Taking Maddie and Kaylee out for dinner distracts me from the sadness of saying good-bye to Corey in the mall. We watch movies in the family room until I’m too tired to stay awake. In bed, alone in darkness, I listen to their laughter until sleep overtakes me.
The next morning I deep clean the house in a burst of energy. When every surface is scrubbed clean and polished, I start on the closets, pulling out their contents and filling boxes with items for donation. Having stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, the girls are asleep, curled in sleeping bags in the family room, only their is hair visible from the fabric cocoons. Though I pass them several times while loading the boxes of used household items into the car, they remain asleep. I drive the boxes of old clothes, flower vases, and linens to a parking lot donation site, where a volunteer asks me the estimated value of the goods, for the receipt. I struggle to come up with a dollar price for items I’ve already deemed disposable.
At the nearby big-box store, I buy three baskets of fuchsias, and hang them from the porch rail at home. The anticipation of hummingbirds feeding from them while I watch through the window, drinking coffee, tea, or a glass of wine makes me happy.
“Moving on,” I tell myself.
* * *
The next day is Monday. After dropping Maddie off at school, I finish drinking coffee at home, and then go for a run, weaving and bobbing between roller bladers, bicyclists, and people walking their dogs along The Strand. The morning low clouds usually clinging to the coast are gone, and sunspots glitter on the surface of the sea. Mothers with young children arrive, making a patchwork quilt of the sandy beach with their blankets and coolers. It’s a beautiful day.
Before school lets out, Maddie texts:
DAD PICKING ME UP WILL BRING ME HOME L8R
Around 7:30, Simon’s car pulls into my driveway, and Maddie pops out. She slams the car door shut before running into the house, laughing and smiling. She gives me a hug, and then blurts out, “Mom, guess who’s getting married?”
I knew this was coming.
“Your Dad and Amber?”
“Yes! I’m so excited! I get to be a bride’s maid. Amber says I’m too grown up to be a flower girl, and she wants us to be really, really good friends!”
“Well, that’s wonderful Maddie. I’m sure they’ll be really happy. When are they getting married?”
“In six weeks. Guess what else?”
“Amber’s pregnant. I’m going to have a new brother or sister!”
* * *
The next night I wear the new scrubs, clogs, and lipstick I bought at the mall. Once again there’s a cake in the PICU. This one has Congratulations Kris! scrawled across its top in blue icing. Kris stands in the middle of the room with her left hand extended. The diamond is so big and sparkly I can see it from the door.
“Congratulations Kris! You and Jon the bass player decided to get married?”
“Niki, where have you been? Liz laughs. “She’s not marrying Jon the bass player.”
“That was so four months ago, says Kris. I’m marrying Spider Rodrigo.”
“The lead singer of Kushion? That Spider Rodrigo? What happened to the rock band rehearsing in your garage, and that guy you were living with?”
“That was Kushion.”
“But they’re huge! How did I not know Kushion rehearses in your garage, and you’re marrying Spider Rodrigo?” I blush, realizing how I sound.
Kris just looks at me.
Liz intervenes, “You’ve been a little self-absorbed lately Niki. You’ve had a lot going on.”
I try to recover. “I’m sorry Kris. Really, I’m very happy for you. Congratulations!” I give her a hug to prove it.
“Thanks Niki. That’s not all. Kushion is touring to promote their debut album, and I’m going with them. Spider’s mother is a diabetic. He won’t leave her. I’m going to keep track of her blood sugars, and be her companion. I’ll be the tour’s nurse.”
I mean it. I really do.