Chapter 5

Beatrice managed to find her way to the kitchen table, wading through the pile of luggage, dog toys, and oddly scented grocery bags that had congregated on her floor. She sat down, taking a moment to collect herself and her thoughts, trying to procure a plan of action, to put together a last minute semblance of a routine. After a few minutes, she gave up, acknowledging the fact that her mother repelled routine like Off repelled mosquitos.

The rest of dinner felt muted. Beatrice could see her mother’s mouth move, but all she heard was the “wahhh wah wahhhh,” of an adult in The Charlie Brown movie. She could see the plate of exotic food in front of her, but she couldn’t taste it. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion; Beatrice kept checking the clock on her wall to make sure the second hand was still moving.

“Birdie…oh, Birdie…Beatrice?” her mother said, interrupting her thoughts.

She snapped out of her trance, suddenly overwhelmed by the sensory stimuli impeding on her personal space; the noise, the mess, and the smells were stifling.

“Do you like your dinner?” Beatrice’s mother asked.

“My dinner? Oh, yes, of course, my dinner,” Beatrice babbled, searching for the correct response. “Dinner is delicious. Thank you.”

Her mother continued talking, but now that Beatrice had come back to reality, she realized something was off. Her mother was rambling, per usual, but in a way that felt like she was avoiding something. She was scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to talk about, telling stories that Beatrice was sure she’d heard before.

“Why are you here?” Beatrice asked, more harshly than intended. “I mean; why did you decide to visit now?”

“I just wanted to visit my daughter, is that a crime?” her mother replied, smiling in a way that suggested she was hiding something.

“Mother, what aren’t you telling me?”

Her mother hesitated, pushing the food around on her plate. It was the first time she’d been silent since Beatrice had walked through the door.

“Birdie…” her mother began. She looked at her daughter, her jaw suddenly set. Her expression was that of fear, masked by defeat. “They’re back.”

Beatrice felt like she’d just had the air knocked out of her. Most people would question her mother’s laughably ominous statement, but Beatrice knew exactly what she was talking about.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “Could it be a mistake?”

Her mother just shook her head sadly, knocking away the last strand of hope in Beatrice’s mind. Beatrice felt as if she would cry. Or scream. Possibly both. She felt like lying on her kitchen floor, slamming her feet and fists against the tile like a toddler having a temper tantrum. It wasn’t fair. First her mother, now them. It was 7:53. Beatrice should have been watching Wheel of Fortune. But there she was, on the verge of tears, incredibly grateful that it was her mother sitting at her kitchen table, and not someone else.

“They’re back,” her mother said quietly, “your cousins are back.”

-M.A.Gavin

Chapter 3

At 4:35, she would find a way to respectfully end the conversation. She watched the little hand on the clock steadily approaching the 7, and started looking for a place to interject.

“And then the waiter starts singing! Right there- opera, in the middle of the restaurant!”

 “That’s very interesting, Mother, but really, I must be going…”

Some of the other diners were staring, so I started passing around my salad plate so that they could tip Jeremy for the beautiful entertainment.”

 “Mother, I really have to go. It was nice talking to you…”

“Oh, Birdie! I forgot to tell you something!”

 She cringed at the sound of her childhood nickname. She preferred to go by her given name, Beatrice, that is if she went by anything at all. She was perfectly content living in a state of self induced anonymity.

“I’ve told you before, Mother, please don’t call me ‘Birdie.’ It’s a silly, juvenile nickname,” Beatrice said.

“Yes, Yes, of course, Bird…er…Beatrice. Anyway, the thing I meant to tell you- I’m coming to visit!”

 “You’re coming to visit? When?” Beatrice was careful not to show the disdain in her voice. Her mother had never come to visit her before, and she had been careful to keep it that way. She went home twice a year, for a week at Christmas and for a few days each July. Up until now, the biannual visits and weekly phone calls had been enough to satisfy her mother.

“Lets see, my train comes in…tomorrow! Oh look at that, I get to see you even sooner than I thought! Sweetheart, I’m so excited to see you, and your home, and to meet your friends…”

 Beatrice listened halfheartedly as her mother rattled on and on about how excited she was. At some point, her mother paused to breathe, and Beatrice was able to end the phone call.

It was 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday, and for the first time in months, Beatrice didn’t make vegetable soup and eat it out of the green bowl. At 6:15, she didn’t open her laptop to check her e-mail. And at 6:45, she didn’t turn on the shower. Instead, she sat on her light brown sofa, staring at her clean, eggshell colored wall.

She sat there for hours, thinking about her childhood, her mother, and the fact that her mother would in her apartment the very next day. She thought about her mother’s eclectic and cluttered way of life. It dawned on her that by the time she came back to her apartment after work the next day, there would be whimsical throw pillows on her crisp, clean couch and the smell of incense would be wafting through her meticulously febreezed home. She remembered that tomorrow was chicken and broccoli night, and realized that she probably wasn’t going to eat chicken and broccoli.

Most importantly, Beatrice thought about him. About how she had cautiously and successfully avoided talking about her family. Now her efforts would be deemed useless. She had created a life and a story that was entirely her own. But tomorrow, it would be her mother’s story.

-M.A. Gavin