Saturday morning we piled into our car, Mom, Molly, Jeff, Melody and me, just as if Mom hadn't been away for forever, and we visited Martha. It was as if we had never missed a week, or two, or more like five with Mom being away. We brought hot chocolate and croissants; two of Martha's favorites. We took turns hugging her and sitting next to her holding her bony hand with the knuckle captive wedding band. It was the person in that position that held Martha's attention. Like visiting a priest in the confessional. It was a very private directed conversation until you were excused and the chair vacated for the next in line.
“Hi Martha,” I smiled. Relieved to be back on the visiting track. To be back to normal after so long.
“Sarah, I've been meaning to ask a favor of you.” Her skeletal grip on my hand tightened as she pulled me in close so her lips were brushing my ear.
Pulling back against her surprising strength, I looked her right in the eye. This was serious. “Anything, you know that.”
“Sarah,” she whispered. I looked around no one else seemed concerned by Martha's behavior. “Remember my box you found, in the attic?”
“Would you bring me the letters tied up with the red ribbon?”
Did she know I read them; all of them? Did it matter? “When?”
Her gazed scanned the room. “Next week, next Saturday. Don't let anyone know.”
I nodded, and then was released. Our conversation over. I relinquished the hot seat for Jeff. Still wondering about the letters and why Martha would want them now, after all the years that had pasted.
Saturday afternoon, and still no chat. I didn't push. I knew it would happen. It would have to. The school year would end and then... what?
Late Night Texts
Melody: Allbright wants my transcripts
Me: Deciding between an orange and yogurt for snack. Refrigerator door wide open. Are you sure you want to go there? Sounds more like a military school than an arts camp for brainiacs.
Ring! Ring! Ring! The landline. Caller ID showed UNKNOWN NAME. The only UNKNOWN NAME that called our house, worth talking to, was currently texting me.
Me: Is ur mom calling my mom?
Melody: At work
Me: Wait up
“Hello Sarah, it must be Sarah. This is Mrs. O'Brien from BI. Sorry to be calling so late, but with the time change and all. Is your mom available?”
“I'll find her,” and as I laid the receiver on the kitchen table it dawned on my I hadn't even asked how she was? Or how Carolyn was? I hadn't spoken to Mrs. O'Brien in at least two years. Why would she call now? Of course, why wouldn't she call now. Carolyn was living with her and Mom was her guardian. This ought to be good.
Me: M I have to go. Txt later.
Halfway up the back stairs, “Mom, Mrs. O'Brien in on the phone. MOM.”
The audible of scurrying feet in the upstairs hall, now on the stairs, made me think this was not a scheduled call. Mom, pushing past me on the stairs uttered a casual, “Thank you,” as she bee-lined for the receiver.
“Mrs. O'Brien, it's Margaret. Everything okay?”
Sitting down on the third step I watched as Mom's expression of surprise went to something along the lines of fear and shock. She steady herself against the table. “What? When? How?”
Mom give Mrs. O'Brien the opportunity to think.
“Will she be...? I'll call the hospital... Yes, I have the number...”
Squeezing past me on the stairs, Dad must've heard the commotion. He stood next to Mom. His hands steadying her shoulders.
“Yes, I'll get out there as soon as I can. Yes...” With that she ended the call. And turning towards Dad with tears streaming down her face announced, “Carolyn's in the hospital. She swallowed a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol PM. Mrs. O'Brien thinks she tried to kill herself.”