We’re going on a world cruise,” Terrance puts in, grinning at me with his gray teeth.
“Are you selling your house?” I ask him. “Oh, right, I forgot. You rent.” Because I’m beginning to get the idea.
Terrance’s beady eyes narrow. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.”
“Yet you’re here, when this conversation is really between me and my mom.”
“Anna,” Mom begins.
“Don’t.” I hold up a hand. Then take a deep breath. “Can I say anything to change your mind?”
“You should be happy for your mother, young lady.” Terrance is turning an ugly shade of red. “Not making her feel badly.”
“Do not f**king call me young lady again. And I’m not talking to you.”
“Anna, language.” Mom eases closer to me, like she might reach out and pat my hand.
I place my hands in my lap. “Can I?” I ask again.
Her eyes turn sad, regretful. “You don’t live here anymore, and I thought I’d buy something smaller when I return.”
“Never mind that your parents gave you this house. That it’s the only home I’ve ever known.”
Terrance snorts. “I told you she’d covet the house, Cecilia.”
“Like you are, Terry?” I snap back.
“Anna.” It’s a plea from my mom.
“No, Cece, don’t baby her.” Terrance cuts in, raising to glare at me. “I can take care of myself.”
“All evidence to the contrary.” I say, not stepping away from his looming figure. “And if you come any closer to me, you’ll see how easily I can take care of myself.”
Mom jumps up then. “Anna, Terrance, stop this now.” She turns and places a hand on the sleaze. “Let me handle this.”
I can’t watch anymore. In truth, I ought to have left long ago. I know the drill. She might love me, but she always chooses her boyfriend’s side.
“I have to go.”
Mom’s mouth falls open, as if this is a shock to her. “But you just got here. You haven’t even eaten.”
I’m not eating now. I’ll throw up.
“I’ll talk to you later.” I grab my purse and leave. And she doesn’t try to stop me again.
Hurt, anger, and disgust is an ugly cocktail in my veins. Well, I think wryly, I wanted a reminder, and I sure as hell got one. This isn’t the comfort I need. I drive around until my arms are tired and I’m nearly out of gas. I don’t want to go back to my apartment. I don’t want to talk to Iris or George about it; they’ve both heard the saga of my mom many times before, and whatever they say is not going to help. Nothing is going to change the situation. Which only makes my agitation burn stronger.
The beautiful fall day is totally incongruent with my mood. Fluffy clouds bump around in a blue sky. The air is just this shade of cool, and the sun shines hot on my head as I walk across the campus parking lot, leaving my Vespa behind.
The stadium looms over me, and my heartbeat picks up. The closer I get, the easier it is to hear the sounds of play, the errant trill of a whistle, and the grunts and thuds of young men throwing themselves against each other or those padded training contraptions, the name of which I cannot recall.
Scattered about the stadium seats like birds alighting for feed are people watching the football team practice. Heads crane forward to watch Drew throw a pass. The ball spirals through the air, fast and sure, to land with perfect precision in a wide receiver’s hand. The player laughs and jogs lightly back to Drew, tossing him the ball before one of the coaches makes a comment to both of them. I’m too far away to hear it, and I like it that way.
Sitting a few feet from a couple of younger guys who wax on about the awesomeness that is Battle Baylor, I feel anonymous. Safe. The sun has slipped behind the line of the stadium, and my spot falls to shadows. A relief from the heat.
Drew makes a few more throws, each one farther, each in a different direction, different approach. He’s wearing a helmet, loose basketball shorts that hit him at the knees, and his jersey without the extra bulk of pads. And every time he throws, a swath of tawny skin shows along the bottom of his jersey. Something that makes all my happy places clench sweetly.