Tyler greeted me at the front door. “Grandma says we’re going out tonight. Mexican food.” Then he held up a drawing of an eerily realistic tarantula.
“Sounds good.” I eyed his work and nodded approval. “Beautiful picture. I’m afraid it’s not gonna make it to the front of the refrigerator, though. It’s a bit of an appetite killer.”
Tyler giggled, rolled his eyes and took off down the hallway.
The three of us piled into the car and headed to the restaurant. Once seated, the waiter approached us, asking if we would like drinks before ordering our meals.
“I’ll have a margarita. On the rocks with salt,” I said.
Mom glanced my way, raising an eyebrow. “Letting your hair down?”
I gave a half smile back. “Trying.”
I wished the drink were for fun, instead of an attempt to settle my frantic nerves. I no longer knew how to have fun. I had always been the most serious person in the room. It was Justin who had taught me how to laugh. His humor kept us all in stitches.
After he got too sick to work and Mom sold her house and moved in with us, she continued to remark about how funny he was. The complete opposite of my dad.
The drinks arrived and I took a sip. The salt stung an open cut I didn’t realize I had on the inside of my mouth. I watched Mom drink her soda and remembered what she always used to say to me: “You’re so lucky, Amy. You and Justin have the perfect marriage.”
I ignored the brief stab of heartache and took a bigger gulp. Then I turned my attention to Tyler. “How was school today? You have any homework?”
He munched on a chip dipped with salsa. “It was fine. I finished my assignments before you got home.”
Of course he had done it. He always did. His teacher had recently spoken with me about the possibility of moving him up a grade. I didn’t want to cause him additional stress, so I decided against it.
Soon the waiter showed up with our meals. I took a bite of my chicken enchiladas. “This is delicious.”
Mom and Tyler—both with food in their mouths—nodded their agreement. It was nice being out together. We used to do it once a week with Justin. Sometimes Mom would join us; sometimes she’d babysit so we could have a date night.
As I reminisced about Justin, my mind wandered to the daffodils again. I needed to solve that mystery. Alone.
“Hey Mom. Remember that gym membership I never use?”
She looked up from her meal. “Yeah.”
“Well I was just thinking. I’d like to go swimming. I never do that anymore. They’re offering an aqua aerobics class this Sunday and I can bring a guest. Do you wanna come?”
My mom hadn’t been seen in public in a swimsuit in over a decade. She said she felt too old and out of shape; that her days of hitting the beach were over. I thought she was incredibly silly. But I knew she’d decline. The cemetery was on the way to the health club. I still intended to work out, but I also was making secret plans to investigate the mystery of the flowers.
“No. I’d rather not,” she said. “I can watch Tyler for you while you’re gone though.”
Just the response I had hoped for. A big part of me felt terrible for being so manipulative. Another part of me thought, “How could I tell you something might be wrong with my once perfect marriage?”
I’d have to deal with the guilt in order to find out more.
For the rest of the evening, Mom chatted about her lady friend, Tyler discussed his new teacher, and I weaved in and out of the conversation, listening and responding as appropriate. But a portion of my brain continued to work on solving the problem at hand. Who could have left those damn flowers?
After we left the restaurant, we stopped at the art supply store.
“Gauguin,” Mom said, addressing Tyler. “Which colored pencils do you want?”
Tyler loved being called that name ever since he’d seen a program about the South Pacific with Justin and me. We used to sit together watching the Travel Channel, planning future trips we’d hope to take. Tahiti was number one on our list. And once Tyler found out a famous artist had lived there and seen his paintings in a library book, Gauguin became his idol. He wanted to be just like him.
With a serious expression on his face, Tyler replied, “I think these would work best,” then handed my mom his selection.
He cracked me up, but I didn’t laugh out loud. He was like an old man sometimes. Now and then my mom and I would be discussing a topic, and he’d interject, saying something oddly profound. It never ceased to amaze us.
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Genre – Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG