I groan and roll over as I hear my motherís cheerful voice call out, "Evangeline, honey, itís time to get up."
"What time is it?"
"Itís about ten oíclock in the morning."
She smiles cheerily and pulls the shades open, causing me to pull the sheets over my head to protect my eyes from the blinding glare.
" Jeez, Mom, you think I might need my eyes today? Whereís John?"
"He left at around six because he said he wanted to finish some work at the station so he can leave work early. He wants us to meet him in Rodiís at one. So get up and have some breakfast and get dressed."
And with that, she unceremoniously yanks that sheet from off of my head.
"Momma!,"I whine. But it isnít working. I can tell she is not going to let me roll over and go back to sleep, even though she and John did keep me up playing board games until two in the morning. Iím a night owl, but I can only stay up so long .
"Donít Momma me. Because I donít feel one bit sorry for you. If you really wanted to, you could have went to bed before us."
I give her a grumpy look before saying, "Yeah right. So you two could swap stories on me? I think Iím smart enough to know not to leave the two of you along long enough for one out of the two of you to start telling a story."
"You still have to get up. And donít you dare call me Ma, Ďcuz it doesnít annoy me as much as you think and it just makes you sound like a goat."
As she walks out of the room, I throw her a devilish grin and yell, "Yes Maaa!"
Ah, the many names of Antoinette Williamson. Thereís Aunt Toni, which almost everyone whoís younger than her calls her, relative or not. Then thereís Toni for people who are her age and older. Sheís Ma when I want to annoy her, Momma when Iím trying to get her to feel sorry for me or I really need her, Mumsy Poo when Iím being patronising, Mommy Dearest when sheís being prim and proper and Mother when she annoys me. And of course, thereís the regular old Mom, for when sheís just a regular old mom. Likewise, she has multiple names for me, depending on her mood. Mostly Iím her Baby, but when Iím acting spoiled she calls me Princess.
That name brings back memories of all the "Princess Days" we used to have. When I was younger, weíd go to the movies and spend the rest of the day doing our nails and giving each other facials. When I got a little older, weíd go to a spa or go to a salon to get our nails done. And in the wintertime, we would go ice skating. It was always her who took me to see the tree at Rockefeller Center.
But all of that changed with the divorce. For a long time I refused to carry out a normal conversation with her. I gave her mostly one word answers and when an answer required more than one word, my tone was usually clipped and sharp. I did it mostly because I knew it would hurt her, and I wanted her to feel the same way that I felt inside. It made me even more mad that she never got mad or tried to force me to talk to her like I expected her to. Even when I blamed the divorce on her, though I knew that it was no more her fault than my fatherís, she would just stand there. When being rude didnít work, I decided to go out and dye my hair bright red. My father wanted to kill me, by she just said that I was mourning and that I had to do it without interference from anyone else. But she definitely drew the line when I threatened to cut all my hair off. By college, weíd developed a tentative relationship once again, but we never were as close as we were when I was younger. And that is something that I really miss. I even mentioned it to John a few times.
Which is exactly why I think that John is up to something. Ever since my mom came to Llanview, he hasnít spent more than a few waking minutes alone with me. Granted, itís only been a few days, but still. Under normal circumstances, John would have never voluntarily let that happen. And in that past couple of days, John has treated my mom and me to a day at the spa and a reservation to a really fancy restaurant for dinner afterwards, just the two of us. Since John is an extremely sweet man, I wasnít too suspicious at first.
But then yesterday, John offered to take the both of us shopping and he actually did it. Even though he promised that he was never, ever going shopping with a woman again after Shannon dragged him all over a mall right before Christmas. I must admit, that was a shopping trip to remember. Mom and I were in stiches at Johnís adamant refusal to go into Victoriaís Secret. We got within ten feet of the store and it was like he broke out in hives or something. It certainly looked that way, with his face turning lobster red and the fact that he kept squirming. We eventually decided to let him stay outside while we ran in quickly. Which is just as well, because my ever crazy mother kept holding up random pieces of the raciest lingerie she could find and yelling out, "Donít you think John would like this on you?" Thatís one of the things that everyone loves about my mother, her sense of humour. And while some would find it disturbing to have their mother say something like that to them, for me, itís completely normal.
I glance at the clock and realize that if I donít get out of bed in the next minute, Mom is likely to come in here and drag me out of bed and dump me in the shower with my pajamas on. Iíd much rather showering on my own terms, so I jump out of bed and head into the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, the smell of Momís famous collard greens and fried ham draws me out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, dressed in only my robe. My motherís cooking just has that effect on me. In the past couple of days, Iíve pigged out on so much of her cooking that I think that Iíve gained a couple of pounds. And every night thereís something new for dessert. Last night we had peach cobbler, which is my favourite, and I put away more than half the pan. John and Mom were amazed, especially since Iíd just had a healthy sized portion of chicken and dumplings.
"Something smells good," I say as I lean over my motherís shoulder.
"Hurry up and get dressed and come get some breakfast. I made your favourite."
"You keep spoiling me like this and Iím never letting you go home."
She just smiles at me and I go back in to my room to get dressed. I pull out the wheat coloured sweater that John gave me a few weeks ago from the closet and debate putting it on. It fits really loosely because it was originally Johnís. I loved it so much that I kept stealing it out of his closet to wear when weíre just hanging out. He offered to get me one of my own, but I didnít want it, because it wasnít his, so he just gave me this one. Which sorta defeats the purpose because I kept taking his sweater because it smelled just like him and when I put it on, I feel like Iím wrapped in his arms. So now I mostly wear it when Iím not with John, which isnít very often.
I put it back on the closet and instead put on my favourite white cashmere sweater and a pair of form fitting blue jeans. I decide to wear the pair of kitten heeled Steve Madden boots that I bought last winter and wore twice. That way, the next time that Nora harps on me for buying more boots than I can possibly wear, I can say truthfully that I recycle my boots from season to season. Not that I care very much about whatís in season, Iím more interested in wearing what Iím comfortable in. But still, itís a viable argument.
I rummage through my jewelry box until I find my pair of snowflake shaped studs and put them in my ears. I put on my makeup and peer at my reflection in the mirror with a smile. Before I even hear or see my mother, I smell the Shi that has been my motherís signature scent for the past couple of years. Itís a very comforting smell, and every time I walk past one of those perfume counters in the mall, an image of my mother comes up in my mind.
Iím very proud to say that I inherited my looks from my mother. People might be tempted to think that weíre twins if it werenít for the fact that at 5 feet 1 Ĺ inches, my mother is about 5 inches shorter than me. That and the streak of silver right above her left temple. I get my height from my fatherís side of the family. That and, according to my mother, my stubbornness. But sheís every bit as stubborn as she claims I am. In fact, I Ďm more like my mother than we both like to admit.
"You are the vainest child I have ever seen in my life."
"Iím not a child anymore Mom. And Iím not vain. Iím merely very interested in my appearance."
She doesnít say anything, but stares at me in the mirror. Then her look softens and she comes to stand behind me, reaching up to cup my cheek.
"Well, even if you are vain, you have a good reason to be. Youíre beautiful."
I give her a kiss on the cheek and a smile. "Thanks Mom."
"And as for you not being a child anymore, that is true. But you will always be my baby."
"You sound like that Mariah Carey song."
"How about you use that smart mouth of yours and go eat your breakfast."
"Did you eat yet?"
"No, Iím not hungry."
"You are now. I donít like to eat alone Mom, so you have to eat with me. You donít want your baby to starve, now do you?"
She heaves an exasperated sigh and shakes her head as she walks out of the room, with me trailing behind her. "There are times when I regret that youíre so smart."
We eat breakfast and tidy up the kitchen together. By the time that weíre finished, itís twelve thirty and we have to get going. Before we leave, Mom stops in front of the hall mirror to make sure sheís all put together. Thereís no way for her to not look put together with her hair in soft ringlets that frame her face and wearing a light pink turtle neck with black slacks. My mother is the only woman I know who has the ability to look beautiful while sheís crying. As a matter of fact, my aunts call her DeDe, the Ďdí and Ďeí stand for Diva Extroardinaire.
When we get to Rodiís, John appears to be beating Antonio at pool. Mom and I put our coats down at a nearby table and we go to join the guys.
"Hey John. Hey Antonio."
John stops teasing Antonio long enough to turn and kiss my mother and I on our cheeks and say, "Hello ladies."
After greeting my mother warmly, with a hug and kiss on the cheek, Antonio turns to me and says, "Hey Evangeline. You think you could ask your boyfriend to cut me some slack? Or maybe to stop cheating and making up imaginary rules?"
I shrug with a grin and gesture towards my mother, who seems to be berating John for the fourth time this week about the excessive amount of coffee he drinks and itís effects on his health. "You would have to ask her to do it, because Mom and Eve are the only people in the world that he listens to."
Antonio snorts derisively.
"Please Evangeline. If you told him right this minute to dance a jig on top of the bar, he would do it. John would move mountains for you, if it were at all possible."
"And I would do the same for him. But I think he would draw the line at dancing a jig in top of the bar and I have to admit, so would I."
Antonio laughs saying, "Yeah well, you know what I mean."
John and Mom rejoin us, Johnís cup of coffee replaced with a glass of Coke and Mom bearing a tray with drinks. I canít help shaking my head.
"Mom, if you were gonna get on John about how unhealthy coffee is, whyíd you let him get a Coke? Itís just as bad."
"Johnís a grown man, Evangeline. I canít tell him what to do."
Antonio and I just glance at each other and smile. We all sit at the table and enjoy our drinks until John looks at his watch and says, "Okay, we have to get going. We have to be somewhere at 2."
Antonio seems to have been let in on this secret, but Mom and I are clueless as to what John is talking about. Nonetheless, we put our coats on and say goodbye to Antonio.
After driving around in circles for five minutes, I finally catch on and turn to look at John suspiciously. "What are you up to, John?"
In as innocent a voice as he can muster, he points to himself and says, "Me? Iím not up to anything."
