“Have you lost weight?” My mom’s standard pick-up line. Been with Old Faithful since we all went off to college. Not that it’s a particularly impotent partner.
I look her dead in the eye for a moment, and finally smile.
“I have to have lost weight? I can’t just be the total package every time you see me?” I shoot back half-teasingly. Hmmm, she got more work done. Subtle, but something. But what, Watson, but what………
“Well, you certainly are beautiful. You look just like your momma!” She smiles her old self-assured smile, and I can’t help being fairly amused. If only she’d forget about the deal I made when I was twelve to have her retire to a room at the Ritz Carlton, we’d have a pretty good relationship by now. I think I’ll keep her.
What’s coffee here and there between old inmates?
“Are you still with that man from the hospital?” Go right for the money, mom, good for you. Bless her. And she wonders why Dad doesn’t talk to her anymore.
She had a year or two taken off around her jaw, I finally decide. Got a nice doctor to do it, too. Well done.
I manage to order myself another cup of coffee before I have to answer, “Yes, of course. Things are going wonderful with Will.” I mean, she’ll remember him as ‘the one she dated who was the doctor’ for the rest of her short years, but I let it go. She’s not the one sleeping with him.
“Oh, good. He seems like a nice man.” I nod and agree awkwardly, not knowing what else to say. We do this about every six months if I can stretch it out long enough- she talks and I listen and everything’s great, but I just can’t talk about myself to her. Sharing has never been very customary for my mother and me.
“Still got that….um….math job you had?” My mother says, primping her over-dried hair. It looks fried and over-highlighted. She looks like a twenty-something gay man. Or French.
“I’m an accountant, mommy dearest. That math job is your retirement. It’s wonderful. I have a nice view from my apartment building, too. Will and I are thinking of adopting a dog. There’s a rescue Mastiff he sees every day on his way to work that he wants really bad.” I shrug and mouth ‘check’ to the waiter before my mother can object. Sorry, this is just too stiff for me. I can’t do it.
“How nice.” My aging nutcase says politely. I don’t particularly adore my father either, but at least he makes no attempt to see me any time but New Year’s and his birthday.
I look down nervously at the Dennis bracelet Will brought me back from seeing his sister at Thanksgiving. He had the maker’s charm removed and one put on with our initials on it. Calms me down some. I look at me mother with pure envy, how calm she seems to keep me here.
My phone vibrates like mad in the side pocket of my Versace jacket, and I jump out of my skin. My mom grunts irritably, like I shouldn’t’ be ignoring her presence so suddenly.
“Hello?” I whisper, not wanting to be too loud in the café, (or let my mother eavesdrop too much).
A tinny voice whispers, “Stephie, is that you?” It’s Will’s niece, Carrie.
“Carrie? Are you okay, sweetie?” I get up and walk outside.
She starts crying, “It’s Uncle Will. He got hurt really bad and I can’t find my mommy. I don’t know where she went, Stephie, I’m scared.” She whispers.
I whisper, “Baby, where are you?”
“I’m at a hospital. A man called a truck and they took Uncle Will. The man drove me to the hospital.” Without thinking, I run back inside, grabbing my purse and waving goodbye to my mom like nothing’s happened.
“You’re just going to leave me?!?!” She screams after me. I can’t help rolling my eyes, even though I’m almost crying.
“Is-is that man with you, Carrie? Is he still with you?”
Someone with a deeper voice answers, “Is this man your husband? Umm……Will Parr?”
“No, I’m his girlfriend. He has a sister in the area, that’s the little girl’s mother.” I sniffle, “Her name is Rebecca Parr. Please, what happened to him?”
“Ma’am, your boyfriend was hit by a car on 30th street. He was running in a crosswalk when he was hit. I saw it myself.” I almost fall to my knees. I wipe my eyes furiously.
“What hospital?” I finally say, gasping. I hang up without another word and run to Brooklyn Hospital, crying and shaking. I can’t even think. My mind goes blank. I almost faint.
I almost scream at the front desk to the ER, “Will Parr. Please.” I cry. The fat nurse looks up at me impatirntly, waving me through atomatic doors. I see poor Carrie immediately, her orange hair a mass flying at me. I pick her up and spin her around, screaming and crying, holding on for dear life.
“Carrie, oh my God.” I sob. “Were you hurt, sweetie?” I sniffle. She shakes her head no.
“Mr. Roger found my mommy,” I look up. An older man, definitely sixty-plus, Hispanic, nods in my direction.
“Mr. Roger?” I smile hysterically. I prop tiny Carrie on my hip.
“Roger Canas. She said she’ll be here as soon she can. Nice to meet you.” He shakes my hand.
“Thank you so much.” He nods.
“Of course, Miss. Your boyfriend didn’t do much damage. Just banged up a bit. I think he may have broken a leg. Right in there, if you’d like to go in. I can watch the little one a bit longer.”
I look at Carrie, “Is it okay if I go in?” She nods.
“Stop crying, Aunt Stephie,” I kiss her on the cheek and put her down. I wipe my eyes again, sniveling like a baby.
I sit down by Will’s bed in a huff, his face scratched up and bruised, his leg in some sort of brace contraption and various body parts bandaged. But the man’s alive. Suddenly he opens his eyes at me, and attempts to smile.
“Yeah, sorry about that one.” He winces. I kiss his bald head.
“What the hell?” I whisper more to myself than to him. “What part- whatever. Thank God you’re okay.” He raises his hand to scratch through my hair.
“I thought I wasn’t ever gonna see you again, Will.” I whisper, leaning my head up against his.
“Dumbass, you should know better by now.” He retorts, kissing me on the forehead.
“I love you so much.”
“Love you, too.”
“No more playing chicken with cabs.” I tell him.
“Yep,” He says tiredly.
“And no dogs, if you keep this shit up.” Will smiles.