"Yeah. Not up to anything. Sure you arenít."
John glances back at my mother for help, but sheís staring out a window with an amused grin on her face, so he just grins and says, "Well, if I am up to somethingĖ which Iím notĖ then you will figure it out eventually."
"Just shush and drive, Jeeves."
John and Mom start to laugh, much to my bewilderment. "What are you two laughing at?"
"Jeeves is a butler Evangeline, not a chauffeur," Mom answers between giggles.
I roll my eyes and cross my arms and try to hide the smile creeping across my face. "Yeah, well you both know what I mean."
A few minutes later, John pulls into a parking lot and says, in his most formal tone, "Madams, we have arrived at our destination."
Mom grins at John as he opens the car door for her, but I jump out of the car before he get around to my side of the car, spoiling his fun. Which I donít feel bad about, since it was at my expense.
When we get inside the building, everything begins to make sense when I realise that itís an ice skating rink.
I turn to look at John, who is trying his best to look innocent as he helps my mother with her coat. When he comes over to help me with mine, I ask him, "What are you trying to accomplish John? Because I think I can see a pattern in all of these outings."
"Canít my reason be that Iím a nice guy and I just want you to have fun with your mother while sheís here?"
"That can be part of it. Look John. I get the feeling that you want me to do something and I also get the feeling that you donít think that itís something that Iím willing to do. And I wish you would just come right out and say it, instead of leading me around with a blindfold. I donít like feeling like Iím being manipulated."
"Evangeline, Iím sorry if I made you feel like that, but I"m not trying to manipulate you. In the past couple of days since your mother has been here, Iíve never seen you so happy. And when you told me of all of those outings with your mother and the great relationship you guys had, you always sound so wistful and sad. And I get the feeling that if you had the relationship with your mother that you used to have, you could be so much happier. So I figured, if I let you guys spend all your free time together, doing all the things that you used to do, you both might unconsciously begin to take steps to get over whatever the problem is."
John never ceases to amaze me. Now, I am still just the tiniest bit annoyed, because I am not a big fan of surprises, but I canít get mad with him for a reason like that. Especially since he only did it because he wants me to be happy.
"John, thank you. I know that you only have my best interests at heart, but you of all people should know that things like this take time. Going skating a few times isnít going to fix everything. Thereís years of hurt and animosity to work through."
John tucks a strand of hair behind my ear and traces the contour of my cheek with his thumb.
"I know that Evangeline. But itís a start. And I want you to keep that in mind."
He kisses my cheek and walks over to where my mother is standing at the skate rental counter, leaving me to collect my scattered thoughts. A minute later, I go over to join them.
After getting our skates, it takes about twenty minutes for John and I to convince Mom to come out on the ice. And even then, sheís still protesting.
"I donít know why I let you two talk me into this. In a minute or so, Iíll be flat on my behind."
John smiles and twirls Mom and I in succession, saying, "Toni, youíre far too graceful and dignified to fall flat on your behind as you put it. Everyone is going to be staring at you because youíll be so good."
Mom gives me a conspiratorial smile and a wink. "I can see why you fell for him Baby. Heís a charmer."
John protests, indignantly. "You know, Iím also, in my humble opinion, a very smart, caring person, not to mention attractive and I think those are other reasons why Evangeline could have fallen for me."
I laugh. "Yes, John, you are definitely humble. Youíre the picture of humility."
"Youíre cute when youíre sarcastic."
Mom holds up a warning hand and says, "Okay, look. Iím telling you both right this minute, if you start with the lovey-dovey crap, Iím going to skate away from you and pretend not to know you two. I donít know how Nora and Antonio and the rest of your friends can stand it."
"Mom, I noticed that youíve tactfully left out Marcie and Michael, is there any particular reason for this? Is it maybe because theyíre worse than John and I with the lovey-dovey... stuff?"
She gets this look on her face, the same look she used to get when sheíd tell me not to eat anymore candy before dinner and Iíd ask her if I could have cookies instead.
"Evangeline, stop torturing your mother. Remember, weíre here to have fun,"John says, ignoring my groan. No matter what, heís always on Momís good side. Which I guess is a good thing, because sometime in the future, Mom will probably be his mother-in-law. And the thought of being married to anyone doesnít freak me out anymore, because John McBain isnít just anyone. And while I think that weíre still not ready for marriage yet, that is a prospect that is in our very near future.
After skating for a few hours, we start getting cold and hungry and decide to go home. As weíre leaving the skating rink, Mom and I laughing at our exploits on the ice, I realize that John was right.
I havenít felt so close to my mother in a very long time and reliving some of the experiences that we had before our relationship blew up along with the divorce has helped me to get to this point. And the meaningful look John gave me when he said that the skating was a start and he wanted me to keep it in mind didnít pass me. I know that I have to be the one to take the first step because I know Mom wonít. Sheíll be too worried that sheís pushing me.
But sometimes thatís exactly what I need. A good push in the right direction. And I can tell that Iím going to need a really big push in the right direction to risk ruining what we have worked so hard to get to in an attempt to get back to where we were.
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